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AdamWoodBass

Custom Builds

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Hey everyone

So I've been thinking about a custom bass for a while now. I have a pretty good idea of what I want from a bass and have come to the conclusion that investing in a made to measure custom instrument is something that I'd really like to do. I'm a bit of a way off having the cash at the moment but starting to save towards it (from what I've seen a decent custom bass is not exactly pocket money).

My question is for those of you who have taken the plunge and bought a custom instrument. What was your experience? Who did you go with? What sort of things about the experience are important to you? What do you tend to look for in a luthier? Do you feel like it was value for money? Anything you wish you would have known before hand? Where there any horror stories? Did your finished instrument meet your expectations?

I'm looking to gather as much information as possible before I start on this journey as I really want this bass to be something I'm still playing in 10-20 years.

I'd love to support a "British" builder if possible but more importantly it's about choosing the "right" builder for me so recommendations are welcome. I have a couple of builders in mind some British some not. I'm hoping to start having some conversations with builders a bit later this year when I am ready to make a deposit.

As always, your input is much appreciated!

Cheers

Adam

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The problem (and the best bit) of getting a full custom build (designed to your specs from the ground up) is that you really need to know what it is you want... what sound and feel you are looking for from the instrument. if you don't know what it is you want you're likey to end up with something worse than an equivalent bass off the shelf.

If you do go for a full custom it is difficult to look past ACG for quality, price and choice of options :)

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I'd recommend you look into the most minute detail of the bass you want - there's more to it than the cosmetics and electronics; weight, neck shape at the xx fret, pick up placement can be just as important. Best thing you can do is have a checklist ready with everything you can possibly think of and then have a chat with the luthier.

I doubt you would ever end up with something worse than a 'regular' off the shelf bass - unless it's a crazy build, but I suppose there's always a chance that the ideal bass in your head doesn't really do it for you when it's in your hands. Although I'm not speaking from experience on that particular point.

If you want to go British I couldn't recommend Jon Shuker highly enough.

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Another vote for ACG here. Alan's work is extraordinary for the price, you get regular updates and he sticks to his projected completion date. I bought one of Alan's cheaper "graft" series basses (now discontinued) from a local guy (Black Coffee of this parish) to check out his work, and while it was visually bland, the construction was top notch. That convinced me to go for a custom build which I've been very pleased with.

I've had a custom Shuker built before but I fell into the old trap... I THOUGHT I knew what I wanted, but by the time the bass was complete, my wants, and more importantly, my NEEDS had changed considerably. Jon's work is also excellent, but his communications and projected completion dates are woeful.

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I'd agree with Rob above on knowing what you want. You can never know exactly 100% what it will turn out like until it is finished and in your hands. I notice from you signature that you're a bit of a Fender fan. You can order something similar from a custom builder but as I've said it's an unknown quantity. I have had basses built by Status and Overwater and have personally met the guys who design and build the instruments. Brilliant experiences each time and basses you can't beat. But even though I trusted them and had a good idea of what would come along, there is that question. Having said all that I have never had any regrets. Then again off the shelf basses don't give me what I'm looking for. Custom builds do.

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[quote name='AdamWoodBass' timestamp='1484917368' post='3219667']
Hey everyone

As always, your input is much appreciated!

Cheers

Adam
[/quote]



[quote]So I've been thinking about a custom bass for a while now. I have a pretty good idea of what I want from a bass and have come to the conclusion that investing in a made to measure custom instrument is something that I'd really like to do. I'm a bit of a way off having the cash at the moment but starting to save towards it (from what I've seen a decent custom bass is not exactly pocket money).[/quote]

I think it's a brilliant idea and you will no doubt be swamped with opinions and lots of information that will guide you. I Think Rob is correct above in that saying that it is a good idea to know what it is that you are looking for and that comes from playing bass after bass to see what it is you like and don't like. Especially for example in my case where I essentially played the same instruments for years over many gigs and recording sessions. I knew them inside and out so had a clear view of what I needed.

