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So now you need a guitar...

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Initial post: Oct 12, 2011 6:38:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2011 8:25:46 AM PDT
Catbone says:
I have played the guitar, at times professionally, for about 40 years. I have also taught a number of people how to play guitar. And I have pre-ordered Rocksmith. It occurred to me this morning that this game is going to give a lot of people a reason to go out and buy a guitar. That is not something you want to enter into blindly.
Rocksmith involves really playing a real guitar. So a novice Rocksmith player is faced with the same challenge as any novice guitar student - what guitar to get. The problem is that at the onset, you don't know if you will take to the new activity, and continue to play the guitar. The temptation is to hedge your bet by spending as little money as possible on a guitar, just in case it doesn't work out for you. But the mistake that many novices (more often their parents) make is to spend too little, and end up with an instrument that is simply not playable. In doing so, the novice never has a fair chance to find out if playing the guitar is a good fit.
There are a lot of solid-body guitars available for less than $200, but there is a problem... To get a guitar to market at that price level, and still make a profit, it is necessary to cut a few corners - most importantly with regard to labor. Most of the construction of a solid-body guitar can be accomplished by robots and unskilled workers. But there are certain finishing steps and adjustments, known as the "set up" that must be made before the instrument can be usable. They include leveling the frets, dressing the fret ends, and adjusting the neck angle, truss rod tension, and bridge. Those operations require a certain amount of skill, and are not done at the factory on guitars that are intended to sell for $120. This also applies to any guitar sold on TV by a guy dressed like Zorro, and guitars they sell at discount big box stores.
Rocksmith works by "listening" to the pitch of the notes coming from a guitar. That means the guitar you use must be capable of being tuned, and staying in tune. A cheap guitar, such as described above, simply will not work. Not only will the guitar not play in tune, it can be difficult or even impossible for a novice (and often a professional) to finger all of the notes needed. Also the "I can always trade up later" argument does not work. Music retailers will not accept instruments in that price range for trade-in or consignment.
The publishers of Rocksmith are offering a bundle for $199 that includes a guitar - in other words, a $120 guitar. There is always a chance that they worked out a deal with Gibson whereby the guitars will be made playable prior to shipment. If you are contemplating that route, I suggest that you wait until a few days after the product starts shipping, and read the reviews.
So what do you buy? Your best bet is to move up-market just a bit. Starting at around $225 on-line and at music stores, you can get a guitar in Fender's Squier series that will fit the bill. And there are other brands in the $200 to $500 range that make excellent student instruments. You may still need to get some minor adjustment done, but you will have something you can actually use. At music stores, all the guitars they sell are set up to be playable.
What about that guitar in the attic that Dad has had since high school? You may have something very usable. But count on taking it to a local music store for re-stringing and adjustment. Plan on spending $30 to $100.
Speaking of strings, they will occasionally need to be changed. If a guitar is in storage, electric guitar strings become useless after about 3 years. For the purpose of playing Rocksmith, you can probably count on about 50 hours on a set of strings.
You may want to avoid acoustic-electric guitars. These are hollow-body guitars that just happen to have an electronic pickup. Some of them are great instruments - I own a few myself. But using one for Rocksmith means that you will hear the sound coming from the guitar at the same time as the sound coming from your gaming system. That could be a bit distracting.
One last thing. Regardless of brand, the majority of electric guitars are built to resemble either a Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, or Gibson Les Paul. The Telecaster-style and Les Paul-style guitars generally have the connector for the input cable at the bottom edge of the body. This is not a problem unless you intend to play sitting on a couch. Doing so is uncomfortable, and can cause damage to both the guitar and the cable. Unless you plan to do all of your playing standing up, go for a Stratocaster-style instrument. They usually have the connector on the front of the body.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2011 6:55:57 AM PDT
This is good advice, generally. Les Paul guitars seem to be proportioned for standing play more than sitting, and they tend to be heavier which could be a problem for newbies. A Squier Strat is probably a decent choice for this game for beginners, although I would not discount the Tele, despite the jack location.

An Epiphone SG might be a good choice, too, but spring for the G400 if you can. From what I've read, it tends to be a higher-quality build than the one with the bolt-on neck.

I would suggest newbies avoid First Act guitars at all costs, though, with the exception of the Garage Master that VW gave away with new cars a few years ago, or the now discontinued Paul Westerberg model.

This will be interesting. I've got a crappy cheap guitar I built from parts and a couple of moderately-priced ones I've spent some time and money upgrading. I know the flaws of the cheap guitar, so I'm wondering how well Rocksmith will respond, especially when compared to my better axes.

Posted on Oct 18, 2011 8:15:13 PM PDT
Big Wayne says:
-------- classical acoustic guitars ? . . .

