Fender Masterbuilt Guitars: What Are They And Are They Worth The Money?
Fender Custom Shop guitars are wonderful things. Really, really wonderful. Since we started stocking them a few years ago now, I have completely fallen in love with pretty much every one that’s come through the door and, judging by how well they’ve sold, so has everyone else!
Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we got some Masterbuilts. This is Fender Custom Shop and then some.
What are Fender Masterbuilt guitars?
Fender Masterbuilt guitars are made in small, separate, personalised booths in the Custom Shop section of the Californian Fender factory. From start to finish, the guitars are assembled by one person. These are Fender’s Masterbuilders, who have some very extensive training and experience under their belts. There are currently only 11 of these Masterbuilders. So, to put that in perspective – if you buy a Fender Masterbuilt, your guitar has been made lovingly, start to finish, by one of the best guitar makers in the world.
As wood arrives into the Fender factory, it gets graded. The Fender Masterbuilders have the choice of some of the best tonewoods available for building electric guitars – want a lightweight Strat? They can hand choose a piece of light ash with that in mind. The Fender Custom Shop is open to custom orders, though there are some restrictions – with a Masterbuilt, the only limit is your imagination (and your wallet). Want a solid rosewood neck on your new Tele? No prob, that’s a job for the Masterbuilders.
Probably my favourite thing about the whole Masterbuilt concept is the fact that the guitar is made by the same pair of hands that has made guitars for Keith Richards, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, John 5, Nile Rodgers – I could go on… so I will – Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, The Edge, Geddy Lee, Paul Stanley, Michael Landau, Nuno Bettencourt, David Gilmour, Johnny Marr and many more legendary and influencial players. Some players seek out particular Masterbuilders e.g. Paul Waller makes a lot of Keith Richards’ Teles (we actually have a Paul Waller Masterbuilt Tele in stock at the moment).
The Fender Masterbuilders
These guys have undergone some extremely specialist training. Most of them study under one of the other Masterbuilders for years before gaining the holy title. Each has their own booth where they can keep their trade secrets to themselves. Some builders are known for signature skills – aging, finishes, particular models etc. Here’s the Fender Masterbuilder line-up (click to read what Fender says about each one):
- Dale Wilson
- Paul Waller
- Stephen Stern
- Jason Smith
- Yuriy Shishkov
- Todd Krause
- Dennis Galuszka
- Greg Fessler
- John Cruz
- Ron Thorn
- Kyle McMillin
Are Masterbuilt Guitars Better Than Team Built Custom Shop Guitars?
The short answer is – yes, if you think they are. So much with guitars is very subjective. Make no mistake, Fender Custom Shop guitars are made with outstanding attention to detail; the Masterbuilts even more so, so build quality is a factor. The Masterbuilders hand select the wood they use – I’m a big advocate of the notion that a guitar is the sum of its parts, so if they choose complementary pieces of wood that really help the instrument resonate and play well, then the end result is going to be spectacular.
Is a Masterbuilt Strat at £6k twice as good as a Team Built at £3k? To me, probably not, but if I had £6k to spend on a guitar, would I want one built by the person that’s built for one of The Beatles, or the guys in the Stones? I absolutely would! Imagine showing your grandkids your old Masterbuilt guitar, playing them Exile On Main St. and explaining the connection. If you can afford it, and you want a really special Fender guitar, then they are 100% worth the money.