Guitar heads: shopping for a gift




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    Guitar heads: shopping for a gift

    A friend of mine is interested in getting a guitar for her grandson's graduation gift and asked for my help. She has yet to ascertain his overall musical preferences, whether to buy acoustic or electric, nor has she set budget for the gift. We have lots of time.

    Still, I want to get ahead of the curve. I suspect her budget will be between $500-1000. I know my own personal preferences, but I want to get input beyond my perceptual blinders.

    He has been playing a beater starter guitar for some time now, and it's nearly dead. She wants him to have a "lifetime" quality guitar to replace it.

    So, what guitars in the $500-1000 price range- acoustic or electric- would you recommend?
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    Wow! Thats a really nice present.

    Knowing what type of guitar he has now is a clue as to his preference for acoustic or electric. Though its possible the first guitar was chosen for him so that may not indicate his preference.

    I'd also consider if he's going to take care of it. What was the starting condition of his first guitar? Even a cheap guitar should be taken care of.


    Personally, i'd go for an electric guitar, amp, hard case, and wall mount or stand to put the guitar (first sign of care is the owner has a safe place to put the guitar.

    Price out the accessories then split the money mostly evenly on the amp and guitar.

    I like Line6 amps and pedals and ibanez guitars. They look nice, work well and seem to have good value. They also have name recognition. I dont think anybody turns up their nose at a Ibanez.

    Most of my gear is used, but at that budget, new versions of my gear could be had.

    I play with. Line6 spyder II 75 watt, 12" cone. Plenty loud, big but not enormous.

    Pod xt live for effects.

    ibanez rg470 guitar, cost $350 used, probably 1.5 to 2 times that new.

    New, modern versions of that gear would probably cost about 1200. Leave off the pedal since the amp wold have some basic effects and your back in budget.

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    Knowing what type of guitar he has now is a clue as to his preference for acoustic or electric. Though its possible the first guitar was chosen for him so that may not indicate his preference.
    Agent Grandma is on a secret mission to determine his actual musical preferences.

    I'd also consider if he's going to take care of it. What was the starting condition of his first guitar? Even a cheap guitar should be taken care of.
    He's a great kid and generally the responsible type. However, he's apparently just about killed his starter (acoustic) guitar that his mom bought him.
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    I would be inclined to still get him a beginner guitar unless you can spend 1500+.

    I'm an acoustic guy so I have no real experience with electric.

    But, if I were a gambling man....needed to stay under a grand and wanted an acoustic guitar that would be a lifetime guitar I would probably go for something like the Taylor 2012 210Ce Rosewood/Spruce Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric. I've played it a couple of times, and though it doesn't have that pure solidity of a typical Taylor, it puts miles of distance between some of the high end Fenders and Yamahas. I've also seen it on sale for $999 including the case. So, I'm sure you could find it for that.

    I've been very impressed with some Seagulls, Washburns and Takamines that are at low price points...but nothing that compares to a high end Guild, Gibson, Martin, or Taylor.

    If I were touring and wanted to get a clean amplified acoustic sound I would buy an Ovation...without a doubt. Nothing beats Ovations ability to create an acoustic guitar that sounds like an acoustic guitar while amplified...unplugged they sound a bit dull and muted thought (except for some of their older hardtop classics--but you will pay over a grand for them).

    Hope that helps.
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    It might be worth considering a sense of scale here. What price point constitutes a beginner guitar? What price point constitutes spending more money than is warranted? What price point have we crossed the value over name on headstock?

    The following is my opinio (probably everything I write is my opinion, but this should be called out as not fact, just personal observation and consideration):

    $100 is a beginner guitar. You can find electric guitar + mini amp combos for $100-150. I'm not sure how big the amp is, but I suspect battery powered crappiness.

    the hardware tends to be cheaper, which wears out quicker, etc.

    You can hit a pawnshop with $40-50 and get a better, small practice amp.

    $100-150 used will get you a good sized solid-state combo amp that you could gig with, providing the amps are mic'd for the venue (to go through a PA for FoH sound). If you're chasing tube-tone, that'd be a different ball game. The same amps can be had new for $300-400. At this size, it's loud enough to annoy the neighbors, yet still light enough to lug around.

    In guitars, I find that $300 seems to be the threshold of "cheap" guitar to good working instrument that will hold up if he takes care of it.

    Over $1000, I find to be entering the realm of deluxe materials, name on headstock, with little added to the actual instrument.

    That kind of money puts a crosshair on this kid's axe. If his friends realize that there's a portable pile of cash sitting in that case in his room, it can be very tempting to grab it and pawn it. It's kind of like handing kids new iPhones. There's already a rampant business in stolen smartphones, with women getting punched in the face and having their phones taken from their hand on the street. Kids should not be put in a position to secure, defend, protect highly valuable objects that they are not really able to perform those duties.

    So, on electric, I see spending $300 for a good amp, possibly $300 for a multi-FX pedal, and at least $300 on the guitar. I would also make sure it has a hardcase for transport, and a guitar stand so he can set it down properly when he takes a break from using it. I suspect he's lacking those 2 accesories and the first guitar is suffering abuse by lack of safe treatment.

    Because of thise, it might also be worth considering that spendingg $1500 on a deluxe guitar now may mean it suffers too much abuse/damage/risk. Whereas spending $500 will excite him, give him something nice to play, and not be as huge a loss if the worst should come to pass. When he is older still, he will appreciate and be better ready for a more expensive instrument.

