Well, folks, here we are again. It’s the run-up to the holiday season. Time to start shopping for the guitarist in your life. Or, if you are the guitarist, time to start dropping those not-so-subtle hints as to which fancy axe you hope to see under the tree! Of course that all supposes you know which guitar to buy. You may be unsure as to what guitar is right for you. If that’s the case, my 2014 Holiday Guitar Buying Guide is here to help!
Over the years my guitar buying advice has solidified into one general principle: buy the VERY BEST guitar you can afford. You will never regret spending too much on a professional-quality guitar. If you take good care of your instrument, it will last forever and will appreciate (both in tone quality and in market value) over time.
I find that the above advice applies best to “practical” guitars. While my girlfriend may argue otherwise, I am NOT a guitar collector. I steer clear of special “Anniversary”, “Signature” or “Vintage Re-Issue” models. While some of these guitars are great, their value is often based on subjective criteria such as how popular a certain artist’s endorsement is at the time or how limited the manufacturing run was. If you stay away from these “collector” guitars, you will generally find that “practical” guitar pricing is based on very practical features like better pickups, better tone-woods, higher-quality construction… All of which contribute to richer sound and easier playability.
Having said all that, I give you the following recommendations based on how much you are able to spend.
First up: Steel String Acoustics
$99 Prince Range
If you’ve only got $99, I recommend the Epiphone DR-100. Having taught a lot of beginners, I have seen, tuned, and restrung a lot of bargain basement acoustic guitars. I have seen many guitars in this category that are a rip-off even at $50 or $60 because they just aren’t playable. Beginners might not sound good right away even on an expensive guitar, but very cheap guitars often stack the deck against beginners by making the instrument seem even harder to play than it actually is. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the DR-100 is the very best of the very cheap guitar category. While I strongly recommend you save up for something slightly better, Epiphone is one of the best guitar brands and the DR-100 is certainly a playable instrument.
$599 Price Range
Now this is what I mean by a “practical” instrument: the Yahama LL6R L Series. $599.00 is not cheap, but for that price you get nearly all the features you should be looking for in a steel string acoustic guitar. First of all the wood. If you don’t know anything about the wood that is used to make acoustic guitars, let me save you a lot of head-scratching and just tell you that most guitarists, by far, prefer the sound of guitars made with a SOLID (as opposed to laminate) top made of SPRUCE, combined with back and side pieces made from ROSEWOOD. The SPRUCE/ROSEWOOD combo is highly sought after and this sensibly priced YAMAHA delivers it. No wonder this guitar is getting nothing but 5-STAR reviews. This guitar also comes with a built-in pickup (so you can plug it into an amplifier). What more could you want? Well, Yamaha’s like this one generally make good guitars for serious guitar students. They aren’t much to look at and their construction isn’t as good as guitars serious professionals play. The pickup is also very basic. But hey, you get a free case with this one!!
$2000 Price Range
OH, BABY! Now if that $2,000 price tag doesn’t send you screaming from the room, let me introduce you to a professional grade acoustic guitar. The Taylor 414ce is what I play. I own this guitar. I play it every day. And every day I love it more! Taylor is one the two top-tier brands when it comes to steel string acoustic guitars (the other brand being Martin). This guitar is made of solid SPRUCE and OVANKOL (a unique alternative tone wood to ROSEWOOD). The binding and internal bracing are exquisitely crafted. The expert craftsmanship balances the resonance of the guitar so that when you play, the sound is focused and powerful. Also the precision allows this guitar to have a very low action which makes it easy to play very fast scales even very high up the neck. Perhaps the most important thing I look for in a professional-grade instrument is proper intonation. This guitar has the most perfect intonation everywhere on the neck. So you can play anything on it and the sound will ring true in terms of pitch. I really can’t say enough good things about this guitar. I get tons of compliments on the beautiful sounds it is capable of producing every time I play it for people.
What’s that? You say you are interested in buying and ELECTRIC GUITAR this holiday season? Well, hang in there. I’ll be positing my recommendations for electric guitar buying TOMORROW!