“One of their absolute cheapest guitars”: This YouTuber played a beginner Ibanez at a sold-out arena show – and he didn’t even get to soundcheck with it

Bernth playing an Ibanez AZES at the Salzburgarena
(Image credit: Bernth/YouTube)

By now, it’s widely accepted that you don’t need the most expensive electric guitar gear in order to play the biggest venues. That much has been demonstrated by the countless pro players who have played cheap guitars over the years, including the likes of Eddie Van Halen, St. Vincent, and Prince.

As if we needed any more evidence to convince us of the merits of entry level gear, YouTuber Bernth recently documented his experiences of playing a sold-out show at Austria’s Salzburgarena using an affordable Ibanez beginner electric guitar.

It’s an experiment we’ve seen conducted before. Earlier this year, Scott Poley of Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac revealed he’d played a $40 Harley Benton every night on a 113-date arena tour. Heck, even Bernth himself has done something similar in the past, playing a $90 acoustic for the most-attended music festival in history in March.

But for this occasion, there was a slight twist: owing to some unfortunate and unforeseen travel delays, Bernth didn’t get his hands on the Ibanez in time for soundcheck. That meant the first time he plugged the humble electric into his stage rig was when he was performing in front of a sold out arena crowd.

The guitar in question was an HSS Ibanez AZES – a Stratocaster-style instrument designed in collaboration with Tomo Fujita back in 2021, which comfortably sits in the electric guitars under $500 category. 

Specs for the entry level instrument include a poplar body, maple neck and jatoba fretboard, as well as Ibanez Essential pickups wired to the dyna-MIX9 switching system. Marketed as “a new standard for entry-level instruments,” new models are available for as little as $299.

“I’m playing a sold-out arena show today,” Bernth explains at the start of the video. “To make things more challenging I’m going to play a beginner guitar. Ibanez sent me one of their absolute cheapest guitars and I’m going to play it at this very important show. I hope nothing is going to go wrong.”

Well, something very nearly did go wrong, when the Ibanez – which was being couriered via train by Bernth’s fiancée on the day of the gig – was held up due to transport delays. 

Fortunately, the Ibanez did turn up at the venue, but only after Bernth and the band he was playing with finished their soundcheck. Not only that, it required some tweaks: some security strap locks were installed, and Bernth's favored set of electric guitar strings were equipped. 

While more conservative players would’ve considered this a missed opportunity – and wouldn’t dream of taking a straight-out-the-box beginner guitar on stage – Bernth doubled down and did it anyway.

Fortunately, he was rewarded for his decision: “It actually feels and sounds pretty amazing,” Bernth writes in the video over footage of him shredding on the Ibanez. “So, yes – you can play in arenas with beginner equipment!”

You’d think taking late delivery of a sub-$500 electric guitar on the day of a sold-out arena show at the Salzburgarena would be adventurous (and stressful) enough for the YouTuber, but no: in classic Bernth fashion, the shredder also managed to squeeze in a quick writing/recording session backstage, using the Ibanez AZES to record a track titled Calm.

Bernth is no stranger to bold guitar experiments. In his previous videos, the plucky player built a beastly three-neck acoustic, created a neckless guitar, and substituted his guitar strings for dental floss.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.