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2011 6:55:32 AM PDT
Neil says:
If it has a pickup, I don't see why not.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2011 7:57:18 AM PDT
Big Wayne says:
-------- well, of course, it doesn't . . .

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 8:31:09 AM PDT
Neil says:
Better to find out before you buy rather than after...

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 8:53:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 19, 2011 8:56:55 AM PDT
The problem with the more affordable brands is build quality consistency. While you don't HAVE TO spend a grand on a made-in-the-USA Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul, you need to make sure the Squier or Epiphone versions of these instruments are built somewhat correctly. In my 20 years of playing guitar (and buying them) I have found that the USA versions are all built fairly well, give or take. The Chinese/Indonesian cheapies are extremely hit-and-miss. Aside from a downgrade in wood, electronics, and hardware quality, the time spent actually making each instrument is drastically reduced on budget instruments. While a $3,000 USA guitar might be built from hand-selected woods, superior hardware and electronics, and spend a lot of time in the hands of an experienced luthier being finished, a $300 Epi or Squier is made from the lowest-priced parts, the most readily available woods, and is quickly passed through the hands of an unskilled foreign worker who has to meet a quota on, say, the number of guitars he or she can string in one hour. And the hardware (most notably the tuning keys and bridge) need to be of adequate quality or the instrument will never stay in tune. I think one reason novice players who buy cheap guitars quit so quickly is because they can never keep their guitar in tune. It's no fault of their own; they just have a super-cheap guitar that is so poorly built that nothing will fix the tuning problems outside of spending more money than the guitar's worth on new hardware and installation fees.

Before dropping a couple hundred dollars on a new Epi or Squier, you might seriously consider a better quality used instrument as long as the music store guarantees it against defects and will agree to restring it and set it up free of charge. And make sure you demand it be set up properly... that's extremely important for playability (is the action [how far the strings are from the fretboard] too high or too low?), longevity of the instrument (is the neck bowed?), and sound quality (are the pickups leveled correctly so they are not too far from the strings and sound weak, or too close to the strings and "pull" the strings out of tune?).

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 9:29:58 AM PDT
C. Evoy says:
I guess it's a good thing I have a qualty guitar store in my area (This game will probably also help business for them as well). Right now I have a cheapy (My husband bought it for me as a gift) and when I need to replace it, I'll certainly be buying something much better. Then I'll just get the guy at the store to help me (believe me he knows a lot about guitars and isn't trying to fleece people out of all their money).

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 10:06:58 AM PDT
Catbone says:
As it turns out, pricey guitars can be a bit tricky on Rocksmith also. The first guitar I hooked up was a '95 American Standard Stratocaster LE - by no means an entry-level guitar. Stock Fender pickups from that era were notoriously wimpy, and I could not get it past the "Make Some Noise" phase of the setup. I then hooked up a '08 Standard Telecaster and had no problems. The Strat also worked fine in actual gameplay mode.

And C.Evoy, you are right. Patronizing your local mom & pop music store is the way to go.

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 11:25:52 AM PDT
Snapper says:
I have a modified Epi LP Stanard (Chinese made). I've had it since 2007 and have been playing it regularly since I got it (probably 20 hours per week minimum). I changed the stock machine heads to the Gibson Kludson style ones and the bridge was changed to a Gotoh one. The other mod was the bridge PU. I went with a Gibson BB2. I had absolutely no problems with using this with the game.

If you don't already own a guitar and want to get into this to start out, you should see if Guitar Center has a demo setup. You could then pick a guitar you like and maybe have one of the employees try it out and see if the game likes it (for those that can't play yet or are too embarrassed to play with others watching).

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 1:06:42 PM PDT
Neil says:
I have a Epi LP Custom Silverburst (made in Korea) with the popular '57 Classics. I find the build quality to be pretty good (it stays in tune), but it won't be mistaken for a Gibson LP in terms of feel.

Posted on Oct 28, 2011 12:21:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2011 12:22:21 PM PDT
I tried my acoustic guitar on this game, and got it to work using a microphone and mixer
while listening to headphones. The output level of the mixer has to be low (1-2 bars).
However, an electric guitar works better.

Behringer Xenyx 802 Premium 8-Input 2-Bus Mixer with Xenyx Mic Preamps and British EQs
Audio-Technica M4000S Handheld Dynamic Microphone

Posted on Oct 29, 2011 4:44:43 AM PDT
Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul Collection Electric Guitar, Ebony

I own and play this guitar am using it to play Rocksmith. I highly recomend this guitar. Stays in very well. I'm no guitar expert but I have owned more guitars that I ended up not playing; and frankly this is the only one I enjoyed playing. At the price you cannot beat it for your first guitar. I agree with previous comments though. Certain brands feel different. Go to a guitar shop and hold each of the various brands. Fret a string, play a riff etc. In my time with the guitar I have found that if you don't like the way it feels and plays and you will not be encouraged to learn.

