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Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by hemingway, Feb 15, 2016.
I agree.Its pointless buying a cheapie unless you can do it all yourself.
My two cheapest guitars are an Epi LP Special P90 and an Epi LP Junior. I bought both on sale for $99 each. Both were playable out of the box. Filing down the sharp ends of the frets and lowering the bridge height slightly made them excellent players, but not my best. If Epi were to put a little more effort into the fret board and frets, they could add 40 or 50 dollars to the price (to cover the extra labor) and have guitars that could be raved about.
Another thing to consider, is do you want to?
I learned to work on my own guitars by trying to make cheap stuff work for me. So yeah, I can do setups (damn fantastic ones) and work nut slots, and frets, and replace electronics, and anything else. But why should I have to?
I have a modern, fuel injected motorcycle because I don't wanna wrench, I wanna ride.
Countless hours and money spent getting something in fighting shape the minute it leaves the store is not something that holds any interest for me. I wanna play guitars, not work on them all the time. If I wanted to tinker I'd open a shop.
"Is that a Squier?"
"Yeah man. I cut a new nut, leveled the frets, replaced the tuners, pickups, switch, and pots. New Trem block and saddles. It's an awesome guitar. Just as good as one of the more expensive ones."
Only it's still not. And I've spent $500 or more on it, AFTER purchase price, and it's still only worth what a used Squier is worth.
The whole thing is dumb, to me.
There's also a big difference in guitars that get used at home, or as weekend warriors a couple times a month, and guitars that get used professionally and toured hard.
When you start citing examples of "so and so is famous and uses a $300 Epiphone" you have remember that
A) famous people are weird. They do weird things. Because they can. They don't have to live in our reality. I say this with love, some of them are my friends. Trust me, they ain't like you and me. Even if they started off that way.
B) so and so also has at least one tech who is paid a salary to do nothing else but keep so and so's guitars working. It's a full time job for that guy.
After having tried it both ways, and not having the budget for a tech/guitar mechanic... I'll be staying away from the cheap stuff. Thanks.
I own both high end and, more recently purchased low end guitars. My take on it is that due to modern CNC machining the bodies and necks have for the most part gotten to be pretty generic in quality and that quality is very good. On the other hand the quality of the pickups, electronics and hardware most often falls off sharply on the lower priced guitars. The good news is that those things can be upgraded (even if you have a tech do the work) for far less than paying the manufacturer for them. It's a great time to be a guitar buyer.
You can still find really bad ones, but I think the percentage of them has gone down. Most are at least playable and only need a little work.
And they are definitely better than they were many years ago. I remember my friend ordering a Harmony electric out of the Sears catalog for $80. It was so bad it was un-tunable. The plastic bushings were so tight around the pegs I had to ream them out to get three of the keys to even move. And it needed a set up. I got it playable, but it was never a great guitar.
There are no bad guitars, just guitars you wouldn't do certain things with. "Bad" guitars of the past, which were worst of the worst, still made great music in the right hands.
Some cheap japan import
Back then they were "plastic garbage" but now seem sought after.
Oh, cheapest of the cheap right out of the department store catalog.
Ah, the Gibson beginner classical guitar.
I try not to confuse quality with making music as art, I try to use quality (or provenance) to gauge whether or not I'm getting my money's worth! If you're not totally brainwashed by convention, they should all be good for something.
All the guitars I see at the local Best Buy are pretty sad examples of really good Brands. Shoddy fretwork, wonky neck pockets, crappy guitars are out there.
It's hard to find a genuinely bad guitar from any of the big names (Gibson/Epiphone, Fender/Squier, Ibanez/G10, etc.). Now, that's not saying that everything from a big name will be 100% perfect all the time...nearly every guitar on the planet can benefit from a setup. Even your custom shop uberguitar. The options for cheap/budget/entry level guitars are better now than ever before.
3 words Es ta bon = crap. every one that comes into my friends shop is basically unfixable.
Evidently good music and be done with almost anything.
An old mate of mine is a well respected, "name" guitarist. He normally plays a Squier. When he bought it, he spent a whole day trying different guitars including Custom Shop models. He bought the Squier because it was the guitar he liked most. Now, I've seen a few of his guitars, and he has brought some very tasty guitars out over the years, so I know he knows his apples, as it were.
One thing regarding the earlier comment about people buying cheap guitars and then modding them out of all recognition - I've seen people post here about very nice guitars they've bought, and they've had similar plans to mod the hell out of them.
I honestly think that, were you to give a modern day beginner one of the old beginners guitars, they'd be shocked by how bad they usually were. I suspect a few people that grew up with them have forgotten how dire they often were. Hell, when was the last time you saw a new beginners guitar with a straight bar bridge?
The best player I know plays a Squier strat.
My Epiphone Maserbilt acoustic sounds amazing.
But yes, there are still junk guitars out there.
While I agree with you in theory, the fact is if the guitar doesn't have eye candy appeal, most kids aren't interested. Many manufacturers understand this. That's the bulk of the market.
