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The reality of signature model guitars.

rmz76

Member
Messages
126
I've come to the conclusion the reality with signature guitars (take your pick: John Mayer, Santana, Slash, etc..). Players think they are getting this




But usually the actual guitars the artist plays isn't a production model. They are hand built one-off, sometimes prototypes, sometimes used as the template for what becomes the signature model, but a lot more care is given to the VIPs instrument than the production line version of the guitar. It's because famous players want to be (and you could argue deserve to be) pampered with special treatment. They want something truly remarkable and special, hand built for them to their specs.

The guitar builder understands the mysticism that surrounds gear for so many players and is looking to capitalize on that. So they are looking for a business arrangement. The artist gets their custom hand built guitars (in some cases like Slash with Gibson the artist even gets permission to let their favorite private builder who doesn't work for the company handle the build) and the guitar maker gets the right to use that co-developed design as a production signature model, built on the assembly line; with a royalty paid to the artist endorsing the model. Often what's actually sold, while a quality production guitar is nowhere near the attention to detail as the hand built instruments crafted for the artist to play. They just look the same.

The artist and the builder are making money and for their thousands of dollar the customer is getting a USA production guitar that technically meets the same spec as the hand made creations. But to me it still kind of feels as if they are marketing/advertising Excalibur and really selling you this

 
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Cheddar Kung Pao

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,922
i disagree with you on both fronts. I think most people don't expect a miracle when buying a signature guitar. I think most people hope for a guitar they will like and that might help get that artist's tones. But i think ultimatelt people get them like a band shirt or poster. It's a fan purchase. I wanted a Jimmy Page Tele coz I thought it was a cool guitar. I was looking at the MIM ones so I wasn't expecting it to be any better than any other MIM Tele.

To your other point about artists playing custom one offs instead of production models; sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn't. Certainly with Santana we know of guitars he played that were one offs (gold leaf covered singlecut) that aren't the same as the production model (SE gold painted singlecut.) Mayer plays some one offs with Dead & Co. but his Silver Skies are made on the prduction line with all the other ones (I know this from a friend who helped make them.)

Lots of other artists famously play production examples of their guitars. Greg Koch, Mark Tremonti, Marc Holcomb, Josh Smith, etc.
 

JohnSykes

Member
Messages
680
Not really. A lot of signature guitars offer good quality, great specs and are great tools for professional musicians.

Mayer used a SRV signature Strat for some time. I believe Jared James Nichols used one as well. A lot of shred guys play the older Malmsteen signature with great results, Phil Palmer still uses an older Clapton model.
 

metrokosmiko

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,982
Not really. A lot of signature guitars offer good quality, great specs and are great tools for professional musicians.

Mayer used a SRV signature Strat for some time. I believe Jared James Nichols used one as well. A lot of shred guys play the older Malmsteen signature with great results, Phil Palmer still uses an older Clapton model.
Pete Townsend also plays a Clapton. It's a staple at this point.
Dave Grohl plays a Trini Lopez.

Of course signature guitars are marketed to that guitar player's fans, but they still need to be a good product in of itself and they can become a popular instrument regardless of the artist association. For example, I can see the Eric Johnston import Schecter becoming a very hot choice for people looking for a good strat on a budget.

The EJ Strat, the Lincoln Brewster strat, these are some guitars that have specific specs you can't get unless you roll your own.
Not all people playing EJ strats are EJ fans.

Then there's EBMM - most of their emphasis is placed in artist models but they do artist collaborations as a way to come up with unique designs. Albert Lee, St. Vincent, Valentine, the Majesty - people aren't playing these guitars because of the artists, necessarily.

I mean who is the Les Paul named after?
 

rmz76

Member
Messages
126
Not really. A lot of signature guitars offer good quality, great specs and are great tools for professional musicians.

Mayer used a SRV signature Strat for some time. I believe Jared James Nichols used one as well. A lot of shred guys play the older Malmsteen signature with great results, Phil Palmer still uses an older Clapton model.
That's true, but a bit all of those players customized those instruments a bit... Some great examples of exceptions have been mentioned, though. What I've found is that you end up with some exclusive pickups in a signature model and everything else can be had from a much less expensive mod on another production guitar.
 

rmz76

Member
Messages
126
Pete Townsend also plays a Clapton. It's a staple at this point.
Dave Grohl plays a Trini Lopez.

Of course signature guitars are marketed to that guitar player's fans, but they still need to be a good product in of itself and they can become a popular instrument regardless of the artist association.

The EJ Strat, the Lincoln Brewster strat, these are some guitars that have specific specs you can't get unless you roll your own.
Not all people playing EJ strats are EJ fans.

Then there's EBMM - most of their emphasis is placed in artist models but they do artist collaborations as a way to come up with their own designs. Albert Lee, St. Vincent, Valentine, the Majesty - people aren't playing these guitars because of the artists, necessarily.
Agree 100% on the EJ and Brewster... always exceptions out there. I've loved every EJ signature Strat.... What gets to me is when you have a guitar and I do think the Silver Sky is over priced for what it is. But also don't blame PRS for selling the thing for as much as they can get people to pay for it.

Often signature models amount to some custom exclusive pickups and simple circuit mods, sometimes maybe even a specific setup all of this can be applied to a guitar that cost half the price... In some cases the artist donate their proceeds to charity, but often its just a revenue stream and authenticity of the guitar being produced to the actual model they play on stage seems like a second thought.

