In these times, there are a lot of budget-friendly guitars on the market. Manufacturers produce them with automated techniques and sell them for a low price.
But are cheap guitars really worth it? Are they for beginners? Most cheap guitars don’t come with a decent setup out of the box. However, with a proper adjustment, they can perform well. It is the most cost-effective and affordable way to make the setup yourself, but you can also ask a shop for a reasonable price that would not exceed a higher-tier instrument.
Cheap guitars are good for beginners only after a good setup. But, they need to think about paying for the setup at the shop because they cannot do it by themselves.
Players often rely on price to determine the quality of the guitar and believe that expensive guitars are better to buy. In the following text, you will find out if it’s always true.
What Is Considered As A Cheap Guitar?
Manufacturers tend to beat their rivals in the market world and get as much money as possible. Therefore, many of them produce and sell cheap guitars.
Low price is preferable among consumers. If something is budget-friendly, you can have it while other life aspects won’t suffer.
Some manufacturers love selling cheap guitars because people are more likely to buy something for a low price. Therefore, the more customers, the better profit.
Also, if you want to create a low-price product, you need to invest less money and time. Manufacturers reduce quality-control time and lower the standards.
Therefore, they don’t put that much effort into adjusting guitars and cut the time for details and testing products.
Therefore, a cheap guitar is a low-price product that went out of the factory with some drawbacks that could affect sound and playability.
But, the word cheap means different price tags for people and their budgets, so I will set the bar at $200-$250 and lower.
Is It Worth Getting A Cheap Guitar?
Cheap guitars don’t have a decent setup, which affects the sound and playability – the two most important things for a player.
Low-quality control standards are why they have so many drawbacks, such as the high action or the problems with the truss rod or intonation. But the low price is pretty charming, right?
Despite these imperfections, people often decide to buy them. And yes, it is worth getting a cheap guitar if the guitar price plus setup price doesn’t exceed the guitar price with better features and a proper setup.
The setup price varies by how much work a guitar tech needs to do. It also varies by region. In the United States, you need to pay approximately $100 for a professional setup that requires more work. Otherwise, you need to pay about $50 to $60.
A better situation is buying a cheap guitar and setting it up yourself. It is more payable, and the feeling that you have done everything with your ten fingers is priceless.
Should I Get A Cheap Guitar As A Beginner?
Beginners belong to a pretty sensitive category. They need an instrument with a perfect sound and playability, so they can easily go through the hard beginning and be on the right path from the first day of practice. Getting into the habit of doing something wrong is a thing that is very hard to change later.
Getting a cheap guitar as a beginner has both pros and cons.
Beginners often need to consider their budget more than a player who makes money off of playing with the band. Their budget is usually low, and having a chance to buy a budget-friendly guitar allows them to try to achieve something they want.
Also, many beginners give up learning the guitar for many reasons – lack of motivation, interest, or self-confidence.
Therefore, buying a budget-friendly guitar saves you from wasting a lot of money on the thing that ends up in the room corner and with dust layers.
Newbies need to accustom their ears to the accurate guitar sound. Cheap guitars usually have some sound issues. Practicing while the guitar is out of tune or has some intonation problems is bad for a beginner’s future development; the ears adapt to the inaccurate sound, and it’s hard to fix it later.
Also, beginners have weak wrist and fingers muscles, so they have no strength to press the string down with no buzzing, especially if the guitar action is too high. Cheap guitars often have that kind of an issue, making them unsuitable for entry-level players.
Some players say your fingertips will develop calluses faster if you play the guitar with high action. But, high guitar action can reduce your motivation and make your arm hurt so much.
Despite those cons, cheap guitars can be worth buying if you are a beginner. You only need to ask the shop to offer you a setup for a reasonable price. After proper adjustments, both guitar playability and sound would be much better.
Don’t try setting up your guitar at home if you are a beginner – you can do a lot of damage, and the repair is pretty expensive.
Is It Hard To Learn On A Cheap Guitar?
