You Can’t Always Get…

Guest Blog by GuitarJunky 

You’ve heard it before I’m sure.  YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR! (or not).  No middle ground.  It’s either or.  It’s true no matter what.  Cars, restaurants, clothing, yada, yada, yada!  Why is it though we put so little value on music and music education that we continue to buy very poor quality guitars?  For that matter, trumpets, flutes, saxophones too!

I was asked recently by a friend if buying a “guitar gift pack” from one of the big box retailers would be “good enough” for his child to learn on.  You’ve seen them.  Cheaply made copies of famous guitars, that usually won’t stay in tune, cheap electronics, and packed with a cord, strap, 3 picks, crappy little amp and a song book.  When I replied that I thought it would be perfectly good enough to use for building a campfire, he was somewhat pissed and defensive. “We all can’t be guitar snobs like you!”  Hm…apparently, he thought I was going to support his implied opinion of his child’s music ability.  You know what I mean…”I don’t want to spend a lot, in case he won’t stick with it,”  or  “It’s just a passing phase,” or whatever excuse they can come up with to justify their unwillingness to actually go to a real music store and get a bit of education first and not go so cheap. (Which I suggested he should do)

 Is The Cheap Guitar A Recipe for Failure?

Young Sidewalk Musicians; a thing of the past?In an earlier post, I asked the question, “Where are the new guitar players coming from?”  In that post I was feeling the world may be moving away from the guitar in lieu of things like “virtual guitar.”  I guess I’m not surprised after all at the decline.  This “cheap guitar is good enough” idea is a recipe for failure.  I’m not suggesting that every beginner needs a brand new Taylor or PRS but I’m totally convinced that you should buy the absolute best quality you can afford.  What better way to insure interest?  If it sounds good, plays good…you get the idea. There is an abundance of good quality student level guitars out there to choose from.  Maybe local retailers need to figure a way to get that message out and not concentrate so much on price leader ads.

Over the years I’ve been in the music business, both wholesale and retail, I’ve seen much downward price pressure on musical instruments.  Basically, turning the entry level guitars into commodities.  Wheat is wheat, gas is gas, guitars are guitars….WRONG.  People who don’t play or have had no exposure to playing a guitar can’t be blamed totally.  It’s kind of a sickness that our society can’t seem to shake.  Business seems to dictate that a cheaper widget means many more widgets will be sold as more and more people will be able to afford them.  On the surface of that argument, I can see how it isn’t all bad.  After all, I want everyone to play guitar, or something.  I guess the problem starts when manufacturers start taking out more and more quality features away to satisfy lower and lower prices that the idea spins totally outta control and guarantees that it will ultimately stop working as fewer and fewer people will play these cheapie guitars.  They’ll be so discouraged with high actions, bad sound, no tuning stability, poor workmanship that they give up altogether.  Kinda like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

And On A Trip To China, For Enlightenment Of Price vs. Value…

On a recent trip to China, I toured a large musical instrument manufacturer whose specialty was building cheap private label guitars specifically for big box retailers in the USA.  They also build a nice line of respectable quality guitars designed to be sold in music stores.  As I toured the facility, I chatted with the floor manager who was overseeing the packing of the cheapies destined for the big box stores.  He proudly told me that the box it was packed in and the labor it took to pack it was more than the cost of the guitar.  I know it’s not the factories fault, they only build what the contract calls for but it really made me think.  We can’t continue to use price as the only yardstick for comparison on guitar purchases.  If you want a good guitar, you can’t always get what you want… unless you pay for it!

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3 Comments

  1. Lafe Dutton says:

    Hi,
    Am I reading you right in that you believe the number of guitar players is dropping? I read an article that claimed 70,000 more acoustic guitars were sold in the U.S. last year compared to the year before. Of course, 69,000 of these could have been the toy guitars you mentioned.

    Thanks for turning me on to the Mexican guitarists: they are amazing.

    -lafe

  2. Woody says:

    Hi Lafe,
    I took Guitar Junky’s comments to be focused less on number of guitars and more along the line of the crap that is being put on the market today posing as guitars (your phrase “toy guitar” was much nicer of course). It you didn’t see it, click on the link to a video of a China guitar factory titled And On A Trip To China. With their manufacturing techniques, they sure can punch out a bunch of “guitars”. Check it out for yourself.

  3. Kip Tuckey says:

    Thanks for the Information, thanks for this fine Post. I will come back soon . Great information about learning guitar playing: learn and master guitar

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