How to Choose Your Custom Build Guitar

Apr 21, 2015

So it's finally come to this. You've gone through a guitar or two, and while each one will always hold a special place in your heart, it's time to find The One. Some people look high and low for the special instrument in their lives, searching everywhere to find the one that's perfect. Some people stroll into their local music shop and just see it there on the wall. You, though. You're going to design your own. Perhaps you'll even build it, but maybe you'll leave it in the hands of someone you think more capable. Either way, where do you begin?

Choose Tone Wood

If you haven't already, you should definitely read our Guide to Tone Woods, which will help you come to a decision on which one suits you best. The basic choice, however, is as follows:

Alder: Full, clear sound for rock and blues
Basswood: lightweight for performance rockers
Cocobolo : Great resonance for acoustic guitars
Koa : Rich and clear for rock and metal
Korina : Balanced for melodic styles
Mahogany : Classic all-rounder, great for classic rock and blues
Maple : High end looks, great for enhancing other woods
Pau Ferro : Percussive and clear, great with gain
Rosewood : Balanced, thick tones for blues
Swamp Ash : Lightweight but resonant, great for southern rock and country

Choose Neck & Neck Wood/Radius/Shapes

You can choose a separate tone wood for your neck than you do for the body, and certain types of wood are more commonly advised for the neck than of the guitar. Since the fretboard is added separately, you can also choose different woods for each.

Rosewood and Maple are both common choices for electric guitars, offering rich sounds that still have clarity. Of course, you should choose your neck wood based on the tone you are aiming for, and finding a good combination of woods might even be the best solution.

Neck shape is mostly a matter of comfort but the radius will also affect performance. Some people prefer the neck of their guitar to be curved, while others prefer a comparatively more hard-edged shape. The curvature of the fretboard will also somewhat be determined by the type of guitar, electric guitars can have vintage profiles or a modern flatter radius built for speed, while acoustic fretboards tend to be flatter.

Choose the Body

The importance of the body of your guitar is dependant on whether you're going acoustic or electric. If you're designing an electric guitar, the shape will only effect performance to the extent that it might effect where pickups go. Ultimately, you can choose some wacky shapes for an electric guitar and it will still be mostly the same.

Acoustic guitars on the other hand, are all about shape. There are quite a few standard options worth looking at, and unless you already know a lot about how the shape of a chamber effects sound, it's probably worth sticking with one of the following:

Parlor: A smaller sized guitar with a clear voice. Great for fingerpicking, comfortable holding and smaller players
Classical: Similar to the Parlor, but larger, with a somewhat deeper sound. Unsurprisingly, good for classical style.
Concert (O): A medium sized guitar that is easy enough to handle for most players, with a traditional acoustic sound.
Grand Concert (OO): Getting towards a larger size, the Grand Concert guitar has a deeper, stronger voice often used for acoustic-electric guitars.
Auditorium/Grand Auditorium/Orchestra Model (OOO): The guitar with many names, this guitar has a good balance between comfort, volume and a range of tones.
Dreadnought: One of the largest styles available, this body size and shape will offer a characteristically deep bodied tone with volume. Great for strumming or fingerpicking, and the ideal bluegrass guitar.
Jumbo: As the name implies, this is a big guitar. Jumbo guitars are loud and great for strumming, a favourite for campers or country players.


Your pickups will change the tone of your electric guitar based on their position and their type. Pickups closer to the guitar's bridge will be higher toned treble, while moving them towards the neck will make them deeper and rounder. Of course, the volume and tone controls on the guitar will also help you adjust this base sound.

Your two main options for pickup types are single coil or humbucker. Single coil pickups have a more trebly and biting tone, but this can also lead to some background 'hum', which is what the humbuckers are designed to counteract. Humbuckers tend to sound fatter and thicker, great for rock and metal but also nice and warm for jazz. You can also get humbuckers that can be coil tapped, which allows you to switch between the two by turning off the extra coil on the humbucker.


Finally, add all those extra features you want: the flames and skulls, the transparent finish, you could even ask the guitar maker to sign it, if you want them to. Make your guitar look like your guitar.

And that's it. If you'd like any help designing your very own custom guitar, then we're always happy to chat about it with you. Call us on 0161 436 4799 or get in touch.