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    Oh yeah! Whatever we pick for him, I won't let the guitar leave the store without a hard shell case.

    On the electric front, I'm a bit torn. While I generally prefer tube amps and disrete pedals, I can also see that for rom life, a multiFX pedal or even a modeling amp might be the way to go. That said, my usual advice is to do what I did: buy something like a Korg Pandora (or Line6 Pod or Tascam GT-R1, etc.) and play through it with headphones until you can buy a good tube amp that really matches your needs & style.

    (I had been playing electrics for 3 years that way before buying my Fender HRD Combo.)

    You raise some good points on security, too. However, a lot depends on where he goes to school and who he hangs out with.

    When I went to college in the mid-1980s, I was buddies with damn near half the musi department, it seemed. So everybody had thousands of dollars in equipment. Everybody had TVs and/or stereos, too. Many of the kids had home computers. There were few robberies.

    Except my friend who went to a different school- they robbed his apartment and left him with a Nelson CD. Just the CD- they took the jewel box.

    Today's kids are going off with stereos, smartphones, laptops, TVs game consoles and a host of other gizmos...most of which are far more portable than a guitar.

    Besides, this is a grade-A kid who generally makes good decisions. He won't be hanging out with the backstabbers or leaving his door unlocked (like my freshman year roomie). He's also an accomplished baseball player with some moooscles on him- not exactly a skinny kid.

    Still, I probably wouldn't advise spending more than $1k on a guitar for him anyways- I buy some guitars in the $1-3.5k range for myself...on occasion. Most of my personal GAS list is sub-$1k.

    But I've been playing for a long time, live in a house, etc. That's the kind of thing you buy with your OWN money unless you're a 1%er, generally speaking.
    Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; Thursday, 5th July, 2012 at 06:45 PM.
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    For acoustics, I'd probably go with Yamaha or Takamine (G-Series I think?) in that price range, especially if it's around $500. If it's $1000 and electric I'd go Schecter for the guitar still around $500. In those ranges the guitar would last for years and be good enough to gig a little with.

    I also like the tube sound and am not a fan of Line 6 amps. I'd actually suggest buying a few of the cheap, Danelectro pedals if you want to get some and he can buy nicerones later if he decides he likes the effects.

    I love the sound of Gibsons, Taylors and Martins for example, but I don't feel the value is there with their cheaper lines and you can do better elsewhere.

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    hershel's ideas are good too. There is some fun and flexibility in buying single pedals and experimenting with them. When I got started, I figured that pedals cost $50-100 a piece, and I could pretty much get all of them for $300 in a multi-FX rig and save a lot of money.

    I prefer playing with an amp to pedals. Something about the sound in a room (and no headphone wire in the way) feels better. I don't play cranked up, 5 is about the loudest I go on my amp. If nothing else, it's like the Tube effect, tone resonating in a cabinet sounds/feels better than sound coming from tiny speakers next to my ears.

    There's smaller amp to pick that can give great tone. My friend has this little Fender practice amp (15w?) that had this great warm tube-like tone (and it was a solid state). It sounded worlds better than my Crate of a similar size. Both were $40 pawn-shop purchases.

    It's still worth noting that it's a matter of scale. Except for my first bass, all my axes cost about $350. Only one was new at that price. The others were all used (and thus had a higher original price). that said, I don't have anything worth over $500. My guitars will probably last me a lifetime.

    Danny may have pricier axes than me, because his threshold is higher for the axe he prefers.

    So my advice trends to you can get him what I consider good electric gear for the budget allotted.

    It's almost easier to price out an accoustic, as all the good brands have been named, and can be had for the defined budget. Electrics bring in additional equipment recommendations.

    Still, I think the list of KIDS who want an accoustic vs. an electric guitar favors the electric side of things. Too many tales exist of kids with visions of Rock in their head asking for a guitar and unwrapping a Rock-Crushing accoustic exist. Tenacious D being the only band to have turned that around....

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    There is some fun and flexibility in buying single pedals and experimenting with them.
    No joke- I had 5 pedals before I bought an amp. (Pedal-Junkie!)

    It's almost easier to price out an accoustic, as all the good brands have been named, and can be had for the defined budget. Electrics bring in additional equipment recommendations.
    No argument there!

    And yeah- even though I have a big-ass Fender HRD, I've found I can't crank it to the point where it starts to break up without disturbing the neighbors (Ilive in a house ina nice neigborhood) and scaring my pets. It never gets past 4. IOW, I have a Corvette that spends most of its time in the School Zones.

    So I've been looking at sub-20w amps for myself lately- Orange, Egnater, etc.- and probably wouldn't recommend anything larger for someone who will be living the dorm/apartment life for the next 4 years.


    Tenacious D being the only band to have turned that around....
    Days of the New (i know- they broke up) and some others are out there.
    IAAL...and an MBA. No, really!
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    Update:

    Secret Agent Grandma has reported to me that the Grad-To-Be plays & listens to Big Band, Christian Rock, and a mix of other stuff besides.

    So I'm thinking an acoustic, a classic semihollow or a Tele/Strat of some kind would be in order.
    IAAL...and an MBA. No, really!
    Metal School Founder; Campaign Ideas; my 3.X Databases: The Monk, The Martial Arcanist, Aquatic Ideas, The Psychonomicon

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