At one time, the ‘signature’ or ‘artist’ guitar was usually a replica of a famous guitar player’s favorite Strat or Les Paul with frequent and often excessive upcharges for pretty straightforward modifications. Back in the 70‘s and 80‘s an Eric Clapton Stratocaster or a Tony Iommi SG would be upcharged so much that it would be well outside of the reach of the average guitar buyer. And while these were often truly great guitars, they really weren’t so different from a standard Strat or SG, certainly not enough to justify the enormous price tag.
And if you were a lefty guitar player, that price tag would be even more excessive, and the availability of lefty signature models even more rare. Today, neither of these circumstances are the case. Since the release of the first John Petrucci Signature Model, the artist endorsement paradigm has changed. Petrucci’s inclusion of unique features like a piezo pickup, push-pull volume boost and neck-thru-body construction made his artist models true ‘signature’ guitars.
The success of the Music Man Petrucci signature model (it is the second best selling artist model of all time) has led other guitar manufacturers to respond with their own signature models based on the wants and needs of a wide variety of musicians. Today, signature models are no longer the overpriced replicas of famous guitars that they once were. In this article we’re going to look at 5 lefty signature models that are super functional and deliver amazing aesthetics, premium components and top notch build quality at a surprisingly accessible price point.
Inspired by the classic Johnny Cash Martin ‘Man in Black’ guitar that Johnny Cash commissioned Martin to build in the 1970’s, the Martin DX Johnny Cash signature guitar was designed in collaboration with John Carter Cash and the Cash Foundation team, and features a classic Dreadnought body shape with a set of unique, distinguishing appointments that set this lefty signature model apart from similarly priced acoustic electrics.
Justin Johnson Country Fingerpicking on Martin DX Johnny Cash Guitar
Aesthetics: In aesthetic terms, the Martin DX Johnny Cash guitar is a home run. Few guitars in the $500-600 price range capture the spirit of a legendary performer as flawlessly as this X-Series Martin. This tribute model perfectly captures the memory of the ‘Man-In-Black’ D-35 designed for Johnny Cash in the 1970‘s, in an updated, environmentally friendly version that is perfect for hitting the road and gigging in bars and honky tonks where the environmental conditions are less than ideal.
Materials, Components and Build Quality: Martin’s X-Series guitars are made from high pressure laminates that are designed to deliver the legendary Martin tone while also being extremely resilient in an array of environments. The lefty DX Johnny Cash is hardy enough to survive in places where solid wood guitars would warp and have trouble staying in tune. The DX Johnny Cash dreadnought delivers a warm and resonant sound with deep bass and rich overtones, and features Fishman MX electronics mounted inside the soundhole delivering an awesome plugged-in tone perfect for the studio or the stage.
The DX Johnny Cash comes equipped with Martin’s Performing Artist series neck taper, a slim neck profile that is super comfortable, feeling quite natural in your hand. You can play for hours in total comfort with this neck which is made from sandwiched layers of HPL laminate with a super smooth satin finish that feels perfect in the hand.
Price: Martin is known for amazing quality and top flight sound, even in the lower price categories, and anyone who plays this beauty will be instantly hooked for life. Watch and listen to the Justin Johnson video above to hear just how sweet this guitar sounds. If you’re looking for a great sounding acoustic electric guitar in the $600 price category this lefty signature model from Martin is worth a closer look.
Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett is among thrash metal’s most influential players. His approach to music requires a versatile guitar with monstrous rhythm and scorching lead tones like those heard all over the band’s catalog from Ride the Lightning to Enter Sandman and beyond, but with the ability to clean up at a moment’s notice to produce some of music’s most memorable mellow passages, like those in Fade to Black and One. The ESP/LTD KH-202 and KH-602 are LTD Kirk Hammett signature models that are available in left handed versions designed to bring that kind of versatile tone and incredible playability into more accessible price ranges.
Aesthetics: looking at the KH-202 and KH-602 may remind you of the words of Nigel Tufnel: “It’s so black, it’s like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is: none. None more black.” But this lefty Kirk Hammett signature model isn’t your typical ‘black metal’ guitar. Instead, both versions are modeled on Kirk’s ESP custom shop model and faithfully recreate Kirk’s dark aesthetic. A fan of horror movies and novels, Hammett’s signature models feature a glossy black finish with all black hardware, reversed headstock and skull and crossbone inlays, emitting a purely metal feel that fans of Hammett and Metallica will love!
Materials, Components & Build Quality: The KH-202 is the quintessential basswood bolt-on shred machine, built for speed and scorching hot tone. With its EMG-ESP LH301, Floyd Rose licensed locking tremolo system, and thin-U maple neck, you will have no problem belting out crushing rhythms and red hot, scorching leads. The KH-602 features a resonant Alder super strat body, with a Floyd Rose 1000 trem system and EMG Bone Breaker humbucker pickups, giving it a more refined lead tone and crushing rhythm sound.
The main difference between the KH-202 and the KH-602 is the construction which is the main factor in the price difference between the two signature models. The KH-202 is a classic basswood bolt-on guitar which is lightweight and built for speed. The bigger brother KH-602 features neck-thru-body construction and an Alder body, giving it incredible sustain and killer tone just like the ESP custom shop model that Kirk plays.
Price: In my opinion, every rock guitarist needs at least one shreddy basswood bolt-on guitar, and the KH-202 fits that bill to a T! The lightweight super-strat style body with thin-U maple neck makes this budget friendly signature model shreddy as hell, and the ominous skull and crossbones inlays and menacing black hardware add to this signature model a truly killer vibe making it an amazing buy at under $600!
If you already have your basswood bolt-on guitar and are thinking of moving up to a higher echelon of shred machine, the KH-602 may be more your style. With its neck-thru-body construction, resonant Alder body and EMG Bone Breaker humbuckers, this thing is a steal at under $1200!
Schecter teamed up with Doug Pinnick, frontman, bassist and vocalist for the legendary progressive metal band King’s X to develop the dUg Pinnick "Baron H" Bass Guitar, a lefty signature model built to deliver Pinnick’s legendary thunderous distorted bass tone.
Pinnick is known as an incredible innovator on the bass. His distinctive tone and compositional style set him apart from the vast majority of bassists, placing him in the upper echelons with legendary bassists like Billy Sheehan and Chris Squire who also play intricate bass lines with a distorted bass tone. To get this tone, dUg relies on his Schecter signature bass with an array of amps and effects. Pinnock’s legendary rig is beyond the scope of this article, but his Baron H signature bass from Schecter is exactly the kind of fully functional artist model that fits this article’s topic perfectly!
Aesthetics: The dUg Pinnock signature bass is as unique and distinctive as the music of King’s X and Pinnick’s compositional style! A single cutaway ‘Tele-Style’ semi-hollow bass with a simple elegance and massive tone! Somehow, the Pinnick Baron H is slender and sleek, and rock solid and heavy at the same time, with a classic f-hole, creme binding and a dUg inlay at the 12th fret. The minimal look of the pickups and single volume control gives it a paired down look that is deceptively simple.
Materials, Components & Build Quality: The Schecter Baron H dUg Pinnock bass features a flat-top mahogany body with single F-hole, a thin 'C-shape maple neck and Seymour Duncan Pro Active APB-1 pickups. The Pro Active APB-1 split single coil arrangement takes Pinnick's signature distortion overload with ease and delivers plenty of attack. The WSC THD4 bridge creates massive string vibration so every note is just as full and rich as possible.
Schecter is known for exceptional build quality and the dUg Pinnick Baron H Semi-hollow bass lives up to their stellar reputation. This semi-hollow bass features a resonant Mahogany single cutaway body with a distinctive F-hole, a gorgeous white binding, a bolt-on Maple neck with a Rosewood board and a set of Duncan Pro Active pickups that deliver the attack and tone that dUg fans are looking for. Just plugging this bass into your present rig will make that legendary King’s X bass sound come pouring out of the speakers!
KXM "WAR OF WORDS" (Official Video) George Lynch, dUg Pinnick (King's X), Ray Luzier (Korn)
Price: For a quality semi-hollow bass with Seymour Duncan pickups, Grover tuners and rock solid WSC THD4 bridge, you might expect to pay well over a grand, but when a legendary performer like dUg Pinnock puts his name on it, you might even expect to pay even more than that! When you factor in the exceptional build quality and massive tone you get from the Schecter dUg Pinnick Baron H bass, you can see how paying less than $1000 is actually quite a value!
The Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional HSS is the latest version of the Schecter traditional S-Style build with several Nick Johnston approved refinements that make this a lot more than just another strat-style guitar. The Nick Johnston Traditional HSS delivers all of the 50's strat style tones, with additional power from a bridge humbucker, an amazing Schecter designed vintage tremolo system and a shred-friendly neck that opens up a world of musical possibilities.
Aesthetics: Schecter’s Nick Johnston Traditional comes in an array of bright ‘atomic’ pastel finishes and a caramel colored roasted maple neck that has guitar aficionados drooling. The Ebony board is inlaid with Nick Johnston’s brass ring position markers that turn out to be one of the most popular features on this guitar. Aesthetically, everything else is pretty classic, with the S-Style body and pickguard and in-line headstock giving it that 'Strat’ look that so many people adore.
Nick Johnston Demos his Traditional HSS
Materials, Components and Build Quality: Featuring a traditional Alder body and a 25.5” scale neck, the Nick Johnston Traditional HSS adds a Roasted Maple neck built to Nick’s specifications giving this traditional strat style guitar a modern sound and feel. Capped with a Ebony fretboard with a 14” radius, brass ring inlays and a set of 22 nickel-silver frets, the neck and board are incredibly comfortable and crazy easy to play.
The Johnston Traditional HSS’s versatile sound comes from a pickup set consisting of two Nick Johnston Diamond Single Coils in the middle and neck positions and a ’78 Special humbucker in the bridge position. Of course, with a name like 'traditional’ you have to be able to access the traditional single coil tones from the bridge pickup, and even here this signature Schecter does not disappoint. Thanks to a push-pull humbucker coil split on the tone control, you can go from scorching hot humbucker tones fat enough to suit everything from alternative to progressive metal, to spanky single coil tones perfect for blues, R&B and funk, with ease.
A carefully chosen hardware package includes a Graph Tech Black Tusq nut, Schecter Diamond Vintage vibrato system, and Schecter locking tuners. The Schecter vibrato system is incredibly smooth and stable, and paired with Schecter locking tuners, you are sure to enjoy hours of effortless play with top notch tuning stability.
Price: You have to put the Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional in the running for the guitar that delivers the most bang for the buck on the market today! The first thing you may say to yourself when you unbox this lefty signature model is; “How is this retailing at around $850?” With a buttery smooth roasted maple neck, soulful, yet blistering hot Schecter pickups, coil-splitting capabilities, a TUSQ nut with locking tuners and a super smooth Schecter vintage tremolo system, the Nick Johnston traditional is appointed like guitars that retail at twice the price! This is truly one lefty signature model that delivers incredible value!
More than any other guitar, the ESP/LTD SC607 is associated with Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter. The 7-string LTD Stephen Carpenter SC-607 Baritone is built for tone and performance, allowing players to explore their own hard-hitting style and sound with amazing playability and tone.
Stephen Carpenter SC-607
Aesthetics: The ESP LTD SC-607B 7-String Baritone Electric Guitar is designed specifically for monstrous bottom end with tons of distortion and sustain. The aesthetic is pretty straight forward and understated - an archtop super strat with a killer reverse headstock and white neck binding and a SRC inlay at the 12th fret. The Fishman Fluence SRC pickups also feature a glow in the dark Fishman ‘zig-zag’ line that will really stand out when playing in dark clubs and stages.
Stephen Carpenter on Fishman Fluence
Materials, Components and Built Quality: The latest incarnation of the 7-string, 27” scale SC607 baritone guitar is a thing of beauty, available in a classic black (pictured above) and a purple satin finish. This incredible baritone tone machine features neck-thru-body construction with a three-piece maple neck and mahogany body wings and a TOM bridge with string-thru-body construction, giving it exceptional power and sustain, while LTD locking tuners give you the tuning stability you need when hashing things out in the studio or on stage. The thin U-shaped 3-piece maple neck is chunky and solid and feels great in the hand, perfect for tuning down to explore lower frequencies.
The SC-607 lefty gets its tone from a set of specially designed Fishman Fluence SRC signature pickups. Fishman Fluence pickups allow you to change voicings by using the push-pull 3-way control switch on the volume knob, giving you access to three distinct tones on each pickup - a traditional humbucker tone, and two scorching hot active metal tones that get progressively edgier.
The SC607B delivers much more than crushing rhythm tones. The Fishman Fluence pickup set offers beautiful clean sounds for active pickups, along with crushing crunch tones that sound heavy, tight, clear, and never muddy. The neck-thru-body construction gives this guitar the ability to handle low tunings exceptionally well while the Fishman pickup set gives you a complete palette of tones to choose from!
Price: The custom Fishman Fluence pickup set alone costs nearly 3 bills, so when you add that to the cost of a high quality lefty 7-string baritone guitar, with case included, coming in under $1200 is something of a miracle! If you’re looking for a 7-string Baritone guitar for Djent or modern metal that also has some sonic tricks up its sleeve, this is the one!
Today’s signature or 'artist’ model guitars are dominating the marketplace not because of star influence as much as their incredible value. If you take a closer look at these and other signature models you are sure to find feature rich, incredibly functional guitars that give you the tools to create music in the same style as your favorite performers. And now these, and others, are available in beautiful lefty models that are not the least bit difficult to find (at least on our website!).