Sunday, 29 November 2009

Cheap Guitars – False Economy?

The phrase “you get what you pay for” has never been truer than when it relates to instruments, or at least that’s what we’re lead to believe – is a cheap guitar really a bad guitar?

A Gibson Employee/Fanboy may tell you that the £1,500 ($3,000) you’re paying for a Les Paul Custom is justified by the beautiful chambered mahogany body, the responsive rosewood neck, or the top-end Gibson brand electronics – but in reality, is it really worth it? When you hit that E5, does a £1,500 guitar sound £1,000 better than a £500 guitar? In this writer’s opinion, ostensibly, no.

Of course, it’s entirely subjective – because the consumer culture is what it is, cynics would say that you’re paying for the name rather than the quality of the product, but I would say it’s about half and half. The parts are better quality, the wood usually heavier and more dense giving better sustain, the bridge is more balanced giving better clarity of notes, and the tuners are less prone to losing their tuning – but I feel the quality:price ratio stops at somewhere around the £700 mark, the rest being charged simply because they can.

The main draw of expensive guitars are the seemingly endless supply of USA-custom models, perpetuating the myth that buying one gives you the proficiency of said endorser at point of purchase. In reality, there is no Robert-Johnson-sold-his-soul-to-the-devil magic fingers charm – just practice, and maybe a good teacher – signature guitar or otherwise.

However, supporting the underdog is a British trait – maybe I’m just lambasting the big Guitar companies for the sake of defending the smaller ones. The one thing you can guarantee with a bigger, albeit expensive, guitar brand is that their product support is second-to-none. Gibson, for example, have a myriad of contact telephone numbers worldwide, as well as the option of instant messaging in the USA – so you can get help quicker than an ambulance, if you really like that guitar.

In conclusion, I don’t dislike expensive guitars – quite the opposite. I just wouldn’t pay for one.

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