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Some thoughts on value, utility, and high-dollar guitars


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I just had a thought.
(And this is rare, so hang on, it could get dicey.)

The things we value in a guitar are fairly simple, right?

We need it to work, from the get-go, and be dependable.
We need it to sound great.
We need it to stay in tune.
We want it to be pretty.
We want it to feel good.
We want it to be cool.
We would like for it to attract chicks, and turn the heads of fans in the audience.
We would like for it to hold its resale value some day.


Okay.
So if you find all that in a guitar, on a great number of occasions over your lifetime, for 400 CAD (for example), for 600 Quid even, for 700 AUD maybe, or $1,200 at the outside, and those guitars clearly met all those above-listed requirements.............

Why in the world would people spend $2,500 or £4000 or even €6000 on a high-end guitar?

I have had (and I still own) $400 guitars that checked the block on all those metrics.
Shoot, I have owned $200 pawnshop prizes that met most of those requirements.
What is it about uber-expensive guitars that continues to drive and influence the market price?

I must admit this much.
I owned a 1971 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe.
I have held and briefly played a $4,000 Gibson acoustic.
I have had the rare privilege of trying out a $2,200 Fender Jazz bass.
I have to tell you;
I didn't feel or hear anything that knocked me out, or that impressed me more than the Takamine over there or that Ibanez bass right over here.

So I ask you;
If you drop a boat-load of money (more than $3,000) on a super high-end guitar, is it because it's supposed to sound and perform better than the pedestrian ones?
Or is it because you savor the notion of owning such a prestigious instrument?

Do we need to feel and know at some point in our lives that we have arrived, and that we deserve such a luxurious adornment?

Because aside from bragging rights, I really can't feel or hear the difference between most $800 guitars and those $3000 guitars.
I honestly cannot.


I welcome your thoughts, and PLEASE do not take this posting as a condemnation of high-end guitar collectors.

I just want your thoughts and opinions on the emotions, inclinations, and motivations for spending that much.

🤔

 

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Edited by sparquelito
laks;djf
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I can disprove that hypothesis in five seconds or less 

Rich men.

Donno really.. I, as most of you know got a 336 not long ago..  That was 3k (second hand).. Why... Cos I wanted it and for once in my life could actually afford it.. Ever since I first tried

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I only own one that is north of $3000 (by a little) and that's only because I couldn't talk the seller down any.

For the solid bodies you can get a TON of great guitars in the $1000 - $2200 range.  

Once you get into the semi-hollow and hollow bodies the prices have just been going up up and away and it doesn't look like that's going to change.  I can understand it as more work goes into building them.

I really can't speak much for acoustics but it looks like prices on those have gone berserk lately.

Some of it is sound quality, some of it is build quality which you can just feel as soon as you pick it up, and some of it is cosmetics.

And if you want to buy a pre-beat up one, that's extra.

 

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Hi Sparky - I can only think of 2 things really 1. It needs to feel great so I'm not unnecessarily 'fighting' it in any way, and 2. it has to be totally dependable.  Other than that I don't really care - though I would stay away from guitars that stray too far from traditional shapes so I guess there is an element visual preferences.

My guitar - '84 Aria Pro ll - cost me $100 in a pawn shop 30 years ago, though the pickup I put in and the re-fret cost much more than that over the years. I could afford anything I suppose but my guitar meets needs 1 & 2 so I'm happy with that. One of the smartest things I ever heard in life applies equally to money, houses, cars, guitars.. whatever..."why would I care what you have when I have all that I need".  So I enjoy seeing all your nice guitars but I'm very comfortable for you to own them and me to have mine. [smile] (I do enjoy trying other guitars out though!)

Edited by 'Scales
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As much as I love Martin's the best guitar I ever played that I would sell all mine for was a Preston Thompson I played in Carter's Vintage Guitars in Nashville. I think it was Hog back and sides and a Spruce top. 

Edited by Sgt. Pepper
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Donno really..

I, as most of you know got a 336 not long ago..  That was 3k (second hand)..

Why... Cos I wanted it and for once in my life could actually afford it.. Ever since I first tried one years ago I have just held it up as the best.. It just always stuck with me and when I got the chance I thought hell yes...  Didnt need it for sure, and I was under no illusion that it was going to make me a better player or anything like that.  In the case of the 336 though there arent many of them about and one of my motivations was, are Gibson ever going to make any more. As it goes I got the last one for sale in the country at that time.

Do I regret buying it..  Nope.  It really is the nicest guitar I have ever owned. Do I think its probably a bit much.. Yes, but hey you only live once so why the hell not

Would I buy a 10k guitar even if I had that sort of money. I doubt it very much. I think the 336 was about my limit where I say, this is just stupid.

