Buy It Once

Why spend $200 on a cheap guitar, then spend $500 on an OK guitar, then turn around and buy a great guitar later?

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As a musician who has bought thousands and thousands of dollars worth of junk, I can tell you that it's not worth it. If I had it to do over again, I would have saved my money and bought good instruments from the beginning. You may think I'm crazy to suggest that you buy a professional level instrument at this point, but if you think about it you could probably pay it off in a summer by mowing lawns or filling cones at the ice cream stand.

Really great instruments seem out of reach way up on the rack at the guitar store, with their sparkling hardware and price tag to match. But why must they be inaccessible to you?

If you're serious about music, consider adopting the "buy it once" philosophy. This is how it works: find out what instrument you want to play, whether it's guitar, bass or drums (or other), and start shopping as soon as you feel confident in your playing. Until that time, resist the urge to buy your very own spanking new hunk of junk and keep on suffering through the months of renting a less-than-perfect instrument from the place where you take lessons. Or if you're a drummer, buy the key pieces first, resisting the urge to have a 15 piece set of garbage cans.

For guitarists/bassists: rent and save. And save. And save. Then when you can buy your dream instrument (most costing $700 to $1500), BUY IT!!

For drummers: all you need is a snare, hat, kick drum and a couple of cymbals. If you're a beginner, snare fundamentals are key anyway, so why not get your chops on a scaled down version of the real thing? I recommend Tama drums. I'm only an amateur drummer myself, but all the drummers I know swear by them. Go for the high-end models. Every manufacturer offers cheap stuff and professional stuff (or at least so-called professional). Settle for nothing less than the best. I'm dead serious.

Everybody wants to be a rock star, and guitar stores love to sell you "Squier Strat Packs" and "Squier Bass Packs" selling you on the idea that you can pick up box today for $150 and pretend you are stepping out on stage in front of 50, 000 screaming fans.

You're not.

In reality, you're wasting your time and money chasing a dream. You have bit the bait and started down the road of buying and buying and buying and buying until one day, when you're 20 and sick and tired of all the problems with your cheap gear, you finally step up and buy a real instrument. Over time you will discover that you have spent $5 or $6 grand anyway chasing this rockstar fantasy, and your guitar store is laughing it's greedy head off (and why shouldn't they, you've fallen for it.)

So instead of spending multi thousands of dollars as you evolve as a musician, pay the price up front. Wait until you know what you like and what your goals are, then start saving until you can actually buy the real instruments, exactly like your favorite rock stars play. Don't settle for less. Plenty of instruments look like the real thing, but play like sh*t, and sound even worse.

Buy it once.

