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Good budget/student guitars

05 Sep 02 - 08:24 AM (#777398)
Subject: Good budget/student guitars
From: Willie-O

I did some looking around yesterday for a guitar for one of my kids. Here's what I found, might be useful. Prices are in Cdn$ before taxes, divide by 1.5 for US equivalent, cases extra for all of them.

Full-size Yamaha F310, ply top, but sounds, plays and looks good. Really doesn't sound like a cheap top. $165. Good buy if you don't mind the top and the size suits the player. Least expensive solid-top Yamaha (at this dealer) is an FG432, $299.

A surprise to me, Fender makes a nice small-bodied dreadnaught style 14-fret-to-body, with a "concert spruce top", model is GS12 but it's a 6-string, and 14 frets to the neck. I quite liked this made-in-China guitar. Nice top, nice playing feel. I hope the "Fender" markings all over the pickguard are only on the decal. $289.

I also tried a Larrivee 12-fret slotted peghead parlor guitar, which was just totally scrumptious, maple sides and back, spruce top I think, with no binding whatsover but just lovely to look upon, and playing it gave me insight into what afficionados mean about the different and better sound qualities of a 12-fret design. Way out of the price range at $950 Cdn.

Another dealer which specializes in Seagull-Simon & Patrick-Art& Lutherie (all the same company, made in Quebec) was also a worthwhile stop. Two Seagulls were definitely good buys at $319 each:

  • Seagull Grand, small parlour size guitar, 14 fret, cedar top, nice feel and sound.
  • S6 Folk, still a fairly small bodied guitar, but larger than the parlour, about OO size, also 14-fret cedar top.

Another small bodied one from the same dealer--Simon & Patrick I think-- is probably a good seller at $270 with onboard EQ, but a cheap and nasty sounding black plywood top. Didn't try it plugged in, but I wonder what quality the electronics can be at that price.

The best used guitar I found was a Sigma DM1ST on consignment for an asking price of $375. Were I looking for one for myself, that's likely the one I'd buy.

The only really inexpensive student-model, child-size guitars I saw were "Oscar Schmidt by Washburn", very narrow fingerboard and short scale. Suitable for kids not teenagers. $121

Overall, based on the preference for a small-bodied, short-scale, but aesthetically pleasing instrument, the Seagull Parlour size would be my top pick, and the Fender GS12 probably the second.

I'm probably not going to buy any of these due to late-breaking developments, but since I did all this looking around figured I'd share the results with you.

Anyone else looking to outfit a student?


05 Sep 02 - 09:59 AM (#777441)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Alice

I have this site for student instruments. CLICK $28.99 for a "Santa Rosa 31" 1/2 size guitar. This 1/2 size nylon string acoustic guitar featuers a 31" scale, a natural maple top, a mahogany fingerboard, mahogany back& sides, a zero fret, and a slotted headstock. 90 Day warranty." The other prices are $119.99 for an Abilene, full size acoustic, $99.99 for an Abilene standard sized classical, $34.99 for a 3/4 sized Santa Rosa acoustic. Drawback is that you have to buy online to try it out but can ship it back within the 90 day warranty if you don't like it.

05 Sep 02 - 11:57 AM (#777493)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Mooh

(Alice, I think there's a typo in the description. The scale length is more likely 21". 31" is longer than a short scale bass. But a great link eh! Thanks! Even with Cdn exchange rates, there're a few deals there. Most of us could use a budget instrument(s) for loan or whatever purpose.)

Willie, thanks for doing our homework! I get these questions about availability of quality beginner instruments all the time. You've saved me some time.

My experience of the low-end Yamahas, from students who pass through my door, is not good. The leap in quality to the mid-range ones is substantial. However, the Seagull family of instruments, some quite inexpensive in Canada at least, is uniformly good. Their La Patrie classicals are a steal. The new line of Fender flat-tops is quit acceptable compared to their usual attempts, though they're not as cheap perhaps.

I usually suggest that people try out a few used instruments from reputable shops, and I will test-play an instrument for someone if they ask.

Peace, Mooh.

