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  1. #1
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Guitar buying advice

    Mason (soon to be 14) has finally found something that he's pretty good at and likes to practice - guitar. So far he's been learning on an accoustic guitar but for his birthday/Christmas he'd really like an electric. He has a number of buddies learning guitar too which is part of my dilemma. My goal isn't to get him the best, but one that's suitable for a new player and at the same time won't make him owner of the crappiest axe among his peers. Several of his friends families have much more money than we do so having the "best" ain't going to happen.

    His guitar teacher gave us three options that he thought would be good:

    An Ibaneez starter pack

    Epihone SG or Les Paul

    A cheap Paul Reed Smith (apparently cheap here means 500 bucks)

    My brother who has a degree in Classical guitar said that to invert the list would give me his choices from top to bottom as to the best guitars. After an online search I'm leaning towards the Epihone Les Paul 100 which is about 300. Good choice? Any others to add to the list?

    I'll also need to be grabbing a practice amp and I'll want to keep that around 100 if possible and if you have "the one" I'd love to hear about it.

    j? Swish? Rick? Nobody? Anybody???

    Regards,
    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  2. #2
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Hey Jim,

    That's great. The Epihone SG or Les Paul are probably your best bet in that price range. I have an Epiphone Genisses and have always liked it. My Steinberger is much nicer but would cost much more. I'm not sure if they have an entry model. But if the do, it wouldn't really be "entry level." They make exceptional instruments. Here is their link. http://www.gibson.com/products/steinberger/

    They used to be here in Newburgh before Gibson bought them out and moved them to Nashville.

    Happy hunting.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  3. #3
    Rocket Surgeon Swish's Avatar
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    Well, since you asked...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    Mason (soon to be 14) has finally found something that he's pretty good at and likes to practice - guitar. So far he's been learning on an accoustic guitar but for his birthday/Christmas he'd really like an electric. He has a number of buddies learning guitar too which is part of my dilemma. My goal isn't to get him the best, but one that's suitable for a new player and at the same time won't make him owner of the crappiest axe among his peers. Several of his friends families have much more money than we do so having the "best" ain't going to happen.

    His guitar teacher gave us three options that he thought would be good:

    An Ibaneez starter pack

    Epihone SG or Les Paul

    A cheap Paul Reed Smith (apparently cheap here means 500 bucks)

    My brother who has a degree in Classical guitar said that to invert the list would give me his choices from top to bottom as to the best guitars. After an online search I'm leaning towards the Epihone Les Paul 100 which is about 300. Good choice? Any others to add to the list?

    I'll also need to be grabbing a practice amp and I'll want to keep that around 100 if possible and if you have "the one" I'd love to hear about it.

    j? Swish? Rick? Nobody? Anybody???

    Regards,
    jc
    I will tell you that crappy guitars are probably the main reason many give up trying. They're hard enough to learn without having to take your first lessons on a POS that would hard to play for an experienced guitarist.

    What's really funny is that my neighbor asked me to hide a guitar a my house that she bought her son for Christmas, and it happens to be an Epiphone Les Paul. Really! I can assure you that, for $300, it's not a bad buy at all. I was just tuning it up and played it for a few minutes, and assure you it handles just fine, with nice action and feel. I didn't plug it in, but would bet the electronics are going to be average, but fine for a young lad who is just starting out. I say go for it if you don't want to spend $500 on the PRS.

    As for the amp, I'm not sure what $100 will get you, but it won't be very pleasant in my opinion. I would try to stetch that a little bit and get a nice Fender practice amp that will run you about $200, may $250. I'll hafta do some research, because I haven't shopped for something like that in many moons.

    Good luck!

    Swish
    I call my bathroom Jim instead of John so I can tell people that I go to the Jim first thing every morning.

