It’s harder to buy a truly terrible new guitar these days. Wind back the clock, say thirty years, and the ‘starter’ instruments on offer would more often than not have unplayable actions, harsh-sounding pickups, poor sustain, dangerously sharp fret-edges and bridges that gradually pulled away from the body. Learning to play guitar was challenge enough, without the manufacturers of the era seemingly intent on sabotaging budding axe-heroes’ careers before they had mastered their first three chords.
The intervening years have seen vast improvements in design, production techniques and quality control and today’s inexpensive six-string offerings represent great value for money.
Most of the big brands offer affordable starter packs, containing everything you need to start playing, and many of the larger retailers also offer their own equivalents. Paying more for a branded product launches a familiar debate, that is, are you just paying for the ‘name’? However it’s worth considering that an inexpensive instrument from a manufacturer who has been designing and building expensive ones for many years may well benefit from all those years of learning and refining; the R&D, in other words, will have filtered down through their product range.
Epiphone (by Gibson), Squier (by Fender) and Yamaha are three examples of such heritage brands offering great products in the category. Here are a couple of examples including electric, acoustic and bass guitar packs so the whole band can get started:
‘Stop dreaming, start playing’ as the Fender marketers say. Based around the Squier version of the world-famous Stratocaster guitar and a 10-watt Fender Frontman® 10G amp, this pack also contains an electronic tuner, tuition DVD, gig bag, cable, strap and picks.
The guitar carries three single coil pickups for a wide variety of tones, and a tremolo bridge for cool wobbles through to searing dive-bombs. The amp features clean and overdriven tones and a headphone socket to appease the neighbours during late-night practice sessions.
This Epiphone pack is based on another legendary guitar, the Gibson Les Paul. It’s not as close to the original as the Squier is to the Fender (above) but still a great guitar to learn on. The humbucking pickups give a thick sound suitable for heavy rock, blues or jazz.
This pack comes with a 10 watt practice amp, cable, clip-on chromatic tuner, guitar strap, picks, and a gig bag.
Instead of a book or DVD, the Epiphone includes free online tuition from eMedia
If it’s an acoustic guitar you want to get started on, then this kit from Yamaha includes a nice full-size, spruce-top acoustic guitar, plus carrying bag, tuner, strings, strap, picks and instructional DVD.
Cheaper acoustic packs are arguably more variable in quality that electric ones, but Yamaha are a long-standing manufacturer who make great quality instruments, and this guitar is made from good quality woods (spruce top, meranti back and sides, rosewood fingerboard) so should be an ideal introduction to acoustic playing.
Or if you want to be the bass player in the band, the Squier by Fender P Bass Pack offers everything you need to start bugging the folks next door.
Based on Fender’s Precision Bass (one of the most gigged and recorded models in history), the pack also features a Fender Rumble 15 bass amplifier, a tuner, strap, cable, headphones, gig bag and a tuition DVD.
For more Christmas gift ideas see here.
Or, for an accomplished player, maybe something quirky to add to their guitar collection? Read our post here.