Are Higher Quality Guitars Easier To Play?

If you are looking to buy a new guitar you may be wondering, “Are Higher Quality Guitars Easier To Play?” This is a good question to ask yourself when considering a purchase. Let’s take a look at what a high quality guitar is and see if quality guitars play better than budget guitars.

Are Higher Quality Guitars Easier To Play?

Are higher quality guitars easier to play? Yes. A guitar built with quality tuners will hold the guitar in tune better. A guitar built with a quality bridge will support the strings and hold intonation better. A guitar built with a quality truss rod will hold the neck in the proper position better. A guitar built with a quality neck and frets will play better. A guitar built with quality wood will provide better sustain and sound. A guitar built with quality pickups will provide a better frequency response. All of these things are parts that make a guitar. The quality parts that go into a guitar will provide a guitar that will play better, sound better, stay in tune better, and provide years of playing enjoyment. A quality guitar will do all of these things well. Higher quality guitars will do some of these things even better. More money won’t always equate to higher quality but a properly built guitar with quality parts will always give you a high-quality guitar.

What Makes A Guitar High Quality?

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Ahh, but quality and beauty aren’t the same, are they? Or are they?

Tuning

For me a quality guitar is a guitar that will stay in tune when I play it. I mean really play it. Bend those strings, use the whammy bar, pull the neck, and strum hard if you want.

A quality guitar will hold tune when you do these things.

Sure, all guitars will need a little tuning from time to time but you should be able to focus on playing more than tuning.

Feel

How’s that guitar feel in your hands?

The strings should lay down close to the frets and feel good when you fret a note and slide your hand up the neck.

The frets should not be sharp and scrape your fingers when you play the guitar.

The guitar should feel comfortable in your hands and be a well-made tool for creating music.

Sound

The guitar should sound great! Not just good but great!

Isn’t this why you are playing guitar in the first place?

You want a guitar that sounds great. Whether it be an acoustic or electric guitar, it needs to sound great.

Good pickups and good tone woods really make a difference.

Playability Or Action

There are some guitars you can pick up and they are easy to play.

This is because the guitar has a proper setup, the strings are sitting at the proper level and the frets are filed, level and polished.

A guitar with the action set properly will always be easier to play.

You will enjoy playing a properly setup guitar more than an expensive or cheap guitar that is not properly set up.

This will also improve your practice times.

She’s Gotta Look Good

Say what you want but, she’s gotta look good if you’re going to spend quality time together.

Now what looks good to me and what looks good to you are probably two different things.

That’s OK… Find the one that appeals to your liking and if you fall in love, (you’re going to fall in love), you will have the one that you like and the one that you want.

Video Credit: Paul Davids

Cost Factors When Building A Guitar

Let’s look at some of the cost factors involved with building a guitar.

Whether you are building the guitar, or a factory is building the guitar these cost factors are involved.

Tuners – Let’s talk more about tuners.

Tuners are a very important part of the guitar or any stringed instrument.

Tuners play a big role in helping the guitar keep it’s tuning.

If you buy a guitar with cheap tuners, then your guitar will not stay in tune.

If your guitar won’t stay in tune, then you won’t play it.

Neck – The neck of the guitar is a very important part of the guitar.

The neck of the guitar needs to be built from quality hardwood that will help the neck hold its shape and provide excellent sustain and tone.

Inside the neck of the guitar is a truss rod.

The truss rod allows you to adjust the bend or relief of the neck.

The relief of the neck helps you set the action of the guitar.

If you use a cheap truss rod or cheap wood to construct the guitar neck you will end up with a guitar neck that can’t do its job properly.

Setting Frets In A Guitar Neck

Frets – The notes you play depend on the frets.

You want a guitar that has good frets set properly into the neck, filed frets for comfort, and polished.

Frets are not overly expensive, but it takes talent and skilled labor to properly set the frets.

If the frets are not installed properly this will kill the playability of the guitar.

Wood – High quality wood sounds better.

You can build a guitar out of cheap plywood, or you can build a guitar out of quality tone woods.

Sure, either will work to create a sound.

