Sourcing Guitar Parts from China
June 24, 2013
It is quite shocking really when you think about the number of parts needed to make a guitar; almost like one of those flat-pack Ikea desks except the end product is much more fun to play with. Building a guitar is generally quite straightforward (with the right knowhow) at the low to mid price range and most models require more or less the same building pattern with the only difference lying in quality of materials and design. Because of the minute raw material cost and reduced labour, sourcing guitar parts from China is beneficial to many guitar companies.
Here is a list of the components needed to make typical 6 string electric guitar:
Headstock, 6 tuning pegs, 6 strings, screws, nut, neck, truss rod, metal plate connecting body to neck, 22 – 24 fret wires, 10 fret markers, body, back plate, scratch plate, volume/tone knobs, pickups, pickup selector switch, strap locks, jack socket, bridge, springs, spacers, bolts, tremolo arm, internal electronics… Phew.
And there are thousands of models out on the market each with a different design and style; on top of this there are many accessories such as straps, bags and picks.
Quality wood lends itself greatly to the overall sound quality of the guitar. Mahogany gives a mellow, soft and warm tone. Chinese mahogany is described as a ‘true mahogany’ and is great for making guitar bodies. The lumber can be bought cheaply in China and can be made into guitar bodies, necks, head stocks and even tuning pegs.
Now we definitely do not advocate the design theft, but the fact that a cheap Gibson copy made in China can sound almost the same as the 5x more expensive US counterpart highlights fact that you can make a high quality sounding product at low price. A promising idea indeed. It says that you can use your own design whilst simply using Chinese parts and labour and the result can be a cheap guitar that sounds great. We feel that the number of guitars bought in China will only rise rapidly in correlation with the rising GDP. The general public are getting more and more disposable income, for most to be spent on things that they enjoy. This is a strong point to consider for those wishing to source guitar parts. This proves that the Chinese guitar market is no less lucrative than the western guitar market.
Sourcing example: The tremolo arm (whammy bar)
If you are interested in sourcing components, bear in mind that an item such as a tremolo arm (a bent piece of stainless steel or chrome) can be sold at market value for around $10.00 .Tremolo arms are made in a pretty uniform design as you can see in the picture below which is a pretty accurate schematic for a homemade stainless steel tremolo arm.
Many tremolo arms don’t screw into the bridge; this means that people often lose them and will pay for a replacement. As a ‘cheap’ component, people don’t have too much trouble forking out for a new one. In small quantities you can buy 30cm/1.5cm threaded stainless steel rods for $2.19. At an overall length of 24cm, I would have 1/5th of a rod left over for use in other making more tremolo arms.
Meaning that you could make my own homemade tremolo arm for $1.75 dollars.
Factor in buying large quantities of long rods and this cost is closer to $1.00 with a very simple manufacturing requirement and due to their size and weight it is easy to transport large quantities.
On top of the tremolo arm, there are many other small components which can be sourced cheaply from China. These could be sold to guitar manufacturers, music retailers, used to build your own guitars or simply just sold as components in western markets. Many of these parts are simple bits of metal which being sold for use in a guitar raises its price higher than if it was being used in say, making a light bulb. Taking into account China’s population of 1,341,403,687 and make a fair undervaluation that 1/100 people play the guitar that leaves 13,414,036 guitarists in China. And because many guitarists own more than one guitar and a constant stream of beginners there is a large demand for guitars and their components.
So when you’re sourcing guitar parts from china bear in mind that: good quality material for a lot of the parts can be sourced cheaply. The simplicity and size of most components allows for a swift turnaround time from when the order is processed. There are great opportunities for export. There are great opportunities that lie in the Chinese domestic market. Lastly, the guitar shows no signs of decreasing popularity from its spot as one of the most played instruments in the world. While new musicians emerge into the music scene and inspire people to play, the guitar will stay popular because of its accessibility, price and reputation. We hope you have gained some knowledge from this blog, if you have any other ideas feel free to comment.