Should Beginners Buy an Expensive Guitar? (Full Guide)


As a beginner, are you tempted by the mouth-watering idea of buying an expensive guitar?

Are you concerned if buying an expensive guitar is a sensible choice? Will it help or hinder guitar learning progress? 

Well, after being a beginner myself and advising many new beginners on guitar advice for many years. I will answer all your questions when it comes to buying a guitar as a beginner.

Should Beginners Purchase an Expensive Guitar? 

Beginners should avoid buying an expensive guitar if it is their first or second guitar. The reason is they may not commit to learning the guitar for the long term. Secondly, they have not developed the skill or experience to make the most of the instrument. Beginners should purchase a guitar around $200 – $800.

Beginner Guitar Buying Guide (Watch Below)

Why Beginners Should Avoid Expensive Guitars

Starting out on your musical journey is especially exciting if a guitar is your main choice for an instrument.

However, as is the case with many instruments today, if it’s good, it has to be expensive. But if you’re a beginner, should you splash out on an expensive instrument?

At the end of the day, you can choose whatever you want, and no one can stop you. However, it’s not exactly the best idea to go with an expensive guitar when you start learning the guitar.

Reasons Against Expensive Guitars

  • The main reason behind it is that no one can say whether a beginner will stick with this instrument for the long term. This is why cheaper guitars are a more viable solution.
  • Additionally, if you’re a beginner, there’s a high chance that you’re operating on a budget. And beginner guitars, both electric and acoustic, are pretty cheap these days. 
  • At the same time, it also won’t help you progress any faster, so it would just be an investment for the future if you stuck to it long enough to reach an advanced skill level. 
  • An expensive guitar is a tool suited for a more experienced musician who will know how to utilize its full potential. Other than that, it will just be an overly expensive accessory for showing off. 
  • A beginner has not played long enough to develop a taste of what features they prefer on a guitar to warrant purchasing an expensive instrument. This comes with time and experience combined with trying many guitars.

Reasons For Beginners Buying an Expensive Guitar

  • The main reason I can think of is it may motivate you to learn the guitar and progress out of the beginner phase.
  • An expensive instrument may be an investment for the future.
  • If you or your family are on a high income then there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the finer things in life including guitars.

Of course, anyone can go down a different path if they prefer to start with an expensive guitar straight away.

There is no right or wrong way but traditionally affordable guitars are the more traditional way when starting the journey of learning guitar.

How Much Should a Beginner Spend on a Guitar?

But now comes the big question – how much should I pay for a guitar if I’m a beginner?

It might not be that simple to answer since there are many things to consider here. But let’s first start with electric guitars.

Recommended Electric Guitar Price Range

A typical price range for a beginner buying a first or second guitar should be roughly around $200 – $800.

The reason is in most cases, electric guitars below $200 are not exactly the best choice, no matter your skill level.

Typically, these instruments are budget-friendly but not always the best quality when it comes to playability and tuning stability.

Furthermore, these instruments can come with low-grade construction and cheap electronics and hardware.

If we were to set the bottom limit, then we’d go with $200 as it ensures the instrument will be high enough quality to perform as a reliable guitar.

For beginners, we’d set the upper limit to $800 since guitars at this price limit will have far more than enough features and qualities that a beginner might need. 

Electric guitars between $200 and $400 will usually copy some of the standard Gibson and Fender models that come with cheaper materials and simpler electronics.

Fun Fact: some affordable guitar brands ideal for beginners include: Epiphone, Squier, Ibanez, Jackson, ESP LTD, Yamaha, Eastwood (UK based)

As you go up with the price, new features and qualities will appear. There might be some ergonomic features that will make your playing just a bit more comfortable in the higher fret areas.

But in most cases, you’ll notice better pickups, better hardware, floating tremolo bridges, better design, or a fancy paint job.

Recommended Acoustic Guitar Price Range

When buying a first or second acoustic guitar as a beginner, a good price range is typically $300 – $1000. This ensures you have a quality instrument to begin with. 

Keep in mind, the majority of acoustic guitars below $150 can be totally unplayable. You can buy a dirt-cheap electric below $150 and still have a playable instrument. 

However, with acoustic guitars, you will always end up with a poor instrument that is hard to play

The reason is an acoustic below $150 will always have ‘the action’ (height of the strings) too high which makes fretting the strings uncomfortable.

