Due to some recent claims by some that I am too negative towards the large mass production guitar corporations, I have decided that in the future I will try to take a more “positive” temperament when it comes to addressing the failures of today’s guitar conglomerates.
But that day is not today. Today I am just down right sickened by the “big money lawyers” and “corporate bullying” of these companies. In particular, I am pointing my rage at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. FMIC as it is known has been one of the 2 Big Boys on the Block for decades.
These Big Boys have made a career out of driving other competitive companies into the ground. They do this by using dirt cheap pricing on crap guitars that they sell to the unwitting public who buy them because they think they are getting a “great deal” on a “name brand” guitar. In reality they are overpaying for a piece of crap! How do I know? Because people bring me this crap all the time to fix when they won’t stay in tune and I tell them to burn it because the wood is so cheap and the construction is so bad that it isn’t worth fixing.
Recently I have addressed the issue of increasing production in my shop. Things are starting to grow and expand and there is a need to produce guitars more quickly. My shop is set up as a very traditional woodworking shop. The bulk of production is done with an Overarm Pin Router, Band Saw, Drill Press and Belt Sander. All the contouring and shaping is done by hand with traditional Hand Rasps and Files.
I have sought council from several woodworkers as to how to increase the production rate of my guitars and more than once the CNC machine has come up in conversation. CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control and it operates on a guided cutting grid system that allows the computer to fully cut and rout a guitar body in about 25 minutes.
My present set-up is an Overarm Pin Router that uses hardboard templates to guide the wood along a center pin to cut and rout a guitar body in out an hour. Clearly it seems like the CNC is the way to go because I would be cutting production time almost in half. I would also have the added benefit of being able to do something else while the computer did all the work so its value would increase exponentially and the CNC would pay for itself in no time.
This idea sounded appealing so I decided to experiment and I sent a hardboard production template to a woodshop and had a computer program designed and a production run done of one of my guitars.
I was less than impressed. It looked like one of my guitars but it just wasn’t right. I have a friend who is famous for saying “That’s a whole lot a ‘Sumpthin Ain’t Right’” and I couldn’t agree more.
It has been brought to my attention that there is a recurring theme that runs throughout my blog articles. Some have suggested that there is a constant undertone that defames the sincerity of major guitar manufacturers and unabashedly devalues their products and questions their integrity. If you have noticed this motif in my other blog articles then it means that you have indeed been paying attention because that is my point.
My entire guitar business has been built on the fact that major conglomerates have crept into the guitar industry rather craftily and have shifted the focus from making great products to making great profits.
Now don’t get me wrong I have no problem with a business making a profit and I have no problem paying for a great guitar. My problem starts when a sub-par product is made with inferior materials and sold for a premium price based on the “reputation” of the name brand company that made it. I have spent too much time of my life “fixing” the mistakes made by major manufacturers or replacing the sub-par quality bridges and pickups that come with their guitars. Compromise after compromise is made in order to increase the profit margins for the corporation with little thought given to the resulting product that is sold to the end user. This epidemic has just gotten worse over the course of the last decade to the point where I can’t even go to a guitar store without getting frustrated.
Now you’re probably asking yourself what companies I’m talking about. I mean if their products were so “inferior” the company would just go out of business right? Wrong! Just like a sleazy car salesman pulling the old “bait and switch” routine these companies use a similar “smoke and mirrors” routine to let you lead yourself into thinking the product you are buying is better than it is.
There is a constant debate among guitarists that divides players into two distinct groups; one simple question that can separate friends and alienate entire families. The question is “Do you use Solid State or Tube Amps?”
This question regarding the use of tubes versus solid state transistors in guitar amplification is a heavy one and really resembles more of a battle call than anything else because either side is usually diametrically opposed to the other, often times to the point of bloodshed.
I can understand the passion involved because it comes down to getting the perfect tone, which as we discussed is the true passion of every player.
My good friend Rich Gonne’ of Gonne’ Amplification in Visalia California is a “tone purist” and only a tube amp will suffice. He started his own amp company because he wasn’t getting the tone he was after from any other amplifiers on the market. His company focuses on high end boutique tube amps and the mere thought of running a signal through a “processor” is unbearable to him. However, the tech savvy guitarist may find the reliability, versatility and consistency of a solid state amp much more appealing. At the end of the day both sides are right because every guitarist must find their own tone.