Guide for Buying a Guitar
Many beginner guitarists give up before they have any success because they may have started out on the wrong guitar. They may have tried playing with the only guitar they had
available at the time. This guitar may have had strings that were too difficult to press down or maybe it went out of tune a lot or any number of other reasons that made it difficult or even painful to play.
The first step is to match yourself with a guitar that will meet your needs and budget. If you do not have a relatively playable guitar to start out with, then you will have to plan a visit to a local or online guitar store.
Seeing all the guitars on the wall will make you feel like a kid in a candy
store. Find out if it's okay to pull one down and try it out.
Pull down as many as you like so you will know which type feels
comfortable for you.
Should you start with an Electric or an Acoustic Guitar?
A better question would be, what style of music do you want to play
most? Knowing this will help you choose the type of guitar to purchase.
If you like to rock, than you may want your first guitar to be an electric.
If your into folk or unplugged styles of music, you may choose an
acoustic as your first guitar.
There is no reason to start with an acoustic
just because you are a beginner. Eventually, most guitarist will have both
anyway, and sometimes many of each.
How much should you spend on a guitar?
Before you spend any money think about how much time you have to
practice and how dedicated you think you will be.
Even if you are committed and have a lot of time to practice, you may find
that after you start learning how to play that your just not enjoying as much as you thought you might. I know it sounds crazy but for whatever reason some people don't enjoy playing the guitar or can not seem to play very well or as well as they would like to.
Anybody can play the guitar if they try. However, some will struggle with it.
Some people have a natural ability to play while others have to
work at it a little more. Some may decide that they don't want to work at it.
For this reason it is probably safe to spend some where around $150 -
$200 for your first electric or acoustic guitar that is not going to be a piece
of junk. A decent guitar could be around four hundred dollars.
There are also gig packs available.
New or used?
Buying new has it's obvious advantages. You can always return it if there
is a problem and It's always nice to have a shinny new guitar.
However, since guitars do not typically lose their value, buying used can
be a good idea as well. Many times you can find a motivated seller with a
valuable guitar for substantially less than a new one. You will not get a
warranty, but sometimes you can find a used guitar at a music store with a
A few things to look for if you buy used. Familiarize yourself with the
parts of the guitar. Look over it to see if there are any broken parts or bent
tuning keys etc. A few scratches or dents are not a big deal.
But one major thing to look for is a neck that bows too much. If the
strings are raised very high off the fret board, don't buy it.
The action, or playability of a guitar can always be adjusted by a qualified
technician or even by yourself. But a seriously warped guitar neck can't
The illustration shows a normal height between the fretboard and string at
the sixth fret, using a pick. If the strings are raised much higher than this
you probably shouldn't buy it.
Press all the frets (between the frets, not on the metal bar) on all the
strings to see if there are any dead frets. (no sound, or a lot of buzz). Of
course this may be difficult to do if you have never played a guitar before.
Bring some one along who can play if possible .
Most new guitars will come ready to play. But even a new guitar may
need to be adjusted, or “set up” in order for it to have good string action
over the fret board. Good action means less stress on
your finger tips and more enjoyable playing. Other settings and
adjustments are sometimes necessary to get the guitar to have top quality
sound as well.
Buying a guitar at a Store vs. Online
People buy products all the time without seeing them first. Computers,
jewelry, even cars. Others have to see it and fall in love with it before they
If you know exactly what you want then chances are good that you can get it for
less money by buying it online and sometimes even avoid paying sales
On the other hand, some local stores know they have competition and
will offer free set up service or other benefits if you buy through them.
If you buy online, make sure you shop at a reputable store. Don't just
choose any site that sells guitars, but ofcourse you know that already. Even
ebay makes me a little nervous.
Amazon is a safe place to buy equipment.
Guitar Models For Particular Styles.
The two most popular models, Gibson Les Paul and Fender
Stratocaster, seem to be what most guitarists compare or judge all other
electric guitars by.
These two brands can get quite expensive. Several thousands of dollars
expensive. But don't worry, there are some less expensive models and
good generic copies of each model that won't cost as much as the real
The differences in these two models vary greatly from the spacing of the
frets to the width of the neck. But the main sound quality difference
comes from the types of pickups used for each model.
Pickups are what pick up the signal from the guitar strings when you
strike them, creating a distinct tone through the amplifier. This is a broad
subject that we won't get into here though.
Here is a short example list of guitar models that are preferred by guitarist
for playing certain styles of music.
But, any guitar can be used to play any style of music.
Styles of music and popular guitar models
Acoustic - Gibson j-200, Alvarez
Electric - Gibson Es-355
Gibson Les Paul
Acoustic: steel string or
Gibson Explorer, flying V, SG,
Dean, Ibanez iceman,
Gibson Es-175, Ibanez
Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul
Gibson SG, Ibanez, Dean
See the resource section to see popular guitars, amps, and accessories.