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  4. #4
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    http://www.music123.com/Epiphone-Les...0-i27928.music

    As I've learned, there are about 100 different Les Paul Epiphone guitars of varying prices. If it's not too much trouble Swish could you tell me if this particular model is cool? Apparently one of the differences that account for price is a bolt on neck vs. a built through (or whatever it's called). This model has a bolt on neck which is why it's 150 less than the one I saw at the store today. Personally I think that this may be the one in terms of value but if I was sure I wouldn't have posted!

    Thanks for all of the respones so far, much appreciated. Gmicheal, thanks to you too. I've started poking around your link but as you suspected, I think it's going to cost a lot more than I am really looking to spend. I guess I could cancel my Anthem AVM 30 order. Nah...

    Regards,
    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  5. #5
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    http://www.music123.com/Epiphone-Les...0-i27928.music

    As I've learned, there are about 100 different Les Paul Epiphone guitars of varying prices. If it's not too much trouble Swish could you tell me if this particular model is cool? Apparently one of the differences that account for price is a bolt on neck vs. a built through (or whatever it's called). This model has a bolt on neck which is why it's 150 less than the one I saw at the store today. Personally I think that this may be the one in terms of value but if I was sure I wouldn't have posted!

    Thanks for all of the respones so far, much appreciated. Gmicheal, thanks to you too. I've started poking around your link but as you suspected, I think it's going to cost a lot more than I am really looking to spend. I guess I could cancel my Anthem AVM 30 order. Nah...

    Regards,
    jc
    Noooooooooooo Don't cancel your Anthem AVM 30 order. The Epiphone will be a great starter. But I would opt for the model without the bolt on neck. Maybe they have changed over the years. But what I remember about these was that you would end up needing to tune it more often because of possible movement of the neck/head. I'm sure it's still a good model for a starter. And with such a good name it shouldn't be hard to sell when it's time to upgrade. Warning: musicians tend to keep all of their instruments through the years. Even when the upgrade bug hits you may have to pry that old one out of his hands.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular N. Abstentia's Avatar
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    $100 Won't get you much of an amp, I would get this one at a bare minimum:
    http://www.americanmusical.com/item--i-VOX-AD30VT.html

    I have the 50 watt version which is $359. It's seriously scary how good these amps are. It comes way to close for comfort to my $2500 Soldano amp. Honestly.

    For a guitar, here's a good alternative to Epiphone, which I don't care for:
    http://www.americanmusical.com/item-...-brand-89.html
    Plus it's $100 cheaper so you can get the better amp with it.

    Plus..let's face it. ESP is a much cooler guitar and he will get mucho points from his friends. Having an Epiphone is kinda like having a Fisher stereo.

  7. #7
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I bought one of those ESP's N. Abstentia mentioned for my wife just a few weeks ago...Nice piece.
    There's a lot of really good, cheap knock-off brands from China, Korea, etc that are just as good for pretty cheap too. For amps, I'd just go with those $200 Fender amps...You pretty much get what you pay for there. Tons of kids are getting by with those cheap 8" Peavey units, which do the trick nicely for next to no money. I'd hit a pawn shop and buy a used amp myself.

  8. #8
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    I got my kid a Fender G-DEC

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I bought one of those ESP's N. Abstentia mentioned for my wife just a few weeks ago...Nice piece.
    There's a lot of really good, cheap knock-off brands from China, Korea, etc that are just as good for pretty cheap too. For amps, I'd just go with those $200 Fender amps...You pretty much get what you pay for there. Tons of kids are getting by with those cheap 8" Peavey units, which do the trick nicely for next to no money. I'd hit a pawn shop and buy a used amp myself.
    It's a pretty whacky amp. You need to be a programmer to get the best out of it, but it does some seriously cool things like laying down a rythm track, and sounding like lots of different amps. About the only think hurting about it is that it doesn't have much power, but that can be a godsend when your little Angus Young wants to blow the windows out!
    Last edited by Geoffcin; 11-27-2005 at 04:27 AM.
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  9. #9
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Hi Jim,

    Long-time guitar player here. Over the years I've patronized Gibson and PRS mostly, so I know quite a bit about these guitars.

