Attention parents: Here’s why you should never buy a Rs 3 – 3.5K acoustic guitar

The period of lockdown has been cataclysmic for most of us, with people wondering what to do with their time.

During this period, I have received umpteen calls from children and parents asking if I also sell guitars. My answer in the negative must have been a disappointment for them but I did also guide them about what they should look for while buying a guitar, and why a Rs 3,000 – 3,500 guitar is a recipe for disaster.

I have told them, and all who ask me, that in India, the starting range for a passably good guitar is Rs 5,000. Anything below that price is a wastage of money. With, say, a Rs 7,000 guitar, you spend once and have the instrument last a lifetime and beyond.

Here is my reply to them in greater depth, explaining my reasons for shaking my head at cheap instruments.



It’s actually a no-brainer. Why does a simple sponge cake at your corner bakery cost ‘x’ and at a reputed bakery 10x? A simple answer would be that it is primarily due to the quality of ingredients used in making the cake.

While that is true, another aspect is that at the up-market bakery, they try to protect their reputation. ‘Reputation’, you ask?

Yes! The upmarket bakery realises that its clientele is used to a certain quality and any compromise on that quality would mean losing that clientele. And so, the upmarket shop invests in maintaining that quality by investing in good ingredients, and particularly in workers, who can maintain that level of quality, for only when the workforce understands the concept of quality, will they produce a quality product.

Now, read the above few paragraphs, replacing the word ‘acoustic guitar’ with ‘cake’ and you will realise why the Martins, the Gibsons, the Taylors, the Matons, the Breedloves, et al, carry the price tags that they do.

Now, let’s look at the construction of the 3-3.5K guitar. I would like to break ‘construction’ into several sub-heads:

a) Materials used
b) Bridgeplate
c) Braces
d) Drilling of bridgepin holes
e) Bridge screws
f) Fret ends

a) Materials used

The primary reason why a Rs3 – 3.5K guitar is able to cost that much is because of the materials used in building it. Let’s start with the wood – or the lack of it. In this guitar, not wood but plyboard is used. To remind you, plyboard (plywood is a grade above plyboard) is layers of wood loosely pressed together – not good at all for sound transmission.

b) Bridgeplate

This is a piece of wood that is supposed to support the bridge by sandwiching the guitar top between itself and the bridge. Ideally, you want a hard wood piece (mahogany, rosewood, walnut, maple) serving as a bridgeplate, and for it to run at least for 3/4 the length of the bridge.

The purpose of the bridgeplate is to take the strain from the ball-ends of the strings and not to let the tension from them be transferred to the guitar top. If it fails in this purpose, it can let the strings pull up the top exactly in front of the bridge.

Like this:

Not a very good shot but there are Rs 2 coins at each end of the ruler. The centre of the ruler is touching the top but its ends are raised the width of a Rs 2 coin at either end.

This is called belly bulge in a guitar and is very common in almost all acoustic guitars, irrespective of how expensive they are. However, while in an expensive guitar it might take years for a belly to emerge, in a cheap guitar with a faulty/lightweight/incorrectly placed bridgeplate, it can be a matter of a couple of months.

In the worst case, it may rip right through the top, pulling out the bridge and all!

Notice how useless this bridgeplate (the little square piece in the centre) from a cheap guitar is. Just two bridgepin holes pass through it, while three are passing through the guitar top itself and one has actually pierced a brace/strut.

And while this guitar was fortunate to have one, I have often come across cheap guitars without bridgeplates!

c) Braces

The pieces of wood that you see standing upright in the picture above are called braces or struts. As the name suggests, the function of the braces is to ‘brace’ the guitar top against the tension of the strings (there’s a force of 80kg exerted by the strings when they are in tune).

Braces also help the guitar top to vibrate, so their length, height and placement is of prime importance.

Here’s a better look at them:

In a high-end guitar, they end up looking like this:

Notice the difference in symmetry, the finish. While you are at it notice how you can see the characteristic lines in the underside of the second guitar – a high end one. It shows that it is a solid spruce top and not a laminated one. Notice also the size of the bridgeplate.

d) Drilling of bridgepin holes

In cheap guitars, often the bridgepin holes are all over the place. Either they are not in a line, or, they are not drilled exactly at 90° to the guitar top. If they are not drilled at an absolute right angle to the guitar top, there is always the fear that the leaning forward bridgepin or the laying back bridgepin will fall victim to string tension, pulling the bridge one way or another.

In the cross-section of the guitar top (above), the dotted lines represent the path the drill should have taken. Often in cheap guitars, you will find bridgepins either leaning forward or laying back. What this does, is to not have complete contact with the string all through, impeding sound transfer. Also, it does not sit too well on the eyes.

e) Bridge screws

So, with all those faults, what is the best way to hold everything together? Screws.

Every time you see white dots on your bridge, know that they are not just for show, but are hiding something sinister under them: screws. The white dots are just efforts to hide the screws from plain sight. All you need to do is take a mirror in through the soundhole and look up at the bridgeplate and you will see the nuts and bolts there.

Nothing wrong with screws – Gibson started using them way back in the day – except that the screws chew into the plyboard, causing more damage than providing structural support.

f) Fret ends

The haphazard way cheap guitars are put together, leaves a lot to be desired. Sharp fret ends is another factor to watch out for.

Such fret ends can be a real pain when you play.



The tuning machines on a cheap guitar are the worst things about them. It is a miracle that they actually turn and do not allow the string to slip through them!

On your left is your favourite toy and on the right is a branded guitar. On each is the set of tuning machines that came with it from the factory. It is tough trying to tune the guitar using the tuning machines on the left, while its a breeze doing it with the ones on the right.

Tuning machines have gears inside them and the more teeth they have, the slower they move, allowing you to ‘fine tune’ your guitar. Gears with more teeth cost money and so never exist in cheap guitars.

Oh, the list is a lot longer, but for now, I suppose this will suffice to help prove to you, dear parents, never buy your child this set of problems. Yes, I understand that you don’t know whether your child will continue with this ‘hobby’ for long, but when you buy a branded guitar, it will have a resale value.

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

17 thoughts to “Attention parents: Here’s why you should never buy a Rs 3 – 3.5K acoustic guitar”

  1. An amazing kid with amazing talent. I feel so relieved reading this lengthy post as everything has all the information and I need to bookmark this. My niece is interested in learning guitar so I am searching an acoustic guitar that will suit her. With this article, it gives me ideas.

    1. Glad it helped you, Hina!
      The idea of the blog (as also the repairs I undertake) is to help YOU – the reader, the player, the interested parent, the concerned aunt – understand the instrument and make informed decisions.

  2. Your blogs are pieces of precise knowledge and a great value addition..So as this blog..
    I have one confusion regarding plyboard, laminated wood and solid wood…Please do clear it too…

    1. Thank you, Shatrughan!
      And yet, Yamaha’s F310P, which costs around Rs 7K, outside India, is considered a very basic instrument and no serious player or even a hobbyist will ever be seen dead with it!

  3. exploring knowlegde to little guitar champs…
    not to buy a guitar below 5000…

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