The Pros and Cons of Custom Building Your Bass
This is a familiar story that I end up discussing often with my musician friends. I wanted to share it with you all and hear your opinion too. Some of us get tempted to build our own instrument, usually by hiring a local luthier to do it. The question is: is it worth it? Let’s explore some pros and cons.
Choose your own hardware
This is a great advantage. When building your own custom bass, you get to be involved in choosing all the hardware parts for it. This means that you are in complete control when it comes to choosing the pickups, bridge, tuners, preamp and even jacks. You can be sure that only quality hardware will be installed and that you won’t get annoying issues with pots falling off or input jacks losing contact. You also get to choose the pickups, and this in combination with choosing the preamp can have a huge impact on the overall tone of the instrument.
Choose wood for the body and neck
This is awesome. You get to choose the type of wood for the body and neck of the bass. Sometimes you can even choose the raw piece of wood out of which your beautiful bass will be carved from. This allows you to get creative and choose just the combination of wood you always dreamed of. Your choice will have an impact on the tone of the bass as well as weight of it and balance.
Finish and custom looks
When building a custom bass, you are in complete control of the finish. Color, type of finish and details - all under your control. As long as the luthier is skilled, the possibilities are endless. Since we all know that looks are important (even though some deny it), custom made basses are often one of the most beautiful basses out there as they are not built for “everyone’s taste” in factory - rather fit individual bass player's personality.
Getting a custom bass built is not cheap. Often bass builders charge a significant fee for the work, fee that is usually the same as if you’d be buying a high end bass from the store. It takes a lot of work hours to build a bass from scratch and it doesn’t come cheap. When it comes to gear and instruments, the cost of materials and components usually directly influences the quality of sound, at least in 95% of the cases.
Now this is the biggest downside of building your custom bass, one that kept me away from trying it out myself. We don’t know how the bass will turn out, until it’s “born”. Then it’s too late if it doesn’t sound like we imagined it would be, or is simply….not that good looking. Since we get to make a wide choice in terms of materials and hardware, there is a big question how that combination will actually sound. Some luthiers will do what client asks, even if it’s not the smartest choice. It’s so easy to get carried away choosing all the cool parts, only to find out that they don’t sound so well together in the same instrument.
I don’t want to sound harsh, but luthier expertise can indeed be an issue. For one: quality instrument builders are rare breed in many countries and/or cities. Not all of them are so good at their craft. Some make better instruments than others and you can usually only reach a single one in your local area who might be an expert or a beginner claiming to be an expert. Sometimes it’s hard to tell and you can’t get firm references. Also the question is if the builder is skilled enough and has the right tools to really produce a better bass than a stock one found in the stores.
Building your own instrument is in my opinion a risky business. I must say that I have seen some really crazy custom made instruments. Some were awesome and sounded awesome while others were like Frankenstein creations. I like to try before buy, and it’s something you can’t do when building a bass from grounds up. This is why I prefer to buy a bass second hand or in a shop. This way I know exactly how the bass sounds and looks before I make a purchase. Also, I believe that expertise of Fender, Musicman and other famous brands is not something to underestimate, even though their basses are factory made. Those are brands that made rock n roll history, their luthers, designers, research and development, years of experience mean something, even today. I’m saying this as I heard so many local musicians saying that this and that local luthier makes better basses than top end Fender ones for example… One guy, in a small shop and with limited experience (often just starting out)...Not really.
If you have the funds and are ready to take the risk, then building your own bass can be an exciting and so rewarding experience if it works out.
Who dares, wins.
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to check out my premium video bass guitar courses, if you’re up for learning something new. Just check them out to see if you like the content and if it's something for you. You don’t need to buy, just check it out. If you do decide to buy one of my courses, I want you to know that you’ll be supporting me make a living as a musician as well as help with keeping this website up and running and allow me to post new lessons and videos in the future. I’ve included personal discount links that make the courses cheaper than a pack of strings, to make them affordable and valuable to you as much as possible. I didn’t compromise on quality though and spent months making each one.