Buying a guitar
This chapter is about choosing a guitar, buying a guitar, and the possible pitfalls associated.
- 1 Buying a guitar for a beginner
- 2 Buying a new guitar for someone who already plays
- 3 External links
Buying a guitar for a beginner
The key to buying a guitar for a beginner is to get one that the player enjoys and is excited about. If the player does not enjoy playing their guitar then it will be more difficult to continue. They will get frustrated easier and give up easier. Getting a guitar that the player will not be frustrated with will help naturally encourage or allow the player to be the best they can be.
A guitar that doesn't get played is worthless at any price.
Whether you are buying a beginner guitar for yourself or a parent buying a guitar for your beginner child it is not worth spending any money on a guitar that the player won't enjoy.
Acoustic or Electric?
Let the player decide since if they don't enjoy the guitar it will be less likely that they will play. For rock music an electric would be most appropriate.
An electric will typically be better for a beginner because it is easier to play (meaning that the strings are easier to push down and pluck), so feelings of success will come much sooner and frustration will be less likely. These things are important for a beginner.
If the player is excited about an acoustic guitar and feels they can overcome the more significant learning curve(compared to an electric) then they will find in the future that playing an electric guitar will come much easier. On the other hand the more signifcant learning curve on the acoustic may be enough to frustrate the player and cause them to lose interest.
Buying the guitar
Where to buy the guitar
In this day and age guitars are sold by many vendors. The place you choose to acquire the guitar can be as important as any other choice you make. Acquire (but don't steal) a guitar from these places:
- A trusted friend or relative - often a friend or relative who had a beginner guitar but has since upgraded and still has that beginner guitar. If they recommend that guitar and will sell it for a good price then this is ideal. Simply take this guitar to a local music store and have it professionally 'set up'.
- A local guitar or music store that seems to have plenty of satisfied customers. If you can find a deal on a guitar you are comfortable with from a store like this, go for it. If they tell you that they do 'set up' on their guitars before they leave the store then this is a good buying scenario. Lookup 'musical instrument retail' in the phone book to find one of these stores. Even a used instrument from a local store is a good idea.
More experience with buying guitars is required to buy in any other scenarios.
- Online guitar superstores or mail-order guitars. The major difference between these and a local store is that the player cannot hold the guitar in their hands before they buy it. Just like a Tall person cannot comfortably drive a 1990 Honda Civic some people's hands are bigger than others and the necks of guitars come in all shapes and sizes. An uncomfortable guitar is less likely to get played so if you must buy without ever seeing the guitar, first verify that the business has a liberal and long (preferably 45-day) return policy then cross your fingers and order. If the return policy works well then if the guitar didn't fit you could send it back for the cost of shipping.
- Pawn shops or eBay are not a good idea for buying a beginners first guitar. There are a myriad of problems that can arise from these situations and while good deals can still be found unless you really know what you are doing it's not a good idea for a beginner guitar.
What else will you need?
Once you've chosen the guitar, there are accessories the dealer will want to sell you. You will probably need:
- Guitar strap to enable the player to play standing up (~$10USD)
- Some picks (5 standard (the standard size is .46 mm but it doesn't really matter)) (~$2USD) -- though picks are not necessary for fingerpicking
- A tuner of some kind - preferably an electronic one with a built-in microphone. (~$20USD)
- Several extra sets of strings (~$15USD) These are not strictly required at the time of purchase but will be necessary after a month or two since a beginner should probably change them about every 2 months (probably more often than that, but that doesn't really matter either)
- A case or a gig bag - These are protection for the guitar. The case ($50-100USD) is a hardshell case suitable for airline transportation and is excellent protection (if you get a case, a gig bag is not required). A Gig Bag($20-$50USD) is good protection and necessary to avoid large scrapes and dings but a gig bag is not suitable for airline transportation.
That adds up to quite a bit of money for accessories.
Things you will NOT necessarily need:
- Guitar polish.
- A humidifier (typically only useful on acoustic guitars) unless your guitar is quite valuable (and a valuable guitar is probably not best for a beginner anyway)
- A string winder (these can be useful but can be purchased at any time)
- A guitar stand (to set the guitar on when its not being played) is useful but can be purchased at any time, so is not necessary ($10-$30USD)
Many guitar dealers, like mattress or car dealers, mark up the price of their products significantly but their prices are negotiable. Most of these accessories (including a gig bag) can be thrown in for free. The hardshell case is usually an exception. Don't forget to calculate sales tax on top of all that.
For a beginner in a practice setting, an electric guitar does not explicitly require an amplifier. Electrics can be heard audibly, if not very loudly, without an amplifier,but the player will not be able to get anything like the sound he wants to achieve, as any electric guitar sounds on music CD's is very different than simply the acoustic sound of the strings. It might be fruitful to buy an electric guitar with no amplifier and then consider the amplifier a reward for achieving some learning milestone or for playing regularly until the holidays. Buying a guitar with no amplifier can be a way to get a player a good guitar of the type they want without spending too much at first. A mediocre substitute for an amplifier can be playing the guitar through a computer's sound card, and there is some decent guitar effect software available.
All guitars require some maintenance over time since wood changes with pressures and humidity.
Yes, this probably adds up to a large sum. However, there's a saving grace. Whenever you buy a guitar from a guitar shop, you can usually get some of your accessories for free with minimal or no haggling. Just tell a salesperson that you want to buy a guitar, and he will probably start suggesting things he can throw in for free, and if not, you can suggest some accessories yourself.
Buying a new guitar for someone who already plays
What makes someone NOT love a guitar
A guitar is an excellent instrument for almost anyone A difficult guitar is not a good choice for a beginner. It takes dedication to learn and if the guitar is not difficult for the player then it is easier to learn.
- The player may not be comfortable with getting their hand around the neck of the guitar.
- A guitar that is difficult for the player to play is often a poor choice for that person, and is almost always a poor choice for a beginner.
- Beware of the advertised "beginner's guitar". It will almost certainly be nearly impossible to play. Find a dealer who will rent out a guitar of reasonable quality for a trial period. The action(height of strings from the fretboard) will be particularly high for these cheap beginners' guitars and will soon put someone off wanting to learn to play(bleeding fingertips included!)
Buying situations to avoid
Here are some "don'ts". These may seem to provide a guitar at a very low price which may seem like a good deal, but they are likely to provide you with a guitar that is difficult to play, damaged, or poor sounding. A guitar like that is a bad deal at any price.
[Note: These are actually viable places to buy guitars and guitar gear, however, only with the aid of someone who is very knowledgeable about guitars and how these types of stores/sites operate. Even then, it can be a risky proposition]
- Don't buy from a pawn shop (possible undetectable damage, possible counterfeit guitar -- like a Cort with a Gibson logo glued to the headstock.)
- Don't buy from any department store (difficult to play, damages easily, doesn't last, poor sound)
- Just remember, if you're going to become a guitarist, then you are going to want the best instrument, the best teacher, and the best advice. Don't choose quickly and shop around for advice. There are thousands of great guitarists around who will willingly help you out.
Shopping for a guitar
There are many places to find guitars.
- Good places to shop:
- Locally owned guitar store
- Local Guitar Superstore
- Bad places to shop:
- Pawn shops (Don't generalize, though, becuase some pawn guys really know their guitars. Sometimes a top guitarist has hit bad times and grabbed a bargain top guitar)
- Ask a friend
- See what brand the "stars" play
- Note: If at a locally owned store, ask if they have rental with option to buy plans. By the time the rental is up, you'll know what you're looking to buy.
Shopping at a guitar or music store
- Local music or guitar store
- Online Superstores: