Sunday, April 30, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 1/3

Hello and welcome to this weeks' article!
This time we're publishing an article written by a dear friend and singer/songwriter for The Observants, Edoardo Del Principe, about his criteria / checklist to buy a good guitar for around 500$ / 500€.
Keep in mind that this is his personal opinion, and that if possible is ALWAYS better to try the instrument in your own hands before buying, because since the wood is living material, a guitar is never exactly identical to another one, even if they are built from the same person with the same materials.

What’s the dream of every guitarist? To find an awesome cheap guitar. This article wants to answer to the question: is it possibile? The answer is “yes” but with several caveat.
I want to show you the general rules to “how to buy a decent guitar for less than 500$”, which is in my opinion the average budget of an high school student who is studying guitar and wants to buy a new one for his/her birthday.
First all of must be clear what makes a guitar expensive and then what makes a guitar cheap.
Wood: this a very controversial point because there’s not an objective argumentation of which wood is the best, but it’s also true that there are bad and good woods. Where can we find these?
Easly over 700$ guitars can have a mahogany body and an ebony fretboards, as many Gibson have. Mahogany seems the best for guitar but its “expensiveness” can come also from its rarety now. Before 80’s it was more common than now, so you can find this wood especially in guitars from before the 80’s.
Ebony and Rosewood are the two most desired wood for fretboards. Nowdays it’s practically impossibile to find ebony on a fretboards of guitars under 700-800$ because of its rarety and its features. Even this time its all about tastes because there is no rules saying that Ebony it’s better than Rosewood, today it’s even harder than before to find a good piece of this because the high quality wood are now much harder to find than 30 years ago. Deforestation caused a “manipulated market” of guitar wood, and the wood used by the most prestigious brands are now on the “apex” of the “wood chain”, which this means that the wood used by a Gibson Les Paul Standard sets the “standard”, but this doesn’t means it is necessarily the best.
Manufacture: This point it’s damn critical because if you talk with a guitar maker probably he will tell you that nowdays it’s practically impossibile to find a good guitar for 500$. There’s no way out. This is because for that price none of them is handmade, not even partially. Industrialization and globalization have transformed the way to produce guitars, so now for that price they are all assembled in a chain production. Less care about the manifacturing, less care about how the neck is built, less care about how it is attached to the body, less care about almost everything, and you must know how much this influences the final sound of the instrument.
Expensive guitars have very few parts or none done in the chain production, so every piece is controlled and maybe crafted by the hands of a guitar maker to make it sure that is the best instrument you can have on your hands. Investing big amounts of money into a new 500$ guitar to make it sounds like a 1500$ it’s stupid because if you have spent 1000$ in PU, mechanics, a new bridge etc the guitar will never sound as a guitar handmade and crafted in US or Japan by the best guitar makers. Anyway it will sounds a lot better, of course.
In order to have “that” quality of sound it requires a specific process in order to build the parts of a guitar in the best way possible with effort put into every detail; this makes the difference between a 1200$ guitar and one of 500$ or less that will never be good as that, even if you put hundreds of dollars in that.
Production: Here we can talk with more certainties. Under 500$ guitars are made in Indonesia, South Korea or China where factories produce tons of guitars so they cannot control well every piece, where the people are paid less so they care less about the final product.
During the last decades, however, the avarage quality of a low-budget guitar has become higher because of the know-how and experience of certain factories that produces for several brands at the same time. This assure you a sufficient quality and playability for almost every entry level guitar in the market now.
Highly expensive guitars are built generally (not everyone) in the homeland of the brands and the name of the top factories are well known by their fans. During the decades it has become harder to find a guitar produced in the homeland brand because of globalization, so now only the finest pieces are handmade in America or Mexico by Fender, for example.
Hardware and Pick Ups: Because of chain productions these are the parts where the brand spend less. Guitar for less than 500$ can easly sacrifice details as mechanics, colouring and PU. On the other hand when we see a guitar with really high prices (1200$+), what makes the price higher are details as the handmade production of frets, a particular colour used and limited series production (Practically you pay maybe 100 or 200$ just for a number on the back of the head of the instrument). Hopefully these parts are the most easy to change so you can buy a cheap guitar and change PU (and maybe tuners and/or bridge) to have a decent guitar for less than 500$, anyway, as said before investing zillions in cheap guitars doesn’t make them sound “great”.

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