Those boys in fancy suits sure don’t make them like they used to

Posted March 3rd, 2010 by admin | 11 Comments

A year or 2 ago I started playing electric guitar again. I started out on a garage sale special loaned to me from a friend. And when I decided to go about buying a guitar I know I wanted to invest about $1500.00. I really believe that around at this price point and over the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Because of this I wanted to be careful with what I bought.

I went to my local music superstore for about 6 – 9 months and rented about 15 different guitars. Some of them I would play for a day and then return, others made it to a week or 2. The price range I tried was everywhere between $500 to $2500.

I highly recommend this route for learning about guitars especially if you are going to spend more than $1000.

And all were made in factories to be sold in music superstores like these. I began to suspect that either I was a picky person, or the production of guitars for the money people wanted was out of line.

The one I ended up liking most was a maple necked Stratocaster that was about $2500.00. I decided since I had learn to play on a Stratocaster and I liked that one I would go that direction, but I would source the parts myself and get it assembled by someone locally.

It ended up costing me about $1300 for parts and labor and I believe it’s on par with the one in the store for $2500.00. Of course I spent hundreds of hours doing research – but I feel really good that I was able to build something that I am really happy with.

I think if I have the cash again someday I will build another one and I believe I can get something even closer to what I am looking for. When you start learning about how big the world of guitars is and all the different nuances I realize the more I learn about them the less I know and the more there is too learn. Maybe that is why people buy guitars from local music superstores, because they don’t have time to figure it all out themselves or they are too lazy. I think if you are passionate about music then you will probably end up where I am.

I don’t think I will ever buy a guitar from a mainstream store or brand again. After playing many modern factory instruments and many vintage instruments – I believe that the production standards are extremely low to what they used to be 20 – 30 years ago. In my opinion The $2500.00 Stratocaster bought from the music superstore does not compare to a guitar made 30 years ago – not in material or craftsmanship. Almost to confirm this I ran across a man with alot of experience and knowledge in guitar and more specifically Stratocaster production.

When I went to a local music store in Vancouver BC called Dave’s Vintage Guitars and tried the Stratocaster’s he had laying about I was literally blown away at how good they sounded. I actually ended up hanging about his small store on railway street for a few hours talking with him and we had gotten into a discussion about vintage guitar production vs modern factory day guitar production.

I had actually gone done to meet him about buying a pickup off him a Seymour Duncan pickup. I pretty much begged him to sale me his personal Stratocaster, which he wouldn’t. But when I found out that the pickups that he had in these guitars were ones he hand made in his shop I had to have a pair.

Prior to that I had a set of Rio Grandes in my Strat. I was unhappy with them because the pickup to me colored the tone way too much (though I still think it is possible that they build some pickups but I haven’t tried all of them so to me the jury is still out on Rio Grandes but I know where I stand on there Half Breed models).

With Dave’s pickups I was deeply f**king impressed with how true the tone came through after putting them in my Strat and playing them for a month or 2 and hence this post.

I believe he does almost exact replicas of 1950’s. 1960’s and 1970’s single coil for Stratocaster. I bought the 1950’s ones but can’t wait to get another set from him in the future when I build my next guitar.

I highly recommend his pickups in any type of Stratocaster – You can check out his site at or click this link: Guitar Pickups Vancouver.

I myself believe that the best products require no marketing and have always trusted word of mouth myself. Vintage Dave did not put me up to making this post, I made it because of all the research and guitars I have rented his pickups were the best for me. If you like the Stratocaster Sound, I can almost guarantee that you will be deeply f**king impressed with a set of his replica hand-wound pickups.

The best thing was I walked into his shop and I had no idea I was going to buy a full set of pickups that day. He didn’t use any pressure sales tactics which was refreshing – I didn’t even know that he handmade these pickups or sold them until I asked him after playing the guitars in his shop…

When we started talking he explained to me a similar opinion and one that I have been trending towards in my thoughts about musical instruments with modern day factories vs vintage. They sure don’t make them like the used to. The brand new Strats in the local mega super music store were not even in the same league as the reassembled vintage Strats he had in his shop. The factory made pickups don’t even come close to his handmade set (and those factory Rio Grande’s are boutique pickups that cost more than his). I suspect this is due to these companies paying more attention to bottom lines and marketing then to actual production.

