From time to time we like to do live events here at Worship Tutorials – it’s a great way to interact with you, and it’s a great way to do some Q/A. One of the questions we get asked almost every single time is this: What is the best cheap guitar?
So, in the video above, Bryce and Brian talk about the best (in their opinion) budget guitars and amps – both acoustic and electric. Here’s a table of contents in case you’d like to skip through:
- 00:00 – Introduction
- 00:49 – Best budget acoustic guitar
- 06:05 – Other great options for acoustic
- 06:52 – Best budget electric guitar
- 13:08 – Other great options for electric guitar
- 18:22 – Best budget amps
- 23:10 – Other great options for electric guitar
- 24:35 – Our thoughts on ‘cheap’ and how much we think you should spend on a guitar and/or amp
Links to products we mentioned:
Best Budget Acoustic
We unanimously like the Martin 000X1AE. You can buy one new here. They run $569 brand new, but you can get them for less used, which we always recommend if you can find used gear in your area.
The 000X1AE is a smaller bodied Martin, especially if you’re used to a dreadnaught style acoustic, which is the most popular style out there. We like it because it is extremely balanced tonally, and it feels and plays very nice. We’ve played multiple examples of this model, and they all seem to be very consistent. They also have electronics built in and actually sound very good plugged in, despite the piezo system (typically piezo systems don’t sound so great).
We really feel this is the best bang for your buck out there in acoustic guitars, although there are certainly other budget options that are nice. We’ve had luck with Seagull guitars, as well as Epiphone Masterbuilt guitars.
Best Budget Electric Guitar
For this one, the answer came to us quickly and easily: Used Fender Standard Telecaster (Mexican made). Buy one new here. They are $599 brand new, but used you can get them easily for $300-400, depending on how patient you are.
The telecaster is arguably the best electric guitar ever made. Of course, you could make valid points for other guitars, but the tele has stood the test of time. It’s a simple design that is easy to build well (which means cheaper versions of it are still well built), it’s easy to use, it feels great, and it sounds great. They are extremely versatile instruments that can do literally any genre of music. Because they are so popular, they are also very easy to find on the used market.
If a tele isn’t quite your thing, we like the Epiphone Standard Les Paul (as well as Agile Les Paul style guitars). An honorable mention goes to the Xaviere line of guitars from Guitar Fetish. The Squier Vintage Modified line is also nice, but for the money, we’d probably pick a used Fender Standard.
Other considerations on guitars
A few points to note when shopping for acoustic and electric guitars…
- Always try to play a guitar before you buy it. Feel is extremely important with guitars, and every guitar feels different. Find one that you like.
- Remember that you can pay someone to do a ‘set up’. This usually costs around $50, and it will make your guitar play and feel it’s best. Typically when you pick up a guitar off the wall at a store, it does not play or feel nearly as good as it could with a proper set up.
- If you’re new to guitar, find a friend or guitar teacher who has more experience to shop with you. They will be able to play a guitar and tell you if it’s a quality guitar or not.
For amps, we focussed on two distinct sounds that are very popular in modern worship these days – we’ll call them the American (Fender) sound and the British (Vox) sound. We focussed on 15 watt tube amps as those seem to be the best fit for a church venue (large or small).
For the American sound, we like the Fender Blues Junior. Buy it new here. It goes for $529 new, but used is found much cheaper. This one is very much like the Fender telecaster – tried and true. It sounds great and is reliable. Because there are so many of them out there, it’s not hard to find a good deal on a used one.
For the British sound, the Vox AC15C1 is tough to beat. Buy it new here. It goes for The AC15 has also been around for decades and has an iconic sound that works very well for pop/rock styles.
Again, there are many more options for budget amps, but these two are the cream of the crop in our opinion. We also like the Vox Night Train, which is basically a head/cab version of the AC15.
Another great option for an amp is a used POD (HD500 or HD500x) by Line 6. The learning curve for great tone is a bit higher, but they really do sound good if used right.
Thoughts on ‘Cheap’
When we started to think about our picks for ‘cheap’ guitars and amps, we probably considered a different budget than many of you may be considering. Every guitar/amp we picked comes in around $300-400 on the used market (and we think you should look for something used). We know many of you may be thinking cheaper – more like $100. We’d advise you to re-consider that.
