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> Beginners Should Start On A Cheap Instrument... Or Not?!
Cosmin Lupu
post Jun 4 2014, 09:08 AM
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This is a very standard situation. Beginners would be advised to get a cheap instrument as they are just starting out.

It feels logical as you don't want to invest too much money into a new hobby which might not pick up. But - is this a good path?
Cheap guitars can sound great, but for that you would need an experienced guitarist to pick it up. As beginners we have no clues which guitar is a good one and we usually just go for the ""looks"". In a lot of cases our parents would actually buy the starter kit as a present. The big downside I see here is that beginners can often end up with really bad instruments. They might sound bad or much more importantly, they would be uncomfortable to play. This is a big issue. I remember struggling to learn how to play my first guitar which had strings action from hell. It was to the point where it started to be very discouraging to even stick with playing the guitar in general. Luckily I had a lot of guitar friends from the very beginning so I would try playing their guitars and it was like night and day. Really - the sound and the comfort. I could play things easily which I was having lot of trouble playing on my first guitar (an mini acoustic that had a humbucker strapped on it - just like the one Kurt Cobain uses in the famous Nirvana unplugged concert)

Having all this in mind - it might actually not be a good idea for beginner to start on a cheap guitar.
The price doesn't matter but the most important thing is comfort. If the guitar is not setup well, doesn't intonation well - the beginner will just give up as playing wouldn't be that inspiring no matter of the skills.

What do you think about this?


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dcz702
post Jun 4 2014, 09:41 AM
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I think that it's a good idea to get a quality instrument. I don't mean spend a arm and a leg, but don't just walk into the shop and pick out the cheapest guitar you can find. It's kind of a hard call cause a new guy wouldn't really know what to look for. Hopefully they would do some research. Personally I would tell them to find a good used guitar and do some research on what the build of the guitar is generally used for. Lots of company's are putting out good instruments for cheap. And if you really want a decent guitar a few hundred bucks isn't a bad deal, and if the person doesn't stick with it no big deal, sell it, get some money back.
I think having a nice instrument that's comfortable and sounds good will make you want to pick it up more often. When I got my les Paul I couldn't put it down, and when I did I would stare at it In it's stand and couldn't help pick it up and play it. My les Paul is attached to me now if I'm sitting in the house it's usually in my hands. Not saying go out and get a les Paul, mean if you get a guitar your happy with you won't be able to put it down and play a lot more. At least that's how it is for me. biggrin.gif
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PosterBoy
post Jun 4 2014, 10:03 AM
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A beginner needs a guitar that is set up well so it is playable, you need to know that it's you causing the buzzing not the guitar due to a problem, some cheap guitars will never be able to be set up well. Saying that we are in a time where there are loads of fantastic inexpensive guitars Squire Classic Vibe and Modern Vintage range for example.

A beginner needs a guitar that is set up well so it is playable, you need to know that it's you causing the buzzing not the guitar due to a problem, some cheap guitars will never be able to be set up well. Saying that we are in a time where there are loads of fantastic inexpensive guitars Squire Classic Vibe and Modern Vintage range for example.


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Mertay
post Jun 4 2014, 10:51 AM
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Recently a students parents bought him a guitar, I advised 1-2 names and they did go to them but ended up buying from one of the bigger stores...

Kid is 12 years old and they bought a SGR, the next day the switch failed and the setup was done by some guy at the store and was terrible, neck is alsoreally thick and not the best option for a kid imo...at least as far as I understand its a short scale tongue.gif

My first guitar also sucked but atleast it didn't fail on me. Affordable is ok but the cheapest isn't.


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Spock
post Jun 4 2014, 11:23 AM
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I think a Fender Squire is a perfect cheap guitar for someone to start on. The action is pretty good - much easier to fret than a cheap acoustic too. They don't really even need to be set up unless you just want to.

You will be able to tell if they really wish to stick with it or not for $100. My son still has his first guitar after all these years and still plays with it. He switched to drums, but continues to play that guitar, it's time he moved up to a bit nicer one. My nephew, on the other hand, still has his first guitar, a Squire - and it looks brand new, he thought he wanted to play, but stuck with piano instead.
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Becca
post Jun 4 2014, 11:52 AM
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Looks like we have a consensus. here. If we take cheap=nasty and affordable=decent then we have total agreement. Wowsers, that doesn't happen often does it ? I agree with Spock about the Squire range. Hugely affordable and yet a good average of quality. I would add Epiphone also as their quality control has improved greatly in recent years. You can be reasonably sure of purchasing one of these brands online and it being usable straight out the box. I have a Vintage VRS100 here which I bought new online at UNDER £200. For that I got a set neck, mahogany cap,locking m/c heads, whammy bar etc. I would have loved a guitar as good as this when I started playing. My first guitar was a Woolworths Kay with an Audition 15w amp. It was dreadful but of course I loved it. Then a Maya Tele, bits of which are still in use in my frankenstein Tele. including the excellent neck!
The endgame being a beginner should choose a price range that suits and try and play before buying. Online will get you significant savings, but better to stick with reputable stores who will set the guitar up before despatching it. Excellent Uk stores include Gear4Music,Andertons, and GAK. I have used all these in the past and always got treated right.