05 Sep 02 - 01:24 PM (#777563)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: KateG

I bought an Alvarez Regency Folk (RF-20) small bodied guitar about a year ago to get my fingers and brain back to the point where I could 1) decide if really wanted to go back to the guitar after a 30 yr hiatus, and 2) evaluate a really good guitar when/if I was ready to buy. The Alvarez was recommended to me by a local lutier who makes, repairs and sells Taylors and Martins, and I have been very happy with it. Nice action, good intonation, and a pleasing sound...if a bit on the intimate side. It cost about $250 with a second-hand case. I mostly play finger-style accompaniments to folk songs, and its worked well for me. Even if I do move up (I had my hands on a Taylor 414 recently and was in serious lust), it will still be a good loaner and campfire guitar.


05 Sep 02 - 01:47 PM (#777583)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Mudlark

Thanks for all this good info. Living so far from town means that in the summer I have to do a lot of travelling with my guitar, often stopping for town chores, etc. as well, if I'm going to be playing at the convalescent home. With temps often over 100 I'm loathe to leave my Martin in the car for more than a few minutes, so am on the lookout for a good "2nd" guitar...I will definitely look at that Seagull!

05 Sep 02 - 10:18 PM (#777856)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Willie-O

Yeah, I have a definite prejudice towards a real guitar--something with more to recommend it than six strings and a somewhat playable action. The Seagulls, the Fender (to my surprise, Fender despite their electric guitar cachet is not highly regarded for their acoustic instruments)and IMHO the Yamahas fit that bill.

Mooh, what kind of bad experiences have you run into with cheap Yamahas? Any particular model? They have made some very decent guitars over the years, especially in the pre-Martin-lawsuit era of course.

I don't know where all the used guitars have gone--no place I know in Ottawa has a decent selection now. Maybe they're all going south like the tractors. I don't doubt it. The giant sucking sound is stuff that gets bought for Canadian dollars up here and sold for US currency south of the US border.

Of course, there are occasionally good $100 guitars out there--private sales generally, and you'll never find one when you're in a hurry. I like to have a loaner guitar like that hanging around for the vaguely interested.

Did like that Sigma though. Anyone interested, it's at the Ottawa Folklore Centre.


05 Sep 02 - 11:53 PM (#777890)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Mudlark

At least you are in Canada, home of the Seagull, etc. Down here in Calif. they are sometimes hard to get.

06 Sep 02 - 08:02 AM (#778031)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Mooh


Cheap Yamahas? Action more like a square neck dobro. Not straight from the store generally, but within a year. I've seen several over the past few years which needed a neck reset (ie, absolutely no saddle height left to work with after the neck relief is set), and I've personally setup several by trussrod and saddle adjustment. These were mostly ply tops except one classical which was a lousy factory setup if I ever saw one. Now, I'm not in the business of guitar repair, I'm just a lowly instructor who provides the service to my clients only. Two of these instruments were returned to the retailer.

Having said this, of course I've seen some very worthy cheap Yamahas too, but the same odds don't apply to the Seagull family in my experience. Though I expect that humidity, or lack thereof, might be a contributing factor in these cases, I've seen enough to recommend other guitars.

Particular model numbers? I haven't committed these to memory, sorry, but I could find out easy enough. Now that I think about it, I'd bet these offending instruments were all bought at the same store within the last five years...Oh oh...

The much older Yamahas tend to be better. The ones which have lasted this long usually need a good setup but otherwise are quite good.

I agree about that giant sucking sound. I live in an area which gets alot(!) of tourist traffic in the summer and inexpensive merchandise just vaporizes. Touring musicians from the US and the UK have been known to pick up those Seagull/S&P/LaPatrie etc guitars.

Want to know where to find some of those used guitars which haven't "gone south"? Call some former guitar students. There must be millions of ignored guitars under teenager's beds. They sure weren't at the yardsales this year!

Peace, Mooh.

06 Sep 02 - 12:54 PM (#778161)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: GUEST,mollywog

I've got a sweet little Baby Taylor that's really wonderful--it sells for US$289.00 (at the place I work, anyway) and comes with a nylon gig bag.