I have seen thoughtful parents ask for advice in buying a beginner guitar for their kids and wanting something that will make it easier for the young-un to play. The good news is that especially in the acoustic arena there are a lot of well-made inexpensive instruments that play and sound very good. I know, I just bought one, a Mexican-built Taylor and it plays and sounds wonderful.
On the electric side I helped my grandson pick out a near-perfect condition used Squier Strat made in Korea that we payed $169 for that was returned. Some kid didn't like it probably because it wasn't "cool-looking." I think they listed for $299 new. I had my guitar guy do a set up on it. Cost me $30 and now it plays like butter and sounds very good. He'd rather play it than my Strat which cost a lot more.
There are still some junkers out there, but a much higher percentage of what you'll find in a music store today vs 30 years ago is "good enough to gig with". When I think about what was around when I started playing in the early 1980s, things like MIM Fenders just blow me away... a professional-quality guitar for the (inflation-adjusted) same prices that people paid for junky student models back then. And the better stuff is SO much better than it was back then... any American Standard off the wall at any random GC is almost certainly going to be a nicer guitar than most of what Fullerton made in 1980.
I do agree that the quality of budget guitars has increased dramatically since the bad old days. I’m old enough to remember playing brands like Antoria, Columbus and other cheap copies and you had to really struggle to play them. I think we just accepted them as a rite of passage -and that eventually we’d be able to buy better. Of course, all the real players did eventually.
There are still bad guitars around at every price level - no doubt about that. It’s much easier to be stung by buying on-line. A lot of the big stores and Ebay sellers can offer what looks to be great deals so we get fished in.
I have a Squier JM Jazzmaster that I bought on-line. It is a great guitar for the price, but even before I switched the neck I had to put a shim in the pocket to correct the action. A few years ago I bought a Overwater fretless bass through another forum and it had go to the luthier 3 times to correct a poor neck/body join. I sold it as soon as I could.
I swore to myself that I’d never buy blind again but fell for a good deal on an Eastwood Baritone and that guitar has turned out to be a heap of trouble which is still on-going.
YMMV, of course.
I think we have it better than we ever have, but there are still plenty of lemons out there.
I'm 100% with you. Cheap guitars are partially responsible for me not seriously taking it up as a youngster. I won't mention my lack of focus and not practicing for more than 5 minutes a day.
My very first guitar was an Ibanez Les Paul that I saved for and bought from Just Guitars(Wauconda IL) some time around the 6th grade. It wouldn't stay in tune for ****. I had no idea why or about set ups and guitar techs. I sold it some time in my early 20s after sitting in its case for years. I then bought a Epiphone Dot when I was 30(1997) from a local guitar store and a pot went bad in it within a week. I also bought a cheap solid state amp. Divorce and other issues at the time kept it in its case until a few years ago.
When I decided I'd give ago at playing again is when I started learning about guitars. The Epiphone was having a problem with tuning and buzzing. A counter man I know from a supply house told me he'd set it up and take a look at it. Played better but he told me there was a string spacing issue and it could use a nut. This led to spending a lot of money on a cheap guitar to make it play correctly. It played phenomenally after a new nut and frets. About this time I came across a CS Strat for the right price and I bought it. I immediately found out what a nice guitar was. I sold it like an idiot. I thought I was done playing. When I couldn't stay away from playing I wanted a telecaster. I did some research and bought my Kirn and will buy another one if I get a strat. I wanted a nice guitar with nice fret work(The fret work on the Epi spoiled me).
I don't want to work on them. I need to spend my time playing them.
Unfortunately I have started to have a little interest in working on them due to my mechanical nature. I'm resisting but I may at least start setting them up.
I did a 36 date USA tour last year with a sparkle blue Squier Strat I picked up in Atlanta guitar center for $149.
Totally fine...when I got back home I filed the nut down a bit lower, but it's a completely acceptable instrument, none of the audiences complained, and I had at least a couple of conversations with guitarbros who wanted to know what pickups I'd pimped it out with (answer: the ones it came with)
My first electric- a little black Encore with an mdf body for £69 from the Argos catalogue, was a complete pos. Probably not as anger making as say, a teisco tulip or one of those other unintonatable wonders, but definitely not a proper guitar like you could get for the same money now.
I don't know if it's because my local guitar center is a "D" rated store but I seem to see a pattern. If I grab a Fender USA standard they never seem to be finished. There are sharp fret ends exposed, the fret ends aren't shaped properly and they don't seem to be leveled and re crowned. It feels like the machines have done their work and the guitar is finished. None of the hand stuff is done and the set ups are abysmal. If you want something like a Strat that actually feels finished you have to buy some kind of "custom shop" labeled guitar for 5x the price. This just seems like a way to raise the price without giving extra value. So for $1200 you can buy a USA strat that's like a cheese grater along the sides of the neck.
I think beginner guitars now are better than the ones that were available in the 60's, but they are what they are. I don't find it all that hard to spot a cheaply made guitar without even looking at the price tag. If you can get intonation and the frets and nut are usable, a setup can make an inexpensive guitar playable.
That being said a great player can make a bad guitar sound great.