We’ve played lots of guitars, and over the years we’ve realized something. If you buy the cheapest of the cheap, the guitar will always fight against you. It will never be in tune. It will be difficult to play. Especially as a beginner, this can be extremely frustrating. We landed on the ~$350 used number on purpose: it’s not the bottom dollar, but it’s also attainable. If that seems like to much for you, we feel it’s worth your time to save a little more.
We also chose guitars that have great resale value. If you buy used, you’ll be able to get your money back if you decide to sell it later on.
What are your picks for a cheap guitar and amp? Let us know in the comments!
Hey Guy I have to say thank you for this review it helps so much as I venture into this world of music and worship. First I did leave a website on the sheet, but it is not music related. I own a Christian Martial Arts dojo. So music is something I am just getting into. I need a better electric. One of my students was cool enough to loan me their Starcaster their parents bought for them, and it has been fun but does lack what I want. I have gone to different “box” stores and a pawn shop and played some nice things.
For a electric/ acoustic My mom (who does play for worship) had an Esteban guitar. It is a starter kit guitar but has a really nice sound. I have played with a friend who has a low end Fender acoustic and both of us agree this one just has a richer sound. Just my two cents from the peanut gallery.
Hey James – I’m a huge believer in using what is available to you, and either of those guitars can sound and play well if set up correctly. But, I think the guitars we’ve mentioned in this video would be a huge step up for you if you ever get ready to upgrade.
Great reviews. I was under the impression the amps you mention were mainly for electric guitars. If so what would you recommend for an acoustic electric? I’m using a Marshal acoustic amp now, but am alway’s looking to upgrade. On a side note I’ve ordered the PADS and can’t wait to use them in worship.
Hy Bryan – I honestly have never really used an acoustic amp in the past. I’ve always just plugged straight into the house system. I know LR Baggs and Fishman are two really well respected names in acoustic amps, but I couldn’t really make a recommendation since I don’t play them.
Hey guys….big thanks to u!!! I just picked up a cheaper Indonesian thin line tele. Had it set up the right way, and when I plugged it into the Helix. I was about to pass out. The tone was amazing. Very Gretsch sounding to me. I will use this weekend for our worship set. I totally agree with the statement Bryce made about the difference between the Tele and the strat. They own their own tone territory The Helix and the Tele are amazing worship combo….
Excellent hard work with this. I really love the Fender Standard Telecaster, like you mentioned. I’m a worship leader myself and teach music lessons (guitar, piano, and singing) at my church. I lessons while using my Tele. It’s awesome 🙂 God Bless
Great video, this year end I will buy a guitar to play in my church. Firstly I have to telecaster, but I also consider the jazzmaster as an option, what do you think?
Personally I’m a big fan of the telecaster – if I were going to choose one vs the other, I’d pick the tele for sure.
Brian, have you ever considered the vox lil night train? If so what are your thoughts on it?
Brian I need some help. I think I made a big mistake. I lead worship mainly on acoustic and wanted to step up my game. I bought a Fender Deluxe Roadhouse strat and a fender custom deluxe reverb reissue amp. I’m worried that the fender and can’t obtain the overdrives that of Hillsong, bethel, Jesus culture etc. I probably should have gotten a vox. What are your thoughts? Also the amp is noisy! I may sell it on Craigslist or reverb.
Hey Marshal – a strat through a Deluxe Reverb is an awesome combo – you can definitely get those tones. You need a tube screamer 🙂
Hello Brian, I was wondering what acoustic guitar you use for your tutorials. (the acoustic with a black pick guard). Thanks.
Hey Caleb – it’s a Martin D-35.
Love the Guitar fetish semi-hollow year I have. Also really like the Fender Super Champ XD.
Hey Brian! I am considering a Fender Standard Telecaster special edition with two humbuckers instead of single could. Do you think the quality would be good?
Hi David – the Fender Standard stuff is usually pretty solid. If you’re buying used it may need a setup, though.
Thanks! By the way, you’re spot on with the Martin recommendation. I got one, and its a great guitar.
I’m a short gal and a terrible time trying to find an acoustic that sounded full and not bright. Martins still did fit right with my stature, but I do love their tone. I finally found the right fit – Fender Paramount. Oh man. Just the right size and the sound is great with a beautiful low end that I couldn’t get out of most of the smaller guitars.
*Martins DIDNT fit right.
A very helpful and great article about Guitars. The key factors are really very informative. I agreed with this fact that both of the musical instruments are versatile and both have their own advantages as well as complexities.
how much is it to make a guitar from scratch (excluding the neck) like your blue Tele? and what kind of wood did you get for the body?