Holiday Gear Part 3: Getting the Gear

Now that we’ve looked at why quality matters, we can check out a few different options for getting a high quality first guitar on a wide range of budgets.

Rental

If you are unsure about you or your child’s commitment level and want a short-term alternative to purchasing a brand new instrument, it is worthwhile to check and see if your lesson provider also rents instruments. Bold Music has high quality loaners that students can test out before actually purchasing their own or a new guitar. Expect to be paying about $25 per month to rent an instrument, though this price may vary.

Shoestring Budget

So you’ve decided to learn music, you’re committed, but the price tag of private lessons is making it difficult to unload a large sum of money on your first instrument. Not to worry, you can usually purchase a perfectly good guitar for around $200. My personal favorite in this price range is the Yamaha FG700s. This acoustic guitar not only sounds great but it plays and ages well. There are certainly other options out there, but keep these tips in mind when shopping:

1. You pay more for electronics, and electronics are not necessary. Get yourself a high quality acoustic guitar, not an acoustic/electric. A common misconception is that an acoustic/electric guitar is somehow both an electric guitar and an acoustic all in one. That is false; an acoustic/electric is simply an acoustic guitar that can be plugged into some sort of amplification. It does not play like an electric guitar, and will never sound like one. Chances are you won’t be needing an acoustic/electric until you are on tour, so save yourself some money and buy an acoustic without the electronics.

2. Don’t worry about getting a cutaway acoustic as your first acoustic. This, much like the previous point, is an added feature that ends up making any acoustic cost more off the bat, and it isn’t necessary for a beginner guitarist. It is most important to get an instrument that sounds good and plays well, and any added feature to an acoustic increases cost. For example, a $500 acoustic/electric cutaway is generally about the same quality instrument as a $200 Yamaha FG700s.

3. For electric guitars, avoid bundles. Usually, you can find a cheap electric guitar + amp + case, etc. bundle that seems to be a great value purchase, and it all comes in one convenient box! Wrong. These bundles consist of the poorest quality instruments and amplifiers, and will become frustrating to play almost immediately—assuming they don’t break before you even take them out of the box. Instead, go to your local music store and pick a guitar that fits your budget. Easily the most versatile option is a Fender Mexican Stratocaster or Squier Stratocaster. From there, see what the salesperson is willing to offer when it comes to getting your amp, case, cables, strings and picks. Usually, you’ll find yourself walking out with a free case and most likely a heavily discounted amplifier, especially during the holidays.

If you’ve got the resources to buy a high quality first instrument, I always say go for it. The bigger the financial investment, the more likely you are to stay committed, precisely because you have invested lots of capital in your new pursuit. Sometimes, the best way to ensure success is to make failure not just disappointing but expensive.

On top of that, the nicer the instrument is, the better it sounds, the easier it is to play, and so on. If you’ve got $500 to spend on your first instrument, you’re in great shape, and anything on top of that is a bonus.

The holiday season is the perfect time to buy; there are deals to be had and with a little bit of inside consumer savvy (you’re welcome) you can make the most of investing in your first instrument. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Bold Music and, as always, rock on.