    First, you should know there are many, many forums out there geared towards guitarists and related gear, and you'll probably get more feedback there.

    When you say "cheap PRS" for $500, what you're talking about are the imports; good luck finding a genuine USA PRS for $500! The first one I bought was $3k, and I paid $8k for a customized one-off PRS. I don't know how good the imports are, but I can tell you they're nowhere near a USA made PRS, so make sure you keep that in mind when shopping.

    My advice: Your son needs to figure out what kind of guitar he wants. It depends a lot on what kind of music he plays, and what feels comfortable to him. Generally, Gibson-style guitars (usually with humbucker pickups) get better high-gain (distortion) sounds. Fender-style guitars (usually with single-coil pickups) get better clean sounds.

    That's a generalization though, and there are many ways to process a guitar signal so as to get a good sound no matter what.

    However, having a comfortable instrument is important. When I first started playing, my fretboard hand used to cramp up all the time -- I didn't know it at the time, but my hands were too large for the skinny little neck on the guitar I had. Also, guitars that are too heavy or poorly balanced can make it a lot less fun to play.

    Finally, there is a real art to matching guitars with amps so as to get a certain type of sound.

    So your son should really get out there and play a large variety of guitars running into a large variety of amps, so he can figure out just what he likes. The bottom line in the whole process should be: Does he really like playing that guitar through that amp.

    That's all that matters at this stage. And this is important, because if he doesn't enjoy playing right off, he's a lot less likely to continue playing in the long run.

    Good luck, and if you have any specific questions or more information about what your son is looking for, I'd be glad to help.
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  10. #10
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    I don't have anything to add here, but this small piece of advice: a friend of mine who plays a pretty standard guitar plays through something called a "VG-8", and he can make it sound like pretty much anything else, including bass and acoustic. Something to keep in mind for later on down the road.
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  11. #11
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Aye Carumba, lot's of people in the know here and it's very helpful, thanks a million.

    Some things I've learned and will follow-

    Amp will now most likely be bought at a pawn shop. This won't bother my son in the least especially if he gets a better amp out of the deal. My hundred dollar plan wasn't very bright but hopefully used I can keep it kind of close and still get a more substantial amp. I'm going to look really hard for something from Vox Valvetronix with Fender as a back up. I'm not going to work really hard at matching at this point. If I get a poor match (I doubt he'd know for quite a while) Mason has over a grand in the bank saved up and he can buy whatever he wants.

    The amp will be bigger than I planned but it will most definetly have a CD input and most importantly a headphone output. That should cover the Angus Young contingency. BTW, Geoffcin, how'd you know? Mason has my old ACDC records framed and on his wall.

    I'm very surprised to learn about the ESP and Epiphone/Fischer thing. I'd have thought it was the other way around. I'll see if there's any in town to take him to look at. I'm sure there are places here that have them.

    And finally, Mr. Anderson thanks for your great primer especially related to the PRS. I do have one question you could probably address: What is the reason/advantage of a semi-hollow electric guitar? Going through pages upon pages online I saw an Epiphone Dot semi hollow guitar (I'm sure there are other brands). The reason I'm asking is that for not much more than 300, this guitar had a set neck. Since the majority of guitars don't seem to be like this, it may not be suitable for rock but I figured I'd ask.

    http://www.americanmusical.com/item-...-brand-87.html

    Thanks again for all of the replies.

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  12. #12
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    A semi-hollow guitar is designed to give a more acoustic dynamic to the electric sound.

    It's quite possible to use them for rock (the Beatles did), but if your son is going to be playing high-gain/distorted at high volumes in a band, he will have a bigger problem with feedback.

    So it isn't necessarily optimal for rock (depending on how you define rock), but it's possible. It's better for jazz.

    Is that what your son is interested in? He should definitely try one out first, if so.

