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Guitars really shouldn't cost that much, should they? After all, they're just pieces of wood and metal...

A Strat is Born
Dave Hitt's profile photoGreg Brouelette's profile photo
As a luthier myself I always wonder why guitars are so cheap. They should cost a LOT more.

I can't build an electric guitar in my shop at a quality level which I demand and undersell what's coming out of Korea, China, or Mexico. So I have to compete on quality, components, sound and feel.

But that's not the only thing which determines price. Some high end luthiers like Bob Benedetto, Linda Manzer, Grit Laskin, Ervin Somogyi can demand prices in the tens of thousands of dollars because their own output is so limited. If you want one of their guitars you need to wait for a slot in their build schedule and you pay what is asked to get one. In fact, once you get that instrument it's actually worth more than you paid for it because it's now available for sale. And by the way, I've had the pleasure of playing a Benedetto and it was the most amazing instrument I've ever played. It was worth every penny of the $22,500 price tag.

As a musician, it bothers me to hear people say things like "My $500 Takamine sounds just fine". If you're a very good musician then you understand what I call "the collection of subtleties" which make up the difference between a good instrument and a great instrument. If any good musician who really understands how guitars should sound and feel compared any $500 Takamine acoustic guitar to my Kim Breedlove guitar, or an Allan Beardsell guitar, or a Laskin or Manzer, they would immediately notice the difference.

There is absolutely a market for less expensive guitars. The problem comes when people think these less expensive guitars are the baseline for what a good guitar should sound and feel like. They become so use to average quality that they don't understand how much better.

My absolute favorite guitar right now is my own hand made Telecaster clone. I attempted to make a close replica of a 1952 Tele.

Demo of the new Telecaster clone
That looks and sounds sweet. I especially like that mellow jazzy tone at the end.

Any idea how many hours you put into it?

Most people not only can't tell the differences between a premo guitar and a middle of the road OK guitar, and furthermore, they don't care. Hell, they prefer a band doing crappy covers of their favorite tunes over accomplished musicians creating amazing music.

I haven't played for years, and was never very good, but did have the pleasure of playing some really fine guitars (briefly) and really appreciated the difference between them and the middle of the road guitar I had.
I think you're right in that it takes a certain level of musicianship to understand those subtleties which make a top end guitar great. I have a friend who is a fantastic classical guitar player. He's looking for a new guitar because of a very subtle issue with his current instrument. He doesn't like the way the instrument responds when played at the top end of it's dynamic range. That's a really specific issue which most people would never hear. But he hears it, and feels it, and he notices that something is missing.

As far as number of hours. It's probably 40 to 50 hours of actual work time (minus glue drying time. finish drying time, etc) But getting 40 hours of free time make take 6 months or more.

Here's another guitar I built last year for a guitar building challenge. I came in at 9th place in an international competition. But I was 4th of the wood guitar entries. The first 2 places were won by plexiglass guitars. There was also an all aluminum guitar in the top 5. So I did ok.

GregB's 2011 TDPRI Build Challenge
I'm surprised it's only 40-50 hours. I would have guessed at least twice that.


I remember, a decade or two ago, seeing Mason Willams with a clear pelexiglass guitar, but it was built like an acoustic. There was water in the bottom of it, and goldfish in the water.
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