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Are Really Cheap Guitars Worth Buying?

Updated on February 14, 2011

If you're on a budget and want to learn to play the guitar, you might be looking for a really cheap guitar to buy. Before you go any further though, you should be aware of some of the issues that can make very cheap guitars a bad idea.

 High Action

One common problem with very low price guitars is that the action is too high. The action refers to the distance between a string and the fretboard, and the higher it is, the more difficult it is to depress the string properly. This makes it more difficult to play accurately, and your fingers will become sore and tired more easily. This problem isn't limited to cheap guitars, and you can have the action lowered by guitar technician, but it's something to be aware of.

Warped Neck

A more serious problem associated with very cheap guitars is that the neck may be warped. If this is the case, the guitar will never be perfectly in tune, no matter how carefully you tune the strings. Playing on an out of tune guitar will damage your pitch perception, and this is something that you definitely don't want to happen, as having a good ear is a vital skill for a musician.

Hardware Issues

Very low-end guitars also have cheap hardware, which can cause issues of its own. For example, cheap machine heads will often slip out of tune easily, so the guitar won’t stay in tune for any real length of time. Poorly made tremolo bridges can also cause major tuning problems, as they can wear away over time. Cheap electrical components on electric guitars may break easily. While all of these components can be replaced with better quality alternatives, you'll save yourself a lot of trouble by getting a decently made guitar in the first place.

These are just some of the most common problems that really cheap guitars can cause. So does this mean that you have to buy an expensive guitar to get something worth playing on? Fortunately, the answer is no - there are lots of nicely made entry-level models from reputable manufacturers that can be bought for around a couple of hundred dollars, or even less in some cases (read more about buying a cheap guitar). Another option is to buy a second-hand guitar; this can be a good way to get a better quality model at a good price, although you should probably get it checked out by guitar technician before buying.

You certainly don't have to buy a high-end guitar to get good results, but you should steer clear of those bargain basement ‘guitar shaped objects’ being sold in the local discount store, from manufacturers that you've never heard of. It’s worth paying just a little more to get the guitar that will be pleasant to play, as far too many people give up because they’re trying to learn on substandard instruments, which will never sound good no matter how much effort you put in.

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