    BTW, I don't know if this is something you want to put under the X-Mas tree, but this isn't the kind of thing you want to surprise your son with.

    Don't rule out bolt-on necks, BTW. Tuning most likely isn't going to be a huge problem. In fact a lot of people explicitly prefer the bolt-on sound; it's usually associated with Fender-type guitars.

    What kind of music is your son going to be playing? If it's AC/DC type rock, look into getting an SG. My first guitar was a 1963 Gibson SG Junior with the P-90 pickup in the bridge, and it ROCKED. (I still have it in fact.)

    Here's the PRS import version:

    http://prsguitars.com/showcase/current/sesoapbar2.html

    Those black soapbar-shaped pickups are P-90s, and they get a GREAT crunchy rock sound. Think "Mississippi Queen".

    BTW, that's a guitar your son might look at. I haven't played one of those, but I bet they're pretty good for the money. You could probably get a used one for $300 or so.

    Plus, it's a PRS so it'll carry the prestige factor, if your son is interested in impressing his friends (and what 14-yr-old isn't!)
    Last edited by Mike Anderson; 11-27-2005 at 09:28 AM.
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  13. #13
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Here's a PRS SE (that's the Korean import) with the two soapbar P-90 pickups, on Ebay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/PRS-PAUL-REED-SM...QQcmdZViewItem

    The buy-it-now price is $350; it will probably go for less than that.

    That guitar will get a great rock sound. It will also be light, well-balanced, and fairly easy to play. So will this one:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/PRS-Santana-SE-V...QQcmdZViewItem

    If you wanted to try one out, Guitar Center carries PRS guitars, so if there's one near you your son could try them out there. Just keep in mind the difference between the Korean ones, and the U.S. ones, because the latter will be waaaaay too expensive!
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  14. #14
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    This shot has a good close-up of P-90 pickups:

    http://nvo.com/cd/nss-folder/pictures/shinytop.jpg

    That's my custom one-off PRS; designed it myself.
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  15. #15
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    Jim, don't have much time at the moment, but I'd say don't rule out a Fender comparable to Gibson's Epiphones, like a Squire. Don't know how much they are these days but for a starter...it's certainly not a Gibson, but a lot of people prefer Fenders for their versatility. I'm not big on Strats, but they seem to work for most people, and there are Squire Teles too. And I do think that in some ways only a collector or a longtime pro is going to be able to tell the difference. In fact, I've known a couple of extremely accomplished players who use Squires on stage unless it's a special occasion. Regardless of that, though, I do think that it's easier to try to get a Gibson-type sound out of a Fender than it is to get a Fender-type sound out of a Gibson. And I'm big on single-coil, I just think it's more versatile...Johnny Ramone got something I'd say is a humbucker sound, if not a Gibson tone, with a single-coil guitar not all that far off from a Fender. Same guitar the Ventures used, if that gives you an idea...it's going to depend on what it is he wants to do. I'll try to get back on this later...

    I don't like others.

  16. #16
    Forum Regular N. Abstentia's Avatar
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    No matter what guitar you decide on, I still think the Vox Valvetronix amp is the way to go for sure. It pretty much negates the 'guitar must match the amp' thing because it's an actual tube amp emulator that emulates 11 different amps. There are 3 Fender amps, 3 Marshall amps, 2 Vox amps, Mesa, Soldano, and Dumble. Will a $239 amp sound exactly like a $4000 Soldano or Dumble? Of course not, but it's mighty close and it's the most versatile amp I've ever seen for the price. It also has built in effects which themselves can lead to endless hours of just noodling.

  17. #17
    Forum Regular N. Abstentia's Avatar
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    Sweet PRS Mike! Hang onto that Singlecut like your life depends on it!

    Gibson's bullying tactics and lawsuits against PRS have turned me against any Gibson/Epiphone product forever...like subpar quality and overpricing wasn't enough reason

    Here's my PRS CE24, custom ordered in 1994. Cost me $1500 back then! That price ain't gonna happen these days!

    http://www.chuckamuck.com/guitars/pr...s/DSCF0079.htm

  18. #18
    Rocket Surgeon Swish's Avatar
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    I meant to tell you it's the Les Paul 100....