I'm a wee little thing and it's a 3/4 size guitar with a very nicely narrowed fretboard and quite a full sound for such a small guitar (it's got a sapele laminate back & sides...looks as pretty as it sounds!). I guess it's a bit more than the others listed here (esp. as it's in US dollars), but it's really a lovely, decent quality little guitar. Just FYI. :D

Those Seagull/Simon&Patrick/Art&Lutherie guitars also seem really popular, and a pretty darn good deal.


06 Sep 02 - 12:58 PM (#778164)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: GUEST,mollywog

Oops...forgot to say that the top is sapele laminate mahogany, too. (They also come with a spruce top. There are other woods available (back & sides) for a little more...maple, bubinga, rosewood, koa laminates...but I think the all-mahogany sounds the best, anyway, which is convenient as it's the lowest in price ;)).


06 Sep 02 - 03:05 PM (#778229)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: GUEST,Bman

I'd like to take another tack entirely here...I learned to play on cheap guitars almost exclusively, mostly on a Harmony Stella. If you can make a mediocre instrument sound good, you can make anything sound good. And there's something to be said for the funky sound you get out of cheaper instruments. I say don't invest too much in a guitar that your kid may play a week or so and then put down forever; get something adequate but cheap. If he really wants to play, he'll figure out how to get the best out of it, and once he's committed, you can look at getting him something of a higher quality. Just my two cents. (I still have a Harmony neighbor got it out of a dumpster and gave it to me. I also have a hand-made Tim White, which is much nicer than I deserve.)

06 Sep 02 - 03:38 PM (#778242)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: GUEST,Marion

Never mind the guitars, what are the late-breaking developments?


21 Nov 02 - 08:42 PM (#832102)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Annie

I just purchased a Fender TG-4 three quarter size guitar for my 8 year old nephew and I'm very pleased with the quality, appearance (natural, playability, and sound considering it only cost $175 US. Elderly Instruments has them in their online catalog at It tunes well, frets well and is easy to finger pick. It had been set up very nicely and came with light gage strings - but I think I'll put extra light gage on it for a beginner.

Regards to all holiday shoppers,

22 Nov 02 - 05:27 AM (#832315)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: mooman

As a part time repairer still (and once full time), I'd say the LaSiDo family (Simon & Patrick, Seagull, Art & Lutherie and Norman) represent pretty good if not excellent value for the price.

Having tried a few lately, I would add a recommendation for a fairly new make for steel string guitars although they have been making classicals for years...Alhambra. To me these are better instuments for the price than even the LaSiDo family.

I'd also second Kate's endorsement of Alvarez (I presume Alvarez Yairi). These are really excellent if you can find one at the right price. Certainly Ani DiFranco still makes a glorious noise with her set of A-Ys (at least from hearing her live last year).

All the best mooman (Lakewoodophile....but these have jumped in price recently from what I can see)

22 Nov 02 - 09:07 AM (#832466)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Genie

I have a 3/4 size Ibanez that I carry when a full size guitar would be too cumbersome. It sounds pretty good and has at least as many frets as I ever use on my full size guitars. It seems like a good prospect for a child (or anyone with really small hands) to learn on.

For cheap guitars that sound reasonably decent (as student guitars), I might suggest a few models by Rogue and by Sigma that you can buy from Musicians Friend for $100 to $150.

I bought a couple of acoustic-electric Sigmas for $249 each, which I use as my "everyday" guitars (keeping one in my trunk most of the time and the other at my parents' home). They both sound pretty good and have pretty good action and would make good student guitars.


22 Nov 02 - 11:23 AM (#832598)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Willie-O

Well, Marion, since you asked only three months ago, the development was that Em enrolled in a high-school credit guitar class, then dropped it a week later. So I stopped looking for a guitar for her in any kind of urgent way. (The urgency was really that I was letting her take my Martin to school cause she didn't have her own box!)

Hi Annie! Shopping for nice smallish guitars for nice smallish people is one of life's pleasures. Less stressful than looking for one in the grand-and-up range, that's for sure. I looked up the TG-4, and note that TG stands for travel guitar, but it's not one of those bodiless skinny things, it's just small. But what the heck are "nato fingerboard, sides and back"? Nato sides? Fill in the punchline here. Is this wood?


22 Nov 02 - 05:46 PM (#832942)
Subject: RE: Good budget/student guitars
From: Willie-O