I remember when my love and obsession with Fender guitars first started. It was around the time I turned 12 years old, I started becoming interested in music and became interested in learning an instrument. First it was drums, then my dad realized he would have to put up with me mindlessly beating the hell out of symbols for some time, so he decided I should pick up the guitar instead. That’s when I really started noticing more and more of my favourite musicians playing Fender, Mark DeLonge of Blink-182 played a sea-foam green Fender Stratocaster with only one pickup at the bridge, and that one pickup was a Seymour Duncan Invader pickup. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day infamously played a… wait a minute… be played a Fernandes strat, well, at the time I didn’t know that and that it was a Fender Stratocaster, anyway I then also realized some of the guitar legends like Eric Clapton also shredded away on a Fender Stratocaster.
From then on my pursuit of attaining a Fender Stratocaster was on! My knowledge of guitars was limited to “if it looks cool, I want it”. So I would gaze at the Stratocasters in the Musician’s Friend catalogue to see what peaked my interest. I began to notice one thing in particular though, the Strats all looked more or less the same, however there was like a £4,000 difference between some of these guitars. So why was there such a difference in price?! Some Strats cost as low as £500 and some cost as high as £5,000! What was it? That’s when I spotted it, those really expensive guitars were Fender Custom Shop guitars.
But what is the most significant difference between a £500 guitar and a guitar closer to £5,000? The very first thing I noticed, was that the more affordable guitars were manufactured not in the United States but in Mexico and the Custom Shop Guitars were built in the United States, where the Fender brand started from to begin with. So, then it became obvious that perhaps the Mexican guitars were likely built in mass by a more affordable manufacturer who probably didn’t have the best quality control, while the American Fender builders probably cost more in labor and therefore had a tighter grip on their quality control. Of course, that alone is not the selling point.
For instance, when you buy a Fender Custom Shop guitar, more specifically a Master Built guitar, everything is completely custom to you, everything from the color of the finish, wood type use and of course what it is you expect out of your guitar and what you want it to do. Even down to the Master Builder who will build your guitar for you. Although all of the Master Builders are exceptional at what they do, some builders are better suited for different styles of guitars depending on the buyer of the guitar. One might also be pleasantly surprised to see how much of the customer’s input is taken into account when building said guitar. Even down to the relicing of a guitar (if a relic’d guitar is your cup of tea that is) or really any sort of personalization you would like to add to your guitar to make it a one of a kind that only you would posses.
I can recall at least a dozen times when I’ve played a brand new guitar and after taking it through its paces and thought to myself “I love this guitar but… if only had this function, or if it had this or sounded like that” etc etc. and I know that I am not the only guitar player who’s felt like this too. When you get your guitar built from the Fender Custom Shop you have an opportunity to have the perfect guitar (whatever that is for you) according to all of your own specifications. The beauty of having a Fender Custom Shop Master Built guitar is that you can ha
ve a guitar that has been setup to be perfectly playable right out of the gate. Seasoned guitar players know the difference in feel between a newly manufactured guitar and one that has been played quite a bit. Often times when you buy just any guitar off of the wall in a Guitar Center there is a great chance that that guitar will need a setup and new strings, because everything was mostly slapped together and then it got used and abused by by random customers. For instance, not too long ago I purchased a floor model electric from guitar center and I had to restring it and lower the action to my liking because obviously the manufacturer wasn’t thinking about my wants and expectations in a guitar.
When you go with a Master Built guitar you are literally in constant communication with the one person who will be crafting your guitar even from the point of it just being a slab of wood. The Master Builder will know your style of playing and your taste in guitars and will have it setup to your needs, maybe you like a lower action, your guitar will be ready for you just as you like it from the moment you open its case. Seasoned guitar players who like vintage guitars might love the feel of a 60’s strat but hate the fact that after all the time it had been played perhaps the 14th fret is no longer playable. With a Master Built guitar you can have that same playability of a vintage guitar without all the flaws that come with a guitar that has been around the block.
But should just anyone buy a Fender Custom Shop Master Built guitar? No of course not. A custom shop is for seasoned players who have had years of experience playing different guitars and have formulated in their minds what a perfect guitar would be for them. Obviously an entry level guitar player would know the difference in wood and why they might prefer a roasted maple neck to just a plain maple neck. An entry level guitarist might pickup up a Fender Player’s Series that was manufactured in Mexico and be perfectly happy with what they have. No point in spending thousands of dollars if you don’t even know what it is you would like in a guitar anyway.