Surplus of Expensive Guitars

In this post, I will share my opinions on the reasons why some guitars are significantly more expensive than others. I will also discuss if high price is correlated to a high quality, and if low price is correlated to a low quality.

Why Expensive?

Producing some of the most expensive basses on the market, Fodera is a typical case for high instrument price tags.

At Fodera, very talented luthiers hand-produce bass guitars using very high quality wood and hardware in a relatively expensive area of the world – NYC. Wage, material cost and overhead per instrument is probably much higher than a typical mass produced factory instrument. Add some profit on top of that. Add some customer service percentage too. Considering that Fodera has a backlog of 9 months on custom instruments, the demand – supply balance certainly seems to be favoring Fodera in terms of an increased price based on brand value as well.

The combination of those factors naturally lead us to the hefty price tags of instruments made by Fodera.

Surplus Increase

Does quality really increase per $ spent? To a certain threshold, yes. After a certain price point, what you get per $ decreases dramatically. Read Diminishing Returns on Bass Prices for more details.

Cheap Gems, Expensive Lemons

An expensive guitar may have better components and craftsmanship, but every single guitar is unique.

This means; a supposedly humble guitar might turn out to be great, and a supposedly great guitar might turn out to be mediocre. So what you are actually paying for are components, craftsmanship and the possibility of getting a good guitar.

For instance; some guitars have dead spots as a result of wood density and overall mass, and there is nearly nothing you can do about it. An expensive guitar may have dramatic dead spots, while a cheap one might have no dead spots at all.

There are countless other factors which make or break a good instrument. Some of them can (and will) be controlled on expensive instruments, but some simply can’t.

In a non-scientific nutshell; I would say that…

Custom ShopStandardSub
WoodHand pickedSelectRandom
Gem %HighLowLow
Adequate %LowHighLow
Lemon %LowLowHigh
Gem: An exceptionally well, epic instrument
Adequate: An instrument which meets common expectations
Lemon: An unsatisfactory instrument which doesn't play so well

Never buy an instrument without trying it first; if possible. Supposedly good series have lemons you would want to avoid, and supposedly humble series have gems you would want to discover.


It is said that Mexican Fender guitars are made by Mexicans living in Mexico, while USA Fender guitars are made by Mexicans living in the USA.

I don’t know about that, but my opinion can be summarized as:

  • Expensive bass: High quality components & craftsmanship, high chance for a gem, lower risk for a lemon
  • Affordable bass: Standard components (partially upgradeable) & craftsmanship, low chance for a gem, high risk for a lemon

In any case, I would expect them to sound very similar.

Author: Dr. Kerem Koseoglu

Mostly harmless

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