But they won’t sound the same. Tone woods will sound better.

The way a guitar is braced, hollow body, semi hollow body, or a solid body guitar will sound different with different wood.

Pickups – All pickups are not created equally.

You can wind wire around any magnet and generate a signal to produce a sound.

Or you can wind a certain kind of wire around a certain kind of magnet and produce a signal with a great frequency response to give you a really good sound.

Certain companies have perfected this sound and your ears will know the difference.

One day you will pick up a guitar and strum it and your ears will say, “That’s the sound I’ve been looking for!” Your mouth will start watering and you won’t be able to put that guitar down.

It’s the same way with different woods.

Bridge Hardware – Not as sexy, but very important.

You need a good bridge and hardware to support your strings, set your action, and set your intonation.

The bridge and the neck work together to set your action.

The action is what makes your guitar play easier and keeps the fret buzz down.

Internal Wiring, Volume And Tone Pots, And Jacks – Cheap wiring and electronics will frustrate you.

You need quality electronics and wiring to help your guitar sound it’s very best.

Cheap volume and tone pots, and switches will be full of static and noise.

Good quality electronics will sound good and will not have the popping, static, and hissing noises.

Keep in mind, single coil pickups will have some noise in them.

Skilled Labor – Who do you want to build your guitar?

Let’s say we are going to build an airplane.

We know we are going to be jumping off a cliff and trying to make this sucker fly..

Who do we want to help us build this airplane? Someone with experience and cares about our outcome OR someone in a rush and really doesn’t care.

Well, I want someone with experience and someone who cares about the outcome.

My point is guitars built by people with experience and skilled labor are going to do a better job at building a guitar.

Skilled Laborers cost more money.

Factors That Make A Guitar Easier To Play

There are several different factors that will make any guitar easier to play.

Low Action

Action is the distance of the strings from the neck and the way the strings and neck interact together.

It’s also called action because your fingers will be pressing the strings down to make contact with the neck which causes the strings to touch the closest fret.

You will find a guitar with low action more comfortable than playing a guitar with high action because you do not have to press the string down as far to make contact with the neck.

This is also why it’s important to have frets at the proper height and frets that are level across the neck.

String Gage

String Gage is the thickness of the guitar strings.

Most guitarist play string gages anywhere from 9 gage to 14 gage strings.

The 9 gage strings are the more lightweight strings and are the easiest to play. The 14 gage strings are the thicker strings and require more finger strength to push the strings down.

Depending on what you do for a living (how strong your hands and fingers are) and how long you have been playing guitar will depend on the string gage you might prefer.

If you are new to playing guitar you will probably prefer a 9 or a 10-gage string. This is because you will find it much easier to press the strings down and make good contact with the neck and forward fret.

Neck Shape

There are several different guitar neck shapes. C, D, V, U, and variances on each of these shapes.

The neck shape refers to the back of the neck that your hand wraps around.

Everyone has different finger lengths and different hand sizes so different guitar neck shapes have been developed through the years to try and accommodate different preferences.

Different Guitar Neck Shapes

I think the most common necks you will find on the market today are the C and D shapes. You can easily find the other style necks as well.

My point is that you will want a neck that feels comfortable in your hand.

A neck that accommodates the length of your fingers.

Find the neck shape that feels good to you.

Body Shape

Electric and Acoustic guitars come in all shapes and sizes.

The size and shape of the guitar body can affect the way a guitar sits in your lap when you are sitting and the way a guitar feels when you are standing up.

The most common shapes you will find with electric guitars are Stratocaster, Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul, SG, Double Cutaway, Single Cutaway, Hollow Body, Semi Hollow Body, and Custom shapes.

The most common shapes you see with acoustic guitars are Mini, Parlor, Grand Concert, Auditorium, Dreadnought, and Jumbo.

The different shape and size of the guitar can affect the way a guitar feels to you when you play it.

Weight

The weight of a guitar can affect the tone and sustain.

Heavier guitars are usually solid body design and are usually found on electric guitars.

On the flip side acoustic guitars and hollow body electrics are hollow and weigh less.

