Happy Thanksgiving, BG readers!  Today is a day of getting together with extended family, sitting down at the dinner table, and being mad at your relatives who voted differently than you.  Seriously, we have to lose the political anger thing.  Our two political parties both have the same goal in mind – to defeat the other party.  The goal ought to be improving our country.  I stay out of politics here on BG.  Thanksgiving has become a celebration of family and being thankful.  There’s a much more important topic than politics, anyway – the Black Friday sales at the big box music stores.

RULE 1 – Not every Black Friday deal is advertised

You really need to go into the big box stores on Friday and see what they’ve got.  Sometimes they don’t advertise the good deals.  So check out the stores in person.

RULE 2 – Don’t camp out overnight or something stupid like that

You’re not a moron and your time is worth something.

RULE 3 – Don’t buy a cheapo $89 Epiphone with P90’s simply because it’s cheap

It’s not a good platform for anything.  Seriously.  On the Fender side, don’t get a Bullet on sale – get a used Affinity Strat.  It’s a better guitar and the used price is usually around a new Bullet.

RULE 4 – Use a checklist for any new or used cheapie guitar you want to buy

If purchasing a cheapo Black Friday special guitar, use the following checklist to get a good one.

  1. Looks.  This is obvious, but more important than you might think.  If you love the looks of your guitar, you’re more likely to pick it up, period.  You can get a good looking guitar pretty easily nowadays.
  2. Playability.  For a really long time I used to make fun of music stores trying to sell me a “setup” for the guitar I just bought.  Isn’t the damn thing set up already?  I thought they were trying to squeeze some more bucks from me with something I didn’t need.  BUT in some cases, you DO need to have the thing set up.  Stores charge $35 to $60 for this.  Look for a deal on free setup.  But if you can’t get that, ask to play a bunch of different guitars of the same model, find one that’s set up decently, and get that one.
  3. Fret Ends.  I think every guitarist on earth should buy a StewMac fret end file and learn how to take care of sharp fret ends.  But if that’s not for you, make sure the fret ends aren’t sharp.
  4. Sound.  Play the cheapie through an amp that is most similar to what you have at home.  A guitar amp is 85% of the guitar sound – the guitar itself is %15.  A shitty guitar will sound great through a great amp.  This is also a good reason to spend more money on your amp than your guitar, by the way.
  5. Parts.  Assess the tuners, knobs, nut, and pickups.  All of these can be replaced over time, but on a budget guitar you want them all to at least function.
  6. Used!  A used guitar can be a great deal.  Just be sure to check out the fret wear and the straightness of the neck.  Look at frets 1 through 7 and see if there are noticeable divots or worn out spots.  If there are, you might need a fret level ($50 to $100) or refret ($150 to $300.)  If the fret wear is minimal, that’s even better.  Or become a guitar collector like me, learn how to do your own fretwork like me, and fret wear won’t matter any more.  Fretwork is fun… if you enjoy doing it.  Lots of people don’t.

RULE 5 – Look for deals on strings, picks, and straps

They’re not sexy but you need them, and you can usually save money on them on Black Friday.

RULE 6 – Look at the big box websites for good deals

Here’s a head start:

Guitar Center

  • Offering 15% off total purchase over $199.  Some items don’t count.
  • Epiphone Les Paul Special with humbuckers – don’t buy this piece of shit.
  • Wampler Ego Compressor for $169 – That’s a great deal
  • Squire Bullet Strat for $99 – if you HAVE to get a new guitar, find one of these with good fret ends
  • Acoustic Guitar Case for $39 – Good deal
  • CAD Vocalshield (goes behind mic for recording) for $49 – I will probably buy one of these.  Great deal
  • Epiphone Les Paul Special with P90’s for $119 – Who are they kidding?  This would suck at $99!

Sam Ash

  • Squier Bullet Strat for $99 – See above
  • Shure SM-58 for $99 – That’s the normal price!
  • ???
  • ???

Sam Ash doesn’t feature anything on their website of substance.  You can save a little money on expensive guitars, but I don’t see much else of interest to budget guitarists.  But you should visit Sam Ash on Black Friday anyway, to see what they’ve got.  You never know.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Black Friday!  Keep playing those blues rock licks, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s fun.

And go play lead guitar for AC/DC, while you’re at it.  One of my guilty pleasures!