Squier guitars by Fender are extremely popular with novice and beginner players. But are they actually any good? Let’s investigate…
If you want a proper Fender guitar, you’re going to have to drop some BIG BUCKS. Even an entry-level Fender will set you back the best part of $800. Want something more upmarket? The sky’s the limit when it comes to prices – anywhere from $1000 to $50,000.
Played by Hendrix, Clapton, and stoner rock legend Brant Bjork, Fender guitars – notably its Stratocaster and Telecaster – are the most well-known and beloved guitar brands on the planet. For many purists, nothing compares to a proper Fender Tele or Strat.
But what if you’re just starting out on your guitar-playing journey or, like me, you’re just broke. Is a Squier by Fender worth it? Or are you better off with something like a Yamaha Pacifica or something by Epiphone? This post will outline ALL the PROS and CONS of using Squier guitars.
By the end, you’ll know a couple of things: 1) what the best Squier guitar is right now; 2) the pros and cons of using a Squier guitar; 3) whether or not a Squier is a good option for you based on points 1 and 2. As a quick caveat, however, I will say this: for the money – usually less than $200 – Squier guitars do serve up a ton of value for money.
But as always, it’s not ALWAYS about money. There are other things to keep in mind, things you will not find on Fender’s Squier marketing materials. This post will uncover all the UPS and DOWNS of Squier guitar ownership. How do I know all this, you ask? I’ve owned a few over the years. And this post is based, predominantly, on my own personal experiences.
Is Squier Made By Fender?
Fender does own Squier, yes. But Squier guitars are NOT the same as an actual Fender guitar. They use cheaper components. They’re not made to the same standards. And, most notably, they do not play as well as a proper Tele or Strat.
Fender makes Squier versions of its Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Jazz Bass, and Precision Bass. These “cheaper models” take the classic, iconic designs of these guitars and basses, switch out the components for cheaper electronics, and retail them for a fraction of the cost.
This means, for beginner players, you can get a guitar that looks like an iconic electric guitar, just with the massive price tag. This is why Squier guitars are so popular – they’re cheap, they look like classic Fender guitars, and they play OK for the most part. And if you’re a beginner, or you’re just getting started, that’s literally all you need, right?
Squier Guitars vs Fender Guitars: What’s The Difference?
Squier is a Fender brand. Fender has owned Squier for years now. But there are some pretty big differences between the two brands. For starters, a Fender Stratocaster is made in either the US or Mexico, whereas a Squier Strat is made in Asia where the quality control and manufacturing isn’t quite as good.
Fender guitars made in the US are the most expensive versions; the Fender guitars made in Mexico are slightly cheaper. If you want a cheaper Fender Strat or Tele, go with a Mexican version. Is there a difference between a Mexican Fender and a US Fender? Yes and no; it is actually really hard to call. Purists prefer US-made Fenders.
Me? I’d take a Mexican Fender any day of the week, save some cash, and buy some more Bitcoin. The main differences between the Mexican-made Fenders and the US-made ones relate to what they’re actually made of – US Fender guitars have a three-piece body made of ash wood, while the Mexican one is a two-piece made of lower-grade wood.
But it’s not just wood where American and Mexican Fenders differ; if you buy an American Fender, your guitar will have 22 frets, whereas its Mexican counterpart only has 21. This is the quickest and easiest way to spot the difference between a Mexican and American Fender.
Fender’s Squier guitars, meanwhile, are mass-produced in Asia on the cheap. They use cheaper cuts of wood, cheaper pickups, and cheaper internal components. There is little to no quality control on Squier guitars either compared to an American or Mexican Fender. This is why Squier guitars are cheap and Mexican and American Fenders are expensive.
But, again, if you’re just starting out and this is your first guitar, all of the above is a moot point – you just need something to get started. And if you’re buying a guitar for one of your kids, there’s no way you’d drop American Fender money on their first guitar. That’d just be insane. And this is why Squier guitars are all about – they’re meant for beginners.
If you’ve been playing for 10 years or more, sure, go with a Mexican or American Fender. You’ve committed to the guitar, you’ve done the hard work, and you’re now probably pretty good. Why not treat yourself to a proper Fender? They’re excellent guitars that play beautifully and sound amazing – even if you want to play metal.
Squier Guitar PROS – Why You’d Buy One
We’ve covered off a little about the history of Squier guitars, what they are, and how they’re different from proper Fender guitars. As I noted earlier, I’ve owned a few Squier guitars over the years and most of them were decent enough.
Here’s a breakdown on why a Squier guitar is worth it if you’re A) a beginner player or B) looking to get your kid started on the guitar.
1. Loads of Selection
Fender makes Squier versions of all of its classic and most iconic guitars. You have Squier Telecasters, Squier Stratocasters, Squire Jazzmasters, and Squire Jaguars to choose from. And inside each of these niches, there are multiple models to choose from with options for $200 or less up to around $400-$500.
