What The Hell Is An 'Affordable Guitar' Anyway?!

Well it usually means one of three things   28-May-12

What The Hell Is An 'Affordable Guitar' Anyway?!
I think this beauty is affordable, but do you? (Pic: Gibson)

Sometimes as a guitarist it’s hard to wade through all of the marketing buzzwords and actually get to the heart of a product. So many things are labeled as ‘affordable’ or being made for the ‘popular market’, but what the hell does that actually mean?

From my time spent on the receiving end of many a glowing press release, I’ve almost developed an internal thesaurus for translating these words or phrases into what they actually mean. It’s like the urban dictionary of PR slang.

I have a close relationship with many marketing managers at a lot of the big and small guitar companies, and those I adore the most don’t revert to this slang too often. Mainly because they’ve got the products to back up the goods.

But I want to discuss this word, ‘affordable’, to me it means absolutely nothing exactly, but it usually has one of three intended meanings:


  1. When used by a high-end manufacturer - This is our attempt at making a product you won’t have to remortgage your house for. But you still might have to sell your car to buy it.
  2. When used by a mid-market manufacturer - We’ve managed to get hold of some really cheap parts, you’re likely to get a Rice Krispies guitar, it’ll play well but the pots might go ‘snap’, ‘crackle’ and ‘pop’.
  3. When used by an entry-level manufacturer - We got the cheapest parts we could find, and then got some guy to cobble them together. Don’t expect any sound from the 12th fret upwards.


The ‘popular market’ phrase is worse, it’s a way for a company specialising in expensive guitars to make it sound as if they’ve made a product just for you, the poor musicians! That’s just it, a lot of people who buy Gibsons are collectors, underpaid musicians are perhaps less likely to own a Gibbo.

The company have marketed a few series of guitars now as the ‘working man’s Gibson’ or a Les Paul for the ‘every man’. I’m paraphrasing there, I can’t remember the exact phrases but they are along those lines, it’s really not important what the exact buzzwords are.

They are still guitars that most would have to save up for, and that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but every time a Gibson press release lands on my desk with such a phrase, I get so excited.

I should read down to the bottom first and check out the retail price, but I always read the spiel. Gibson spiel is the best, because if any company is well placed to make sweeping claims about how important their guitars are, it’s going to be Gibson, arguably one of the most iconic brands in the world.

To offer dirt cheap guitars might just lessen the value of that brand, who knows.

My point is that it really is different for everyone, which kind of makes it a cop-out phrase. Instead, shouldn’t manufacturers be focussing on selling their products on the basis of value for money? 

There are certain guitars that are known to have good value for money, good bang for buck. These are my favourite, and they’re not always cheap. A lot of Gibsons fall into this category, a bunch of Fenders, LTDs, PRS SE, and many many more.

We should be celebrating this, and I know we often do as guitarists. The Fender Modern Player series has blown me away, and one of the best guitars I’ve ever played has been an Epiphone, followed closely by the Gibson Les Paul Studio (which I guess would be affordable to a large cross-section of people).

These are the real ‘every man’ guitars, and in some ways that makes them more valuable than the collectors editions, because they get played every damn night and chucked in the back of a tour van, and most of the time, they survive.

Long live good value for money.


Amped Editor



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