Cheap guitars have some playability and sound issues, and one of them is high action. Playing a high-action guitar requires a harder string press-down, and beginners haven’t developed calluses or muscle strength yet, so practicing on a cheap guitar can be a real challenge.
That’s why beginners often hear that annoying fret buzz, which can be demotivating.
Therefore, it is hard to learn on a cheap guitar because of playability issues. But, the issue can be solved by driving your guitar to a pro for a proper setup.
The pro guitar tech will adjust the truss rod and the bridge or saddle, and you can learn on the guitar with less struggle.
Do Cheap Guitars Sound Worse?
Cheap guitars don’t get that much individual attention, and some things are missing for good sound and playability.
Many things, such as the construction and setup, affect the guitar sound. For example, the cheap acoustic guitar often includes a soundboard made from laminate wood, while more expensive ones have a solid top that gives the sound a special dash.
Also, cheap guitars are more likely to be out of tune for many reasons – cheap tuning pegs, nut problems, or improper intonation. Pickups also contribute to the sound, and the cheap ones don’t do the job adequately.
Therefore, cheap guitars usually sound worse than expensive ones with good features and adjustments.
Can You Make Cheap Guitar Sound Better?
As I said, cheap guitars indeed sound worse than expensive ones. They come out of the factory with many drawbacks that affect the sound.
But, with a proper setup, your cheap guitar can sound really good. Only professional guitarists may hear the sound difference when comparing it to the expensive guitar, or the difference may be completely inaudible – it all depends on which guitar you choose for comparison.
Ask the guitar shop about the setup price, and see if it’s worth doing. A guitar tech will make some adjustments so you can say bye-bye to any intonation and tuning issues. If you know how to do a setup, that’s better – it is more payable.
And one more thing; specific guitar techniques, playing effects, and learning more about amp features can improve the guitar sound, too!
Does It Matter How Expensive A Guitar Is?
Manufacturers who give more individual attention to guitars sell their products for a higher price.
They have high-quality control standards, and they spend a lot of time adjusting the instruments, so they come out of the factory with not-so-many flaws. A proper adjustment means good guitar sound and playability. So, expensive guitars are more likely to have a charming sound and good playability.
On the other side, low-cost guitars don’t go through serious quality-control standards, and the time spent on individual attention is shortened. So, budget-friendly guitars crave a proper setup that is a base for accurate sound and playability.
Therefore, the price does determine the quality in most cases. But after the setup, a cheap guitar can become a worthy instrument that can provide you with such an enjoyable experience.
How Much Should A Beginner Spend On Guitar?
Beginners need a guitar that has accurate sound and is easy to play. Many beginners give up learning the guitar, so the first guitar should be budget-friendly. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a thing that might be covered with dust in the future, right?
In my opinion, beginners should pay $150-$400 for their guitar. Once they reach a higher playing level, they will need more expensive equipment, whether they start home recording, studio work, or playing with the band.
Cheap guitars can be worthy after a good setup. It is great if you can do the setup because it is more payable than scheduling one in the shop.
Keep in mind that the setup price needs to be reasonable if you want your cheap guitar to be worth buying. Otherwise, if the total price exceeds the price of a guitar with better features, I think you will deeply regret your purchase.
Cheap guitars are good for beginners only after a good setup. They can’t deal with the high action, and inaccurate sound disrupts them from staying on the right path.
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2 thoughts on “Are Cheap Guitars Really Worth It? Are They Good For Beginners?”
Entry level guitars have gotten better by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years or so. Consistency and QC in particular are where they’ve made big improvements. No one needs a mid-level or better guitar as a starter instrument anymore.
You are right Max.
The QC and the build quality have improved tremendously, not only on beginner guitars but also on mid-level and higher-end guitars.
As for not needing a mid-level guitar, I would say it is more of a budget thing.
Some consider the budget as the main factor for the tier of the instrument.
For some $500 is considered as a mid-level as for others it would be $1000.