SMG TIPS: The Art of Acquiring
Guitars, Part 2


How much would you be willing to spend on a new guitar? The most subjective answer here. What would you use the guitar for? Are you a working musician or toying around in your home? How serious are you going to get with it? What else are you planning to invest into it? Time….money….other gear?

These are questions which you will have to answer for yourself. On the question of saving your cash for that Gibson or American made Fender guitar versus going with an Epiphone or Made in Mexico (MIM) Fender….I have something to say on this subject.

I personally own both an Epiphone Les Paul Standard and a MIM Fender Stratocaster. I received the Les Paul as a gift, while the Strat was acquired through negotiating a great deal. I would love to own a Gibson Les Paul someday, however I will likely never have one because I cannot justify the cost. I don’t have that kind of a budget, or the need.


My infatuation with the Gibson Les Paul came about because I grew up with the idea, that a Gibson Les Paul was the Rolls Royce… the industry standard… the one that all others aspired to be. Same with American Fender guitars. Now when I got my Epiphone, I was very pleased with it. As a matter of fact, I would go even further and say that I loved it. But after a while, I noticed a couple of things about the guitar that I thought could be better. So I started making some minor changes to it.

The Epiphone cost $500 dollars (though as I previously mentioned, I scored it as a gift). So the first thing I did was to get a hard shell case. Then some strap locks, and while I was at it, I upgraded the pickups, pots and caps. I also had the frets dressed, due to two of them being a bit higher than the others from the factory setup. I also took the guitar to my favorite Luthier to get a professional set up. After the upgrades, I had spent a little over $400 dollars. Some of these things didn’t NEED to be done. I just did them to improve the guitar for my type of playing. Now all together, the total cost of the guitar was still less than $1000 dollars for the guitar when factoring the original cost plus the modification.

No, it’s still not a Gibson, but it’s been in the hands of several Gibson players…. a few of whom were sorry they had spent more than double the amount I had spent on their guitars after playing mine. One guy was very surprised that an Epiphone played and sounded so good. I have said many times since making the modifications to the guitar that it will stand side by side with ANY equivalent Gibson model that retails for double the price. That being said…YES I still want a Gibson! But I am very happy with my Epiphone Les Paul and I will likely get another, as I think they are excellent guitars…. especially since they don’t break the bank!


My very first guitar was an American made Fender Strat. Even if I still had it, it would not be fair to compare it to my MIM Strat. When it was made back in the late 60’s there was no such thing as the MIM version. I can say this….the one from back in the day was perfect. Not a single thing was wrong with that model. My MIM Strat has some MINOR flaws in the finish. Just some ripples that you can see when you look real close or when the light catches it just right. Other than that….no issues with the guitar. It plays and sounds great!

I would like to believe that today’s American made Fender Strats are quality instruments. It is my belief that the mid-level to upper-end Epiphone models as well as the MIM Fender guitars are worth purchasing. I would also highly recommend buying an Epiphone or MIM Fender and make a few modifications and customize it to your liking. I realize that doing this puts the cost at or close to the same cost of the higher-end models, but you would ultimately have a custom guitar just the way you wanted it, or you have a stock Gibson or Fender. One thing to note, it should not and DOES NOT matter who or what name is on a guitar. It DOES need to be made of quality materials and hardware. Quality workmanship and assembly makes a huge difference. The tone, feel, and playability are much more important than who’s name is on the guitar. Sometimes the names are a bit over-rated.


Some people will still have to have the best and most expensive model out there and that’s just the way it is. Do you need to have a really expensive guitar? Nothing wrong with that. Some folks can justify it and some can afford it. And if you can… that is great. There are retailers that sell only high-end guitars. But are they really worth the money? Only you can decide that for yourself as that is a matter of perspective. I personally view these guitars as works of art in their own rite. As high-end guitars are made of very select, exotic woods and materials. Handcrafted, and in limited production. Sometimes, they can be the only one of it’s kind. So figure out which is best for you… an Epiphone LP, MIM Strat or that new Gibson or Fender Custom Shop limited edition 1 of 25, hand-signed on the headstock with Certificate of Authenticity!
To be continued…


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