This means, whatever your tastes, you’ll be able to find yourself (or your kid) something they like in a color they like. If they want to play rock and metal, you’ll be best off with a Tele or a Strat. These styles of guitar have been used by the greats for decades to produce some of the best guitar music ever recorded. With a Strat or a Tele, you’re in good company.
2. Great Prices
You have plenty of choices when it comes to Squier guitars. But where these guitars really come into their own is with how much they cost. You can pick up a Squier guitar for as little as $200 – sometimes even less.
And if you need an amp and case for the guitar, you can even buy Squier starter kits that come with everything a new player needs – from a small, low-watt amp to wires and the guitar itself.
Squier guitars are NOT as good as proper Fender or Gibson guitars. In fact, they’re not even as good as a low-grade Epiphone. But for less than $300, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quality guitar for a beginner player. I’ve owned both a Squier Strat and a Squier Tele and they were more than decent enough for me when I was starting out.
Add in something like the Fender Mustang Micro, a small USB-powered smart amp that plugs into the guitar’s jack and connects to headphones, and you’ll be jamming out screaming solos and riffs in no time. The Fender Mustang Micro is great for quiet practice at home, so if you don’t know what it is, make sure you check it out.
3. The Ideal Beginner’s Guitar
You’re not going to record your debut album with a Squier guitar. But for practicing and getting good at playing the guitar, a Squier guitar is more than enough for novice and beginner players.
They’re cheap, they’re easy to play, and they sound decent enough when connected to a decent amp or something like the Spark Amp which will take care of all your tone needs.
The pickups, hardware, electronics, and woods used on Squier guitars are not great. They’re not bad, either. But they’re cheaper than what’s used on more expensive guitars. They do get the job done, however, and for a beginner or any players on a tight budget, this is all you need.
Also, keep in mind that an expensive guitar will not make you a better player. You need to hone your skills and dedicate yourself to the craft first. It takes time. Years, essentially. But if you’re focused on starting now and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, a Squier guitar is a great place to begin.
And once you’ve logged your 10,000 hours of playing, you can get yourself an upgrade – a PROPER Fender, for instance, or one of these amazing guitars.
Squier Guitar CONS – Things To Keep In Mind
We’ve covered the good stuff about owning a Squier guitar. Now it is time to look at the not-so-good stuff, the things you’ll want to keep in mind before pulling the trigger on a Squier.
1. They’re Not Built To Last
Squier guitars are mass-produced electric guitars designed and built for use by beginners. Like anything cheap, they’re not built to last. You won’t be using your Squier Tele in 2050 and it will not be worth $20,000 like a Fender Tele from 1998.
But just because they’re not built to last doesn’t mean a Squier is not worth it. These types of guitars are designed for beginners. They’re designed to be played for a few years. Not forever. Eventually, Fender wants you to buy a proper Fender. This is the whole point of Squier; it basically markets Fender to new players, gives them a taste.
When you buy a Squier guitar, you’ll get plenty of usage out it. I’ve had mine for close to a decade now and it still plays fine, although I did have to replace some components. But by the time they’d gone bad, I’d already moved on to another guitar – an Epiphone SG Standard.
The Squier served its purpose though; it got me from a beginner to an intermediate player. And that’s the entire point. I didn’t buy a Fender though because, well… they’re still a bit pricey for my budget. Maybe next year?
2. They Don’t Hold Their Tune
When you first start out playing guitar, tuning your guitar can be quite confusing. It can also take time too. But once you learn all the strings, tuning is usually fairly straightforward. Especially if you use a decent guitar tuner.
With a Squier, you’ll get A LOT of practice tuning your guitar as well because they don’t hold their tune for very long. I remember tuning my guitar every single time I played it back in the day. I learned quickly, though, and after about six months I could do it by ear.
If I had a more expensive guitar, one that held its tune for ages, I would never have learned to tune a guitar by ear. Thanks, Squier!
3. The Sound Can Be A Little Iffy…
Can you play live with a Squier guitar? Sure. Can you record with a Squier guitar? Yes, of course. Will it sound good? No. But that’s fine. I couldn’t care less what my first guitars sounded like, so long as I could tell I was getting better. I never used a Squier live. But plenty of people do, so it cannot be that bad right?
You also have to keep in mind that guitar nerds tend to be massive snobs. Anything less than $1000 is a cheap piece of sh*t. But, once again, they miss the point: no one starts learning on a $1000 guitar. And for less than $300 in most cases, a Squier guitar sounds just fine.
When you get more serious and start playing in a band or you want to record music, that’s the time to invest in a better guitar. By this point, you’ve likely been playing for a while and are probably pretty good. This is usually around 3-4 years into your guitar journey. Once you’re there, you’ll want to get saving for a decent, high-end guitar.
And when you do get a more expensive guitar and you plug it into an amp and play, you’ll know where all that extra money went. Just don’t be a snob when you’re first starting out; it’s not a good look. Get a cheap guitar like a Squier, play it until your fingers bleed, and then, only once you’ve got a few years under your belt, you can think about getting a $1000 guitar.
Until then, you’ll be more than good with a Squier guitar – especially when you see just how cheap they are!