HOWEVER - I would say that there are some Luthiers who only 'do their thing' and thus you will have limited options that could be swung by what they want you to have rather than what it is your heart and head truly desires. A Luthier who is an expert and highly regarded and someone who really listens and knows how to build in the aspects that you need but at the same time guide you on what could and may not work will reward you with an instrument for a life time. One of my instruments is coming up to ten years service now, another on 8 - and well, not surprisingly another is planned from the same person.


[quote]My question is for those of you who have taken the plunge and bought a custom instrument. What was your experience? Who did you go with? What sort of things about the experience are important to you? What do you tend to look for in a luthier? Do you feel like it was value for money? Anything you wish you would have known before hand? Where there any horror stories? Did your finished instrument meet your expectations?[/quote]

My experience was an exceptional one - a joy to build up a relationship with 'my' luthier and to exchange ideas, slowly moulding what became a very cool bass indeed. What was important? Well, I actually pitched my plan to a number of luthiers at the time - some since gone out of business and I have to say one or two either said they couldn't do it, or just didn't really 'get it'. So, being able to understand what it was that I was pitching was important in the first instance as my instrument was a little different under the bonnet. I look for flexibility and an incredible eye for detail as well as a proven record in creating well rounded instruments and not just for a specific genre. Oh my yes was it value for money! The Luthier in question easily matches the very top names across the world for his ability yet in the grand scheme of things he's on our doorstep. I have to say that my bass exceeded expectations and as for needing to know anything before hand - well, I suppose I've got a fairly insatiable desire to understand instruments, so sort of knew what was required beforehand. That said, we spoke at length pretty much about every detail!


[quote]I'm looking to gather as much information as possible before I start on this journey as I really want this bass to be something I'm still playing in 10-20 years.[/quote]

Yup, gathering as much information is definitely the right place to start - take your time and head out to as many shops as possible to try out basses. Of course get to The London Bass Show too! I'll be there and will be happy to natter! :)

[quote]I'd love to support a "British" builder if possible but more importantly it's about choosing the "right" builder for me so recommendations are welcome. I have a couple of builders in mind some British some not. I'm hoping to start having some conversations with builders a bit later this year when I am ready to make a deposit.[/quote]

In the Uk we are very lucky to have some amazing Luthiers. I've met many and I stand by my views on them - and for you, very lucky to have one of the best a stone's throw from where you are (kinda) - I would whole-heartedly recommend you book in a visit to Jon Shuker at www.ShukerGuitars.co.uk - Have a look at his website galleries to see what he is capable of. Start with a highly regarded precision bass, or Jazz, 4,5,6,7 strings, classic woods or sexy tops but every single instrument crafted with every detail in mind.

I know that you'll get many agreeing here.

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[quote name='CamdenRob' timestamp='1484918309' post='3219684']
The problem (and the best bit) of getting a full custom build (designed to your specs from the ground up) is that you really need to know what it is you want... what sound and feel you are looking for from the instrument. if you don't know what it is you want you're likey to end up with something worse than an equivalent bass off the shelf.

If you do go for a full custom it is difficult to look past ACG for quality, price and choice of options :)
[/quote]
[quote name='burno70' timestamp='1484919343' post='3219703']
I'd recommend you look into the most minute detail of the bass you want - there's more to it than the cosmetics and electronics; weight, neck shape at the xx fret, pick up placement can be just as important. Best thing you can do is have a checklist ready with everything you can possibly think of and then have a chat with the luthier.

I doubt you would ever end up with something worse than a 'regular' off the shelf bass - unless it's a crazy build, but I suppose there's always a chance that the ideal bass in your head doesn't really do it for you when it's in your hands. Although I'm not speaking from experience on that particular point.

If you want to go British I couldn't recommend Jon Shuker highly enough.
[/quote]

This and this. You need to know... REALLY know... to the finest detail... what you want. But also be willing to listen to the luthier's suggestions on how well those options will work and how they might be tweaked to improve the performance of the bass.

You also need to consider whether you mean hand-build to a luthier's standard body shape with custom options or truly custom - entirely inspired from your imagination. That's both body shape and fixtures/fittings. That will also guide your choice of luthier and the cost.

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This is all super useful guys thanks a lot!

[quote name='dood' timestamp='1484919998' post='3219718']
Of course get to The London Bass Show too! I'll be there and will be happy to natter! :)
[/quote]

I will be there mate and will seek you out!

