Looks vs feel: what’s more important in a guitar?

Many of us have had our minds set on a dream guitar, only to play it and realise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. On the off chance, you might try something you’d never give a second look, but find a perfect fit.

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

A great feeling guitar is likely to mean cleaner playing and a more comfortable experience. But sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a feature or two if it means getting an instrument that looks the part.

Creativity is usually sparked by something you have an emotional connection to, be it a topic or an instrument. If you don’t want to pick up your guitar and play, it’s not doing what it’s built for. However good or bad it is, surely being ugly is the ultimate guitar sin?

Brand differences in looks and feel

There are so many features that vary between brands. And most of the time it isn’t an easy choice to separate them. For example, say a purchase came down to two guitars. You loved the look of the Fender Telecaster, but the Friedman Vintage-T had a better feeling neck for the size of your hand. What do you pick under the circumstances? This might be a clear choice. You still pick the Fender, you’ll wear it in and get used to it. Or is it? Maybe you take the viewpoint that you’d learn to love the Friedman because of the way it feels.

What about sound against looks? I had the choice between an ESP and a Schecter, virtually the same guitar, even built in the same factory. But the ESP had abalone binding along the fretboard which looked great, while the Schecter had push/pull coil tap pickups. I went with the ESP because I thought it was more striking to look at. But I’m sure some of you would think that’s crazy. Boiling the subject down to its logical core, a guitar is meant to be heard. So why not go depending on the sound?

As a guitarist, you work your way up the price ladder with more experience and savings. If you keep buying good looking guitars, when you reach around the £1200 mark, hopefully it plays well regardless of style.

Schecter and ESP LTD

Past perception

As a case in point from the video, Chappers associated covered pickups with a worse sound than uncovered pickups. Obviously, it’s not true. But how you see a guitar and the experiences you have with particular features can skew future perceptions. If you owned a guitar you didn’t like, it’s possible to associate bad traits with other guitars from then on.

It seems as if a decision will always come down to looks. If you love a guitar tone in a song, then see the guitar, you’re going to decide if you like it depending on the looks. No one buys a guitar they don’t like to see.

There are plenty of ways to change how a guitar feels or sounds anyway. Changing the pickups, hardware or a good setup from a professional can do the world of good. But it depends how much money you want to put down for such a task.


It’s not a simple situation to quantify. The best option is to wait until you try a guitar that you know is perfect in as many ways possible. This could mean saving up a bit longer or keeping an eye out for a guitar that’s not even on for sale yet.

Another way to approach it is to play guitars out of your comfort zone. Give a metal player a Gretsch and see what happens. That player might’ve always thought an Ebony fretboard or a super thin neck were the most optimal features, simply because that’s what other people within the genre use. Until you play something, you won’t truly know if you like it. And taste in guitars changes over time, so give as many unique features you can a chance.

Even like in the video, being able to play a guitar without seeing it could alter your views. Keep an open mind and experiment away!

If you liked this article, check out other interesting Learn topics here.

Want to feast your eyes on some guitars that look great and play effortlessly? Check out the Andertons online store here.

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Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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