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    http://www.music123.com/Epiphone-Les...0-i27928.music

    As I've learned, there are about 100 different Les Paul Epiphone guitars of varying prices. If it's not too much trouble Swish could you tell me if this particular model is cool? Apparently one of the differences that account for price is a bolt on neck vs. a built through (or whatever it's called). This model has a bolt on neck which is why it's 150 less than the one I saw at the store today. Personally I think that this may be the one in terms of value but if I was sure I wouldn't have posted!

    Thanks for all of the respones so far, much appreciated. Gmicheal, thanks to you too. I've started poking around your link but as you suspected, I think it's going to cost a lot more than I am really looking to spend. I guess I could cancel my Anthem AVM 30 order. Nah...

    Regards,
    jc
    in cherry sunburst. I do like Les Paul's and all, but I don't own one at present. They're among the heaviest guitars you can buy, and having one slung over your should for an hour or so gets kinda nasty. This Epiphone model is a different story though, as it's slimmer and much lighter than the Gibby, and I think it's a good choice for your son.

    I did read J's reply about the Squire Strat and have to agree, although the Japanese version were much better than the latter Korean and Mexican made models. I owned a red Jap and it was excellent, and I could kick myself for selling the thing some 12 years or so ago. I paid about $230 for it at Sam Ash, with the case, and it was untouchable in that price range. I've played the Korean and Mexican versions and I think they really are a step down in quality, espcially in the electronics. They look and feel ok and are prolly fine or a beginner, but I still say the Epiphone is a good choice, so why muddy the waters any further.

    I think N.Abstentia's recommend on the Vox is also a fine choice if you're ok with the price. There just aren't too many amps that are worth buying for less than that, unless you can find a good used one, but you have to know what you're buying.

    Good luck,
    Swish
    I call my bathroom Jim instead of John so I can tell people that I go to the Jim first thing every morning.

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  19. #19
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by N. Abstentia
    Sweet PRS Mike! Hang onto that Singlecut like your life depends on it!
    Sweet, isn't it? That's the first Singlecut w/P-90s that PRS ever made. It also has a rosewood neck. It could be worth a fortune some day, but I'll never sell it.

    I've only seen one other PRS Singlecut w/P-90s (not counting the Korean models), although there may be a few more out there.
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  20. #20
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    You beat me to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    Amp will now most likely be bought at a pawn shop. This won't bother my son in the least especially if he gets a better amp out of the deal.

    jc
    I was just about to type this very thing. No, most male kids aren't going to quibble over whether or not something is used, as long as it works and advances their goal, and especially since he's getting a new guitar in the process anyway.

    Sounds like he'll have a great Christmas. And a noisy New Year

  21. #21
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    Mason (soon to be 14) has finally found something that he's pretty good at and likes to practice - guitar. So far he's been learning on an accoustic guitar but for his birthday/Christmas he'd really like an electric.

    jc
    What day is his birthday? I was born in late December and I always got the combo gift (you know: Happy B'day/Merry X-mas) and I thought it *SUCKED!!!

    *(note the lack of smiley? I'm still haunted by this.....)

  22. #22
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3-LockBox
    What day is his birthday? I was born in late December and I always got the combo gift (you know: Happy B'day/Merry X-mas) and I thought it *SUCKED!!!

    *(note the lack of smiley? I'm still haunted by this.....)
    December 24. Not really ideal, but what are you going to do? We work pretty hard to avoid the combo thing though.

