Handcrafted Instrument v. Mass Produced Instrument artistic shots 058

October 29, 2019, 1 Comment

Handcrafted Instrument v. Mass Produced Instrument

One of the questions I am often asked is:  What makes a handcrafted instrument better than a mass produced instrument?  The answer is: It’s subjective. There is not a scientific answer to this question.  No one can point to any specific quality of either instrument and provide a definitive answer.  The quality of a handcrafted instrument depends on the skill of the luthier while the quality of a mass produced instrument depends on the quality control of a factory and its design.  What I can do, though, is provide you with some information about each and let you reach your own conclusion. In the end it is your decision.

HandcraftedMass Produced
  • Carved from solid wood

  • Each instrument is unique

  • Custom made to fulfill your requirements

  • Instrument holds or increases in value

  • Instrument is setup for you by the luthier

  • Personal relationship with the luthier
  • Each instrument is an exact replica of another

  • Off-the-shelf design to appeal to the masses

  • Instrument value is static or decreases

  • Requires a shop to setup the instrument

  • You’re just a number

If you’re looking for a fine instrument with a certain wood, look, and feel to it, then a handcrafted instrument is the way to go.  You will develop a relationship with the luthier as you go through the process of designing your instrument and in most cases you will receive updates as the build progresses, so you’ll know the progress of your instrument.  A great example of being able to choose what you want is being able to decide how big you want your neck to be. With a mass produced instrument, you get what is in the specs and that’s all there is to it. But what if you have smaller or larger hands and you need a different sized neck to make the instrument more playable for you?  Well, you talk with your luthier about neck size and the luthier will work with you during the design phase and adjust the design to suit your unique needs. It does not get much simpler than that.  

If you’re looking for a beginner instrument and being cost conscious, then a mass produced instrument is the way to go.  A handcrafted instrument is an investment in your musical passion. Because of the woods used and the time it takes to build an instrument, a handcrafted instrument is going to cost more in most cases.  A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into building an instrument. When you buy a hand crafted instrument, you are not just buying an instrument. You are buying a part of a luthier as well.  

If you’re looking to justify spending more on a mandolin, then you’ve reached the point in your musical career where you are ready to upgrade from a beginner instrument to a professional instrument.  The professional instrument will be easier to play, so you will want to play it more. The instrument will look better, so you will want to play it more. It will sound better, so you will want to play it more.  The net result: You will play it more. The more you play, the better you will sound.

If you are looking for a mandolin to inspire you, choose an instrument that does exactly that.  A mandolin is a challenge to play. It will inspire you to try new genres of music. It will inspire you to meet other musicians and play with other musicians.  It may inspire you to write your own music. It will give you a sense of accomplishment. And in short, it’s fun to play.

As I alluded to before, there is no right or wrong answer.  The answer lies with you and what you are looking for in an instrument.  Only you can make the decision about which is better for you.

Gary Lewandowski

1 Comment

  • Kevin Harrang

    Reply December 7, 2019 |

    Having purchased more mass produced instruments than my wife approves of (many more, actually…), I can attest to the advantages of getting a custom instrument from Gary. When I wanted to get serious about playing mandolin, like everyone else I looked into buying a vintage Gibson, and actually bought one (with return policy). But when I compared it side by side with one of Gary’s, I found the tone and especially intonation of Gary’s mandolins markedly better–and the professional teachers I consulted with agreed. Then when I had Gary build me a one-of-a-kind custom mandolin, I got the latest technology with the exact styling I wanted. I’ve never been happier with a musical instrument, and my wife’s happy because I won’t want another one!

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