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Liking cheap guitars ?


Tomm Williams
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My favorite guitar is my 2004 Les Paul 59RI. Weight, tone, playability, looks, it has it all but...... There are many times I play somewhere that I'd have to be nuts to take that guitar.

Years ago I put together a Bulldog Bodies LP as a back up for just these situations. Two Pearly Gates and a Phat Cat in the middle, Bigsby vibrato, Grover tuners and although it doesn't play or feel quite like my RI, for the money invested....... I feel it's just as good of a guitar.

More and more often I'm playing this guitar over the Gibson as it's just a very comfortable guitar. Maybe it's comfortable because I'm playing it so much ? Regardless, I'm not claiming Bulldog Bodies sells Gibson equivalents but for a back up, I couldn't have found a better one.

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The cheap guitars of the sixties and seventies, not to mention sought after Korean Danelectros from the 90's, kinda suck compared to the modern Squiers, Epiphones, and similar budget brands. Meanwhile, I hear criticism of Gibson, PRS, Fender, and any other top name brand all the time. Similarly, I constantly see online posts that say, "it's great for the money" about affordable models.

 

The truth is that budget gear can be fantastic to the right person, and it doesn't matter how much it costs.

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Most expensive guitar (not bass) I ever had was a Fender Jag selling new for $800 (sold with tons of other nice gear and amps)

only kept two semi-hollows, and the one I’m playing as we speak I bought as an office beater (when I had an office lol), an SX that cost me ~$250 new, lol...

 

The red one-- I LOVE this thing. :D

 

 

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Edited by Marko
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I kinda laugh when people ask if a guitar is “giggable” like playing it on stage takes a harder toll on it over playing it at home.

 

A good setup is usually all it takes for most budget guitars made in recent years.

 

And the big deal people make about tuning machines, I mean nice ones work nicer of course, but how many tuners really won’t hold a tune? I think there are other things that cause this problem, rarely-if-ever the actual tuners. :)

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I can relate to the original post. By far, the cheapest guitar I ever bought was a used Jay Turser Les Paul goldtop copy for $80, which I got to use as a backup/beater guitar. While I own a Gibson Les Paul, 3 Fenders, and other guitars, there is something about the way that cheap guitar plays and feels that I really like, even though it feels nothing like my Gibson. I eventually upgraded it with a Gibson 500T and Duncan Jazz humbuckers and Sperzel locking tuners, and now I play it way more than I ever expected.

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I kinda laugh when people ask if a guitar is “giggable” like playing it on stage takes a harder toll on it over playing it at home.

 

A good setup is usually all it takes for most budget guitars made in recent years.

 

And the big deal people make about tuning machines, I mean nice ones work nicer of course, but how many tuners really won’t hold a tune? I think there are other things that cause this problem, rarely-if-ever the actual tuners. :)

 

I think it's more a matter of a guitar needing to be more reliable on stage than it needs to be in your bedroom. Are the pickups going to squeal when it gets up to gig volume? Will it stay in tune? What happens when it goes from the cold outdoors to under the hot stage lights? That's the kind of stuff I'd be worried about with some budget guitars. I'm not so worried about that stuff if I'm playing in front of my cat.

 

I tend to not worry about bringing my nice guitars out. I just keep an eye on them, or stick them where I know they won't walk.

 

My favorite guitars are the more pedigreed ones - my American Fenders, Guilds, Hamers and G&L's. However, I've had flirting affairs with cheaper guitars too. I'm really impressed with the overall quality of the Tribute series of G&L guitars. Made in Indonesia, these tend to have some nice appointments, and sound great. I had a Legacy for a while and now have one of the Fallouts. Each I bought used for under $200. They're a no brained if you can find one for that money, but MF has been blowing them out on their SDOTD sales for around $300, which is still a great deal IMO. They're quite a bit better than most Squiers I've played.

Edited by speakerjones
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I kinda laugh when people ask if a guitar is “giggable” like playing it on stage takes a harder toll on it over playing it at home.

 

A good setup is usually all it takes for most budget guitars made in recent years.