I do love the look of the Shuker stuff, I played one a long time ago when Jon was first starting out. It definitely felt like a prototype which was understandable but as I have seen over the years his work has become more and more impressive. Needless to say he's on my short list for builders.

I guess I hadn't really though too much about the really tiny details too much so that's definitely given me some food for thought. I'm also looking forward to checking out some of the ACG stuff too as I've always been attacted to the designs.

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You've sorted out what you want, had it built and you're happy as hell. Five years later and GAS starts gnawing at your brain :huh:

Edited by spectoremg

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[quote name='spectoremg' timestamp='1484934114' post='3219890']
You've sorted out what you want, had it built and you're happy as hell. Five years later and GAS start gnawing at your brain :huh:
[/quote]

That's what I'm afraid of! I want to make sure I have totally nailed down what I want before I order it. To be honest I wouldn't mind owning more than one bass, just don't want to get into the territory of "here's a custom bass I paid £3000 for and I've played it about 5 times since I bought it".

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I have a slelction of ACGs, and you are most welcome to come over and try them as we can't be too far apart geographically. I hope they end up on your shortlist as I feel that Alan is superb at the whole customer experience thing.

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[quote name='ead' timestamp='1484934658' post='3219898']
I have a slelction of ACGs, and you are most welcome to come over and try them as we can't be too far apart geographically. I hope they end up on your shortlist as I feel that Alan is superb at the whole customer experience thing.
[/quote]

Might just take you up on that actually.

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I played an Overwater a few years back, pretty much by chance as I worked in a shop and we stocked a handful of their basses. Instantly hooked. Once I eventually went to talk to them I was initially quite flummoxed by those details.. 'you can have anything you want, but you need to tell us what that is'!
I essentially went for the same bass that had hooked me in the first place, and no disappointment at all. That one still gets played regularly, as does the next Overwater, which cropped up second hand. Two distinctly different yet equally brilliant basses, each with a gigging direction.
Been back since.. :rolleyes:
Turns out there's also an excellent cheesemaker just outside Carlisle.
Try a few makers if you can, to see if one's work really connects with you.

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Much wise things have been said by previous posters so I will not repeat those. Just a pro and a con from my experience

I think the process itself is such a great experience. Thinking and planning and looking for parts and options and all of that. Narrowing down all the options of pickups, hardware, woods, shapes, etc. looking at other basses for what you like, what you don't. I really enjoyed that part of the process of my custom build.

The con was that while the bass that was made for me was the most comfortable ever, the sound was just not there. It was sounding ok, but not great, not something that blew me away. After fiddling and trying to get used to it for some years I have sold it off with a huge loss.

It did not put me off from having another custom in the future, but one can not be 100% certain that the final product will click or not as you can not try before buy. That is the advantage of the off the shelf basses (and 2nd hand ones)

Having rediscovered Spector basses some years ago I realized that what I need is right there with off the shelf instruments...

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I don't know what the OP's experience is. He may have buckets of experience in bass on many different instruments.


But, Sir, all your basses I'm your signature are bulk manufactured, CAD-CAM produced instruments designed to supply bulk instruments at a price for mass sales. Now you're looking at custom designed. That's a he'll of a jump.

I know you're not alone in making that leap. Good luck. I hope it works out well for you, and I mean that.

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If you don't understand to a very fine detail how different woods, neck joints, body construction, electronics, pickups and hardware interact - and let's face it, beyond skilled luthiers there's not a lot of us that [i]actually[/i] do - it might be worth taking the brief to a luthier and letting them make the choices.

Tell them how you want the neck to feel, how you want it to sound, how you want it to look, the max you want it to weigh, how much you can spend and leave the rest up to them. I appreciate that might take some of the fun out of it [i]but[/i] you're more likely to end up with an instrument that will serve you for a long time.

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Although I've not bought anything from Alan at ACG, I can attest to his approachability and service. We traded a few emails and he was very patient with me as we worked out what I was looking for. In the end what I wanted for that bass wasn't really where he was coming from and I respected that. I'll definitely be going to him for the next one though.

