The guitar industry has been massively affected by the pandemic, with suppliers running short on stock and issues with deliveries both having a huge impact on sales thanks to the supply chain crisis. As well as this we’ve seen the demise of many a classic music store, with both independent music shops and big chains closing their doors for the final time. Like with most industries, some businesses have thrived off the back of multiple lockdowns, whereas others, particularly those that relied on customer footfall, have struggled to make ends meet.
But despite it being a torrid time to be in the retail and events industries, the popularity of the electric guitar and other musical instruments has surged rapidly. Multiple lockdowns have given us the downtime to reignite long lost hobbies, or spend time perfecting that which we were struggling to make work in the pre-COVID world. Sales of beginner and intermediate guitars have skyrocketed, with even the biggest brands struggling to meet the demand of a public that finally had some time from grind of the workhouse to do the things they really want to.
Many of our customers started lockdown projects, creating their own unique guitars from scratch and we saw many a bespoke creation, whether it was a Hank Marvin tribute Strat, or a totally unique Tele, loaded with premium hardware and electronics. Others spent their time refinishing existing guitars or just simply upgrading that old guitar that had been left by the wayside with some new locking tuners or a set of pickups. We all got to spend more time with our instruments, and for a lot players, to revive their love for the electric guitar.
Gear of the Year
The popularity of the electric guitar really shows in what we sold from our store this year. Hardware purchases skyrocketed, necks were flying out, and a particular brand of pickups had an excellent year, finding their way to many a new home. It’s been tough narrowing the selection down, but we’ve finally managed to pick out our top ten of the year, based on a mixture of sales, customer reviews, and staff choice!
So without further ado, here’s Northwest Guitars Gear of the Year 2021…
Brand new guitar builds were a popular lockdown project this year, with many of you choosing to create guitars from scratch. We all know and (mostly) love the Strat for its versatility and iconic looks, so it’s no surprise to find a Strat body making the top ten. The unique orange-red colour combo of our SSS Strat Body in Fiesta Red found itself many a new home this year.
Crafted from 2 pieces of American Alder, our Strat bodies come with all control panels and neck pocket pre-routed, making them perfect for a new build where you don’t want to spend time shaping the wood. All of our guitar bodies are coated in a durable polyurethane finish to ensure its stunning looks stand the test of time.
Check out all our Strat Bodies.
Upgrading hardware is a really simple way to improve the performance of your existing guitar without having to break the bank. Our hard tail, Hipshot-style bridge was the go to for many a guitarists looking to improve the quality, and looks, of their guitar.
The bridge walls eliminate any side to side movement of the saddles, with smooth edges that sit nicely against your hand when palm muting. Machined from steel, this bridge delivers superior tone and quality, with brightness, clarity and excellent response.
Have a look at our entire selection of Guitar Bridges.
Gotoh make some of the finest hardware we’ve ever come across, and their tuners in particular are highly rated by all the staff here, as well as many a guitar tech and pro luthier. The SG301's have proved particularly popular this year, presumably as a replacement to the much maligned Gibson Deluxe Tuner or those on that come stock on Epiphone guitars.
Gotoh’s tuners use ‘Magnum’ locking technology, delivering rock solid tuning stability as well as making for rapid string changes. Solid brass gears give you fantastic precision when tuning whilst a unique string post technology prevents unwanted rattle form the gears, posts, and body assembly.
Click here for the best Locking Tuners.
We’ve shouted about Wilkinson Pickups already this year, and this set made our top ten for good reason! As well as selling in buckets, these pickups deliver fantastic quality sound at a fraction of the cost of some of the more boutique options available in our pickup shop. They are vintage voiced, accurately reproducing the classic Tele twang of 60s era pickups with warmth and tone.
Raised Alnico V pole pieces on the bridge pickup give you that classic Tele sound, whilst the covered neck pickup is perfect for bluesy guitar tones. Versatile enough to handle a variety of music styles, from Country and Jazz to Blues and Rock, this pickup set overdelivers for the price with a smooth sound that responds well when pushed.