 

And the big deal people make about tuning machines, I mean nice ones work nicer of course, but how many tuners really won’t hold a tune? I think there are other things that cause this problem, rarely-if-ever the actual tuners. :)

I usually think in terms of a guitar that sounds good enough to play in front of people, which is usually a matter of decent pickups. But you're right. My fellow praise band guitarist plays a low-end Ibanez and it's good enough for what we do. As for tuners, as most folks know, my first electric was a Fernandes Strat copy and it wouldn't hold tune. I replaced the stock set of cheap but perfectly usable tuners for Grovers and it didn't make much if any difference.

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I've always said that with the guitar being the most popular instrument in the world, there's got to be a few bargains out there. That being said, there's a whole lotta junk out there as well IMHO. Now I'm no cork-sniffer, not by any means - as a prestige item (cars, bikes, clothing etc.,), I honestly think that as many people overpay for what they get as cheap out and get something that's really not compatible with their needs. I like meat and potatoes, nothing too flashy or over the top, Fender and Gibson are still the top names in my book. I've got a wonderful 89 Strat Plus and a wonderful 2000 Les Paul Custom Lite. I could have spent more for custom shop or more exclusive models but honestly I wouldn't know the difference, and in terms of tone and playability I doubt you would either. Both great values. I've got a couple of old Chicago shop Hamers that fall into the same category. I have six other fine electric guitars that I would put into the category of import budgets. Two are MIM Fender (Squier Series line from the 90's), one is an Aria Pro II from Japan (Uncle Matt), two MIK, one is Washburn the other Carlo Robelli (The Robelli is from the Peerless factory and I suspect the Washburn is as well). The last is a Vinci Superstrat made in China and by far the least I've ever spent ($60 in cherry condition) that really changed my thinking about what China is capable of (plays like butter, top shelf hardware and fretwire) no issues whatsoever. (I also have a Chinese built Silvertone acoustic that is a really fine guitar - not as complex sounding as my 70's Japanese Alvarez Yairi, but definitely more low maintenance).

 

A few random thoughts on the subject. House brands are often a great bargain but not always. Certainly the case with the Sam Ash brand Carlo Robelli's that were made in the old Peerless factory and perhaps to a lesser extent, the GC brand Brawley's. But the Brawley's became Lagunas with a new factory (Indonesia I believe) and the cost cutting measures were obvious (as well as the decrease in quality). Don't know much about the internet mail order business in this regard but am leery. My experience with sub brands Epiphone and Squier is all over the map, from very good to very bad and the truth is that most just don't fit my hand well (narrow necks and tight string spacing).

 

No question in my book that good deals are out there if you're willing to look and listen. (Have stepped in dog pucky once or twice in this regard). Maybe the best value out there is the Peerless stuff. (You won't convince me that my Carlo Robelli 335 copy is not a close relative of a Gibson.) How they could build that much quality into the price points they were hitting is beyond me.

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In fairness I think when people talk about giggable guitars, they're talking about whether you'd take your favourite kitchen knife to a knife fight. Will those cheapo saddle do your high E string, will it stay in tune over the course of an hour or 90mins set, are you as close as possible to 100% sure your wiring is solid.

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I've had many guitars, most of them obscure and inexpensive. Some good ones - DeArmond M-72, Samick Ray Benson Tele, Hagstrom IIN (335), Yamaha 102s, Peavey T-60, and one of my all time favorite gigging guitars, a Cort Matt Guitar Murphy. It's nice to have high end guitars (love my Guild Bluesbird), but in reality, a decent $250 guitar can hold it's own.

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I like lower cost guitars, though I've had a variety at different price points from budget Dean and First Act up to Heritage and Gibson - none of which I own now. There's something gratifying about making a cheap guitar sound really good & using it live, but in the end I've moved on both high and low end gear, and now generally use mid-range stuff. The hardware is better, and often so is general instrument construction.

 

The exception to this is bass, where all of my basses were cheap (Johnny Brooke JB type, Ryder P type and Yamaha fretless 5 string) but since I'm not a serious bass player these are fine for the odd gig.

Edited by Ancient Mariner
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While I prefer heftier it's not a dealbreaker. I already have a T-60, a T-40, and a Fury I bass (rebadged T-20), and awhile back for a few years my Strat was a Peavey Predator, so I'm familiar with T-Series necks specifically and to a lesser extent USA Peavey necks generally. Am keen to hear/play the Super Ferrites.

 

 

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