I guess in most cases people buy them cos they can and they want too... Doesnt really need any further explanation than that. Some people spend crazy money on more silly things than guitars but thats up to them (and I may think its silly but obviously they dont, a good example of that is expensive watches, I just dont get that at all). I guess with Gibsons it helps knowing they will  at least retain a lot of their value.

Edited by Rabs
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"Savoring the notion" and "arrived" hit the nail on the head for me. And it has bit me in places I can barely reach with a washcloth.

I lusted for a high end archtop for decades, finally got a 1947 L-5 after a boatload of "almosts". It's okay.

I wanted a J200 for decades. It was the holy grail. I have two J200s and a J100. They're okay.

I spend more time with the HD-28 than any of them. And right behind that, a $450 Martin DM.

This is going to sound upside down but... if the TONE is there, the rest will follow. You will ignore the snob factor, the prestige, the Braz vs. Indian RW, if the tone is there.

A woman (an ex girlfriend's mother to be exact) stated to me that the most important aspect of a marriage is sex. My jaw dropped... what about trust, mutual respect, friendship? Nope. Her argument was that if the sex is great, the rest will be easier to nurture because you're happy. Not sure if I believed it then or now, but I see her logic.

Same logic applies with my statement I guess. If you are HEARING what you want to hear, you will rise above a blemish in the finish, no longer question it's X bracing or sandwich body, or whether it's pre-CBS, CBS, or post CBS. None of that crap will matter.

IF you are hearing what you want to hear.

If you obsess over a flaw or wonder if you should upgrade to Colosi pins or obsess about "the next strings I'm going to try...." I will bet that guitar is not for you. And you won't want to admit it because it's a holy grail.

I have lived it more times than any human should. I am not cynical. I've lived it.

And when I say the "TONE is there", I mean the sound that YOU need to hear. If you hear a Strat in your mind when you think of electric guitar, then there's no Les Paul on the planet that will satisfy you and you will spend decades fooling yourself. Adding "vintage" or "custom shop" to the mix will just exacerbate.

As much as I have Gibson ingrained in my psyche, in my mind, when I think of how an acoustic guitar should sound, I hear a Martin dreadnaught.

Hate me if you want.

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35 minutes ago, ksdaddy said:

As much as I have Gibson ingrained in my psyche, in my mind, when I think of how an acoustic guitar should sound, I hear a Martin dreadnaught.

Hate me if you want.

I don't and someone other than me needs to say it.  You do know what Forum you are on right? Or so I have been told may times and been told I can leave any time and wasn't invited to the party. Hey 40 Years Nose Pickin be an man and tell a moderator what you tell me about my Martins comments and that he can leave the party any time he wants and wasn't invited to the party, I'll bet you wont.

Edited by Sgt. Pepper
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I'm sure there's a real step up between the Gibson USA models and the Custom shop.  Just looking at them will make your jaw drop and I suspect they're worth the price of admission.

My favorite electric is a used 2014 Firebird V.  It didn't cost much and it just suits me but for sound quality it's a Lucille or Les Paul Standard Gold Top w/ P90s.

For acoustic it's the one Sgt. Pepper is waiting for.  

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Everybody needs to make themselves happy.  I'd rather have one Gibson than 50 Epiphones.  I'd rather buy a high end Telecaster for 1500 dollars than buy three for 500 each.

I don't want a bunch of guitars.  I want a few nice ones.

I'm an amp guy.  I would NEVER in a million years buy some low end amp, period.  Much less buy five so maybe I won't get sick of them so much.

Whether you have one or ten guitars is more about what you want from it.  I had a trumpet when I was a kid that wouldn't tune up to pitch, so no matter how good a musician I was, I always sucked, until I got kicked out of the band.  I'm going to invest enough in an instrument so I don't have to think about it.

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To preface, not directing at anyone in particular here. Some guys buy cars, some guys buy houses. Some guys buy guns, some guys buy boats. Me... I buy guitars. I’ve regret buying less expensive guitars in the past and just been happier spending for the R9. It’s my money and your money is yours. What I do with my money is my business and what you do with yours is your business. As long as you can put food on the table and pay the mortgage no problems spending what you can. I personally haven’t had the itch to say I’m tired of any guitar I’ve bought since I’ve bought high end guitars to the point where I’m selling them for something else. And I’ve been playing music for nearly my whole life with no plans to quit. I mean some people buy corvettes... not much utility in that for most people, but damn they like revving that engine up. No problem with that. You only live once and enjoy your life. As well, even with all my nice guitars, still haven’t spent that much to combine all the dollars and cents to afford a corvette. And FTR, corvettes are sweet. But again, I love guitars - this is my thing. Don’t need to spend Gibson money to get a great guitar, but it is most enjoyable to me to get a guitar that I appreciate for years to come. It’s worth it to me. 

