Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Electric Guitar

There are many brands you can start off with for electric guitars, and they are all similar in quality at the entry-level; however, three brands have stood the test of time, and you can’t really go wrong with any of these three brands: Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez. Like anything, you will have a good, better, and best option. For electrics, it comes down to where the instrument was made, hands-on craftsmanship, the quality of the wood, and pickups. There are definitely many other options, but these are the prominent features that affect the price. Here is a breakdown of which guitars I would get per level:

Entry Level ($150-400)

  1. Fender Squire Strat
  2. Gibson Epiphone
  3. Ibanez GRX70QA series

Mid Level ($400-800)

  1. Fender Player Series
  2. PRS SE Standard or Custom
  3. Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Pro Level ($800+)

  1. Fender American Vintera or Pro II Series
  2. Silver Sky PRS
  3. Gibson Les Paul

Now, after you get your electric guitar, one of the next things you’ll be asking yourself is “what kind of amp do I need?” I can tell you, hands down, the Fender Mustang series is the PERFECT practice amp. It’s literally all you need…so much so, that it is the official practice amp of the Freeway Music locations. One of the best ways to ensure that you get all you need is to purchase a package. So, let’s get that out of the way and talk about it. Here are some packages our friends have at Sims:

Acoustic Guitar

The good, better, best for acoustics is generally found in how much solid vs. laminate wood is involved. Entry level guitars tend to have a laminate top and back and sides. Mid-level acoustics have solid tops. The reason they do the top is because that’s where most of your sound resonates. So, if you have a solid top, it makes a difference. Pro-level guitars are generally solid all the way around with solid tops, sides, and backs. For the most part, you’ll run into the usual suspects for guitars. Here are some recommendations for various guitars at each level:

Entry Level ($150-400)

  1. Fender FA-15 (3/4 size guitar great for a smaller student)
  2. Fender (pretty much any)
  3. Ibanez (pretty much any)

Midlevel ($400-800)

Normally, I’d tout Martin and Taylor pretty hard in this range…especially the Taylor GS mini as it’s literally the perfect 3/4 guitar, but they are low in stock. So, I’d check out the Ibanez Artwood Series. They are great mid-level guitars.

Pro level

Can’t go wrong with Martin, Taylor, Gibson. They are king.


Ukes make for AMAZING holiday gifts because they are portable, easy to learn and play, and very affordable. Ukes tend to range between $50—$300, but float around that $50-150 mark for decent ones. Here are some brands to check out:

  1. Kala
  2. Cordoba
  3. Ortega *This is a newer brand that Sims recently started carrying. They look, sound, and play amazing. I just bought one for Sara Ann for Christmas. Don’t tell her ;)…She’s not reading this is she? :/


So, if you’re looking for a serious acoustic piano, check out our friends at Rice Music House. They’ve got a great selection of acoustic pianos and will be of great help to you. The acoustic pianos at Freeway Music are from Rice. You can buy or rent. 

If you are in the market for a Digital Piano, I like the Casio and Yamaha brands. You can’t go wrong either way. We stock the Casios at Freeway for our voice lessons. 

There are also a slew of portable keyboard options available.


Okay, I JUST started playing drums…so, give me a little grace in this department. It’s okay, I spoke with Justin at Sims, and he is an expert…so we will be alright! Here are some opinions of ours:

Entry Level

Ludwig Accent: Drive(full size for 12+) and Fuse (smaller for a younger kid 8-11)


Tama Imperial Star


PDP, DW, Ludwig, Pearl, and Tama are all gonna have solid options. You might want to consider some nicer cymbals at this point from brands like Zildjian and Sabian.

**Side Note: The cajon has been a popular instrument for drummers as of late for acoustic sets. Check out the LP Americana cajon… it was designed by our very own Justin Sims! 🙂


So, you wanna ease into recording. The best way to get started is by grabbing one of the Scarlet Focusrite Packages They have two different ones. Both come with a mic, mic cable, headphones, and an intro version of Protools. The only difference is one is solo and has one channel ($219), and the other is a duo with two channels ($269). 

