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Another (probably) noob question.''!


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Hello everyone!

Honestly, is actually quite fun being really new in electric guitars...in the acoustic forums I either ended up helping new players choose a guitar, or talked about obscure stuff like tone-wood aging or something.

Here I can ask big, bold and noobish questions! And here's one! (Like all noob questions you can decide you are sick of answering it and just 'pass' ūüėÄ).

Something has always bothered me when I watch videos comparing cheap guitars like this...

Or this...

I LOVE the way these guys jam together, having fun and coming up with some truly beautiful music...BUT...I pretty much every guitar sounds good to me! If you have great fingers like these guys, great riffs rusty you can pull out of the air PLUS good amps and every kind of pedal that you want/need...is a good electric guitar basically a guitar that plays smoothly and feels/looks good. (THAT was a pretty long snd flabby question, so I'll rewrite it here simply "Can 'any' electric guitar sound good with the right amp/pedals/setup?" (Without even talking about changing out PUs!).

Eventually I'd like a nice semi-hollow, but I'm thinking of picking up a les paul copy to calm my GAS...(for a while!).

Cheers

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I think owning a good guitar is something that is for the player rather than the audience. I've become a huge fan of cheap guitars. I have a friend who is an excellent player and makes his money and music, and all the guitars he uses during the shows are from Rondo Music. I understand their site to sell them even cheaper nowadays.

For me, the reasons to get an expensive guitar are things like exotic woods and designs, they easily fit into your budget, and they retain their value. Anybody proudly displays a Douglas on their wall.

Then again, the old silvertones have some value.

But I come from a "guitar as a tool" perspective.

One thing's for sure. Some acoustics are a heck of a lot easier to play than others. And it has little to do with price.

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I agree that a really good player can make good music on even really low grade equipment. If you're making a living as a local musician that's the only sensible approach too.

I also think that high grade gear makes inexperienced players sound worse. Like giving a Ferrari to someone that's learning to drive.

Great player + great gear is where you get into the life changing performances though.

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Agreed...a competent guitarist can make a cheap guitar sound like a good guitar through their skill in overcoming the deficiencies of the instrument. Give an incompetent player a $5000 Les Paul and a boutique amp, and they will still sound incompetent. We have a saying...'tone is in the fingers', and it is true.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Brindleleaf said:

....., so I'll rewrite it here simply "Can 'any' electric guitar sound good with the right amp/pedals/setup?" (Without even talking about changing out PUs!).

Ok, define the term "sound good"? Seems like a stupid question but hold on as I explain myself.

The guitarist Jack White has been known to use the cheapest of the cheapest when it comes to his guitars. Old Silvertones, Kays, stuff that was considered beginner crap in the 50's/60's, and never really grew much better. Some people LOVE this guy's tone. Other, myself included, respect his abilities, but shudder with each crappy sounding note. Yet, someone like Page, and Dave Edmunds can use a Danelectro from the 50's/60's, that sold at Sears for the $50.00 range, and create classic tones with it.

So can "any" electric guitar sound goood...... IF it's 1) capable of being set up properly, set up intonation, action, what-not, 2) dialed in to sound pretty to SOMEONES ears, and 3) played within context of what the artist is shooting for. And being a world class guitar player doesn't hurt either!

Edited by badpenguin
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8 hours ago, Newman2020 said:

. . . One thing's for sure. Some acoustics are a heck of a lot easier to play than others. And it has little to do with price.

As you probably know, it's called "setup." A guitar that's properly set up will be easier to play. Lighter strings help too. Martins, which are not cheap, typically have the action fairly high out of the box, which makes some competing brands seem easier to play.

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1 hour ago, DeepEnd said:

As you probably know, it's called "setup." A guitar that's properly set up will be easier to play. Lighter strings help too. Martins, which are not cheap, typically have the action fairly high out of the box, which makes some competing brands seem easier to play.

My daughter has a Martin that has a solid Spruce top and formica sides and back. It's very difficult to play probably because of those strings being rather high. And yeah, sometimes even very expensive instruments still need set up when you get them. I suppose the difference is the cheap insurance pretty much always need set up. But once they are set up, they can really be a joy to play. And frankly some of them are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. I don't know if it's because they're able to use chemicals in Asia that we're not allowed to use in the western world or what it is but it can be really impressive.

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23 minutes ago, Newman2020 said:

. . . I don't know if it's because they're able to use chemicals in Asia that we're not allowed to use in the western world or what it is but it can be really impressive.

