In the couple of months since I’ve opened Jow Music. A question I’ve been asked a few times is ‘how much should I spend to get a good guitar?’. ‘Well’ I reply ‘ Any ideas what you want’ ‘erm… I thought you could advise me’ they reply ‘ . And so I ask the following questions;
What’s your budget?
It’s a genuine question. I’m not trying to work out how much money I can get out of you, as some probably suspect. Truth is every guitar is different, even the two of exactly the same model can differ so try before you buy people!
Spending more money doesn’t always guarantee a better guitar, the same as buying more well known. Brands don't guarantee a better guitar, as many Gibson customers in recent years know much to their cost.
The good news is that in the last 20 years that I’ve been playing, starter and intermediate guitars have improved significantly. In the £99 to £300 price range the competition between the companies is so tough that they can’t afford to make a poor instrument.
If you spend over £200 now you’re almost guaranteed to get Alnico pickups, good tuners and a decent set up.
My first guitar was an Encore Stratocaster copy and it was basically firewood. I think it was around £125 in ’94 at a guess. Bizarrely nearly 25 years later I’m now selling the same guitar in store for £109.
However it has been completely redesigned by master builder ‘Trev Wilkinson’ with better parts, construction and it’s definitely better set up. It's definitley a league or two above the one I had.
What's Your Style?
There's no point in me advising you to buy a Telecaster style guitar if you're into trash metal.
There's also no point on me advising you the try a Les Paul if you play in a folk band.
What Will You Use It For?
Is it going to be a gigging guitar or just for playing in your bedroom? Cheaper guitars like the Encore above will be fine for jamming along with your favorite band in the bedroom. However it would be unlikely to stand up well to been chucked in the back of vans and bashed about on the stage. By the same token do you really need to spend £500 if you are just jamming in your bedroom?
The Bottom Line
The question, how much do I need to spend to get a good guitar?, is as broad as it is long.
Know your own needs and preferences. There are some very decent guitars now in the sub £200 range which are great for beginers and bedroom players. There are also some great gigging guitars from the £200 to £500 range. £500+ and your paying for the extra bells and whistles.
The best piece of advice I can give is don't buy blind. Try before you buy. It may just save you a few quid!