One of the interesting aspects of guitar culture is brand loyalty. Rock guitarists, despite association with counter-culture and DIY ideology, rarely shop outside the long established brands of instrument equipment (i.e.Fender or Gibson electric guitars, Marshall, Fender, or Peavey amps, D’Addario, Ernie Ball, Elixer strings, etc.)
This is often out of necessity–if you’re relying on the same amp and guitar and pedals and cables every night in a different city, you’ll want a brand that has been tested by countless guitarists for the past 50 years of rock history. More than likely, your favorite guitarist probably played a Gibson SG or Les Paul, a Fender Stratocaster, Jaguar, or Telecaster. There are obviously exceptions, but not many. And most of these instruments and equipment are renowned for versatility–Fender guitars, for example, have appeared in every genre from smooth jazz to punk rock.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got mostly big name guitars in my collection, and I love them all. There’s downsides to the established brands, though. First, it’s difficult for any independent instrument makers, regardless of the quality of their product, to break into the market. And that means that the buyer is missing out on a piece of equipment they potentially would love a whole lot more than their big box stuff.
Secondly, every handmade instrument and piece of equipment has it’s own “personality”, imbibed by the materials used and the hand of the maker. So, as with the odd instruments in this previous entry, who knows what strange and wonderful sounds you’re missing out on?
This 2.5 Watt portable amp is a custom creation from the mind of Robert Badgley. Robert runs a shop called Badgley CBGS (short for cigar box guitars). His store isn’t limited to cigar box instruments, though. The storefront has amps, slides, and picks handmade from repurposed goods. This is a great and eye-catching amp for practicing or playing street music. It’s portable and powered by a 9 volt battery, so you can take it anywhere that might benefit from sweet riffs and hot licks.
Wooden Capos is a New Jersey retailer with a forthright name. The shop features several capo designs handcrafted from leather and wood. The shopkeep, Lee, writes that his work is centered around the belief that “functionality and beauty should be at a balance”. The bloodwood capo comes finished with olive oil and beeswax, and it comes in lefty and righty versions. The customer can also get personal graphics or words burned onto the capo.
(For non-guitarists, a capo is a device that is used for quick and easy chord changes on a guitar neck. It’s popular among those who sing and play, as it allows them to adjust songs to fit within their range.)
The vintage-styled guitar straps of Ohio’s Nowhere Bear are exquisite multicolored affairs, like something you’d see slung over Jimi Hendrix’s shoulder (or wrapped around his head). The intricate thread designs are backed by strong seat belt or hemp webbing. The shop is full of wonderful patterns all colors of the rainbow–definitely worth a peek.
Each lovely hand carved wooden pick from this set will produce a slight different sound. Wooden picks produce a warmer, mellower tone compared to the traditional plastic. The 3 pick set comes courtesy of Utah shop Lulu and Ira. Their shop is home to many captivating carved products, from baby toys to kitchen accessories.
True style, as any fashionable rocker knows, winds all the way down to the smallest details. These vinyl guitar pick holders from Long Beach-based Couch Guitar Straps are crafted from vintage car upholstery. As they say in the product description: “…as thoughtful and unique a gift you can give to your guitar playing friends for around 12 bucks.” Couch Guitar is stuffed full of lots of great stuff made from recycled material, like guitar straps (obvs), camera straps, and wallets.
There are few greater feelings than the sensation of playing an instrument you’ve put together yourself. If you’re looking to give someone that feeling, you should definitely check out the California shop Sound Box Guitars. Their Cigar Box Kit is a comprehensive DIY kit for building an acoustic 3-string cigar box guitar–without needing a huge collection of tools. The kit comes with all the complex drilling, sawing, carving, and sanding pre-done. Learn more about this awesome gift here.