Edited by NighthawkChris
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11 hours ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

I don't and someone other than me needs to say it.  You do know what Forum you are on right? Or so I have been told may times and been told I can leave any time and wasn't invited to the party. Hey 40 Years Nose Pickin be an man and tell a moderator what you tell me about my Martins comments and that he can leave the party any time he wants and wasn't invited to the party, I'll bet you wont.

Sarge,    the difference between your comments and K'sD are obvious.    Peace, Out. 

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5 minutes ago, fortyearspickn said:

Sarge,    the difference between your comments and K'sD are obvious.    Peace, Out. 

Nope. I praised Martins and so did he. You ain't got the balls to tell him to leave the forum and do you know what forum your on. Same thing said by two different people. One is a mod and one isn't. 

And its retired Senior Chief  (EMCS Ret.) to you. I earned it.

 

Edited by Sgt. Pepper
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I grew up playing crappy guitars electric and acoustic. That may be a very good reason why I put them down for around 25 years. I suppose I could have scraped together the money for a quality electric, but that wasn't a priority for me then. Of course, back then, inexpensive guitars were much lower in quality than today's inexpensive guitars. For the last 25 years, I've not owned but two crummy guitars- one was an Epi Joe Pass, and the other was a 335 that never should have left the factory (and was replaced by Gibson). Owning good Gibsons and Fenders has been worth every penny to me. 

Edited by zigzag
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12 hours ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

As much as I love Martin's the best guitar I ever played that I would sell all mine for was a Preston Thompson I played in Carter's Vintage Guitars in Nashville. I think it was Hog back and sides and a Spruce top. 

Have you ever played a Santa Cruz? I checked one out once and it was phenomenal.

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Every item has a scale of diminishing returns. That is when adding the same amount of money to the price brings lesser and lesser benefit per dollar.

Buy a $100 dollar guitar and a $200 dollar guitar is a lot better. Buy a $5,000 guitar and a $5,100 guitar isn't noticeably better.

Everybody has their point on the scale of diminishing returns. There is no one right solution for us all.

As a professional musician I know the guitar needs to be well-made, comfortable, durable, look decent, stay in tune, and sound good.

I also know that life on the road, especially when doing one-nighters

Additionally, I am in the business to make money.

So the gold hardware, flamed maple tops, signature models, and other price raising features that don't make the guitar better as a tool for me are beyond my point on that scale.

When I bought my Parke DF, I got the pickups I wanted (custom shop), and all the best mechanical/electrical features of the DF, but none of the fancy paint jobs or fancy wood caps. The result is I got a plain wood guitar that performs as well as the most expensive DF, and cost a few thousand dollars less (that would take a lot of gigs to make up the difference).

Notes

NN02_DF522NN.jpg

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Just now, Dub-T-123 said:

Have you ever played a Santa Cruz? I checked one out once and it was phenomenal.

I know I played one in Gruhn's or Martins Vintage and oh yeah it did not suck. I think I played a Bourgeois too. 

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4 minutes ago, Notes_Norton said:

 

NN02_DF522NN.jpg

I touched one a long time ago. If they are good enough for Adrian Belew they are good enough for anyone. Don't those had crazy necks you are supposed to be able to stand on?

Edited by Sgt. Pepper
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I’ve always thought the Parker stuff looked cool. I saw a repair video somewhat recently where it was brought to light that Parker does not slot its fretboards and the frets have no tang. The frets are just glued to the surface of the fretboard. 

 

So apparently there are a lot of instances of frets falling of Parkers. That seems alarming, but it is probably not practical to slot the carbon fiber boards

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A Toyota Corolla is a great Car & does everything you need.. Even has great Quality! But, I don’t want to drive one.. 

Some things just do it better! I prefer my black Corvette, my black Silverado Crew Cab Pickup & my silver Lexus ES350... Do I need them? No. They check all the boxes for sure.. At least for me. I’ve reached a point in my life I can have pretty much anything I want. But, I don’t go overboard. I may be a bit of a snob but I like having nice Things... So I do.

Same with Guitars.. I buy the Guitars I like for what they can do for me.. Not some dude in the future.. Resale value will be what it will be.. I buy higher end quality so I don’t worry about it... Quality does make a difference..

Edited by Larsongs
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12 minutes ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

I know I played one in Gruhn's or Martins Vintage and oh yeah it did not suck. I think I played a Bourgeois too. 

I don’t think I’ve seen a Bourgeois in a shop but those look amazing too

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1 hour ago, badbluesplayer said:

Everybody needs to make themselves happy. 

