A Guitar Review Primer: How Scoring Works

How we judge if a guitar is good or bad?

The Scoring Scale

Here are Guitars for Idiots, we use a simple 1 to 10 scale like most people do for rating the quality of each instrument, amplifier, or pedal. However, we try to bring everything back and frame it in comparison to a reference point, after all what’s a number mean if there is no substance behind it?

So what’s a 10? A perfect 10, which is rare, is guitar with unrivaled playability, tone, and construction. For reference sake, I would say it is one of these beauties from a local luthier who makes the finest guitars I’ve ever played. You can check out his work here and read why his specific guitars are a 10 here. But basically, his Meridian models feature every single feature from piezo pickup to carved neck heel, to carbon fiber support rods in the neck, that make a guitar perfectly stable and useable.

The stunning Maguire Meridian semi hollow body that just doesn’t compare to anything else.

So what’s a 5? A 5 is akin to a decent Squier or Epiphone guitar, These guitars are great, and represent what I think is close to “average” performance and playability. These will hold tune fairly well, maybe for hours or longer if you’re lucky, and the pickups aren’t great but at least sound like the guitar you are buying i.e. a tele sounds like a tele. They are certainly great instruments, and offer a lot of value as they are usually $400 or less. Now one thing I caution here is that just because a guitar is in this price range, doesn’t make it a 5, it could be a 9 or it could be a 2, each guitar is different and evokes a different sound, vibe, or emotion. As many of you will notice, this site is on a streak of being sent fantastic guitars, I place a lot of importance on being fair and just, but sometimes a $499 guitar just rocks!

A Squier Affinity Series Tele I consider to be a strong 5-6 range guitar.

So lastly, what’s a 1? A 1 is borderline unplayable, it come out of the box with high action, can’t stay in tune for more than a few minutes, isn’t intonated properly, or has buzzy and noisy electronics. Furthermore, maybe the pickups are missing the highs, mids, or lows or the spread on the tone and volume knobs isn’t great i.e. linear instead of audible. There can be a million problems with these guitars, even if they aren’t hard to fix. Overall, as long as the guitar is cheap enough though, you may still extract value from it as a beginner instrument, project guitar, or throw-around instrument that you don’t care about damaging/losing.

An Indio Classic guitar that is incredibly affordable but in the lower echelon of build and tone quality.


Some of you may be pointing out that the gap between 1 and 5 is much smaller than the gap between 5 and 10, I understand that concern but that’s because of how I grade the guitars. I place a lot of emphasis on the value of the guitar in relation to its price. A lot of times, the differences in brand name high priced pickups and factory made pickups for mid-tier guitars isn’t that different. It takes a really well trained ear and/or picky player to discern a Mexican Strat’s pickups from an American standard’s pickups. This means a lot of the guitars from 5-10 could be anywhere from $500 to $5000 and not too different in rating. In fact, mass production of guitars thanks to CNC machines has made a lot of affordable guitars, really really great. Take my Guild Jetstar or Chapman ML1 Modern V2 reviews, those guitars are both sub-$1000 but are two of the best I’ve ever played and outclass my expensive American-made Gibson Les Paul Special easily.

Published by Matt Dunn

Guitar and music journalist for Ultimate-Guitar.com and Guitarsforidiots.com as well as a contributor for Guitarniche.com and Stringjoy.com. Reach out to talk about guitars, commission a partscaster, or ask for a review.

3 thoughts on “A Guitar Review Primer: How Scoring Works

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