Is it finally time for you to make that big purchase on the American Fender guitar you have been eyeing up in your music store for so long?
While testing it out it feels so right and natural to play, after plugging it in the tone and sounds you can achieve are like nothing you’ve heard before.
You have decided this guitar is the one for you.
Walking out of the store with your brand-new purchase, you start to wonder. “What is it about American guitars that makes them so much more expensive than other guitars?”
As a rule of thumb, American-made guitars, particularly the electronics within are of higher quality, but that isn’t because Americans are better at making guitars. Instead, American labor costs are higher than in countries such as China or Indonesia where most budget models are produced.
Is the Higher Price of American Instruments Justified?
With most manufactured products the “made in America” logo may be important to some consumers. To have an element of pride in representing their home country through music.
However, with a bit of technical know-how, it is certainly possible to purchase a Chinese or Indonesian instrument and upgrade its parts to match the quality of an American model for an overall lower price.
When U.S companies produce on foreign soil, it’s usually because it can be done much more affordably. This doesn’t mean lesser quality but does suggest that features of the instrument may not be as impressive.
This leads to instruments being assembled in the quickest way possible and not hand-crafted with detail. The production process is streamlined and methods of quality control and not quite as tight.
This doesn’t mean all budget-priced guitars are not good, for most of my music career I have used a squire jazz bass that sounds just as good, if not better than an American-made fender.
What are the main factors that make American Guitars Better?
Due to the higher price of labor in America, products are produced with more attention to detail, whether it is in the electronics or the finish. The fact is America is home to more skilled luthiers and factory workers.
Another detail that may not immediately come to mind on this topic is after-sales support. When buying a high-end American model, services are usually provided to the consumer to ensure the instrument stays in top condition.
If something with the instrument were to ever go wrong, help-lines and repair services are usually provided.
However, American-made brands are also a big influence on price.
These brands have been in the game for a very long time. Les Paul was a great guitarist and innovator who is credited as one of the pioneers of the electric guitar.
Leo Fender, the inventor of the famous telecaster used by countless artists. Has certainly earned its spot as one of the top guitar brands, justifying its four-digit price tag.
Just How Much Better American Guitars are?
When comparing American guitars to similar versions made overseas. Higher-end materials, electronics, and attention to detail are used in America due to higher production costs.
It is this higher cost that results in carefully crafted instruments and attention to detail.
When a company is producing an instrument for thousands of dollars, they want each instrument to be produced as close to perfection as possible.
However, it is impossible to discuss this topic without bringing the “hype” of the purchase into the equation. The psychological aspect of owning such a high-end guitar may make it feel like a better instrument.
Especially having a guitar produced in the country that not only invented the instrument in the first place but where so many individuals gave the instrument a voice, making it one of the most, if not the most popular instrument to learn at this moment in time.
Do all Professionals use American-made Instruments?
Stevie Ray Vaughn played Japanese Stratocasters before signing an endorsement deal with Fender. Long into signing this deal he carried on playing his Japanese make.
Other professional guitarists who use cheap guitars include Prince, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Mike Rutherford. All of whom are incredibly successful musicians and are known to use cheaper brands on tour.
Fender was one of the first major companies, and the biggest, to put out a foreign guitar under its own logo.
The cheaper squire line already came from overseas, but in the ’90s the first Mexican-made fenders arrived, at first, these guitars were crude and cheaply made with poor sound. However, for those willing to put in the work, upgrading these was not too difficult.
Overall, the important thing to take away here is that the price of the guitar is not the most important aspect, instead what feels best in your own hands should be valued more than what name is on the headstock.
Is it Worth it to get an Import Guitar?
The short answer here is that a guitar made overseas will be just as good as the company wants it to be. Guitars are made to a specification and a budget not because they want the guitars to be inferior to American-made models.
With all things being equal, the biggest reason for the difference in budget is an American guitar is much more expensive in labor cost, cost of higher quality materials, and electronics.
The biggest difference takes us back to the “made in America” logo, this sense of patriotism is something people are willing to spend a lot of money on. Whether it is justified or not, that is up to the individual to decide upon.
Overall, the message to take away from this article is that if you have the budget for an American-made guitar, go for it!
However, budget guitar brands such as Ibanez, Squire, or even cheaper Mexican-made Fenders are just as viable to use and take on tour. Some of the most iconic “custom designs’ were crafted by starving artists including Jaco Pastorious’ fretless bass or Jimi Hendrix’s “lefty” guitar.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.