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HEMBROOK Custom Basses and Guitars

Year 2006 Online Catalog

HEMBROOK Custom Basses and Guitars is a custom musical instrument company headed by Robert Hembrook and located in Austin, Texas. 
All Hembrook quality products are Y2K compliant
News Flash!

HEMBROOK Custom Basses and Guitars has something to say about the music instrument business.

The miracle of E-Commerce still does not change the basic fact that most of the people who have contacted us over the last 5 years were looking for $500 copies of someone else's instruments. Go to a pawnshop, if that is what you want.

We make extremely high quality handmade instruments. They make a player happy. They are a tool to get the job you need done: To take your ideas and make them into music.

A quick lesson in the music retail business:

How many times have you heard the big voiced announcer screaming on the radio ad for the Mega Guitar Warehouse or whoever that they are having a "liquidation sale" and that things are being sold "below invoice" and "you will never see prices this low again".  What does that mean?  Well, I'll let you in on a dirty little secret about guitar marketing:   The standard "A" level markup that plagues the music instrument retail business.  "A" level markup is the highest level of markup, and means that the "Manufacturer's Suggested List Price" is 200% of what the store pays for the instrument.

An example: Guitarmaker Incorporated makes a new model of guitar, the "Guitarmaker 2000LX." They have $500 invested in this instrument in terms of parts, labor and profit. If they do not make a profit, they cannot pay the electric bill, buy more wood and parts, or buy new X-acto knife blades. Guitarmaker Inc. sells their instruments to a wholesaler, who adds their own profit in. Now the guitar is worth $600. It arrives at your local music shop. They invoice it in at $600, then put a hang tag on it saying "MSRP: $1200". Is it a $1200 guitar? No way. So they "discount" it down to $1000, a "savings" of $200, because they are such nice guys (remember, they also have families to feed and lights to burn.) You haggle a bit and get the guitar for $925, and you feel satisfied that you got $275 off of MSRP. Well, in reality, you got a mostly fair price. What was Guitarmaker Inc's take of all of this? Guitarmaker Inc. made maybe $50 off the whole deal, after expenses.

You could have just as easily walked in to the store and seen the new "Guitarmaker 2000LX" priced at $925, written them a check, and left happy. No hassle, no haggle. That is not the music business. In music retail, you have to have the inflated markup so you can "mark it down" and look like you are doing your customers a favor by "saving" them money.

Now say you work your ass off in the Texas heat making handcrafted special instruments for Handmade Guitars. You make a really great bass, and it costs $1700 to construct the bass and still make a slim profit. Now you try and get Music Shop to sell it for you. They put a hang tag on the tuning peg that says, you guessed it, $3400. People familiar with the Handmade Guitars website say "But its a $1700 bass" to which the Music Shop salesman replies "We'll let you have it for $2200." How can Handmade Guitars come out of this looking good? it looks like a bait and switch. Handmade Guitars ends up getting angry letters saying "you jerks say your bass is $1700 on your web page, but the dealer tried to charge me $3400, and I talked him down to $2200. You guys Suck".

Thanks, "A" level markup.

What is just as bad for us here at Hembrook Basses are the people who find our obviously marked price sheet (its amazing how many could not find it, even with the link in plain sight at the top of the Bass page) and then think if we say that it is a $1700 bass, then by the rules of the retail markup game, they can haggle us down to $1200 or so. No Way. For us, $1700 is $1700.

Endorsements or "do they really play what you see in magazine ads?"

Now lets talk about the endorsement game.  The big makers give away more free basses in a year than Hembrook Basses will make in our lifetimes.  Its economics.  That leads to funny stories like this:

    Famous Bassist from Texas orders two handmade basses (not from us, but from our friends across town) and proceeds to play them all around town with his new band.  Famous Bassist shelled out his own thousands of dollars to get basses that looked and played like what he wanted.  However, Famous Bassist needs cash like the rest of us musicians, so he is next seen inside the front cover of a National Magazine with a "major manufacturer" product around his neck with the tagline "this gives me the sound I want" or whatever.  Simple economics. The big makers give basses and money away to famous players to gain cover shots on magazines, while the hand makers work their asses off, often giving away freebies for which we don't get any recognition or $ in return.