Stocking Stuffers

There are a ton of accessories such as capos, tuners, string winders, polish, cables, slides, pedals, shakers, tambourines, sticks, picks, and most importantly…Music Lessons! 😉

Whew…That was a lot of information. I hope this was helpful and Happy Holidays from the Freeway Family! 🙂

Ukulele has become the new craze. Artists like Megan Trainor and Vance Joy, and companies like Kala have really helped create this buzz. In fact, Kala has so many cool varieties now, it’s really easy to be confused when walking into a music store to pick out a uke. So, let’s break em’ down.

1. Soprano Ukulele

This is probably the most common ukulele used. It’s the one used in “Riptide” by Vance Joy and also “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Iz. It’s simply the smallest body, and the tuning is AECG(high to low). It’s essentially like removing the lowest two strings on the guitar, and putting a capo on the 5th fret. The only difference is the G is one octave higher. Chord shapes are similar to guitar, but have different names, making it a good “gateway instrument” for uke to guitar. However, it makes it quite confusing initially to go from guitar back to uke.

2. Tenor Ukulele

This is where buyers get confused. A tenor uke is the identical tuning as a soprano, except the body is a bit bigger. It simply gives the uke a little of a bigger sound. Some players like our very own ukulele instructor Jessica Skinner, of Prettier Than Matt, change the G string to an octave lower. This adds even more body to the uke, and allows one to play a fuller scale length.

3. Baritone Ukulele

A Baritone uke is tuned exactly like the highest 4 notes of a guitar: EBGD(high to low). This is a very easy transition from guitar, as you simply remove the bottom two strings, making chords shapes and runs identical. This instrument is great if you desire a slightly lower register. Also, I encourage my students to experiment with a baritone uke, as it a great way to practice and master the highest four strings of guitar for soloing and comping, etc.

4. Uke Bass

We recently bought one of these in Nashville. It’s the exact same tuning of a standard electric bass guitar: GDAE(high to low). It is a much shorter scale, making it easier to get around the neck and play lines. The strings are typically a synthetic rubber, which is nice for pressing the strings, and a warm tone. However, the strings can be hard to slide in at times, and it’s hard to get a good attach out of the string. I have also discovered that almost all of them have a hard time getting the volume of the Low E string as loud as the other three. This is a fun instrument if you desire a warm upright bass kind of sound, and the cons don’t bother you too bad.

5. Banjolele

Take a ukulele and put a banjo head under the strings, and it is a banjolele. There is zero difference in tuning. The difference here is the sound. If you’ve ever heard a banjo, you’ll know what to expect. It creates a more twangy or spanky sound. This is probably an instrument for someone who already plays and owns a uke, and wants to branch out a bit. I wouldn’t recommend a student starting on this ukelele, as its sound is very specific.
u9 Mando-Uke

6. MandoUke

Again, no difference in tuning here. The body is that of a mandolin, with f holes. It will again have a more specific sound. This also is probably not the first instrument you want to have, but that’s not my decision.

7. Eight String Ukulele

The eight string uke is tuned the same, but each string is doubled. This will simply create an effect of two ukes playing the same part simultaneously. Therefore, it will be louder and more full. It is a bit harder to press two strings at once rather. One should consider that when contemplating the purchase of an eight string uke.

8. Resonator Ukulele

This Ukulele has a resonator plate made of aluminum, similar to that of a Dobro or resonator guitar. If you want to be heard, this will definitely make that happen!
There are all kinds of Ukes body styles, colors, sizes available. It can be very daunting when you first walk into a store. Hopefully now you will be better informed when you walk into a store full of various ukuleles.
If you like this blog, you may like one of these blogs:
Drumset – To Buy or Not to Buy
Buying Your First Electric Guitar
Acoustic or Electric Guitar
Buying Your First Acoustic Guitar

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