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Guitar Accessories

  • George L's Cables
    I think they're the best cables for the money. Very user friendly-make your cable in the length you want, and enjoy the pro-tone!
  • Callaham Vintage Guitars and Amps
    Home of vintage style Stratocaster tremolos, featuring dramatic increases in both sustain and harmonic content.
  • Kinman Single Coil pickups for Strats and Teles
    Beautiful noiseless single coil pickups for Stratocasters and Telecasters
  • Warmoth guitar parts
    High quality guitar bodies, necks, paint jobs, and parts for a lot less than comparably equipped manufactured guitars. Plus, you get to put the stuff together yourself!

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Jim Fordemwalt

-- Finding That $200 Axe To Grind --

I think it's appropriate to comment, as I am the aforementioned brother in law.

First, thanks Denny for taking the time! It really helped me to have some solid guidelines to work with. Nobody wants to go into a guitar store and feel like their about to make a gaff.

Second, I wanted to share some of the analysis I did on the sub $200 (USD) guitar market. Why sub $200? I wanted to find the "sweet spot" in the value curve for newbies. If you spend too little you get something that hurts to play, doesn't sound good and doesn't stay in tune. If you spend too much you end up getting more guitar than you need (i.e., opportunity cost). I did a lot of poking (googling) around and read various "epinons" and similar articles. (And you should too!) It appeared that somewhere around $150 the guitars started having solid tops and rosewood fingerboards. This seemed to be the beginning of the "serious beginner" range. So, if I'm going to spend $150 or $200, how do I choose? Effectively, what makes a $99 guitar different from a $9999 guitar? They look really similar and do roughly the same thing. As far as I can tell (correct me if I'm wrong, Denny) the 3 differences are materials, craftmanship and branding. (There's also a 4th category which is historical appeal - meaning guitars that were made by or for famous people or made of materials which are no longer availble.) A note about price, too. You'll notice that guitars have a "list" price - like MSRP - but it's what I call the "funny" price. The normal price - usually called the "street price" is usually about half. (It all depends on the guitar, of course. And, this may be only for the sub $1k guitars... who knows.) Okay, let's talk about wood. The sub $200 market will be inexpensive wood and/or laminate construction. I was able to find solid top guitars - both classical and dreadnaught - within this price range. I recommend finding a solid spruce top with either nato or mahogany body & neck. Holding out for a cedar top usually gets you closer to $300 (USD). Now let's talk about craftmanship. The guitars in this range are all mass produced, so I have no expectation of finding a work of art. However, I do expect to get quality, and that's what I found so useful about Denny's comments. Even two "identical" guitars will have differences, both in sound quality and build quality. Spending a few minutes at the music store finding the one that feels better and sounds better is worth it. Finally, branding plays a role - albeit a lesser one. I found that Takamine (Jasmine), Washburn, Fender (Squire), Dean, Gibson (Epiphone) and even Ibanez had plays in this space. Whereas more elite brands (such as Blueridge or Guild) didn't bother. Within the sub $200 space price sensitivity seems critical.

So, how did I choose a guitar? I eventually decided that I wanted a classical - not because I wanted to play "classical" music, but rather for comfort. The nylon strings on a classical guitar are much easier on the fingers and farther apart. This sounded like a good combination to me. So, I warmed up the wheels and went to every music store in town. (This is Boise, so it wasn't that difficult.) That'll give you an idea of what you can get locally. Although there are probably a lot of really good deals on the net, I decided that I needed to play something, and personally inspect it, before buying.

The one I liked the best, which fit my criteria, was the Samick C2. I've only had it a few days, but I really like the sound and my fingers are able to get the strings down with only a minimum of pain. However, I think I would've been just as happy with a Fender CG11, Takamine GS116 or Yamaha CG101. Just remember to play before you buy, and examine it thoroughly.

Finally, a note about pawn shops. There's a belief that you can find super deals for guitars at pawn shops. I suspect that although it's *possible* it isn't very likely. First, you have to really know what you're looking for. I find that guitars all look alike to me. I wouldn't be able to identify a $500 guitar from a $200 guitar (without researching the makes/models). You also have to know *when* to go. I did my shopping at a bad time: right after Christmas. Everybody had been cleaned out, and the pawn shops won't be getting those axes back until after the spring. The guitars I did find at pawn shops were not screaming deals. Just remember the owners have Internet connections too. They can look these things up (and see what's on eBay) just as easily as you can.

P.S. Buy a guitar stand and a digital tuner when you get your guitar. Good luck!

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