How Much Should I Spend On a New Guitar or Bass?

Bass guitarFirst things first: Before you can make it to rock star status, you’ll need a guitar or other instrument to practice with.  But what’s the right model for a beginner? And how much do you really need to spend? Cardiff teacher Glenn P. tackles the common question here…


So, how much should you spend on a new guitar or bass? The answer actually depends upon a few basic criteria:

1. What is your budget for a guitar?
2. What is your commitment level to learning to play?
3. Do you plan on performing live with the instrument?

For a family or individual on a tight budget, there are a number of starter guitars, basses, and acoustic guitars that will suffice to help you get started playing in the $100 range. The benefit of these instruments is they are affordable, and they often work well enough to learn the basics. However, the downside is they may have tuning problems, poor electronics if they are electric, and have a very low resale value. In my experience, it is possible to get a decent playing guitar for $100, but it helps to have an experienced guitar player or instructor examine and play the instrument first before buying.

The next step up in a budget would be instruments up to $350 or so. These guitars will generally have higher quality tuning pegs, for better tuning, improved wood, and if electric, better electronics. The benefit of this level of instrument is improved ‘action’ (playability), better sound, and better sound through amplification. Now, there is still a downside to this level of guitar, that is, they don’t have the distinctive ‘pro’ or ‘classic’ sound of higher quality instruments, and they don’t have a particularly good resale value. If you decide to quit playing it and sell it, you may be out 30-50 percent of what you paid for it.

Finally, if it fits your budget, you can acquire a professional quality acoustic, electric, or bass guitar for around $1,200. The primary benefits of purchasing a professional quality instrument are reliable tuning, beautiful sound, great fit and finish, ‘classic’ recognizable tone, and great sound through stage amplification and studio recording. In addition, this level of guitar will generally have a relatively high resale value. If you decide to quit, you should be able to sell it for near, at, or even over what you paid for it, depending upon demand and model purchased. The downside to these guitars is the high up-front cost to acquire them, and despite the value, they may not make learning to play much easier than a $350 guitar.

Once you know your budget, commitment level, and desire to play live or record in a studio, you should be able to make an informed decision about how much to spend on a guitar, and what the benefits and downsides are to each price level of guitar.

Good luck and remember, stay on the frets!

GlennPGlenn P. teaches bass guitar and guitar lessons in Cardiff by the Sea, CA.  Glenn joined the TakeLessons teacher roster in June 2012, and his specialties include teaching proper timing, tuning, technique, theory, composition, and performance. Sign up for lessons with Glenn, or visit TakeLessons to search for a teacher near you!



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