209 comments sorted by best / new / date

    folk_rocknroll
    Great Article!!! Anyone that reads this better really listen to this. I actually teach guitar lessons so I deal with a lot of those new garbage insturments people get and ITS NOT WORTH IT at least get a fender NOT A SQUIRE strat that is the minimum, try workin for a gibson sg or something of some above calibur tho. GREAT ARTICLE its about time someone said something about this
    jamis8891
    i dont mean to gloat, but i started on a garage sale guitar and waited 2 years and baught a Fender Deluxe American Fat Strat. Amazing guitar. Then i went to acustic and baught a Tayor. you dont need a dozen guitars, just 2 great ones....great article
    dan123
    and she was a snob to always going on how gr8 her gear was and how shit mine was
    catempire
    I think that if you are a crap guitarist you feel far more comfortable with a guitar at your level, rather than buying the best guitar and looking like a spoiled ******* when you can't play very well.
    jcthomasva
    How is this a bad article? Its opinion, and it makes some valid points. You might not entirely agree with it. There is something to be said about not pissing away hard earned $ on low-quality instruments. Take my saga strat for example. I bought it trying to get into electric guitar. Sure it only cost me $100, but I can't stand to play it, so it gathers dust and I still really haven't got into electric guitar. And I'm out $100. The money would have been better spent towards a better name brand guitar that would have held my attention.
    jcthomasva
    And you know, there is nothing keeping anyone from walking into Guitar Center or some other shop and playing the instruments before you buy them. One more thing - if it wasn't the instrument that makes the guitarist sound good, then Clapton would use Washburn acoustics and Johnson electrics, rather than Martins and Fenders. A good instrument makes you sound like a better player (I'm not saying that Clapton is anything short of a guitar diety).
    tyler 417 714
    In reality, you're wasting your time and money chasing a dream. You have bit the bait and started down the road of buying and buying and buying and buying until one day, when you're 20 and sick and tired of all the problems with your cheap gear, you finally step up and buy a real instrument. Over time you will discover that you have spent $5 or $6 grand anyway chasing this rockstar fantasy, and your guitar store is laughing it's greedy head off (and why shouldn't they, you've fallen for it.) THIS PARAGRAPH IS BS IF EVERYONE THOUGHT THIS THERE WOULD BE NO ROCKSTARS DONT TELL PEOPLE WHO MAY HAVE TRUE TALLENT THIS
    Scourge441
    Buyong a cheap guitar pack is definetly cheaper than renting. If you rent for a long time, it will cost a lot more. I'm fine with my $200 Washburn XB100 bass and 40 Watt Randall amp.
    Hendrix4ever
    this whole article is just bullshit. some second-brand guitars are better than the real thing. My epiphone les paul is better than my friend's gibson les paul! Just because its cheap doesnt mean that it's neccesarily bad.
    guitare_kid13
    Hendrix4ever: this whole article is just bullshit. some second-brand guitars are better than the real thing. My epiphone les paul is better than my friend's gibson les paul! Just because its cheap doesnt mean that it's neccesarily bad. ok im not trying to pick a fight but an epiphone les paul is not better than a gibson les paul. maybe your friend just had a crappy amp compare to yours or yours have upgraded pickups or his has cheap pickups also its not only about sound its also about how good the guitar was build.Anyways here's a little advice Schecter guitars have cheap prices and they are almost as good as a les paul or good as a les paul or in some cases better than them, i wrote an article on schecter guitars on this website but they never post it. thanks
    voodoochild175
    I understand your point but I bought a 200 euro (200 dollars) les paul replica wen i started out and it did the job of bein my first guitar fine and still is great to play. Wen buyin it i didnt wanna spend thousands on somthing i wasnt sure i wud wana play for more than a year so i think it was a good choice. (Gd article however)
    MCR Atreyu A7x
    i dont really agree with this article. when i first started playing i didnt know if i was going to continue playing so i bout a nice squier strat which i still use today. but after i realized this was something i was going to be doing for as long as i could i bout myself a Gibson Les Paul. and i feel if i hadnt of started of with that Strat then i might not have wanted to keep going because it is such an awesome guitar for beginers.
    StuartR
    Just because you buy a Squrie at first doesnt mean you are going to buy 8 grand worth of crap, how many people would actually do that?