Some people prefer a lighter weight guitar for comfort reasons.

Guitar Scale Length

The guitar scale length refers to the length of the guitars neck.

A longer scale length spreads out the frets and gives you a little more room for your fingers.

A shorter scale length places the frets a little closer together and may be better for someone with shorter fingers.

The most common guitar scale lengths are around 24.75 inches – 25.5 inches.

Of course, there are shorter and longer scale lengths.

Give The Guitar A Playability Test

If you are thinking about purchasing a guitar, go down to your local music store and ask if they have that guitar in stock.

Pick it up and see how it feels in your hands.

Play the guitar some and see how it sounds.

Does it feel good to you?

Do you like the way it looks?

You will know pretty quick if it’s not the one for you.

Try out some other guitars and compare the differences.

If you are looking at acoustic guitars pluck the low E string while the guitar is hanging on the wall.

A good acoustic guitar will ring out the low E note with clarity and sustain.

I would avoid the acoustic guitars that sound dead and plastic like.

Try out some different guitars to get an idea of what feels good to you.

Can I Make A Cheap Guitar Easy To Play?

Can I make a cheap guitar easy to play? Yes, there are things you can do to any guitar to make the guitar play better.

Take the guitar to your local music store or a local luthier and let them know what problems you are having with the guitar and let them know you would like to have a setup done on the guitar.

An experienced guitar tech or luthier can adjust the action, the neck, the bridge, the nut, and make sure the guitar is as playable as can be achieved.

Cheap Guitar

A guitar built with cheap parts will continue to give you problems.

Notice, I said a guitar built with cheap parts and not a cheap guitar.

Poor quality tuners will not hold your guitar in tune.

A guitar neck that is built incorrect will not hold its shape.

A bad fret job will need remedied.

Poor quality pickups will not sound great.

Cheap wood will not sound as good as quality tone woods.

Yes, you can make a cheap guitar play better but you will always be fighting the guitar to do the basic functions.

Why not spend a little more money up front and get a better-quality guitar that you can work with?

Mid-Level Priced Guitars VS High End Guitars

We all have different budgets and different size wallets and purses, so the term mid-level priced guitars and high-end guitars mean something different to each of us.

So, in the interest of simplicity let’s just say a mid-level priced guitar is $800 – $2,000 and a high-end guitar is anything over $2,000.

What is the big advantage of playability between a mid-level priced guitar and a high-end guitar at these price ranges?

Well to be honest with you, there is going to be very little difference in the playability between guitars in these price ranges.

Playability meaning is it going to be easier to play.

Some folks think that if you spend more money on a guitar, it will be easier to play.

The truth is you can spend $300 – $500 dollars on a guitar and get a proper setup done on the guitar and it will possibly play as good as a $1000 – $2000 dollar guitar.

If you have a guitar that has decent hardware it can be setup to play very nice.

When you spend $2000 dollars or more for a guitar you are buying more than just playability.

Gibson ES 335 Hollow Body Guitar

You are buying great tone woods, book matched woods, quality craftsmanship, very nice electronics, a certain sound from your pickups, and the list goes on and on.

I believe you get what you pay for in most instances. Yes, sometimes a brand name cost a little extra but my experience with musical instruments and recording gear is that the time-tested brands are worth every penny.

You will learn this too as you start to play and record your own projects.

Certain guitars have that sound you hear on your favorite albums. And when you hold a guitar in your hands, and it sounds like that sound you have been looking for you will have a huge smile on your face and possibly a little drool running down your chin.

Relevant Article: What Is The Most Versatile Guitar

What Is A Guitar Setup?

If you are new to guitar, you may be wondering what a Guitar Setup is.

A Guitar Setup is when you take your old or new guitar to a luthier, or an experienced guitar tech and they give your guitar a tune up.

Just like your car needs a tune up… So does your guitar.

The action will be adjusted so be sure and tell the tech how you like the action. Most people like low action.

The frets will be filed and polished, so they are smooth and level. This will help eliminate fret buzz and the frets will not have sharp edges on them.

The nut will be checked to make sure the strings are not binding as they pass through to the tuners.