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[quote name='Grangur' timestamp='1484993148' post='3220192']
I don't know what the OP's experience is. He may have buckets of experience in bass on many different instruments.


But, Sir, all your basses I'm your signature are bulk manufactured, CAD-CAM produced instruments designed to supply bulk instruments at a price for mass sales. Now you're looking at custom designed. That's a he'll of a jump.

I know you're not alone in making that leap. Good luck. I hope it works out well for you, and I mean that.
[/quote]

It's a good point you're right. I've been playing bass about 20 years, I've owned and sold more basses than I care to count but all of them have been "off the shelf" some of them high end some of them not. The basses in my sig are the ones I kept after I took about a 5 year break from gigging. I sold most of my gear when I moved for work as I had trouble finding a new band, needed the space and the money so my gear had to go as it wasn't being used. A custom bass is something that I've always wanted and the benefit of having owned/played a lot of basses means I have a very good idea of what I like and what I don't like about a bass.

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[quote name='Grangur' timestamp='1484993148' post='3220192']
But, Sir, all your basses I'm your signature are bulk manufactured, CAD-CAM produced instruments designed to supply bulk instruments at a price for mass sales. Now you're looking at custom designed. That's a he'll of a jump.
[/quote]

Isn't this true of everyone who buys a custom bass, though? (Unless your first bass is bespoke, a Sadowsky or something equally super high-end, that is.)

I'm really excited about making that leap some time this year.

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I've often said that here in the UK we're spoilt with the number of great luthiers and their wares.

I've several custom basses, all excel in one way or the other. Most of our best luthiers will listen to what you have to say, interpret that and build it into your chosen design, of which there are many. I can highly recommend ACG, GB, Overwater, Jaydee, Shuker, Wal and Status having owned at least one of each and I also have a custom build by our own Andyjr1515. All are fine instruments in their own right.

When it comes down to making your decision choosing one of the above you're pretty sure that you're going to end up with a fine instrument - knowing and making clear what you want may be the real factor.

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Have a look at Overwater, they can pretty much build anything you want and they are always gorgeous.

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If you're only in Manchester you're welcome to pop over to Chester and try my Zoot medium scale custom if you like too. If you've not tried a shorter scale bass I'd recommend it. And even if you ultimately find it's not your thing you can at least dismiss it on the basis of experience rather than preconception.

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I also have an ACG (a Finn 5 SC R Type). Alan was incredibly accommodating, updated as soon as any progress came and has created an instrument that is stunning. I can honestly say its my 'go to' bass and I play it every day without fail. I've already been dreaming up a second...

I did contact a couple of other builders mentioned here and they were all great (although one of the brands mentioned here didn't respond to my email until months after my first and only enquiry, although to be fair they did apologise for the delay in response but did not give a reason - This put me off as I think if you're charging £3000+ for a bass and have to collaborate with the customer, not responding to enquiries within a reasonable time period is just poor service and puts the 'working relationship' in a negative place from the start) at which point, Alan's excellent customer service (and almost instant responses to emails at times!) had already made my mind up where I'd be spending my money!

I can also say that the day trip I had up to Moffat to visit Alan and collect the bass was fantastic too. I was welcomed with the offer of a cuppa, an amp set up ready to try the instrument and Alan had all the time in the world to chat to me and show me and my father-in-law (who has built instruments too) around his workshop and chat about his processes for making instruments.

Couldn't recommend Alan highly enough.

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I will second a vote for Alpher Instruments.

Not as well known as others, but they build exceptional instruments. I have been through most British built instruments and nothing surpasses Alpher for build quality and choice of woods in my opinion, there is no-one like them. They only build two different model basses and restrict a few options for customisation, simply because they believe the design they have is the best instrument they can make.

They give each instrument they build the proper time and dedication it needs. Some of the builders named in this thread churn basses out at an alarming rate, Alpher's output is much smaller (my bass was only the 30-something instrument they had built) and that is incredibly reassuring to me.

Me and Chris have become friends following my commission and the guy honestly couldn't be any better customer service wise. Immediate response to emails and Facebook chat messages before, during and most importantly after the build. They are a joy to work with.

Check them out, you won't regret it :)

Edited by Kev

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