If you are just starting out on guitar and finances are tight, it might be tempting to buy the cheapest acoustic guitar you can find. But is it worth the savings?
What Is Considered Cheap?
New acoustic guitars can vary in price from around $40 to well upwards of $5,000!
If you are a beginner on a budget, you are probably not looking for a $5,000 guitar. But should you go with the $40 guitar?
Here is an example of the absolute cheapest guitar I could find on Amazon.com: The Smartxchoices 6 String 38″ Acoustic Guitar. It comes in an assortment of colors, is a nice compact size, and comes with multiple accessories such as a carrying case (“gig bag”), extra strings, a strap, a pick, and a pitch pipe. Overall, the reviews on Amazon are very positive.
So what’s the catch?
Poor Quality Control and Craftsmanship
To paraphrase a famous movie character:
“A cheap guitar is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Sure, there are plenty of positive reviews on Amazon, but in looking at the negative reviews, here are some problems people have experienced with these cheap guitars:
- The neck of the guitar broke off of the body
- The body was cracked
- The frets on the neck were not level, so the strings buzzed
- Something inside the guitar was loose and rattling
- There was a hole in the bottom of the gig bag and the guitar fell out
- The strings sat too far above the fretboard (“the action was high“)
- One of the pieces was missing
- It wouldn’t stay in tune
- The body was scratched, chipped and dented
- There is no strap button on the bottom of the neck. You have to tie it on with a string.
- It sounds horrible
- It smells bad!
- The pitch pipe (that you tune the guitar to) is out of tune
I think you get the idea.
Okay, let’s say you get lucky and end up with a guitar that isn’t broken. Is it a good deal then?
Why not? Because even under the best circumstances, this is not likely to be a playable, durable guitar that sounds good.
First, the top of the guitar (the front side of the body, where the sound hole is) is made of laminate wood — several thin layers of wood glued together, similar in concept to plywood.
Although this makes the wood stronger and more durable, it also makes it harder for the wood to vibrate. The top of the guitar is basically the “sound board” of the guitar. The more it vibrates, the better it sounds. The less it vibrates, the worse it sounds.
Not only is it laminate wood, but it’s painted laminate wood, meaning it will vibrate even less. Although it does look kind of cute.
Second, even if the guitar is not broken when you get it, there is a good chance it will fall apart on you sometime down the road because it is not glued together well.
Third, the gig bag is not padded at all. It looks to be about the same thickness as a garbage bag, to be honest. If you accidentally drop it or bump it against something, the guitar is likely to get dented or break.
Fourth, the tuners are made of poor quality material, meaning you will have to re-tune your guitar every few minutes because the strings will keep loosening.
Fifth, unless you have a great musical ear to begin with, good luck trying to tune your guitar with a pitch pipe. Basically you blow into the pipe and match the pitch of each string to the sound you hear coming from the pipe. Assuming the pipe is in tune to begin with… or you don’t blow into the pipe too hard or too soft and bend the pitch.
Again, I think you get the picture.
“Kim, are you trying to tell me I need to spend $5,000 on a guitar???”
Not at all. In my next post I’m going to show you how you can get a great quality beginner guitar for less than $200 that will be durable, playable, and sound great (with a little practice, of course).
If $200 is out of your price range, you can get a slightly cheaper acoustic guitar that will be somewhat playable, but if you want a guitar that you will love playing for many years to come, stay tuned for my next post.
(“Stay tuned”. See what I did there?)
All the best,
*Disclosure: I only recommend products and services I would use myself or recommend to my students, and all opinions expressed here are my own honest opinions. This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission when you buy something from a link on my page, at no extra cost to you. This helps support the continued operation of Beginner Guitar Online. Thanks!