You bridge and intonation will be set to help with the action and make sure your guitar is staying in tune all the way up the neck.

The electronics will be checked, and the tone and volume pots may be cleaned, and the height of the pickups set just right.

The relief in the guitar neck will be set so that it has the proper amount of bow or relief.

The tuners are checked to make sure everything is tight and holding the guitar in tune.

These are just the basics involved with a proper guitar setup.

If you have never had a proper setup done on your guitar you should. It will make your guitar play and sound so much better and you will find your guitar is more enjoyable to play.

Cheap Guitar Parts Won’t Preform Well

Cheap guitars are built with cheap parts.

Cheap tuners will not hold your guitar in tune.

Cheap electronics will pop and hiss and annoy you.

Cheap pickups sound ok but not great.

A cheap guitar neck will drive you absolutely insane because of the fret buzz and the inability to keep the guitar tuned right.

The list goes on and on.

You know what’s crazy? Most people start out on a super cheap guitar and are trying to learn something difficult and really don’t stand a chance.

If your guitar won’t stay in tune, you’re going to not want to play that guitar.

If your action is way too high, you’re going to be working too hard to press the strings down and get tired of that pretty quick.

If your action is too low or your neck needs adjusted, you’re going to have fret buzz or dead notes and get super frustrated.

Do yourself a huge favor and get a decent or even a nice guitar to start out with. You will thank me later!

A More Expensive Guitar Will Not Make You A Better Player

A more expensive guitar will not make you a better player.

You want to know what will make you a better guitar player?

Practice. Practice will make you a better guitar player. As your skills develop you will probably want to invest in a better guitar.

I know I did several times over and over… But, that’s OK. I absolutely love guitars and love to play them.

If you want to be a good guitar player invest in a good guitar and practice every day.

You do not have to spend a fortune on a guitar but get a good one. Invest in yourself and your time.

Do Expensive Guitars Sound Better?

Yes. Yes, they do!

They sound like butter dripping slowly down the side of warm pancakes with lots of syrup and bacon. Hot crispy bacon that melts in your mouth and smells Ohh Soo Good!

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“Expensive guitars tend to be built with higher quality components and have fewer manufacturing flaws, which make them easier to play than very low end guitars.”https://guitarandbass.com/are-expensive-guitars-easier-to-play/#:~:text=Expensive%20guitars%20tend%20to%20be,unnoticable%20to%20most%20guitar%20players.
“The shape of your guitar’s neck is super important when it comes to determining how easy it is to play. This is also known as the “neck profile”, and it simply refers to the shape of the back of a guitar’s neck.”https://prosoundhq.com/why-are-some-guitars-easier-to-play/
“The better guitar will do everything better. Every single piece of it is higher quality generally. IT uses better tuning keys to stay in tune. It uses better wood on the neck and body which will sound better and it’s been made with more precision, quality control and time spent on it by a craftsman rather than shot down the line and out the door. The fret leveling, way the fingerboard and so on is attached. The pickups are tons better etc. etc.”https://www.quora.com/What-makes-expensive-guitars-easier-to-play-on
“Expensive guitars are expensive usually because of the brand name, the higher quality control, and the pricey woods/materials and electronics. The price of the guitar dosnt necessarily reflect the playability or tone of the guitar.”https://www.reddit.com/r/Guitar/comments/5xpfrp/newbie_are_expensive_guitars_easier_to_play_or/
“I would say that different types of guitar may be easier to play depending on the individual. This will depend on the weight of the wood, the shape of the neck, width of the fretboard etc. For example I have played nothing but strats for years, the other day I picked up a Les Paul and found it so wide and chunky that it was really uncomfortable to play. It all depends on what you prefer.”https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=372933
“Cheap acoustic guitars can be harder to play because of issues in manufacturing. Common problems include high action (larger distance between the string and fretboard), sharp frets (making it difficult to hold strings down), and warped bodies. These can make playing painful for beginners.”https://sandymusiclab.com/are-cheap-acoustic-guitars-harder-to-play/
“The answer is yes, expensive guitars will most likely always be of better quality than cheaper guitars. The detail in which the guitars are made, the type of materials used and how well the adjustments are made is what increases the quality of a guitar, therefore the price.”https://rockguitaruniverse.com/expensive-vs-cheap-acoustic-guitars/
“The quality of the ingredients makes an enormous difference. All of the craftsmanship in the world is not likely to make a guitar made of Oriented Strand Board or Plywood sound better than the same model made out of choice Alder, Basswood, or Birdseye Maple.”https://midlifeguitar.com/cheap-vs-expensive-guitars/
“Guitars with wider necks are generally harder to play. Especially if you have really short fingers.
On the other hand, too narrow necks can also make some guitar players struggle. The bottom line is that neck width plays a big role in an overall playability of a guitar.”
https://guitarunit.com/why-are-some-guitars-easier-to-play/
“When you are new to playing guitar, and learning the basics e.g. basic scales (major, minor, pentatonic) and open chords the fretting of notes (e.g. pushing the strings against the fretboard) requires hand strength and the skin at the fingertips to harden which can take time.”https://theacousticguitarist.com/are-acoustic-guitars-really-harder-to-play-than-electric/