    starfox72
    For those who give the "learn-on-the-crappy-stuff-to-become-awesome-on-t he-good-st uff-later" excuse, they should tell their kids not to take the bus to school but run instead. Ye
    starfox72
    years later they'll become awesome runners and thank their parents for it. Stupid. The author doesnt say buy a $1500 guitar, he says buy a quality instrument. He's right. I personally wouldnt be afraid to learn on a $1000 guitar. I had several $1500+ PCs and never was afraid to open them while they were running to check for causes of noises or stuff. My rent is almost $1000 where I live (in Paris) so what is another $1000 in your life? I just bought an instrument on ebay. Since I'm on welfare, I decided to buy a top guitar of a small company. It's a Keiper. Manufactured in china and sold by the german company. It's worth $350 and I got it for $90, brand new, 3 years warranty. Better to buy the top quality of an unknown brand than the lowest of a famous one I believe. So be reasonable, dont sell your car for a first intrument but dont be cheap either. Buy something you wouldnt be ashamed of showing to friends, and something that make you happy. Because if it sounds crappy you'll have to be twice motivated to keep playing instead of giving up. So what is better? To keep playing, enjoying a nice sound and become an average guitarist or every day resisting the urge to give up the pain and maybe maybe become a good guitarist?
    Maggot4
    Hey, I have a Epiphone, I got the whole Goth pack, was that dumb?
    will102387
    I'd say get a cheaper model just to start off playing. And if you actually get serious, then buy an expensive instrument. I see kids pick up guitar and they aren't really serious about it. They just play to be "cool". I recently sold my Squier Strat that I owned to one of these kids thinking he was gonna get a good guitar. Totally jipped him and got $100 for it in crap condition. Anyways, cheaper instruments aren't always bad since some people find they don't have the patience to pursue playing.
    LeoKhenir
    (Go buy a Gibson Jimmy Page Aged Signature Les Paul right now. That's the proper guitar to start with, seeing as it is only made in 150 copies, and is only sold in USA, England, Japan and Scandinavia. In Scandinavia it costs about 120 000 NOK = ca 19 000 USD)
    dan123
    i disagree with this article totally bcoz of experience i hav recently had, there is a girl at my school who is playing with this $1900 marshall amp and a 1100 guitar (not sure on brand) and i have jammed with her on my cheapo guitar and i outplayed her every time point is ppl with gd gear and rich parents arent always betta players sure some might be but not this one
    cold_static544
    stupid article, how would you know if say, a rickenbacker, strat, LP, SG or superstrat would suit you?
    BenitoBandito
    This article is stupid. For a start most people start playing young, and can't afford to spend hundreds or thousands on instruments. Or they are given as gifts. Besides, I would find it really obnoxious to see a 12 year old kid playing a beautiful '58 Les Paul or a 0018 Martin. It's also a real waste to see beginners struggling to finger a simple C chord on an instrument that could be put to much better use by someone else. Also, you really don't know exactly what guitar (or any instrument) you want until you've been playing a good long while. I've been playing about 12 years and still don't. All I know is whatever I do want is way beyond my budget.....
    xxgenocide98xx
    To tell you the truth about two and a half years ago I got my first guitar, It was a cheeze-dick'd ibanez satch model with a triple-coil pickup that didn't work (or play) for shit. It was $150, it never let me down. Now, however, I just bought an ENGL powerball that I've been waiting to buy.. I've wanted a new amp since about a year ago and I tried many, looked abroad (internationally) and finally decided to buy this one. It was worth the wait. Get something that you can deal with for temporary and then save up for the big bucks. a 10 or 12 year old can save enough money over time. If they get $200 for their birthday, they make $10/week allowance or something, thats an easy 40 bucks a month PLUS anything extra. I used to bet, play cards, buy/sell things to make money when I was younger. I traded baseball cards (and trading cards like pokemon and MTG) and I bought and sold bikes, skates, boards, or whatever else I could. I made money by mowing lawns and by raking leaves. It pays off, thats all I can say. Its alot easier now that I'm 17 and I work 32 hours a week, making around 320ish a week, but it wasnt so bad making 50-75/week after school with a bit of labor. If you add allowances and bday money (which I didn't get) you can easily get over 150/month PLUS a big deposit (200 or more if your family/friends circle is large) so you can easily save up for a year and buy your dream guitar, amplifier, effects set, keyboard, bass, or drum set... or at least get a damn good start on it.
    guitardude98
    an ok article, but i think most beginning guitarists don't have money or the ambition to get a really expensive guitar. I think beginner guitars are a good way to start as long as they're made by a good brand. This article didn't talk about amps either, and i think you should definately start small with those.
    Zero528
    I think it's better to get something like an ESP 50 series so you don't have to keep paying a rental fee and then get something like a Les Paul or whatever.
    SocietyZer0
    good article, though i sort of went down that path. i went from a 15 watt crate bass amp to an ampeg 8x10 fullstack, it was great for the first couple of months, but you lose the enjoyment of reaching that goal. i've only been playing bass for about 2 1/2 years. i've been playing guitar for 3 years. i went from a 10 watt crate to a marshall halfstack. you lose all the fun out of dreaming of one day having pro gear. but yes, it may save money in the long run. for guitars, i just suggest buying a semi-decent guitar, like an epiphone les paul standard are something. those are great guitars for the price. yeah.
    bigredbeast
    im going down that path right now! I've only been playing for about a year and a half, im pretty good, or so ive been told, for how long i have been playing. The problem is i am obssesed with buying guitars. I have a old crazy epiphone (not gibson copy) flying v, a squier strat and an ESP 50. I decided no more guitar until i can buy one that is gonna stay.
    rapeme
    bah the guitar doesnt effect anything. u play the guitar not the other way around... wow that doesnt make sense. does anyone think this makes sense?? it doesnt to me. but than again i said... im talking to myself again?? is anyone else out there?? someone help me.. welll yah dont waste ur money if urnt serious about the guitar!!
    FortunateSon
    There's not a whole lot of truth to this article. Sure, you have to spend a few hundred bux to get something that doesnt fall apart, but I play my Fender mexican strat twice as often as my gibson sg and my epi Skynyrd goldtop, both cost twice as much.
    doofy_man
    just borrow from someone for a few months-year and soon enough youll be good enough to make your own decisions and deserve a great instrument, no matter what instrument it is...that goes out to the people who didnt like the article and that it was unrealistic good article, nice job...good message to get across
    Gutch220
    I like how you said buying and buying and buying and buying untill years and years go by and your 20. now i feel old (23)
    LeoKhenir
    More words of wisdom (ah, the sarcasm) from the music store tech: Quality does NOT equal expensive. Since I have this job that I have, I get to try and experience differend brands of guitars and amps. I'm gonna throw this at you: Nice looking and not-to-expencive Telecaster-style: Jay Turser JT-LT Custom (about 250 $) AWESOME practise amp, it's almost completely silent even with distortion on, and the distortion is great (or as another one remarked "Hey, with that distortion, you don't NEED no FX board or FX pedals or whatever"): Hughes & Kettner Edition Blue 30W. You could go for the 15W, but the 30W doesn't cost THAT much more, and the 60W isn't necessary for a rehearsal amp. Price? 15W: about 190 $ 30W: about 275 $ 60W: about 350 $ These sound like WOW, and the guitar, it's just NICE. A lightbody Telecaster with gold hardware, it is such a nice guitar. With this combo, you get a nice guitar and a killer amp for about 500$ (unless you go for the 60W amp), and you'd be blown away. I've had experienced players coming into the shop asking for Fender USA Teles, and I say to them "Why don't you try this Jay Turser instead? It's cheaper, and it sounds better". They do just that, and they go like "Wow! This guitar sounds great" and then they see the price tag and they go "Wow" again. Also, Jay Turser's QMT 300 strats are similar to the Tele, except they are strats. But same nice finish and gold hardware. So not always will you get off by being a "manufactorer *****" (You know the type, those who wouldn't TOUCH an electric hooked to amp if it's not a USA Fender into a Marshall Amp), sometimes being nice to your wallet actually helps you! Actually, among others, our dearly beloved SLASH plays Hughes & Kettner... So do as I will: Get a H&K amp. If you need a cabinet/amp stack, try the Vortex. 100W amp hooked to a 200W cabinet with 4x12 speakers. This one is EVEN MORE silent than the Blue Ed., even with distortion on.
    Ozzman_Cometh