I also think that probably somewhere down the line the materials guitars are built of went up in price. This is all just speculation and my opinion, and I openly admit I distrust large organizations of people rather than small business so feel free to offer any experiences/knowledge you have on these matters in the comments below.

A funny thing happened a few weeks ago, I went to look at an amp of some guy’s on Craigslist, and he was trying to find an electric guitar. He had been to the local music mega store and was like “I have tried literally 20 guitars and I hate them all maybe something’s wrong with me.” Having gone through the same thing I was like, “It’s not you it’s the store/production”.

11 Responses to Those boys in fancy suits sure don’t make them like they used to

  1. JDubbya says:

    I have to agree, but I’ve come to this conclusion via a different route. I realized after buying a stat-copy for $99 online. It actually has a decent neck and body. So after upgrading the tuners ($70), nut ($20) and pickups ($160) and doing a good setup (about 2 hours) I’ve got a strat the plays and sounds better than the Fender MIA I tried at my local mega super-store. All for less than half of what they charge.
    I’ve also read that some of the parts are made in the same factories in China but I’m not sure how true that is.

  2. Louis says:

    I agree the production quality has gone way down over the years,after shopping around for awhile i realized that vintage or custom is the only serious way to go. the second guitar i bought was a brand new gibson lp studio, since then ive bought a gibson junior from 1975 and i prefer it greatly over the studio

  3. K Jinx says:

    I don’t know. The modern guitars at the mega store me are awesome.

  4. Lola says:

    Hi. Sorry this comment has nothing to do with the article (which is great BTW) but I just have a little remark to note about your site. It’s well explained for beginnars and interesting and everythging. No worries, I’m not here to critisize. It’s just that at every paragraph you have a title right? Well the title merges into the text and makes the first lines difficult to read. I would be really glad if you could change that. Thanks in advance.

  5. tommy says:

    Fixed! Sorry it took so long.

  6. jack says:

    The new Les Pauls rock in my mind i think they are great. I’m in the US so i can’t exactly get something from Dave’s Vintage Guitars, which you said was in Canada. I would though , i would love to try an original Les Paul with a handwoven pickup! =D

  7. Bendy says:

    From having played , sold and bought guitars for over 40 years , here’s my take on things . I don’t believe older guitars are any better than new ones . The biggest thing older guitars offer is the fact that they are broken in . The wood has aged and become more resonant . The neck is ” played in and the frets are smooth . The pickups have aged so the magnets are weaker and may sound preferable . On the other hand , I find newer guitars are built to tighter finer tollerances . Once broken in , they are more resonant . Necks are thinner and more playable . On acoustics they are built a little lighter therefore giving you a fuller range of tone , not just bass and boom .

    The biggest piece of advice I can give is do your homework . Lean towards a company that builds their own guitar ( not contracts someone else to ) . If you generally like an instrument , then you will love it once it is set up . Have the action set , intonation tweaked and frest polished , then you’ll have a winner . One final note . Building a guitar from parts is greta in every way except one . You will lose big time when you sell it . If you find a name brand that you like and have it set up , that’s probably a better option unless you keep it for life .


  8. Kelly says:

    I read that RESONANCE on a foot pedal controls the amount of feedback. Is feedback the high-pitched ringing that is sometimes desirable when playing metal / rock? Does RESONANCE Always refer to this sound dynamic? I have a resonance knob on my Blackstar amplifier head. If I turn it all the way up am I more likely to get more of that high-pitched ringing? Or does resonance refer to something different in this regard?

  9. Ayush says:

    Did you try music man guitars? I think gibsons and fenders are waste of money

  10. Bruce Taylor says:

    I have a set of David Leddin hand wound pickups as well as Fender custom shop Texas specials and others from various boutique builders. I can say that through my tweed Fender deluxe clone, his literally blows the others out of the water. They nail the sound of a true vintage Stratocaster, period. Having said that, I agree with what Bendy above said. Each guitar new or old, must be judged on it’s own merits. New guitars can be great for fit and finish, but old guitars are sometimes made from woods no longer available. Trees today are grown fast to supply demand, but back in the day old growth trees were used for instrument building.

  11. Zann says:

    Hi. Does anyone know how to get an answer to this question or a link to Claude for an answer. Would like to ask Claude something but seems no link to ask on. At this stage I am only interested in classical for now. Is that course really worth me doing and the techniques for electric can be used along with the acoustic guitar DVDs. Thanks to anyone who can help with this. OSOW. ( Other side of the world.)

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