What hardware should I choose for my guitar build?
August 20, 2012 10:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking a guitar building class as an elective, but have little to no knowledge about guitars. Advice/opinions on my build options?

So I have a few different options for the parts to order with my build kit, but I have no idea what the differences between them are and which ones I'm going to want. I'm going to build a strat style guitar, and as of now my playing is EXTREMELY basic, but I think I'm going to head in an Allman Brothers style blues direction. Anyways, here are the options. What do you think?











- - CHROME (3L/3R)










- - 6 STR.

TAIL PIECE:(if required)







- - JAZZP90







posted by LarrenD to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a chance to talk to your instructor before placing the order? It seems to me that he/she may have some advice about this.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:55 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

A traditional strat should be your goal here, since you aren't a guitarist, and don't/won't know why you would want to make different choices for things. So, if in doubt, look at what type of thing Fender does on their American strats, and copy that.

Go with cheaper pickups for now, don't splurge on really nice ones. It's easy to change them later if you start playing more and want to upgrade. If you decide the guitar isn't for you, however, you'll have a hell of a time getting much money back.

Go with chrome hardware, gold and black only look good on a guitar designed with that hardware in mind, and even then I don't know if I've ever seen a strat that looked good in gold or black.

As for the choice in hardware, since you're making a strat, most of your choices are already made. A lot of what you listed above is not strat hardware, and wouldn't work or fit on a standard strat.

Definitely talk to your instructor and get some advice, you don't want to spend a ton of money on the wrong stuff.

I don't know how much time you have to do this, but you can get pickups significantly cheaper if you buy them used, and there's usually a few available on craigslist. The same goes for other parts, but they don't come up as often as pickups.

The main things you want to make a good choice with from the beginning are the bridge and tuners. Not because the hardware itself needs to be fantastic, but because those things require drilling holes into the guitar, and if you want to go a different direction later, the new hardware may not fit those holes correctly. So, if you go with a 2 pivot point bridge, and later want one with 6 screws, you may not be able to change without leaving visible finish problems. The electronics can all be changed out without any visible difference later on, so it's easy to change things later on.
posted by markblasco at 11:45 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just marking as a favorite isn't enough - markblasco is right on target.

Just as an example to maybe clarify what he said - the Gotoh (3L/3R) tuning machines you mention are for a different type of headstock (a "Gibson" style). Strats would use a "6 in-line" tuner; all the tuning machines are on one side of the headstock.

So I think you should do some more basic research into "how a strat is constructed", and I'd suggest maybe going to the library and finding actual books. Mostly because Googling will get you a lot of sales websites and a lot of fairly esoteric discussions about details that maybe aren't really relevant to you right now.

One web source I do like quite a bit is the Stewart Macdonald website - obviously they're looking to sell stuff, but they have a lot of good free info in their (duh) "Free Information" and "Trade Secrets" sections.

You can play "Allman Brothers style blues" on any damn guitar there is - you don't need to get too worked up about "fine-tuning" your build for that specific type of music. Just build a nice solid "standard" strat for now. As you advance as a player you can change quite a bit on your guitar to fine tune it to your playing, or it's entirely possible you'll want a different guitar altogether. Or both.

Have fun.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:34 AM on August 21, 2012

I'm a life-long guitar geek and sometimes-professional guitar player and constant guitar tinkerer and modifier. I could blab on and on about this topic, but I'll try to keep this concise.

To start with: markblasco is, indeed, right on target - but I would probably suggest building a Telecaster rather than a Strat, because Telecasters are a little less fussy and a little more idiot-proof. I'm a Stratocaster player, but a Tele is the bulletproof tank of the guitar world and is pretty tough to mess up. But if you've already decided to build a Strat, then make it a "normal" Strat, particularly when it comes to the bridge. With that said, here are my quick, abridged thoughts:

1. You should build a guitar that is as close as possible to one of the very traditional standard models. Once you get to be more of a player and you start to build preferences of your own, then you can branch out with weird options and non-standard combinations of elements. But for your first project, make it a "normal" one.

2. I know you've already decided to build a Strat style guitar, but I'm including this item for anyone else who reads this answer sometime in the future: Build a Stratocaster or a Telecaster. Why? Because, in standard form, they are a modular design with a bolt-on neck. You should not try to build a Gibson-style set-neck guitar your first time out. It's too fussy, too easy to mess up, and there is, quite frankly, no compelling reason to have a set neck. I have a couple of them, and I like them, but the perceived advantages are, in my estimation, mostly just confirmation bias and aesthetic preference.

3. I agree with the above comments about chrome/gold/black hardware. Gold only looks good on Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer's Stratocasters. Black only looks good on a 1987 Kramer Baretta. And chrome ages nice.

4. Hardware-wise, you need to stick with whatever is "standard" on the type of guitar you build. Do not put a Telecaster bridge on anything but a Telecaster. Do not put a tune-o-matic and stop piece on anything other than a set-neck, Gibson-style guitar. This is not up for debate. When you get to be a good guitarist or accomplished luthier, then you can start fiddling with this. But for now, stick to the basics. You must master the rules before you can break them. On your Strat, you should put on Strat hardware. Don't do a stop piece bridge, because that's not "standard."

5. Pickups: This is one area where I think you can deviate a little from the norm. The one huge weakness of a Stratocaster or Telecaster is the hum. When I play Strats, I deal with the hum by running it through an Electro-Harmonix Hum Debugger or by standing and holding the guitar in the one physical position that minimizes the hum, being careful not to move at all when I play. If I don't do one of those "tricks," all of the comfort and joy of playing a Strat starts to be outweighed by the growing anger I have over the terrible hum.

So, if you build a Strat or a Tele, try to either get noiseless pickups or remember to buy a Hum Debugger. Seriously.

If you decide to put humbuckers in, I can vouch for the awesomeness of the Rio Grande Texas Humbucker. I have one of those in the neck position of one of my Gibsons, and it's amazing.

6. My preference for tuning machines and bridge: I'm a big Strat guy and I prefer old vintage style Klusons and a vintage 6-screw tremolo bridge. One of my two Strats has 5 springs pulled super tight, while the other has three springs and "floats." The former is much easier to keep set up just right than the latter. They each serve their purpose in their own unique way. I like the Kluson tuners because they have an elegant way of holding the string without there being any excess string sticking out. I use a Corian nut that never seems to stick and I've never had tuning problems. I'm not convinced that there is any meaningful advantage to the newer tuning machine technology.
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2012

Here's a great story (with an unfortunate ending) about a first-time guitar-maker hitting the big time. No anchors, search the page for 'Stephen Cripe'.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:33 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older How do I impress upon my doctors that a prescribed...   |   The Authority on Asiatic cooking methods... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.