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Lexman
post Jun 4 2014, 01:34 PM
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I think it is important for a beginner to have a guitar with decent pick ups and properly set up intonation from the start.
So if you can shell out big bucks to get high end gear, that's great go for it.
However if you are not ready for such an investement, a cheaper guitar will suit you just fine.
Because as a beginner you don't have any reference point and you cannot tell apart a good guitar from a bad guitar until you develop your skill as a musician.

This is my experience with cheap guitars. Be advised it's long, but if you are a beginner you might want to read it.

Back in 2008, I got my first guitar ever. It was a starter kit Behringer with an amp for 100 euros.
At that time, I wasn't concerned at all with build quality/tones/intonation/action... because as an absolute beginner I knew nothing about it and I just wanted to play. I was more concerned about learning how to pick notes correctly and I didn't care about the rest.

Four years later 2012, I eventually got a little better (yes I wasn't a work horse at that time, I was more interested in video games) and I started to record myself with a camera.
I was disapointed, because my Behringer didn't sound as good as guitars I could hear here and there on youtube.
That's when I thought I needed a new guitar ! And also a new amp which would allow me to record the sound directly to the comptuer via usb.
So, I started to read reviews. I was hunting for something with a good value for money, my budget was around 500 euros.
I thought the amp was the most important so I went with the newly put on sale Yamaha THR10 for 295 euros. I wasn't disapointed ! To this day, I find it great for self recording, it is also a great practice amp. I even use it as speakers on my computer and it fits on my desk. I like it very much.

I had 200 euros left for a guitar. And after reading many reviews I decided to go with an Ibanez GSA-60 sunburst. Which has awesome reviews by very enthusiastic readers from ultimate guitar.com. In comparison to my Behringer, It was like night and day. The Neck felt much easier to play, and (at that time) I thought the sound coming from the humbuckers was great!

Here we are in 2013, I posted my first REC here at GMC, my first contact ever with guitarists! And they used terms to criticise my take I had never heard about.
Instructors gave me also very encouraging comments, so I was determined to make a better take.

They said my tone was muddy, and the guitar wasn't tuned properly. Which I thought surprising because I was always tuning it before recording. (As the noob I was I was just tuning the open strings.) Anyway I was looking for a way to tweak my tone and set the tuning problem aside because I couldn't figure it out.

That's when I discovered the beautfiul world of plugins, amps/cabinets/pedal simulators... I tried a few softwares whitout success, whatever trick I would use my guitar sounded bad and I thought at that time that I was to blame because of my lack of knowledge.
Thanks to GMC, I figured out my guitar had intonation problems and couldn't be tuned properly.
I tried to set up my guitar's intonation with screwdrivers, watching youtube tutorials and all, but it worked out it was poorly built from the start and the pickups were simply bad, nothing I could do about it.

So I started searching for a replacement to my cheap guitar but I was soon overwhelmed with misleading information, untrustworthy reviews, infinite models and their mind twisting designations.
Mind you I still had a limited budget but I was ready to pay out 300 euros hoping to get something close to a real instrument this time.
Then one day I was looking at a woodbrass catalogue that was sent to my mailbox and a guitar caught my attention it was an Ibanez Roadcore RC320 originally priced for 369 euros, on their website the black model's price was cut down to 299 euros. So I thought let's go for it, and it turned out to be a good deal. The guitar is beautifuly finished, it has proper intonation, the action is good, the pickups are decent, it's a reliable guitar, great for an apprentice guitarist.

Now I can say that my skill is the only bottleneck, not my gear.
Eventually when I'll become good at guitar I'll treat myself with a high end instrument, but then I will know what to look for, and I will fully appreciate its value.


My conclusion is if you buy your first guitar and your budget is limited your best move would be to bring along a guitarist friend to test guitars for you at the store because he'll be able to assess the quality of the guitar. As a beginner you do not have this knowledge, it is normal.

If you don't have any guitarist friend and want to buy from the internet just like I did, I have a few advices for you. Watchout where you read reviews from, beware of over-enthusiastic reviewers. Beware of guitars that are too cheap, like under the 200 euros you will most likely experience problems. These guitars often come with a tremolo which is unsuable because of the crappy bridges. (like my old ibanez)

Also a cheap guitar is what it is : a cheap guitar. Don't expect to get a Gibson Lespaul Standard quality sound out of it. But don't worry you can still get some ok gear that will accompany you on your quest of becoming a fully grown guitarist.

