As in any industry that must meet consumer demand, guitars are largely made in factories. At the same time, individual craftsmen who specialize in fashioning the ubiquitous stringed instrument also exist. Whether you’re a casual player or a more serious musician, you may wonder about the differences between handmade vs. factory-made guitars. Read on for some of the main distinctions you may find between them.
Dimensions vs. Sound Quality
Depending on whether they’re individuals or larger companies, guitar-makers follow different processes and guiding principles. Factories maintain consistent quality among their guitars by following rules for the materials used and for the exact dimensions to which each part should be cut. This ensures the quality never falls below a set standard—but it also means each guitar is not adjusted to sound its best. A worker at a guitar shop that stocks factory-made guitars must make a few adjustments to each guitar before it’s ready for the customer. Sometimes variations may still slip through due to the natural density and rigidity differences in wood pieces from the same species of tree. This means the sound quality can end up worse at times.
Conversely, artisans can pay attention to the sound of each guitar they make since they produce them at a much slower rate. They make guitars according to the customer’s desires in order to distinguish their work from factory-made instruments. An individual guitar-maker can pay better attention to details such as the wood used for each part of the instrument to produce a strong sound. Along with measurements, they also go by their ears and an unquantifiable sense born from experience.
When you set out to choose a factory-made guitar, you’re able to try out many different guitars from many different companies to find one that fits your playing and price point preferences. If you’re unsure of what you’re looking for, this is a good process to go through as you discover what you like and want to prioritize in your guitar. However, you’re also limited to what you can find at the shops you visit.
If you have an exact idea of how a guitar should feel, how it should sound, and what settings you want to use, a custom handmade guitar may be a better choice. You can communicate with the guitar craftsman to get every aspect just right. You can customize the guitar’s weight, the placement of the soundhole, the width of the fingerboard, or the materials used in each component. You may want to add some purely aesthetic designs, too, which a guitar-maker can apply using tools such as a CNC router. This will ensure they’re as precisely formed as you envisioned. At the end of the day, you may learn a thing or two about the overall steps, tools, and artistic skill that go into constructing a guitar and have a greater appreciation for it. Who knows? You might even want to start getting into the craft yourself.