A largely discussed and controversial issue for guitar players is the value/price balance of their chosen instrument.
If a cheap guitar sounds and feels nice, but it’s not a major brand, or you can’t even find it online, should you go for it? Is there really that much of a difference in recording if you use a “cheap” guitar?
I try to answer these questions and give some insight based on my own experience
The cheap vs expensive guitar dilemma
Not going much into this overly discussed issue my point of view on this is based on 3 questions.
- Can you afford it?
- Do you need it?
- Can you afford that much that you can buy it without really needing one?
If you fit these 3 “conditions” then it’s a no-brainer that you can freely buy a high-end Fender or a signature model of your favorite artists. On my occasion, being a session guitarist, and this goes I think for all you pros out there. The questions are different?
- Is it a reliable guitar?
- Do I need a very specific tone that only that piece of gear can achieve?
- Does it add value to my arsenal of working instruments?
If there is one condition all guitar have to fulfill is the ease of play. If the guitar fights me, I would never choose it, even if it’s a very expensive one with a great tone.
Without being tempted by our compulsory need for more guitars, check your surroundings and go for it
if you can afford one or really need one, then there is no stopping you!
Can a cheap guitar sound good?
“My 1st band and my power horse Harley Benton Red Special”
My cheap seconds Harley Benton guitar can testify through more than 100+ recording sessions than YES….if you are lucky and know what you like.
In my experience with my own cheap guitar the reason it was cheap and is not because it has building issues or second had parts. The reason is that I found the right moment to buy a really old guitar and for which there is not much online information!
I carry my “red special” with me in all sessions cause of its incredibly versatile, great bridge humbucker and for the fact the I feel comfortable and confident playing it!
Of course, it can’t compete with new or old high-end alternatives like signature Strat but I can achieve some “industry standard” quality tones with it and you wouldn’t really tell the price of what I’m playing
Whenever I picked up a more expensive version of Super Strat, that was honestly better than my guitar, I always instinctively compared them to my Harley Benton and looked for that tone in them.
Normally I could not achieve that tone with any other guitar due to Its “weird” mixture of parts and always ended up with the hardly Benton for those 2 or 3 tones that I really liked and overused.
I’m the kind of guitar player that sticks to those 3-4 tones I really like and doesn’t go on tone hunting if I don’t need to do it. Perhaps it’s a flaw, but still, I liked it that way. I find that It keeps more focused on playing and writing melodies rather than hunting for tones. Mixing engineers with change (or ruin!) all my tones anyway!
“If something works – It just works!”
Or Expressed differently – The fastest way to do something well is probably the best way!
”At the start of 2021, I bought 5 electric guitars from major bands and tested them for hours. I was blown away by how much cheap guitars have improved since I started playing in 2009. Yes, these guitars have limitations for sure, and you can getter better sound and quality if you spend more. But can you record with these? Absolutely.”
– Teemu Suomala, wrote -an article about these cheap electric guitars at Guitaristnextdoor.com
Do some old guitars have the “mojo”?
Guitar mojo is the same as an old cars mojo. An old car is usually It’s heavy, took a lot to build, doesn’t have to expensive, and with just a paint job you can show it off! An old guitar is just like that, the only difference is that it could beat in a race a newer model, for an old car, that’s very not likely to happen.
An electric guitar has basically very few components and technology that existed for at least 60 yetis. If they were good back then, which some reaped job, they will be good now!
And if that guitar was the one you started with, is a gift or reminder from a dear friend, or the stars aligned when you got it in very unusual circumstances, then you can call it than it has the “Mojo”, which in my own language translate.
“A guitar that makes you want to play more than any other – just that”
I’m kind of an old-school player, it’s easy to tell I guess. And it’s weird from a guy who mostly uses plugins and knows almost all of them.
So, should you record with a squire or not?
Short Answer: If it sounds good and feels good YES
Long Answer: Eddie Van Halen’s original guitar would probably be worth not more than 300$ if you did not know it was his!
Don’t forget that David Gilmour can make a ukulele sound like a Stradivarius, so why not try your own budget Stradivarius. And if your song becomes a hit, people with ultimately buy expensive gear to imitate your 200$ squire tone.
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