There are cheap guitars and value guitars in the under $250 price range. If you are frugal but want something of suprisingly good quality then I reconmend that Epiphone above. It is far superior to my Strat Squire that I bought in some starter pack way back when. Epiphone seems to have a better intro line of guitars than most brands in my opinion (and mistakes).

Posted on Nov 5, 2011 8:09:15 AM PDT
I have also owned a Squire Strat and would NEVER recommend it. Skip it, do your research and determine the best choice for your budget and style. But avoid the Squire Strat. I recommend the Ibanez RG2EX1. Brand new on is $299. It is leaps and bounds ahead of the Squire in tone, feel and quality.

Posted on Dec 2, 2011 10:20:51 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 2, 2011 10:25:40 PM PST]

Posted on Sep 28, 2012 8:38:32 AM PDT
I would recommend a used guitar that's in good shape. I've got a 1989 Ibanez S540 I use to play the game. It only cost me $400. It's extremely easy to play, has great sound, and has stayed in tune since I last changed the strings on it over a year ago. It was also made in the usa. I also have an Ibanez arc100 (made in china) that I use to play the drop D songs. It's decent, only cost me $200. There is a huge difference in quality vs the s540.

Posted on Oct 6, 2012 6:28:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 6, 2012 6:31:48 PM PDT
Carl Sagan says:
"I have also owned a Squire Strat and would NEVER recommend it."
Yet millions of other happy Squier Strat (at least spell it right) owners ALWAYS recommend it. The Ibanez is a nice guitar, but it is NOT leaps and bounds ahead of the SS in any way, shape, or form. The worst advice anyone can ever take is something that is so clearly nonsense. Fender would have exited the guitar business a long time ago if what you were saying had ANY validity. You either got a bad Squier, have no idea what you're talking about, or are an Ibanez employee/fanboi. It really can't be anything else. My Squier Strat was $76 (shipped) on [that famous auction site]. It works perfectly in RS, and I'll bet it has better tone than your 26 year old Ibanez. Best of all its made by Fender and thus is not a "me too" Japanese clone from the Reagan era.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2012 11:49:29 AM PST
Carl - would you recommend buying from "that famous auction site" in terms of guitars? I admit I'm asking due to not knowing what I'm doing in terms of guitars. (I do own one - went to a store and played with it and bought it with many recommendations - but own an acoustic.) I will be taking guitar lessons with a real person and want to play acoustic so am not looking to spend much money on what will be a guitar strictly for RS play, so thought maybe online might offer options. The $76 shipped sounds appealing since I'm really interested in playing RS but haven't since don't have the guitar for it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2013 11:25:58 AM PST
R. Monroe says:
I don't understand what the problem is playing a Les Paul guitar sitting down? I have done it for years without a problem. My schecter also has a jack at the bottom and I can play it sitting on my couch. I don't recommend sitting on the couch and playing, I have a players stool that is much better, but I just don't see the problem with it. I never damaged my input jack. This is the first time I have heard that.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2014 9:27:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2014 9:36:26 AM PST
Nathan Foley says:
I recently purchased a Squire Affinity Tele as a project guitar. I've since replaced the pickups, tone pot, bridge and string tree, and it's turning into the tele I've always wanted. But, straight out of the box, I was amazed at how good it sounded, and more importantly, how good it felt to play. I've been playing off and on for about 15 years, and I've always shied away from Squires. They seemed poorly built, never stayed in tune, and were generally unpleasant. But I have to say, if you're a new player trying to stay on a budget, a Squire built within the last year or two might just be a good move. Fender REALLY seems to have stepped up their game in the Squire line. Most impressive were the pickups, which had a very full, clear tone, not muddy like most of the cheap pickups they put in budget guitars. The vol and tone pots weren't the greatest, but they didn't crackle, and the 3way switch worked like a charm. You can find relatively inexpensive used Fenders and Gibsons online, but if you don't want to spend the time or take the risk involved in a used instrument, I'd say a new Squire (or a midrange Epiphone) will do just fine for a beginning to intermediate player.

The best advice I can give to a new player, don't buy a guitar online. Go to a shop and play one for yourself. Set a budget, and play as many guitars as possible within your range. Pay attention to how it feels in your hands when you play. Comfort is key. Then if it has good tone plugged into an amp, that may be the one you're looking for. You may be able to find good deals online, but for a first guitar, without trying to sound to new-age-y, you almost have to let it find you.
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Discussion in:  Rocksmith forum
Participants:  16
Total posts:  20
Initial post:  Oct 12, 2011
Latest post:  Feb 26, 2014

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