Still not convinced?

    Famous Guitarist has 32 guitars at home, and wails on all of them for their different tones when recording his million selling records.  On stage?  He is always seen with his beat up "major manufacturer" instrument, which he has proudly worn all the paint off of while playing it for the last X years.  The result: thousands of musicians, clones and wannabes buy copies of his "major manufacturer" instrument and then puzzle over why they can't get the same tone as Famous Guitarist did on the record.

Its all about money.  The big makers have it and have plenty to buy advertising and musicians to keep their market share.  They are welcome to it.  We don't represent any threat to them, we just want to make basses for musicians who really want something that balances well when they play it (something the 50 year old designs don't do) doesn't kill them with excessive weight, and gives them the sound they want.

This has been a short lesson in the economics of making musical instruments.  Still with us?  If we sound depressed, then there is a reason for it.

Marketing "Custom" instruments

One of the traps of making "Custom instruments" is that we constantly have to deal with musicians with some money and no common sense calling us up and ordering a special order instrument, worrying the details of neck/frets/pickups/wood/strings to death, bitching that it costs more than an "off the shelf" instrument, and then returning it because "It wasn't what I wanted."

Also we have yo-yos call us and ask us to build a "custom dual-neck six-string bass" but they can only spend $1000 or "their wife will kill them".  Have you checked our price list?  "uh, no" That's 1/2 the price we charge for a bass with ONE NECK.  "Oh.  So can you do just this one for me?"

We are also worn out with people asking us to make copies of 30-50 year old designs.  People want these old designs because they are what everyone else plays.  Fine, go buy one.  Pawnshops are a good place to start, then the Mega Guitar Store "Liquidation sales" (See above) are next.  What chaps our hide is the customer expecting us to handcraft the copy instrument for a lower price than the Major Manufacturers make them in Korea/Japan/Taiwan/Mexico/wherever.  Think about it just for a minute.  You want us to HAND CRAFT a copy of something that is made largely by machine, and do it for less money?

The results:

The result of this is that we have changed the way we take orders for basses.

We make a good product.  We can get lots of testimonials from everyone from a local bass teacher to the bassist from "A Flock of Seagulls" who will tell you how well made and excellent sounding our basses are.  We have sound samples online for you to listen to.  I know, buying a bass is a very personal thing, and its hard to throw down nearly $2000 on something you have never held in your hands.  You are going to have to trust us.  That is the only way we can do business effectively.

We will now dedicate our efforts into building some special instruments and documenting the process so that we can share our knowledge with the world. Look for a series of books on guitarmaking. Yes you will still be able to buy them from our website, but no we won't mark them down to the same price as our competitor's books.

Thanks for your time. Check back now and again for more information.

Want to chat about this? Click here To give us some feedback.

We are currently soliciting new orders for Electric Upright Basses and Electric Bass Guitars at this time.  Please note the following conditions:
  Upright Electric Basses: Electric Bass Guitars

Our Bass Guitars come in the Standard Model and the Stuttgarter Model only.

Price is NOT negotiable.

Please check back in the meantime for more information.

We still do not have any more print catalogs, they are out of print. We have tried to put as much information online as possible, so please browse our pages and see what you think!

Our site also includes a Picture Archive

For easy directions to our shop, please look at our Map.

HEMBROOK Custom Basses and Guitars is unique in the music industry in our use of Mesquite and Texas Ebony woods in our instruments. These unusual woods impart a special Texas appeal to our instruments as well as being extremely functional. Life is hard on the Texas plains, and the native Texan woods reflect that, with extreme stability and durability being their hallmarks!

Instruments are hand built one at a time to the needs of the customer.

We are proud to feature:

Look for us in the 2002 Texas Music Industry Directory!

Or E-mail the Texas Music Office at:

Page begun: 1 Dec 1995
Last Modified: 30 January 2006
All trademarks used in this document are purely for informational purposes and belong to their original holders.