    Emrgncyguy7: this is a good article but what if you end up buying a really nice guitar and amp or whatever and then as you start playing, you find out that guitar is just not for you or you just dont enjoy it as much as you thought you would. then you are just sh*t out of luck and sh*it out of money
    Thats why you go to a store.. Look at the pricy range guitars (about 700-5000$) and you ask them if you can just try it. They will let you, and most of the expensive guitars are not in a box.. They are usually hanging from a rack.. When I went shopping for my guitar, I looked at a cheap Epiphone Les Paul Special pak. Or wait one more month and get the Gibson Les Paul Double cut. I asked the guy to try it and he said fine. I tried it and I was amazed! So I waited for a month. Got the Gibson Les Paul Double Cut.(Which is usually around the 4000 dollar range) And I love my guitar and always love my guitar
    Ozzman_Cometh
    Awilk0210: I dont think a 15 yr. old kid who never played should buy a $1000 guitar. Buy a cheap one or even a used one and spend the extra money to get lessons and actually learn to play. If you are like me though and been playing an acoustic for 7 yrs and are about to buy an electric, spend the money, at least you know a little about guitars and can appreciate a nice Guitar for what it is. Most kids and adults who have never played wont understand the value or history of a Les Paul Standard, an American Strat, or any other high end instrument.
    Dude, I'm 15. I bought an expensive guitar.. And I will play with it forever. So don't judge a Guitar Kid by its age. I thought of the same reason when a nine year old kid came in the store and started showing up 22 year olds. But for beginner levels, they should consider if they're going to be a serious musician or just a guy/girl thats going to have a guitar in his/hers room collecting dust.
    eastern_riffs
    Well I think this article makes sense till an extent.Some couple of years ago I bought an amp,a strat copy and a pedal,all for $400.But I still play those things even today.The basis of that is you dont need a grand or something just for a guitar,another grand for an amp and a couple of hundred greens for a pedal. Since I've played,I bought 4 electrics (Total value $1650),2 amps (Value $730) and 4 pedals ($450) and 3 acoustics (Value $700).Thats almost 4 grand.But I play every of those things.And I prefer having a whole good sized gear rather than 2 costly guitars and an amp.
    PjX71
    if you want to buy a freakin awesome guitar get a Gibson 76 Explorer
    Emrgncyguy7
    Thats why you go to a store.. Look at the pricy range guitars (about 700-5000$) and you ask them if you can just try it. They will let you, and most of the expensive guitars are not in a box.. They are usually hanging from a rack.. When I went shopping for my guitar, I looked at a cheap Epiphone Les Paul Special pak. Or wait one more month and get the Gibson Les Paul Double cut. I asked the guy to try it and he said fine. I tried it and I was amazed! So I waited for a month. Got the Gibson Les Paul Double Cut.(Which is usually around the 4000 dollar range) And I love my guitar and always love my guitar
    what i mean was that playing if playing guitar in general in not for you or you just end up not enjoying playing guitar as much as you would in general then you would be sh*t out of luck and sh*t out of money
    firdaus125
    My friend plays a Korean copy guitar and he played Master of puppets like a guitar god. The thing is not what you play, but how you play it. Guys like Friedman, Petrucci and Vai didnt start with great guitars. I see Pop punk blinking 186 fans use Gibson les pauls and play 3 chords and it just pisses me off.
    GuerillaCharlie
    I know what hes saying and agree, Im picking up my Les Paul Standard (Lefty so jack it up 400 canadian) real soon. Im not settling for less
    VelvetÆnema33
    Guitars only go up in value, buying anything can only be better. And musicians don't know what they want. Let alone if they will stick with guitar. Why bother spends 2 grand and play it once?
    Iruleeverything
    This article is stupid because what about people like me who would have to wait years and years to get an awesome guitar. Lets say I wanted a gibson sg standard, which cost about 1200 dollars, if I worked at my normal salary which is 6.25 an hour for the normal hours a week I worked which is usually 4 hours since I got to school also it would take me a year to save up for the guitar and that is assuming that I didn't spend a dollar. That is a little outrageous, so instead I bought a Epiphone Sg which is about 200 dollars which takes a lot less time to save up for. ..Also part of playing guitar is making crappy guitars sound good. It's not the guitar that makes the guitarist.