Even if Eric Clapton's signature guitars were hand made for him at the custom shop (and I'm sure they were) that doesn't mean some young player who bought his signature model off a Guitar Center rack didn't find the inspiration they were looking for in it. When you go down that path though we're talking about inspiration and I think most examples of famous player playing other famous players sig models falls into this category. But that's a different discussion than how close the sig models actually are to the hand built instruments artist is playing on stage... Famous players often have 100s of guitars in the collection, sure they have a few production model versions of their signature model. They also probably have at least a handful of prototypes and one-off hand built versions.
 

Tone chader

Senior Member
Messages
809
I'v had my Buddy Guy USA signature Strat for 25 years. I always loved Buddy's tone, and I can get close with that guitar. However, it's just a very versatile Strat with a fantastic neck. The midboost circuit is the secret weapon on that guitar. It's great for blues, rock, even country music. There have been signature guitars around since the beginning of electric guitars. The "Les Paul" is iconic.
 

metrokosmiko

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,982
I think I kinda derailed from the thread there...

I don't think artist signature guitars are meant to be (or promise) to be exactly what their namesake plays. I think that, if there is a signature guitar, is because it's different than a 'canon' guitar in some regard (like the Albert Hammond Jr. strat with its ceramic pickups, wiring and 70s neck) or something like that.

Some iconic players play something that's really specific and is not the tried-and-true recipe, but their set of preferences is interesting enough that it can be produced as a new instrument. I'm not saying every signature guitar out there has a 100% justified existence, but there are some which definitely do.

If the specs are the same, then you're kinda getting to play the same thing they play. It's not the same guitar, it's a guitar that does exactly the same thing.
 

rmz76

Member
Messages
126
Sure are a lot of people diggin' that Les Paul fella's signature guitar.
That's a good example of my point, the Gibson guitar bearing Les Paul's name was designed by Ted McCartney, the variations on it which Les Paul himself actually played pretty far from the popular models that continue to bear his name.... In the case of the SG he was angry Gibson continued to use his name to market a product he didn't endorse. But I'm sure Angus Young doesn't care.

I never said the signature guitars sold are not quality instruments, just pointing out often its all driven by a business artist-endorsement arrangement that doesn't have much do with the a guitarist main instrument, although from a marketing perspective its 100% about that.

If the most popular variation of the Les Paul isn't one Les himself found to be his main instrument or even one he played often should that guitar still be called the "Les Paul". Everyone has their own concept of what's genuine and what isn't. I'm just putting some questions for thought out there.

 
Messages
82
I would hope that any reasonably informed guitarist buys a production model sig guitar knowing that it's not a custom build on par with what the artist actually uses.

That said, I'd bet that a surprising number of endorsed artists use production models of their sig guitars, especially if they're endorsing an import brand.

I always keep my eye out for sig guitars, because working professionals often have a better perspective on what works for guitarists than instrument makers. I've noticed, for example, that sig guitars often tend to have controls out of the way and delete little-used controls like tone knobs.
 

Strummerfan

Member
Messages
1,502
Some artist models are a good deal, you get modified versions of production models without having to warm up the soldering iron or buy upgraded parts. Some of them are very overpriced for minimal changes in specs. If you know what you want, and you know the market, they can be worthwhile. I've never owned one (at this point I don't really consider a Les Paul a signature model) but if I got a good deal on a used SRV Strat, or a used Clapton Strat with Lace sensors, I wouldn't turn it down.
 

poppunk

Member
Messages
940
Then there's EBMM - most of their emphasis is placed in artist models but they do artist collaborations as a way to come up with unique designs. Albert Lee, St. Vincent, Valentine, the Majesty - people aren't playing these guitars because of the artists, necessarily.
I wouldn't have mentioned Petrucci. I'm sure the staff is extra vigilant when they are working on the ones that go to the artists, but you're getting what the artists gets at EBMM. But Majesty guitars are like $3,000 to $4,000, so you better be. And I'm not a fan of the the shredder type of guitar, but that particular model is kind of like Excalibur with all the stuff they put in it.
 
Messages
425
Buying a guitar is like ordering a pizza.
Each pizza shop has some "signature" pizzas, like a "deluxe" or "vegetarian".
If you don't like any of those, you can build your own with toppings you like.
If you like everything about a signature guitar except the pickups, or tuners, you can swap them. Or if you truly want a guitar built to your specs, go see a luthier, or order the parts and build it yourself.
Do some people buy a signature guitar because of the signature on the headstock? I'm sure they do...and that's ok too.
But really, what difference does it make why somebody else buys a certain guitar?
If you don't like them...don't buy them.

Seems simple to me.

One difference between buying a guitar and ordering a pizza...

Don't buy a used pizza.
 

Benz2112

Memba?
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,714
You mentioned Petrucci, Santana, JM, they're all playing stuff off the production line. I'd say the majority of signature artists are playing guitars that are commercially available. Even if what they have is a prototype, it likely isn't something substantively more special, the artist may sound different than you on it, but that's their playing more than the guitar being some special holy grail.
 

RICFREAK

Member
Messages
2,000
Buying a guitar is like ordering a pizza.
Each pizza shop has some "signature" pizzas, like a "deluxe" or "vegetarian".
If you don't like any of those, you can build your own with toppings you like.
If you like everything about a signature guitar except the pickups, or tuners, you can swap them. Or if you truly want a guitar built to your specs, go see a luthier, or order the parts and build it yourself.
Do some people buy a signature guitar because of the signature on the headstock? I'm sure they do...and that's ok too.
But really, what difference does it make why somebody else buys a certain guitar?
If you don't like them...don't buy them.

Seems simple to me.

One difference between buying a guitar and ordering a pizza...

Don't buy a used pizza.
LOL! Good one . Funny but very true.
 




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