Picture this: You walk into a music shop, looking around for your very first guitar. Looking at the acoustic-electrics hanging on the wall, you spot a variety of prices. One costs $150, and another costs $1,500, with dozens of other price points in between. Wanting to appear intelligent and knowledgeable in this area,  you speak with whoever happens to be manning the shop. You nod at all the right times, say uh-huh, and end up walking out with a $300 Epiphone, a case, and a few picks (which is what I did a few years ago).

But you keep asking yourself what made that $1,500 guitar so much better then the one you bought, and what made yours better then the $150 one. Because you couldn’t really tell the difference.

Antonio Stradivari is considered to have been one of the greatest violin makers of all time.

This is a fundamental question that plagues all consumers, no matter what you are buying. What is it that makes two seemingly identical products (albeit with different branding) cost so vastly different amounts of that precious money you work so hard to get?

1. Sound Quality
This is perhaps the biggest part of it. Naturally, when you buy a expensive product, you expect it to be of better quality then the cheaper product. This is true in musical instruments as well. Although you as a beginner may not notice the difference right away, it is there. If you ever get to the point that you perform, you want the best sounding instrument possible. In the end, however, it all comes down to personal preference. If you like the sound of the $99 guitar from K-Mart, by all means play it.

2. Workmanship
Although this ties in a lot with sound quality, it is a separate category. One of the things that made Antonio Stradivarius’ instruments so expensive was the way they were made. Stradivarius used only the finest materials. Everyone was hand made by him with care and precision. They were durable and had excellent sound quality. This is evident by the fact that many of his violins are still around today, and quite a few of them are still used in concert.

3. Branding
Although we can wish that price was solely based on quality, we know this is not the case. Two guitars that are identical in all respects will sell for vastly different prices if one has the label “Stratocaster” and the other does not. Why? It’s a status statement. It lets people know that you are someone to carry that kind of guitar around.

But what about you, consumer, what should you buy? I say start small. My $300 Epiphone was perfect for me to start with. It was a quality product for a good price. I still play that guitar today, I love it. And not just because it is my first. Although right now I am focusing on piano, maybe, someday, I will go back and buy a little more expensive guitar. When you buy your first instrument, make sure you don’t buy cheap, but don’t spend more then a few hundred dollars (depending on the instrument) more then what you consider “cheap.”

And, above all else, pick the one you like.

Do you feel like you have ever payed to much for an instrument? Do you like some of the cheaper instruments? Let me know below or send me an email.

Categories: Instruments