ERDEM KOCA, WHO IS ONE OF THE TEN ELECTRIC AND BASS GUITAR MAKERS IN TURKEY, UNDERTAKES CUSTOM BUILD DESIGNS.
Erdem Koca has enjoyed dealing with music since he was seven years old. He has been playing electric guitar for over twenty years. He has opened a studio four years ago at Hasanpaşa, in Kadıköy and has been designing custom build electric and bass guitars ever since. Besides the designing process, he also performs repairs, maintenance, and modifications. He remarks that there are approximately ten electric guitar builders in Turkey and the average age of his customers change between 17-18 and 70. He states that he can design a maximum of twelve guitars in a year and he puts them up for sale with a starting price of 3,500TL.
Electric guitar maker Erdem Koca is one of the lucky names who could turn their hobbies into successful businesses. After completion of his education on radio and television at Ryerson University in Canada, Erdem Koca had worked in media, advertising, and TV sectors for ten years. Then, he had decided to carry his interest in electric and bass guitars into a different dimension. He has been familiar with guitars since he was seven thanks to his brother’s interest in guitars. He has been playing guitar since he was thirteen or fourteen years old and for over twenty years, music has played an important role in his life. Erdem Koca has developed an interest of building electric and bass guitars over the years while visiting the studios of guitar artisans to modify his guitar. He opened a production and repair studio with the associations of oud maker Özgür Türen and violin maker Özgür Tümçelik at Hasanpaşa, in Kadıköy. He says, “Being an instrument maker is very nice. You always get to work with music and musicians. You create something from the scratch. At the end of your efforts, you create a physical object, which can be hold, seen, played, and heard. It is very satisfying.”
DESIGN BEING SHAPED BY CREATIVITY
Koca continues his words by emphasizing the importance of becoming specialized in one area to succeed at instrument building, “This is why I became specialized in electric and bass guitar building. For example, classic guitar doesn’t have any electronic components or pickups. It is an acoustic instrument that its sound is produced only by its sound box. However, electronic components are involved with designing an electric guitar. The sound is produced by combining acoustic and electronic. It is not necessary to be exact with the measurements as it is necessary when building a classic guitar. Classic guitar designs don’t change much but it is extremely different when it comes to electric and bass guitar designs. The creativity part played a huge role in my decision to enter this business. The magnetic pickups of the guitar are plugged into an amplifier through an electrical cord. The electronic part of the job is very important. One of the famous electric guitar manufacturers, Fender, uses redwood for the body and maple for the neck. Gibson prefers to use mahogany for both the body and the neck. I also choose exotic trees including those for my designs. I prefer to use redwood, mahogany, cherry, walnut, ash, and limba for the body and maple, mahogany, wenge, padauk, and Spanish cedar for the neck.”
THE COST CHANGES DEPENDING ON MATERIALS
Koca gives information about the top wood concept that stands out as a more aesthetic approach: “We place a top wood on the body within this concept. It is a thin layer of wood, which is attached on top of the body. We choose the wood with the texture that suits the design best. It might be walnut, palm, eucalyptus, or maple. We choose freely.” Koca said that the cost of building an electric or bass guitar would change depending on the materials used during production, “We can summarize the factors that determine the cost as the type of wood, pickups, bridge, and tuners. Technical equipments are usually imported from America, Germany, and Japan. It is possible to obtain walnut and maple wood options that would be used in production in Turkey. If ash tree is going to be used in design then let’s not forget that it can be only found in South-Central America and Africa. Rosewood and ebony, which we use in designing fret boards, can be found in the Far East and Africa. All of these supplies should be handy if we’d like to create the guitars of our customers’ dreams.”
COMPLETION IN FOUR MONTHS
Koca expressed that it was important to ensure that the wood would be used in production should have been dried properly and it would not crack. Then, he summarized the designing process: “Although it takes 20-25 work days to complete the designing of an electric or bass guitar, the process is expanded to a period of four months because it has certain phases. The body and the neck need to rest after they are cut. This approximately takes about a month. Then, we start shaping the body and the neck. After gluing the top wood on the body wood, we let them rest again. We attach the neck wood and keyboard wood that has the fret wires together and then let them rest again because the two materials need time to adjust. Later, we bring the neck and the body together. We specify the sections for pickup docks, neck dock, bridge, and areas to install the electronic parts. After these phases are completed, we go on with the finish. It is necessary not to skip even one step because there are hundreds of them. Guitar prices start from 3,500TL on average. When a certain type of wood that cannot be obtained in Turkey is chosen or if a design with the top quality materials for the electronic components is requested, then the price goes up.”