Probably one of the more sensible answers yet.  

Look.  My "dream" for years was to own a Gibson Les Paul goldtop.  Ever since seeing Joe Walsh play one in an( and before they ever recorded an LP) appearance by The James Gang at Detroit's Grande Ballroom in '69.  At the time, one could be had in local music shops for $500.  But also at the time, it was all I could do to scrape up the $4.00 admission cost at the Grande's door.   But now I'm in good enough situation to get one, even at $6,000+  .    I just have to decide if it's sensible, since I don't play professionally, and still have dexterity issues sine my mini-stroke if that expense is still somewhat justifiable.  

Actually, since I'm close to 70(this July)  the purchase of the Goldtop and too, subsequently( and another old "dream") a Martin HD-28, they would really represent a "bucket list"achievement.  And I did mention in another thread that I'm quite happy with the tone and play of my 49 year old Epiphone FT-145.   And really, (since too, I know what forum I'm in  [wink] )   it's a toss-up between the Martin and another "bucket list" item;   A Gibson Hummingbird acoustic.  In sunburst.  Which is not all that cheap either.

Whitefang

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2 minutes ago, Sgt. Pepper said:

I touched one a long time ago. If they are good enough for Adrian Belew they are good enough for anyone. Don't those had crazy necks you are supposed to be able to stand on?

The DF is more conventional. That model didn't come with the carbon fiber exoskeleton. Nor does it have the glued frets, which I saw as a problem down the road.

My DF has hardened stainless steel frets (years later - zero wear),  an ebony fretboard, Sperzel locking tuners, 25.5" scale, 14" radius, Graph-Tech nut & bridge, plus an advanced whammy, and an almost straight string path, so it stays in tune better than my guitars without a whammy (I refuse to call it a trem because it's really vibrato - sorry Leo got that wrong). Plus it's only 5 pounds (but sustains longer than my LP style guitar) and perfectly contoured and balanced, so it seems like I'm wearing it instead of holding it.

Sounds? I had the Duncan P-Rails put in by the custom shop. They give me P90, Rail, Series Humbucker, and Parallel Humbucker sounds. The P90 sounds are almost as good as a soap-bar, the rails sound very Fender-ish, but the output is weak (there is a volume control though) and the Humbucker sounds are very good. Plus there is a Piezo under the bridge. The Piezo on a solid body guitar doesn't make it sound like a flat-top, more like an arch top, but it can be blended with the magnetic pickups to add some twang or shimmer to the sounds. It's like a Swiss Army Knife of Guitars 😉

I paid extra for the pickups, because it will help me sound better and be more expressive on the gig.

That was my point on the diminishing return scale. Functionally it is better than any DF model offered, just not as fancy.

My point is variable depending on the item. For my work tools, function is what is important.

What is right for me is just that. It might not be right for the next person.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

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14 hours ago, sparquelito said:

I really can't feel or hear the difference between most $800 guitars and those $3000 guitars.

Well, I didn't go up to $3,000, but I could hear the difference between my (roughly) $2,000 Guild F50R and my $500-800 Epiphone Masterbilts.  There's much more volume coming out of the low E string, making for better balance across all the strings. 

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16 minutes ago, Whitefang said:

Probably one of the more sensible answers yet.  

Look.  My "dream" for years was to own a Gibson Les Paul goldtop.  Ever since seeing Joe Walsh play one in an( and before they ever recorded an LP) appearance by The James Gang at Detroit's Grande Ballroom in '69.  At the time, one could be had in local music shops for $500.  But also at the time, it was all I could do to scrape up the $4.00 admission cost at the Grande's door.   But now I'm in good enough situation to get one, even at $6,000+  .    I just have to decide if it's sensible, since I don't play professionally, and still have dexterity issues sine my mini-stroke if that expense is still somewhat justifiable.  

Actually, since I'm close to 70(this July)  the purchase of the Goldtop and too, subsequently( and another old "dream") a Martin HD-28, they would really represent a "bucket list"achievement.  And I did mention in another thread that I'm quite happy with the tone and play of my 49 year old Epiphone FT-145.   And really, (since too, I know what forum I'm in  [wink] )   it's a toss-up between the Martin and another "bucket list" item;   A Gibson Hummingbird acoustic.  In sunburst.  Which is not all that cheap either.

Whitefang

Your gonna get some guy who has been playing for 40 years angry with words like that.

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1 hour ago, badbluesplayer said:

I don't want a bunch of guitars.  I want a few nice ones.

Exactly.  My guitar acquisition habits came to realize that.  I used to have a half dozen Epiphones.  Eventually they were all put on the block to fund a few nice 6- and 12-strings. 

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