Billions of Blue Blistering Barnacles – why cheap guitars are just toys!!!

Coming back to the quality of guitars under the Rs 6,000 – to put it simply and straight – there is no quality.

Yes! If you wish to gift a 3 – 4-year-old a toy, you got one!

The raw material used leaves a lot to be desired, the construction is pitiable and the hardware used is terrible too. At under 6K, if you want your guitar to play and sound like a 15k-guitar that’s expecting a mighty lot.

Recently, this guitar was brought to me for action correction, and the owner said it was a relatively new guitar. If a relatively new guitar needs action correction, it proves that either it was not set-up when it was bought, or, thanks to its woeful construction, it was in dire need of attention, OR, BOTH!!!!


Why a brand new guitar needs a set-up

Just like new vehicles are tuned up before they come onto the road, so also, guitars – electric, acoustic, basses – need a set-up for them to play best.

In the factories of the most well-known brands (Martin, Gibson, Taylor, etc), these instruments are built to generalised specifications and not just one or two a day. There are tens of guitars produced in a single day, where the aim is to get the instrument in the ‘general ok’ condition.

A set-up, while it ‘tunes-up’ the instrument to the minutest tolerances, also does so keeping in mind specific players. For example: if you bring your guitar to me, I set it up to ‘your playing style’, so that when you play it, it plays easy and sounds good to your ears.

So, if a Martin or a  Gibson require a set-up, do you think a guitar under 6k will not require a set-up? It will require a set-up big time and more!

So, this 12-fret guitar (the position where the neck is joined to the body) had a plastic saddle, a plastic nut (you shouldn’t have expected anything else) and tuning machines with a gear ratio of 1:12. [To explain the last set of numbers, you would have to turn the tuning knob 12 times for the post around which the string is wound, to complete one whole rotation. Good tuning machines are those with a gear ratio of 1:18 and above. What a higher gear ratio ensures is tuning stability and more accurate tuning.]

I apologise, I was so appalled by the instrument that I forgot to click photographs of where the action stood and the amount of saddle exposed in the bridge. Take my word, the amount of saddle exposed was lesser than what I usually like to see in a guitar. What was more, the strings were rubbing against the bridge on their way up to the saddle and the action was a mile high.

After considering all options, all that was left to do was to shave the bridge down and also the saddle to bring the action down, and to ensure that the strings had an unrestricted run-up to the saddle. But it had to be done in such a way that it did not show and the geometry of the bridge did not get spoilt.

With some protection to the top and some 80-grit sandpaper stuck to a sanding beam, it was slow progress but progress nonetheless.

Then came the turn of the saddle. It wasn’t healthy when I began, when I was done with it, it was a little thicker than a toothpick.

A couple of trials later, it sported an action that I could be proud of and one which the owner would be happy to see. However, my advice to him was to sell off the toy as early as possible and buy himself a ‘guitar’!



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:

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