And finally, try to get a deal !
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klasaine
post Jun 4 2014, 05:31 PM
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It depends on the kid and their dedication. If they really wanna do it, they'll do it on anything they have.
I had a $35.00 department store guitar to start (Sears silvertone).
I'm convinced 'it' made me persevere. I needed to beat that thing. Not let it beat me. It was VERY good training for all the obstacles that came later ... even with great guitars.

It's actually pretty hard to find a real piece of crap these days. But I don't think a beginner should start with anything over $250.


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gregc1
post Jun 4 2014, 05:54 PM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Jun 4 2014, 04:31 PM) *
I had a $35.00 department store guitar to start (Sears silvertone).
I'm convinced 'it' made me persevere. I needed to beat that thing. Not let it beat me. It was VERY good training for all the obstacles that came later ... even with great guitars.


Hahaha the ol' Sears Silvertone. I got one too a LONG time ago for between $25-$50 and still have it but it is a MENACE to actually play. It has become more of a slide guitar these days on the rare occasion I pick it up. But yeah, if you can play something on that you'll be set with a normal guitar.

My first electric was an old sunburst Guild (paid $75 for it), one pickup and a volume knob. I had just started taking lessons using an old acoustic that a family friend let me borrow to get started and it showed up in the shop where I took lessons. After one of the sessions ended my teacher (the guy mentioned in my GMC Funnies signature) pointed it out to me and said it would be a great first guitar so I got it and used it the entire time I took lessons.


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Todd Simpson
post Jun 5 2014, 03:31 AM
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Some great replies per usual smile.gif Many variables to consider, but one of the biggest is simple. BUDGET. Who's paying for the guitar and how much are they willing to blow? After all, as many parents know, kids ask for lots of things and then lose interest. Sometimes, they keep going and then you get them a better, whatever (flute,guitar,drums,etc.).

So depending on if the student is paying, or helping pay, or parents are paying, etc. The starting number can vary quite a bit. I worked in a music shop and saw parents/kids come in for a "Starter Guitar" with budgets ranging from $100 to $800.

So once the budget is sorted, you want the best instrument for the money which, in round terms, means decent action/sound/build etc.

The good news is, you can a decent new guitar for around $200 but if it's new it will need a setup which can be another $75 or so. One way around this is to buy a good used instrument that's already been setup. However, this requires some experience on the part of the buyer. A guitar instructor could provide this, but at this point, most students have yet to select an instructor. So all they have to go on is the music store clerk and price.

Thus, they end up getting something that looks nice that's "in budget". But was was mentioned, if the student is serious, it hardly matters what they guitar is. They will play it til their fingers bleed. I certainly did smile.gif


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Mith
post Jun 5 2014, 04:08 AM
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I think the biggest thing is if they have and expirianced guitarist to help purchase one. If they do I recomend a 2nd hand instrument. You will get (hopefully) a better instrument and hopefully one that you could sell later on.

I actually have one SX guitar that I have sitting in my rack. Just knew someone that was getting rid of it. I cheaned up all the frets, pust some nice elixers on there and gave it a great setup and it plays really well. Keep it around for the next person that tells me they are really keen to play and I'll pass it on. Pay it forward kinda way I guess


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Cosmin Lupu
post Jun 5 2014, 09:42 AM
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Great replies so far biggrin.gif

Well, for me things sat a bit differently - I started out on a VERY cheap acoustic that was modded as I said sometime ago, by having a humbucker strapped in the soundhole, just like Cobain had.

I learned from Metallica to Twinkle Twinkle little star on it. My dad realized that he could have an easy life and said: 'If you get into a good highschool after the primary school ends, I will get you a nice electric guitar and an amp'

Well, I did get a nice electric that I had no clue about - it was a Manon biggrin.gif Very funny story with the name - it's the name of the actual PRS dealer's girlfriend. They just started out their business back then, in 97 and they created a brand of guitars baptized after her name and I got one smile.gif

Well, after almost 15 years since that moment, we are working together on the PRS deal smile.gif

The main idea is that that guitar, without being expensive, it was well made and it helped me out by making my journey a pleasant one.

The Squire is indeed a good choice in respect to the price/quality balance and out of all the brands and there's one more thing. If the kid doesn't like it, the market for used instruments is pretty big, so selling it wouldn't be a problem.

Have you guys encountered issues when trying to sell not so valuable pieces of gear?


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klasaine
post Jun 5 2014, 04:14 PM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Jun 5 2014, 01:42 AM) *
Have you guys encountered issues when trying to sell not so valuable pieces of gear?


You have to willing to let it go for less than you paid for it.
I don't know if that's really an 'issue', as that's the way the market works.