We've got an excellent range of Wilkinson Guitar Pickups.
This Daphne Blue Telecaster body is certainly a looker and it turned many a head this year with its sleek curves and double binding. This body is composed from 2-piece matched American Swamp Ash, which as all the same tonal qualities of regular ash, but with a slightly lighter weight.
The neck pocket is made to standard Fender dimensions, making it compatible with genuine Fender necks, or our own. Our Tele bodies are made to accommodate the vintage ‘Ash Tray’ style bridge and are finished in high quality polyurethane for a finish that’s as durable as it is good looking.
Hit the link to browse our Telecaster Bodies.
Despite an altercation with a certain big name brand this year, our necks have continued to be one of our best selling items, showing that it’s not all about headstock design! We’ve redesigned the aesthetic of our necks to continue to pay homage to that classic design, whilst retaining a characteristic that’s all Northwest Guitars.
Giving you the same quality, performance, and playability of an original, without the astronomical costs! This Tele neck comes with a Maple Fretboard and Natural Gloss finish, making them an excellent upgrade to your existing guitar, or as part of your latest guitar build project.
Have a gander at our range of Telecaster Necks.
The ever popular Telecaster gets another shout with this excellent set of pickups from Tonerider. We’ve always been big fans of this brilliant brand and they deliver fantastic tone at a quite unbelievable price point. The Hot Classics Pickup Set is perfect for rock and blues players who want more edge from their Tele guitars.
They have a stronger midrange, thicker bass response and a racy upper register, delivering impeccable note separation. The bridge pickup mimics the hot Broadcaster pickups of a bygone era, whilst the neck pickup has a Nickel/Silver cover to ensure no more muddy sounds.
Check out the whole range of Tonerider Pickups.
One of the easiest yet most powerful upgrades that you can make to a Tremolo-equipped guitar, installing locking tuners is pretty much a no brainer for any serious guitar player. Offering super quick string changes and enhanced tuning stability, our JN-05L Locking Tuners sold in droves this year!
Featuring a thumbwheel locking function they keep your string securely in place, allowing you to abuse your whammy bar without your guitar going out of tune. Solid brass gears and a 1:19 ration ensure superior precision you won’t find on standard and mid-range guitar models by default.
Browse all of our Guitar Tuning Machines.
Our Strat Necks are supremely popular amongst hobbyists, guitar techs and professional luthiers. Made from Grade A North American Maple they deliver outstanding performance and are incredibly shock resistant. Maple delivers a signature bright and snappy tone, which is why it’s the go to wood for the vast majority of guitar necks.
All of our necks are made by hand, offsetting the need for expensive CNC machinery which is why we’re able to deliver such fantastic quality at a price much lower than that of the bigger brands. Our necks are designed with standard Fender dimensions, to ensure a perfect fit with many Fender models, including MIA, MIM, MIJ, as well as Squier models.
Click to see all of our Stratocaster Necks.
Our Clear Gloss isn’t the fanciest or most eye catching product on the list, but it does the job for many a luthier and guitar tech when it comes to refinishes, repairs, or brand new guitar builds. Our Nitrocellulose Lacquer is the same type that you’ll find on classic Fender and Gibson guitars, which over time will product an aged look.
With an exceptionally quick drying time, they produce a hard, glassy finish that will really make your guitar paint pop! Our aerosols are suitable for use on any kind of guitar and are easy to apply thanks to the elliptical nozzle which produces a consistent, fine spray. Once can is more than enough for multiple coats on a Strat or Tele body and if you need any further convincing, just look at the all the reviews on our site for more superlatives!
Check out our huge range of Nitrocellulose Lacquers.
Well there you have it, our Gear of the Year in all its glory! We just wanted to say thanks to all of you for making it another great year for us, it’s been absolute joy seeing the results of all your hard work, and we hope we’ve been able to help you achieve your goals, whether it was replacing your stock tuners or building something from scratch!
It’s a been a year of highs and lows for us all, but we can all congregate around the fact that the electric guitar has never been in a better place, and celebrate that more and more people started (or resumed) their own musical journey in 2021.