You're about to enrol in guitar lessons and you want to buy a guitar so you can practise your music at home, but there are so many guitars out there, you don't know where to start.
Do you go for a classical guitar? Or an electric guitar? Acoustic? Bass?
Which brand is the best? Roland? Fender? Yamaha? Ibanez? Epiphone?
As if that's not confusing enough, the range of guitar prices is enormous. How much should you spend?
There are many factors that need to be considered when it comes to the price of guitars. Naturally, the reputation of the manufacturer and the brand name affect guitar prices but so do individual features. For example, guitars with a cutaway tend to sell for a higher price.
As with all music products, if you want a guitar that sounds great, looks attractive and, most importantly, is well constructed, you will need to pay more. At the very least, you'll want a solid fingerboard, headstock and body so your instrument will last a number of years.
A pro guitarist will pay thousands of dollars for their guitar. However, if you're a beginner, you really don't want to be paying more than around $500 for the guitar itself, remembering that the accessories, like music stands, bags or cases, cables and strings, will add to the overall price.
Asking your music teacher or an experienced player for their recommendation is a good idea.
To start you off though, keep reading to find out what's available in the beginner's market.
Classical Guitars: How Much Should You Pay?
If you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play!
~ Eddie Van Halen ~
As a beginner, whether you're taking online guitar lessons or enrolled in face-to-face music classes, many teachers recommend starting out with classical guitar.
There are a number of reasons for this recommendation:
- The structure of the instrument guides you in the positioning of your left hand.
- The nylon guitar strings make strumming easier than the steel strings of an electric guitar.
- Students learn fingerstyle techniques and how to navigate the fingerboard.
Quality classical guitar brands include Yamaha, Fender, Cordoba, Ibanez and Katoh (for a start).
Rather than hindering your progress to the guitar or music style of your choice, starting with classical guitar lessons gives you all the background knowledge and skills you need to move on to acoustic or electric guitars.
In fact, many professionals believe that people who begin with nylon strings and a classical guitar make better guitarists.
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What is a good price for classical guitars?
Classical guitar prices range from as little as $100 to upwards of $2000.
If you're buying a guitar for a young child, the cheaper end of the price range is fine. For yourself, you may be happy to spend a little more, especially if you're confident that you will continue playing.
Cordoba, Fender and Yamaha tend to produce nice classical nylon string guitars, priced at $250 to $350, that produce a pleasant sound and will last the distance until you're ready to move up a gear.
What is a Good Price for an Electric Guitar?
If you've already been playing the classical guitar for a while, you might be ready for a change and keen to try an electric guitar. So, what price are you looking at now?
As with classical, electric guitars vary considerably in price, both online and in stores.
While we are quite sure you won't be in the market for an $8000 Gibson, you may feel comfortable spending around $500 to $600 on a good quality Epiphone, Squier or Fender electric guitar.
Remember, however, that electric guitars need a few more accessories than their classical counterparts. One of these accessories is the guitar amp — without an amp, you might be playing like Jimi Hendrix, but nobody will know.
Electric guitar amps start at around $150 for a basic amp with okay sound quality.
It would be worth your while to ask around to see if any stores have package deals, where they provide the electric guitar and an amp for a discounted price.
While you're at it, you might as well see if any packages include other accessories, like cases, spare strings, music stands, tuning kits and so on.
A quick online browse shows Yamaha offering an electric guitar and amp for $409, while Ibanez and Epiphone have packages for $470 that include guitar, amp, soft bag and cables.
Starting with a cheap amp, such as the amps found in package deals, will be okay at first, but once you start wanting to perform, you'll want a higher price and quality amp.
Acoustic Guitars: How Much Do They Cost?
Perhaps an electric guitar is not quite your style. A great compromise is an acoustic-electric guitar — the meeting point between classical and electric.
Essentially, what you have is an acoustic guitar with the sound amplified by microphones. Being part of the acoustic family, the acoustic-electric guitar sounds more like a classical guitar and can be heard without being plugged in.
An acoustic guitar is really an all-around instrument as it can be used to play any music style — classical music, jazz music, rock, blues or whatever else takes your fancy.
A basic acoustic guitar starts at around $100. However, given its usability, you might want to invest in a better quality one, knowing you may have it for a lot longer. If your budget allows, then, consider buying an acoustic guitar in the price range of $300 to $700 — remembering that you are paying for longevity.
Again, as with their fully electric cousins, acoustic guitars may prompt the purchase of accessories, like cables and amps. However, unlike electric guitars, purchasing cables and amps is really only necessary if you plan to be performing on stage.
Good acoustic guitar brands, at reasonable prices, include Ibanez, Fender, Epiphone, Tanglewood and Baton Rouge Dreadnought.