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Todd Simpson
post Jun 5 2014, 06:13 PM
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If you are really really careful on your buying price, you can break even or make money but you have to be willing to walk away from the deal which can be tough. I actually MADE money on the Bella Lugosi ESP and the BC Rich gunslinger, and several others. The only times I lose money is when I just can't walk away and must have a guitar. Then I usually trade to much stuff for it or pay way to much. But KLASSAINE is spot on that it's the nature of the beast. If you buy a guitar at retail price new or used, you are probably going to lose money on the sale.

QUOTE (klasaine @ Jun 5 2014, 11:14 AM) *
You have to willing to let it go for less than you paid for it.
I don't know if that's really an 'issue', as that's the way the market works.


This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Jun 5 2014, 06:13 PM


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Mith
post Jun 6 2014, 02:34 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jun 6 2014, 01:13 AM) *
If you are really really careful on your buying price, you can break even or make money but you have to be willing to walk away from the deal which can be tough. I actually MADE money on the Bella Lugosi ESP and the BC Rich gunslinger, and several others. The only times I lose money is when I just can't walk away and must have a guitar. Then I usually trade to much stuff for it or pay way to much. But KLASSAINE is spot on that it's the nature of the beast. If you buy a guitar at retail price new or used, you are probably going to lose money on the sale.


Those gunslingers had a bit of a price tag on tem. Always wondered how well they play/sounded


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Cosmin Lupu
post Jun 6 2014, 07:35 AM
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Well, for instance, I made a very bad deal on a TC Helicon Voicelive 2 Vocal effects processor. I bought it 2 years ago at the insisting urges of my band mates who thought it would be a great thing to use onstage. I bought it for 500 EUR at that time - that's about 700 bucks.

After realizing it is of no use to me, I decided to sell it last month, guess what, I had to lose about 250 bucks, because version 3 appeared and the price dropped and it is a tool which is not that easy to sell in itself.

The good thing is I sold it with 450 bucks and I finally got rid of it. I lost some money, but I think it was to be expected due to the things mentioned above.


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Todd Simpson
post Jun 6 2014, 07:36 AM
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Mine was CHEAAAAAAAP not the nice KOREA or US model. Mine was the import cheapy version that only cost $250 brand new on ebay.

QUOTE (Mith @ Jun 5 2014, 09:34 PM) *
Those gunslingers had a bit of a price tag on tem. Always wondered how well they play/sounded


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Mith
post Jun 7 2014, 04:56 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jun 6 2014, 02:36 PM) *
Mine was CHEAAAAAAAP not the nice KOREA or US model. Mine was the import cheapy version that only cost $250 brand new on ebay.


oh ok, Yeah I think it was the best and worse thing BC Rich ever did was keep their name on their entry level stuff. It seems to devalue their better instruments. All I can say is I love my mockingbird pro x and even brand new the thing is a steal. For me its my play ability wise its like a les paul with a slightly shaved neck and loaded with EMGS


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Cosmin Lupu
post Jun 7 2014, 08:18 PM
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To be frank, I never liked the BC Rich axes, simply because I associated them with extreme metal all the time - maybe because of their shapes? I have no clue... but, I've also seen Slash play one in 'You could be mine' so I guess my assumption is not entirely correct tongue.gif


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Darius Wave
post Jun 8 2014, 03:47 PM
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The problem here is the subjective meaning of word "proper" Proper gear for the style You play most will come with time and experience. It worth having a good instructor/player byu Your side so He could help at the beginning - mostly telling You what's a fault of instrument and what's a fault of Your playing. Having descent instrument can save You (the instructor|) some time wasted for explanations - especially some natural bad sides of stringed instruments. Most often beginners try to pass the fault on the quality of an instrument. If they have a descent one it's easier to make them belive You, it's not a fault of instrument.


There is also one bad side if the instrument is bought by a beginner with no feedback of professional. That's how many of internet myths has started. Example? Quote - "Man I had the LP classic but it sucks. It doesn't sound even close to the Standard that I know from my favourite recordings. I have to sell it and by Standard". Of course...same guy months later sold the guitar and bought Standard. Then he writes " Damn...Standard suck as well...this XY artist has to have some ultra custom, one of a milion piece".

Some of beginners think guitar will sound no matter what and how You play. They create a lot of confusion in the net.

Lately I cought one of my frends replacing stock Schecter pickups for some famous brand pickups. Guess what? Placebo effect - I told him I did replace the pickups (which was not true) but the new sets have no logo when sold "as a set". He believed me. He said...wow! How that guitar sound now!...So I brought him bac kto earth and said---man...those are still stock pickups...we didn't even bought the replacement yet (delivery was delayed) biggrin.gif

So...that's a twisted question to give a clear answer. One of my students bought RR5 Jackson guitar....but still plays his 4 times cheaper Schecter Demon because its sound lot better to what he actually want to play....but didn't listen to me when I was saying "It doesn't matter it costs so much. it's not a guitar with the type of tone You're looking for" smile.gif


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