My fellow praise band guitarist plays a Little Martin with Formica back and sides. As for Asian instruments, it's primarily the low cost of labor compared to the US or even Mexico, where a good number of US companies have factories.

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1 minute ago, DeepEnd said:

My fellow praise band guitarist plays a Little Martin with Formica back and sides. As for Asian instruments, it's primarily the low cost of labor compared to the US or even Mexico, where a good number of US companies have factories.

Is it possible there's also just so much automation involved nowadays that they just don't cost that much to make no matter where you make them? I don't know. I'm just asking.

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3 minutes ago, Newman2020 said:

Is it possible there's also just so much automation involved nowadays that they just don't cost that much to make no matter where you make them? I don't know. I'm just asking.

There's a lot of CNC (automation) that goes into instruments today, especially electrics, and it does bring the price down. That's only one factor though.

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Yes, I understand how the sound of a guitar can be appreciated (or not!) by different people...personally I have a,LOT of trouble enjoying metal sounds (retches silently) ūüė∂).

And most of what people are saying applies equally well to acoustics.

 

What I meant if particular was "How much of the sound that first video link I posted comes NOT (really) from the guitar, but from the amp/pedals (because they all sound fine to me!

 

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Playing skill and instrument quality are two different things which continually get misidentified. I believe its because a player bonds with the instrument when playing and masters the instrument by making it an extension of his own body, much like a person may forget a limb replacement is artificial.

There are several factors which constitute a high quality instrument. Unfortunately the experience and educational levels involving basic science don't always lead players to the same conclusions when it comes to construction quality. A lack of quality in one area can lead to an abundance of quality or a lack of in another area and it takes a skilled and experienced builder or player to even recognize shortcomings if any. 

High quality construction materials and construction quality are going to give an instrument its best chance to produce superior tone and playability.  Likewise low quality materials and construction typically produce the least likely chance.  This isn't exclusive. Both can be a gamble if you buy instrument unseen and un-played. 

There are other things which intercede too.  The amplification system from transducer to amplifier, speaker and listening environment are typically half of what you hear when it comes to electrics. Judging the quality of instrument tone through a low quality amplifier can bottleneck the sound quality and lead an inexperienced player to conclude an high and low quality instrument aren't much different.   

As an elder guitar builder and player I try not to confuse young players with cliché which can misinterpreted when broken down to a purely scientific level.  The one many bandy about saying "Tone is in the fingers"  is one of those half truths which need to be ignored by those looking for a more complete understanding into the art of music. It does set a dividing line between the performance of a player and the actual instrument that's being played but it does nothing to educate a young artists skill in finding the best instrument for his money.  

Some times you need to learn the lessons the hard way before the truly important factors will lead you to making the best choices too.  Back in 1968 I got my first guitar after playing violin for 6 years.  When it was new I had no concept of price vs quality but I knew allot about carpentry from my father from a very early age. It was no more then a year and I could detect  the acoustic body beginning to warp and the playing action go south.  I had a Friend who was much less skilled as a player but owned a Kawi guitar which had excellent construction. We made a trade. He though my guitar would make him a better player and I thought the construction quality made his a better instrument.  

I quickly found out that guitar solidly built and looked good but its tone sucked really bad.  It taught me the lesson that quality construction and quality materials don't mean much if they aren't part of the formula in producing good tone. 

The other part I had to learn came from experience. Its really easy to fake out a low skilled player into thinking a low quality instrument is better then it actually is by simply playing it well.  The physical sound doesn't get better by playing the instrument better. The raw materials of the instrument do not magically change when the skill level of the player is changes. Even though the volume levels of a stringed instrument are highly dynamic,  the quality of an instrument and therefore its tone quality is fixed not dynamic. 

A better way of discovering a good instrument is by its fit to your performance skills. The best instrument for an individual is the one that bottlenecks the players skill the least while maintaining the widest range of high quality tone possible.  That formula can vary from player to player depending on kind of physical and musical image they want to project.  

I'd also add, given an instruments/amps inherent limitations. Its unlikely one instrument can meet all expectations. You may want to recognize certain instruments do some things better than others and in order to achieve the widest range of sound and playability you may need more then one instrument to cover all bases. Nothing does the Fender tone better then a Fender, Gibson does the best Gibson, Rickenbacker does the best Rick tone etc.  As a beginner you may not recognize the differences but given the passion to learn you'll figure out why some retain a clearly unique tone and others remain obscure. 

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