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While not absolutely necessary, even beginners should consider purchasing accessories such as good quality hard and soft cases, music stands, tuning forks, cleaning kits, tuners and a capo (which shortens the neck to change tone). For something a bit different, buy a couple of picks as well.
Finding a Guitar to Suit Your Budget
Budget can be a real party-pooper, but just because your budget is tight, it doesn't mean you have to miss out — you just need to know what to look for when it comes to buying a guitar.
Guitar prices are determined by a number of factors and, if you are aware of these, you can still buy a reasonable quality guitar in your price range.
Elements that can alter the price of a guitar include:
- varnish and wood choice — some woods are rarer, and therefore more expensive, than others
- finishing details — forego the bling and the pizazz, it may look nice but won't make the guitar sound any different
- maker — buying directly from a luthier can multiply the cost considerably compared to an off-the-shelf purchase.
Look around for music store discounts as well. Don't just go in during silly sale season. Music shops often have year-round sales on certain brands at different times. Don't be shy about asking.
In summary of what we've looked at so far, we've included a table of the average price ranges for different guitars for quick reference.
|Type of guitar||Classical||Electric||Acoustic|
|Low end price||$109||$188||$115|
|Top end price||$2119||$7899||$8500|
|Recommended price for beginners||$300||$600||$450|
* Averages are approximate only and based on Big Music Shop and World of Music in-store prices.
And remember to check online ads and marketplaces for second-hand guitars. Often, these guitars will have been well looked after and the seller is simply upgrading.
How to Buy a Second-hand Guitar
Purchasing a second-hand guitar does not necessarily mean you are skimping on quality — in fact, you could end up with a real bargain, so don't overlook it as an option.
There are several places you can look for pre-owned guitars:
Markets (e.g. 'trash n treasure' or 'white elephant' stalls)
Sellers at these markets are usually the owners and they are keen to get rid of the items on their table, so they will often negotiate. In addition, you can try out the guitar right there and receive advice from the previous owner, like the best place to buy new strings or how to go about tuning the guitar.
'Antique' or second-hand stores
Often 'antique' stores do not have actual antiques for sale, just a bunch of pre-owned items — and a few hidden treasures for the patient shopper. As with markets, you can try before you buy and can often negotiate the price.
Sites like eBay and Gumtree, or even Facebook Marketplace, are full of bargains — including guitars and their accessories. Just beware that you are getting what you paid for.
In most cases, sellers (online and at markets or stores) will be genuine but occasionally, you may be unlucky enough to run into someone who is more than a little dodgy.
While you can't completely safeguard yourself again dodgy operators, there are a few ways you can reduce your chances of being swindled.
- Do your research — check the price of the same guitar as new to make sure you are getting a bargain.
- Ask to see the instrument and, if possible, to try it out first.
- Take someone with you, or ask a friend who knows more about guitars than you do, to check out whether the seller is legitimate.
Most importantly — don't be pressured to impulse buy. If the seller gets annoyed with you because you want to think about your purchase first, walk away. You'll find another guitar.
How Much Do Guitar Strings Cost?
No matter what you pay for your new guitar, it is an investment and should last for many years if you look after it — and this includes taking care of the strings.
There are almost as many different types of guitar strings as there are brands of guitar — nickel wound, nylon, bronze, tape wound, phosphor, carbon, phosphor bronze, flat wound, steel, hybrid slinky, high tension, regular slinky, mammoth slinky, super slinky ...
And then there are the brands — D'Addario, Elixir, Aquila, Ernie Ball, Martin, Fender ...
Guitar strings, like guitars, range in price as well, from $14.95 for Ernie Ball slinky strings to $52.95 for Elixir acoustic strings.
It's a good idea not to wait until a string actually breaks before you replace it. As you can imagine, with playing, strings become worn and damaged — and damaged strings change the tone of your guitar.
It's really up to you how often you change your strings — some players change them every six months or so, others before each concert. Whenever you change them, professionals recommend changing all six strings, rather than just one, or you risk changing your guitar's harmony.
Caring for your guitar strings, by wiping them after each use and washing your hands before you play, can help prolong their life — but doing this does not mean you won't have to change them eventually.
For beginners, it's a good idea to ask for help the first few times you change the strings. Ask your guitar tutor, or find an online tutorial. It won't take long to learn.
Should I Take Guitar Lessons?
These days, you can learn almost everything online on YouTube, including how to play the guitar. However, if you really want to master this instrument, taking guitar lessons is a must. You might join a class or you may decide to work with a private tutor.
The Superprof platform has a number of guitar tutors throughout Australia, where you can take private in-person lessons, or learn online.
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