The other day, I blogged about v-picks and what a great product they are. Well, I was thinking about guitar gear and thought I'd post a few products and vendors that I really appreciate.
First... the big one - Lowden Guitars. George, Flo, and company build the most amazing acoustic guitars and they are wonderful people. If you are in the market for a small shop acoustic guitar, make sure you check out a Lowden.
Every musician who carries an instrument around needs a good case. There are lots of options at a variety of price points with different purposes in mind. For everyday use, I really like a good gig bag. They are light in weight. You can sling them over your shoulder, freeing up your hands. And the good ones are almost as protective as old fashioned hard cases. My favorite is the Incase slim bag. They aren't cheap but they are great bags and really protect your electric guitar or bass. Unfortunately, they don't make an acoustic bag any longer. Mono makes an acoustic bag that looks pretty good. One of these days, I'll probably try one out.
Most fingerboards are not finished and so the wood is subject to drying out. A good fingerboard oil is a must but what to use is a bigger question. There are lots of products available - some of which are marketed for guitars and others that are either aimed at other purposes ("lemon oil" furniture polish) or just bizarre (nose oil!). I really like Fret Doctor. It is a mix of natural oils and stabilizers that works great. It is also available in smaller bottles for use as bore oil for woodwinds.
Strings... without strings, a guitar doesn't do much. In the last decade or so, a number of companies have released strings that are coated with teflon like substances to increase string life - strings lose their brightness as dirt and corrosion build up. I tried a number of those different strings on my acoustic guitars and just didn't care for any of them. They lasted a long time, but they didn't sound very good to me. I found a little company called Wyres Strings in Canada that makes coated strings that sound as good to me as the uncoated ones. They last forever and sound great. I use the TP1256 which have light gauge trebles and medium gauge bass strings. This works great for dropped tunings and gives me a little bigger bottom.
On electric guitar, I don't hear the change as strings age quite as drastically as I do on acoustic so I go for inexpensive here. I purchase my electric strings from Webstrings and used to get my acoustic strings there as well. There are only a few companies that actually manufactuer guitar strings. Most come from those couple of factories and are re-branded by a company that markets them... so there is a strong possibility that strings from webstrings are the same ones you get at the local music store... except the webstrings cost half as much.
Back to the partscaster. There are 3 or 4 companies that make wonderful guitar bodies and necks - Warmoth, and USA Custom Guitars stand out. Between those two companies you can get great bodies or necks made in the USA of top qualty woods with an amazing number of options... and there are other companies such as allparts or mightymite that offer fewer options at lower prices from overseas manufacturers. (I put together a beautiful guitar using parts from Warmoth and USACG.) For me though, Carvin guitars works. It is true that there is only one body shape and one neck profile available but the options for different woods are there, the price is right, and the fit of the parts is second to none. If you go with one of their kits, you get everything you need at a much lower price point than you would pay if you purchased everything separately. In the next few days, I hope to finish my latest partscaster and I'll post some more photos.
Last, my favorite acoustic guitar shop in the world is Cathedral Music in Troy, New York. Klem says he doesn't sell any junk and that is absolutely true. Klem's inventory is not the biggest but every guitar he sells at any price point is a gem. His customer service is also second to none. Don't buy a high end acoustic guitar without talking to Klem first... and tell him that I sent you.