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“Am I good enough to buy a really nice guitar?”

When you first start playing, I think it’s great to get yourself what I call a “starter guitar”.  There are several companies that make inexpensive ($100-$300) guitars that stay in tune and have a decent sound.  They’re perfect for a beginning student who isn’t sure yet if they’ll stick with it.

We often feel like we have to be expert players before making an investment in a nicer guitar.  Also, it’s really easy to keep deciding that we’re not “good enough yet” to go for it.

My criteria for deciding when it’s time to invest in a more expensive guitar are as follows:

  1. You have the money available (nice guitars run from about $500 to many thousands of dollars).
  2. You’ve been playing the guitar for a bit and realize that for you it’s like being in the mafia – once you’re in you too much to leave.

In terms of the price of a nice guitar, more expensive doesn’t always mean a better sounding guitar.  Sometimes it’s $5,000 because it has pearl inlay and Eric Clapton autographed it but has the same tone as the $2,500 model.

There are also differing opinions on whether guitars made with both wood and a laminate have as good a sound as the all wood guitars.  For $500 - $1,000 you can find some really nice sounding guitars made with laminate sides, back and neck and a solid wood top.

I perform with a Martin OM-28V and an M36 which are both all wood.  I also really love the D series Martin my husband owns that’s part laminate.  It has a really sweet tone and would have cost twice as much if it were all wood.  With a nice guitar, over time the sound gets better – like a fine wine that gets better with age.  I’m not sure this is the case with a laminate mix but it’s definitely so with all wood guitars.

If you’re ready to take the leap, I recommend that you play a bunch of different guitars on different days in different stores. If you’re plopping down some serious money, you want to get a feel for how you’ll be treated in the store where you’re possibly going to buy.  Buying from a store with an in-house luthier is ideal.  Also it’s a good idea to check into their return/exchange policy.

I think it’s a good idea to play guitars that cost way more money than you’re actually planning on spending so you can experience the difference in sound.

When you take the time to play a bunch of different guitars, at some point one of them will sing to you, “buy me!!”  Listen to that voice.

Nice guitars are usually easier to play, sound nicer, can inspire you to practice more, and overall feel even better about playing.  Once you know you’re in it for the long haul, a really nice guitar is your friend for life.

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Comments Section

I totally agree Mark. When you play a bunch of different guitars, at some point one of them will seemingly sing out, "buy me! buy me!" :-D
I had two fairly inexpensive guitars. The first one fell apart after a humid night around the campfires. The second was better and the action on the fret board was good. It was on that one that my playing began to improve. Then I played a friend's really sweet Martin and for the first time I heard what a guitar should really sound like and was hooked. I now have three Martin's of varying cost ($800-2,200). All three sound equally great to me. Each guitar has its own personality that speaks to me. Play as many guitars as you can before purchasing.

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