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Expensive lesson about custom basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jomyo, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. Jomyo


    Oct 6, 2005
    Redwood City, CA
    So, has anyone had this experience?

    I met with a very respectable luthier and designed, ordered and paid for what I thought was going to be my dream bass. I picked out the top and neck woods. I specified the body wood but didn’t pick out a specific piece. The builder also mentioned that he had changed his headstock shape slightly at the time.

    Ok, so 5 months later I receive pictures of my new boutique bass in progress and the body wood is much lighter than I expected. So much so that it does not come close to the look that I envisioned when I ordered the bass. Also, not only did the headstock change but the tuner configuration changed to something I don’t like at all.

    I want to make this very clear, I do not hold the builder responsible for my disappointment in any way.

    I blame my own inexperience and not communicating clearly the look I wanted. Although, at the time I really didn’t think there was any way it could turn out different than I envisioned. Who knew? I’m sure the bass will play and sound just as excellent as all of his basses but isn’t part of the reason for ordering a custom instrument (and paying boutique prices) is getting what you want?

    So, now it seems that I ordered a custom bass that I will be selling as soon as it’s finished. Hopefully, I won’t take too much of a loss on this lesson.
  2. I wouldn't jump to conclusions just yet. If it plays and sounds great you may decide to keep it.

    This is not a dig at you, but I think people put too much emphasis on the appearance of an instrument. Somebody over at the old Carvin board was considering returning their bass because the logo on the headstock wasn't the colour they wanted. I found that just a tad extreme!

    I like bass porn as much as the next guy but sound and playability rank way ahead of looks to me.

    You didn't mention what kind of body wood your luthier is using. Some woods do darken over time. What kind of top wood is on your bass?

    Another thought: Some computer monitors may not accurately display colours, although I don't know if this applies in your case.
  3. Jomyo


    Oct 6, 2005
    Redwood City, CA
    Like I said, I think it's reasonable when paying for a boutique custom ordered bass to get what you want, both aesthetically and soundwise.

    Really, my post is more about the mistakes I made, not the builder. I'm hoping it will be a cautionary tale for those thinking of spending serious money to have an instrument made.

    Thanks for the response.
  4. adept_inept


    Jan 9, 2006
    so basically, u rele shuldthink about every possible aspect. like for me, i'll have every major dimsenion spec's ESPECIALLY neck stuff, and fret size, and colors, and grain patterns, and contours, body thickness, target weight, tuner placement, etc.
  5. So

    you have pictures?

    Can I see em?

    Please :D
  6. Me too!!!:hyper:

    Also, who is the luthier?
  7. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I ordered a Roscoe a few years ago. Left it up to him to pick out the top. It came out amazing. I was very specific about everything else. Im surprised after meeting him in person your bass didnt come out exactly as imagined.


  8. +1
    IMO, once you get to a certain price point on a bass, everything beyond is just eye candy. So why not sweat the details. (color of logo, tuner placement, ect)
  9. Your point is well taken. If you're paying alot of money, you should get what you want.

    Speaking for myself though, if the bass made me play like I've never played before I wouldn't care about aesthetics after a couple of days (or minutes) unless it looked like a Wishbass:D .
  10. jwymore


    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    As a custom builder I always sweat this kind of thing because a custom bass is just that and may not always turn out perfect.

    One thing I always try to do is communicate and send pictures all through the process and give the customer some options to choose from as we go along. The customer for sure needs to be involved in all critical decisions.
  11. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    I have gone through this process and there are alway things that would be done differently in hind sight.

    Here's the thing I think you should consider.... Get the bass in your hands, get to know the instrument. You may find you love it more than you ever thought possible. Like a woman, the one you are initially attracted to isn't always the most interesting or the sexiest. Conversely, you may have gotten a bass that was your dream completely and faithfully realized only to find out after a few months your old jazz bass just felt better to play. That's the chance you take when commission an instrument.

    If you buy an existing instrument there is a certainty factor, if you create one, you deal with a lot of second guessing. At least give yourself the opportunity to get to know what this new bass is all about. She may truly the bass of your dreams... she just looks a little different than you thought she would. Worst case, sell it and start again.
  12. Basso Gruvitas

    Basso Gruvitas Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2000
    Dallas/Ft. Worth TX
    I've had both experiences...one builder (who shall remain nameless on these boards) said, "too bad. That's the bass." Another builder (Roscoe) said "we'll make it right."

    Well, hindsight is 20/20. When you talk to a custom builder, I always ask, "no offense, but what if I hate the bass?"

    However, I would wait and play the bass and see if you bond with the bass at all regardless of aesthetics.
  13. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    About 2 years ago, I ordered a Warmoth Dinky J, made from Black Korina, with thier translucent blue. I had envisioned a color significantly lighter than it actually turned out. What I got, was a body that I would call midnight blue, but for all intents & purposes, it looks black.... unless its under the right light.

    Well, I decided to just go with it & see how it turns out. I love the way it plays, I love how it sounds. It still bugs me, but I do love that bass.

    I frequently think about different things to resolve my dilemma... maybe a new body, or possibly just a pickguard for appearances.
  14. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
    Sound advice.
  15. Jomyo


    Oct 6, 2005
    Redwood City, CA

    Thanks guys.
  16. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    (...spoken as an aside in a conspiratorial whisper...)

    ...psst, Keith, he's discovered the secret of getting the really killer stuff...should we "silence" him?



    ...my story:

    I work for Keith, I tried to get a bass started at least 3 times in the past year, but Keith wouldn't let me, because he had something in mind. By letting him choose what I got for a top...well...see my avatar!



    ...moral of the story - Jomyo, wait until you have the bass "in hand" before passing "final judgement". If the builder is a real stand up dude, and you really don't like it, he'll build you another one as quickly as possible.
  17. eots


    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    If the body wood is lighter and it's not yet finished, maybe it could use some stain (dye) to darken the wood. Using a cut off piece from the same board to experiment with....:meh:
  18. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL
    ....are you implying we made it WRONG the first time?


    Or, do you mean it's LEFT???


  19. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    Yo Gard. I was a big reason BC started carrying Roscoes. Remember? It was a red trans LG5.

    Glad to see you and Keith are working together. He makes one of the best bass values out there. Bang for the buck!!!

    Keep in touch. Havent heard from you in ages

  20. Hi Jomyo, I am sorry you are feeling this way, it must be very tough. Try hang in there and have positive thoughts on your new baby.
    I hang out at the Alembic forum a lot and love looking at the factory to customer threads where you see the development of the basses. One thing I noticed (and this may not be the case here for you) is that if you compare a prepared bass that has not been varnished/sprayed/oiled or whatever to one that is completely done, the difference is astounding. Not only does the wood take on a life, but the subtle nuances can be breathtaking.
    I hope she turns out perfect. Don't forget to show us your baby once she is in your hands and you have played her non stop for a week:bassist: