Here’s my story about why I changed my mind about Choosing Expensive vs Cheap Guitars maybe it will change yours also when working out your guitar budget and needs and help you choose the right guitar for the type of player you are hoping for to become.
If you are investing in Vintage or soon-to-be Vintage Guitars that is one approach. Even though the global economy is shaky at times it is not a bad approach. Having said that, when it comes to finding the guitars to play on a regular basis a person can get lost in the woods quickly.
I have owned literally over 120 guitars in the last 34 years. It began by not having the money to get a different instrument so I had to sell or trade one to get a different guitar.
It truly isn’t about the price or the prestige, it’s about the particular instrument. I have owned 5 thousand dollars, Zemaitis. These instruments were beautiful to look at but nothing more than average to listen to.
I also played a Squier telecaster that I paid $75 for and I played it for about a decade and it was the best-loved guitar of my life. I played it until I wore it down and out and it was retired.
This is what a $75 dollar guitar can sound like.
This is my own recording on a $75 guitar this is me Jimmy Fleming playing “Black Heart” before I started to write on Guitardoor.com
You must focus on tone and quality of build vs. what it says on the headstock.
Cheap vs expensive guitars
We as younger people often want what we see our favorite players using. In most cases that can work out pretty well. However, be mindful of each guitar and each player‘s hands are different. Neck shape and profile are incredibly important.
I have large hands so I can tackle a Gibson Firebird, where someone else might struggle with the width of the Gibson Firebird and other Gibson or Gretch Style Guitars.
You may choose an Epiphone or Gibson Les Paul and go through 20 and every neck will feel different. One major revelation for me was the Fender Telecaster 1972 custom and its counterpart built by Squier. It was the first electric I ever played.
I did not own it but a close friend did. That was my “Holy Grail” for decades. I went into a guitar store and found a used one from 1972. The for-sale price was $1,500. I played it, it was horrible.
I later bought a Fender Squier version that was better and brand new. Ultimately I bought a reissue Stock Fender version and it was one of my favorites so I bought 2, played one, and gave a friend the other as a gift. It’s down to each individual. Every guitar will make you play differently.
The Humbucker vs. single-coil sound can throw a curveball at you and actually make you play differently in response to the sound. This is why many are either users, I find it all applicable as a change in sound especially in making recordings is needed.
Check out our GuitarDoor Friend Ritchie Dave Porter on his Fender Squire Affinity
Sound of a Fender Squier Affinity Arctic White Telecaster
Cheap vs Expensive Acoustic Guitars
This is the trickiest subject. The acoustic guitar is a make-or-break situation. You will most likely find that often the price does matter and “you get what you pay for” becomes true.
It depends on the qualities you want out of the instrument you are seeking. A nice playable acoustic that has a perfect neck feel may not have the sound and volume. It may play well and sound like a cardboard box. Martin guitars that fit the bill as an all-around player’s dream can cost thousands.
However, Martin has a more economical version “Sigma by Martin” That won’t find you selling your house to buy. Fender has some great acoustics that is affordable. If you are looking for a lifelong instrument my opinion is to check into Taylor guitars.
Cheap vs Expensive Electric Guitars
We are seeing the rise of Glarry, Monoprice, Indio, and 50 other companies. Their instruments are all over youtube. The Youtube review is not a bad thing to invest time in as most are going to be truthful. These seem on average to run $350 or some down to $100 and change. I’m considering trying out an Indio Telecaster.
Sometimes it is worth a $100 gamble. We are in certain areas at a disadvantage as many instruments must be bought online, as and the brick and mortar try it before you buy it, music store is becoming a thing of the past.
It’s really a gamble now, as your best course of action is to never buy a guitar you haven’t played. Have I broken that rule? Yes, and 9 times out of 10 it worked out well. Then on occasion, you spend hard earned money and might as well have a hockey stick for a guitar.
Are Expensive Guitars Worth it?
The entry-level Paul Reed Smith is a brilliant guitar at $500. The Squier “Classic Vibe” instruments often rival an American-made Fender custom shop. You just need to study and dig around to find what you are willing to pay your money for when investing in guitars.
I had an enlightening event happen a few years back that solidified my opinion regarding “Paying for the name”. I was in Pontiac, Michigan for the Grande Ballroom 50th anniversary gathering. There was a performance by a group gathered for the night “The Grande All-Stars” and during that part of the night “Amboy Dukes” Legend the late Steve Farmer took the stage and performed their classic “Journey to the center of the mind.”
I in my devious little mind thought “All the nonmusicians are watching this concert, so I bet if I go downstairs the musicians not playing right now may well be milling around.” They were. I saw Steve and began walking toward him..thinking “You have 5 seconds to figure out what you are going to start a conversation about, and it can’t be “so what’s it like playing in a band with Ted Nugent?” or he will shut you down.
Detroit All-Stars with Steve Farmer, Journey to the Center of the Mind. Grande Ballroom 50th.
I extended a handshake and said “Brilliant performance and a pleasure to see you.” Lightbulb moment hit then “Out of all the guitars you have owned what one is your favorite?” Steve and I talked about Guitars and amps for probably 20 minutes.
He ultimately said, “Well besides the red Gibson 335 I’ve had since The Dukes started, I would say the guitar that I played tonight is my favorite.” I asked what it was, knowing already it was a Stratocaster but seeking the specifics.
Steve smiled and said, “It’s a Squier I paid $200 for.” That my friends say it all. A good guitar is whatever you find and many times has nothing to do with the name or the price. I have loved my journey through checking out the Legendary names and makes and finding out what the truth of the matter is. Yes, having something like a $6,000 Gibson Les Paul is a small level of prestige.
I must follow with my Late Dad’s answer to a job offer when he was asked to change to a different finance company. They offered him the job to leave “Columbus Finance” but with no pay raise or really any incentive to make the switch. He said NO.
The fellow said “But think of the Prestige of working for our company vs. where you are now. “ Dad politely proclaimed “Prestige and 50 cents will only buy the same cup of coffee I buy every day, it means nothing.”
Happy Guitar Hunting and be careful out there!