An uncomfortable guitar that is difficult to play will certainly not aid a beginner when trying to progress out of the frustrating ‘beginner phase.’   

Furthermore, the wood and materials of the guitar will be low grade and the general craftsmanship and construction of the guitar will be poor.

For these reasons, I always recommend paying more for an acoustic guitar and avoid the temptation of purchasing an acoustic below $150.

It ensures you have a professional-grade instrument that is setup and highly playable assisting a beginner’s progression.

If you’re really up for having a better instrument, don’t go above $1000 for an acoustic guitar. 

But whether you’re buying an acoustic or an electric guitar, it would be a good idea to make sure that your retailer includes a setup in the price.

Even a better guitar can feel all wrong if the setup isn’t done right. 

Is an Expensive Electric Guitar Easier to Play?

Better materials, hardware, pickups, electronics, as well as the overall design and build quality are what make one guitar more expensive than the other.

They also come with hardware that can be easier to set up, especially if we’re talking about lower string action.

However, if you’re a beginner, there’s hardly any chance that you’ll notice a difference. 

What makes your guitar easier to play are two things – better setup and a lot of practice.

But a cheap and an expensive guitar will work well if you know what to do with it.

If they’re set up by an experienced guitar technician, even those guitars that are in the $180 to $250 range will be easy to play.

It’s also not unusual to see an advanced professional guitar player wielding a cheap model during some live gigs.

As a beginner, you won’t need that expensive, flashy guitar, but rather the right set up and more time practicing. 

Is an Expensive Acoustic Guitar Easier to Play?

With acoustic guitars, however, things are a little different.

While electric guitars may not be that easier to play when the price rises, you can feel a substantial difference with more expensive acoustic guitars compared to cheaper ones.

But at the same time, this doesn’t mean that you should buy an acoustic guitar over $1000 if you’re a beginner.

On the other hand, super-cheap acoustic guitars around the $150 mark or below might make things a lot more difficult.

In some cases, they can be so unplayable that not even a professional setup and repair could make them any better. 

For absolute beginners, we would recommend acoustic guitars that are around $250 or more.

These aren’t that expensive and will come with better materials, build quality, and the overall design. 

Cheap vs Expensive Guitars

Both electric and acoustic guitars come with their improvements as the price rises.

There are some of the same principles for both of these categories. But there are also some specific traits that we might see with acoustic or electric guitars. Here are some main differences. 

  • More expensive guitars will have better materials, ultimately resulting in better tone
  • Electric guitars might have “set-neck” or “neck-through” construction if they’re more expensive
  • Better design, including inlays, binding, as well as a carved or “arched” top on electric guitars
  • The electric guitar may come with floating tremolo bridges (most often Floyd Rose) with a higher price tag
  • Pickups and electronics on electric guitars usually get noticeably better as the price rises
  • With a higher price, acoustic guitars will feel better and will be much easier to play 
  • As the price rises, some electric guitars might have additional ergonomic features, especially when it comes to easier access to higher frets
  • Both cheaper and more expensive acoustic guitars can come with or without a piezo pickup and a preamp, but with a higher price comes better tone

Are Expensive Guitars Better?

To put it simply – yes, expensive guitars are almost always way better than cheaper ones.

You’ll not only get a better build quality and materials, but the tone and the overall performance will be much better. 

However, there’s one catch. At the end of the day, your guitar is just a tool for expression. 

In order to use its full potential, you’ll need to sharpen up your playing skills and are familiar with music theory. It’s only then that you’ll notice any difference.

This means that there’s hardly any chance that beginners will have a much better experience playing a more expensive instrument that’s originally aimed at advanced players. 

Yes, a beginner can buy an electric or an acoustic guitar that’s way past the $1000 mark.

But, in almost all cases, this will not exactly be the most rational purchase.

In many cases, they’ll also have different features that they’ll not know how to use, and that will even make their playing experience more complicated. 

Final Thoughts 

In the end, a beginner can buy whatever suits their needs. Fortunately, both bigger and smaller manufacturers are making some pretty excellent guitars in the budget or mid-priced categories. If an experienced guitar player can be satisfied with a guitar that’s substantially below $500, so can a beginner.

Adam

Adam is the founder and author of Tone Topics and dedicated to providing the best guitar content for like-minded gear nerds. Please enjoy all the content on the site and support us by sharing these posts with other people. It would really help us out!

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