Should I Upgrade My Guitar or Buy New? – 145

Should I upgrade my guitar or should I buy a new or used one?

Well, that depends on two things.

1. The guitar you already have
2. What your current situation is.

Taking both of these into account is the trick to making the right decision and getting the most out of your money. And we will do this by running through the three main reasons that I've heard students give for getting a new guitar and seeing if the guitar you already have is worth working on or just making the big leap for a new one.

After that, make sure you stay till the end, where I help you prepare for the main issues that you will deal with after you make that big decision and start upgrading or buying guitars.

Figuring out what is wrong with your guitar

Here are the three reasons I usually hear before Guitars are purchased.

  1. My guitar doesn't play well.
  2. My guitar doesn't sound right.
  3. I just want something else.

Let's start with the first one: My guitar doesn't play well.

"I bought this guitar. I want to like this guitar. But, It doesn't feel right." Have you ever run across this? Your guitar feels like it is fighting you when you want to play.

Here is a few reasons you might be dealing with this and what the best course of action could be for your situation.

It's not set up correctly. This is the big one.

Electric guitars can be adjusted to play a million different ways. You can give me a perfectly playable guitar and in a few minutes with a few Allen wrenches, I can make it completely unplayable. I can make you hate that guitar after a few strums.

Acoustic guitars, while not as user friendly to adjust, can have nut slots and bridge height incorrect and make playing a real drag.

No, you don't need a new guitar or an upgrade. You need a setup. You will never know just how good your guitar can be until you have it set up for you.

Any upgrades to a guitar that is not set up correctly will not solve your problems.
Find a local music store or luthier and get your guitar set up correctly before you make any big decisions.


It's design isn't correct for your purpose

This is where it gets tricky and depends on your situation. This happens a lot with new guitarists. You buy a new guitar because it is affordable and looks the way you want. But when you try to play certain styles of music, it falls flat.

Not all guitars can do all things. You will most likely not be able to play shred speed licks on a big box hollow body guitar. The issue is that as a new guitarist you didn't know that some guitars perform differently. You just got a guitar.

So do you start to upgrade your guitar to make it do things that it wasn't intended to do in the first place.

In this instance, I don't think it makes sense. There is a big learning curve to upgrading guitars and it can get expensive. It's a fun hobby to have. But, if this is to be your main guitar, you are taking a risk that may not turn out the way you want, and will definitely take more and more of your money.

Once you are skilled enough to know what style you want to play and that your current guitar wasn't designed to do that, spend the time to find out what the common guitars of that style are, and get one of those. In the long run, you will save yourself a ton of time, money, and frustration by just taking a few steps back and getting the right tool for the job

It needs repair

Your guitar isn't in working order. Some cheaper guitars come with their own set of problems that a new guitarist wouldn't know to look for.

Misaligned necks, Improperly routed bridges or pickups, bad fret jobs, faulty wiring, warped necks, cracked headstocks.... on and on.

A lot of newer players don't know the difference and keep playing these guitars thinking that the guitar is supposed to play that way. So frustrating.

A guitar that doesn't ever play right is no fun and can lead to quitting.

So what do you do, do you scrap it or repair it. What you need is someone knowledgeable to give you their opinion. If it is an inexpensive faulty component that by replacing or upgrading can fix a big problem, it could make your guitar play like never before.

But you always have to weigh the cost as well. If the price of your guitar is no where as much as the cost of repairing it, you may want to look at something else that doesn't have those kind of problems.

It doesn't sound right. This one is so frustrating.

Your guitar doesn't sound like the songs that you want to play. There are several reasons this could happen.

It's not being used correctly

The adjustments of the controls of your guitar can vary the sound tremendously. If you do not understand how to use the volume, tone, and pickup controls correctly, you may be so close but so far away from your desired sounds.

This requires some research and experimentation. Spend some time trying all of the combinations of settings. And, spend some time investigating and asking questions about how your favorite players use the controls on their guitar.

If after that, you find that you are still no where close to your desired sound, It's time for a well planned and researched purchase of a different instrument.

It's not the right style pickups for your purpose

Electric guitar pickups are a huge topic all to themselves. Two of the same type of guitar, with two different types of pickups, can sound nothing like each other.

If your guitar is the right type for your style and you like to play it, but it just doesn't sound right, an investigation into what pickups are installed and what pickups are common for your style of music can be just what you need.

Definitely an upgrade is in order here.

Pickups are fairly easy to replace. There are good affordable aftermarket pickups available. And, if you aren't happy with the change, they are very easy to put right back in.

Pickup replacement is a very easy way to get started upgrading your guitar where a little bit of effort can give you big immediate results.

It needs adjustment or repair

The way a guitar is set up can effect the sound as well. If your pickup height is too low, your guitar wont sound loud and strong through an amplifier.

And if your pickup height is too high, you can get weird harmonics with an out of tune sound on your low E string.

If your nut slots are too tight, you can get pinging string sounds and strings that slip out of tune at a moments notice.

This is another instance of getting an outside opinion before you make any decisions.
You could have something small adjusted that would make your guitar play amazing, or it may not be worth the money. Your money would be better spend on something else.

I just want something else. (There is nothing wrong with your guitar)

You want more than this.

Sometimes you need to have a few guitars. I get it. I understand. Is that so wrong?
Having a backup guitar, especially when you are starting to play out, is a very smart thing. Strings break and electronics cut out mid performance. Having a guitar on standby is a very smart idea.

Having a few different guitar can help with inspiration as well. Some guitars just make you play differently and it can be refreshing.

It's not the right tool for the job

You may want to be able to cover different tones for different styles of music. And trying to make one guitar cover all of those different styles, rarely sounds convincing.

It's not fun to play

Sometimes it's just a bad match. It could be the width of the neck or the way the body is shaped. It could be the tone wood itself that doesn't sound good to you.

In this instance, I would replace this guitar immediately. Sell it. There are good affordable guitars out there. Life is too short to waste time playing something that's no fun.

These are my recommendations for either upgrading or buying a new guitar.

Thanks for staying around and here is a little bonus about the main issues when upgrading or buying new guitars

Upgrading issues

1. You won't get the money back that you put into the guitar.

2. It can be a rabbit hole. The search for the best components for a stat, for example, can be never ending.

3. On the flip side, it can be a lot of fun. so take it slow and easy.

Buying new or used issues

New guitars may not be set up the way you like

You could think it is a crap guitar but with a few turns of the truss rod it becomes fantastic. Don't turn down a guitar just because it didn't feel right the first time you played it.

Pay attention to things that you like about guitars that aren't adjustable.

  • scale length
  • neck width
  • weight
  • tone woods
  • the type of bridge you like
  • Fret wire

Nuts, fret height, saddle height, truss rods, pickups, tuners, strings, can all be replaced and adjusted. When buying a new guitar, try to see through these as they may not be setup the way you like, and pay attention to the things that aren't adjustable that can make or break the way you feel about a guitar.


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