    The trip to Guitar Center was eye opening and disappointing. We had a chance to play the Les Paul 100. the sales man plugged it into a 1,300 dollar Marshall amp to "show you what the guitar was capable of". Then, without our asking he brought in a 1,300 Gibson, "just to show the difference". It's goes without saying that even I could tell a major difference in tone. Then as salesmen do, he brought in a different epihphone, this time 200 dollars more to show how for "just a little bit more money" you could come awfully close to the Gibson sound. At this point, the damage was done. We are still considering our options. I'm going to Sam's Loan Office tomorrow to check out amps. We did try some amps yesterday and that Vox was pretty cool although the sales guy was pushing an Epiphone 10 watt tube amp for a mere 119. He pretty much didn't like the vox at all and I'm not sure why. Is that Vox a SS piece? I thought it was tubed too with a name like Valvetronic.

    Regards,
    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  23. #23
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3-LockBox
    What day is his birthday? I was born in late December and I always got the combo gift (you know: Happy B'day/Merry X-mas) and I thought it *SUCKED!!!

    *(note the lack of smiley? I'm still haunted by this.....)
    My mom's birthday is December 23rd. One year when I was still very young, I thought, hey, instead of buying mom two $20 - 25 gifts, why not get her one $40 - 50. This way she can get one nice gift instead of two crappy ones.

    Big mistake! I still have tire marks on my back from when she went up one side of me and down the other.

    Combo gifts do not work. They feel ripped off. Even if you spend twice as much, it doesn't matter.
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  24. #24
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    The trip to Guitar Center was eye opening and disappointing. We had a chance to play the Les Paul 100. the sales man plugged it into a 1,300 dollar Marshall amp to "show you what the guitar was capable of". Then, without our asking he brought in a 1,300 Gibson, "just to show the difference". It's goes without saying that even I could tell a major difference in tone. Then as salesmen do, he brought in a different epihphone, this time 200 dollars more to show how for "just a little bit more money" you could come awfully close to the Gibson sound. At this point, the damage was done. We are still considering our options. I'm going to Sam's Loan Office tomorrow to check out amps. We did try some amps yesterday and that Vox was pretty cool although the sales guy was pushing an Epiphone 10 watt tube amp for a mere 119. He pretty much didn't like the vox at all and I'm not sure why. Is that Vox a SS piece? I thought it was tubed too with a name like Valvetronic.

    Regards,
    jc

    Yikes Jim, you wouldn't take a girlfriend to the jewelry store would you?

    I always snoop around first and tell the salesperson my expectations first, and I always try to control the shopping experience. I know he's trying to make a living but what he did was sleazy.

  25. #25
    Nobody Special LeoFenderBender's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    West Linn, Oregon
    Posts
    57
    I have two suggestions: (1) get a name-brand guitar that (2) plays well. Keep in mind that electric guitars are easier to play than acoustics but electrics also need an amp. Acoustics are also more difficult to resell unless you buy much higher quality. When choosing an amp, determine whether he will need it to be loud enough just for practicing or for playing with others - there are plenty of solid-state amps with enough features to keep his interest.

    The best way to keep your son’s interest is by getting a guitar that plays well. If he already has the discipline to practice, get him something nice. If you (later) find he doesn’t have the discipline, getting a name brand will guarantee you will get more money back from the purchase when you resell it. Lesser makes will resell at significant discounts. Name brands are more readily snapped up in the used market.

    Some good quality electrics:
    Fender MIM (Made in Mexico) electrics – the Stratocaster is the best for resale - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; Anything made by Godin will be ready to play and are excellent value guitars - RECOMMENDED; The Yamaha Pacifica is also a good value but will be difficult to resell.

    Be prepared to spend around $50 on a setup – that will enhance playability and make the guitar play as well as it is capable of playing.

    Good luck!
    Cary Audio Designs SLP-05 Preamp [Sylvania 6SN7GTB]
    Cary Audio Designs CAD 500 Monoblocks
    Cary Audio Designs 303/300 HDCD [Mullard 12AU7s]
    Rotel RCD-1072 HDCD
    Luxman T117 Tuner
    Magnepan 3.6Rs
    JL Audio Fathom F110 subs

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