Final Thoughts

In the long run better guitars are easier to play and they stay better guitars.

You don’t have to upgrade the tuners, you don’t have to upgrade the pickups, you don’t have to upgrade anything.

All you have to do is play and enjoy your guitar.

If you enjoy playing, writing, recording, and producing music then you are in the right place.

Take a minute and have a look around my website. I have a lot of great articles that will help move you in the right direction.

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Are Higher Quality Guitars Easier To Play?”

  1. This is actually a very interesting question and you have explained the reasons extremely well as to why a higher quality guitar is easier to play. I only really considered the fact that a better quality guitar will give a better quality sound, but had considered the ease of playing on a higher quality guitar.

    The fact that one doesn’t have to tune your guitar all the time if it is a better quality, is such an important aspect. You can save yourself a huge amount of frustration by getter a higher quality guitar. And in the long run, you will save money with the better quality as you don’t have to replace it as quickly as a low quality guitar. 

    Reply
  2. Many beginners prefer to buy a cheap guitar in the early stages, and they plan to wait for their guitar playing skills to reach a certain level before purchasing any better guitar.

    Unless you want to hang your guitar on the wall as a decoration, that very cheap guitar is completely produced by the manufacturer according to the standard of producing furniture. It can be said that it is just a sounding toy and cannot be called a musical instrument. There is no guarantee of intonation, and the sense of touch is also very poor. A cheap and poor-quality guitar may ruin your road to success.

    In my opinion, the criterion for purchasing a guitar is not whether you are a novice, but your financial situation and the price/performance of the guitar.

    It is more necessary for beginners to use a good guitar, which is more comfortable to play and has a better tone. If your financial situation does not allow you to buy a solid wood guitar, a middle-priced plywood guitar can also be your first choice, but don’t buy that very cheap “fire stick”.

    Reply
    • You are exactly right.  Most people will buy a cheap guitar to start learning with.  The problem is that a cheap guitar will make it more difficult for a person to learn with because they are always fighting the guitar.

      Reply
  3. Hiya,

    Thanks for the really useful article. I have a very cheap guitar. It is so low quality that my muso firend who was temporarily without a guitar for a short while decided he would rather not play at all than borrow my cheap guitar!

    He also makes his own guitars sometimes and this article has given me a real insight into the level of detail that one needs to go into in terms of the quality of each part of the guitar when building one.

    Good point too about how expensive guitars don’t make you a better player! ITs all about the practice!

    thanks!

    Bren

    Reply
    • Hi Bren, Practice makes perfect if you want to be good at anything. 

      The way a guitar is built and the quality components that go into a guitar make all the difference.  Yes, you will pay a little more for quality components and skilled labor to build the guitar but in the end, it is well worth the extra cost.

      You don’t have to spend a fortune on a guitar to get a higher quality guitar.  If you have the extra money to spend and want to treat yourself then go ahead and get yourself the guitar you really want. 

      Reply

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