Customizing a Guitar from the Ground Up

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Building your Dream Axe

If you have been playing guitar for a while, you have probably decided what you like most about your guitar, and what you would change. It may be time for you have a new guitar made to order.

Before you begin, it is important to know exactly what you are looking for in a guitar. With all of the different variables of body, neck, pickups (if electric), and strings, it is necessary for you to have tried a number of guitars before you place your order. This article covers many of the basics and will help you choose wisely.

The Body

The body, and the wood it is made up of, will have more of an impact than any other aspect involving a guitar when it comes to the overall sound. This is particularly true of acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars, so choose wisely!

Alder, maple, walnut and mahogany are among the most common woods used for guitar bodies, although there are many other woods used, including more exotic woods like koa. Each of these woods has a unique tonal quality and feel.

Guitar top woods include maple (the most common), walnut, and koa. Each type of wood will affect the sound, but will also impact the look of your guitar. Some woods like maple look great in translucent colors, others like walnut look great in more “natural” tones.

The Neck

A good guitar neck will be sturdy and long-lasting. Because of its durability, maple is often used to make the neck. For the fingerboard, the most common woods used are rosewood and ebony. These woods are used because of their durability, bright tones, and low maintenance. Different types of maple are also occasionally used, although they do require a bit more cleaning and maintenance than the others. Each wood has its own unique sound, so try all of them out before making your decision.

The Electronics

If you are customizing an electric guitar, this is where you can make your axe truly your own. With the wide range of available pickups, and the countless number of pickup combinations open to you, you can design a guitar that will get you exactly what you are looking for.

As each type of wood on the body and neck make a difference, so does each type of pickup. Each type is wound differently and there are several types of magnets used. Each pickup, therefore, has a unique sound. Be very sure of which pickups you want on your guitar. The good news is you can typically have several pickups on the same guitar with knobs and switches allowing you to choose and blend different sounds. The best advice is to get the configuration that you need, but not more than that.

The Strings

The strings you choose for your new guitar will affect playability and tone. Round wound and flat wound strings each have a different feel and sound. The gauge also should be considered. Light gauges are easier to play while heavier gauges have a deeper, richer tone. Unlike other aspects of your customized guitar, strings are easily changeable, so it’s okay if you don’t get it right the first time.

Where to Look For Customized Guitars

Companies offering customizable guitars include Carvin, Halo, and USA Custom Guitars. Look them up on the Web and check out the multitude of choices available to you.


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