Which Guitar Should I Buy?


Being a Guitar Tutor at Guitar Academy Petersfield I get asked a lot about Guitar and Amp purchases. Unfortunately the answer can sometimes be compared to 'how long is a piece of string?'. Either way I thought I would write some top tips of what to look for when buying a Guitar for the first time or the 100th time. Also I have some recommendations for your first Guitar.

Things to Look For

  • Build Quality - Is the instrument well constucted?
  • Has the neck got an S shape in it? - This is fairly uncommon for new guitars but worth checking. Simply look from the back of the bridge of the guitar down the neck. You should see a relief in the neck (neck pointing forwards slightly) but no S shape or Curve in the neck. This is a problem. Unlikely but worth a check.
  • Action - how high are the strings from the fretboard? If its quite high it could be a sign of neck issues or poor set up. It should be at a playable and comfortable height. So give it a whirl and see if you can play it without any struggle. Action can also be too low and struggle to produce a consistent tone.
  • Buzzing - Every electric guitar and acoustic will buzz a little bit. But there are normal buzz noises and bad buzz noises. Simply play every single note on every single fret on every string. One after another and listen for any dramatic changes in the note in regards to buzzing. If you hit one of these notes that sounds way off or different then there might be a fret problem somewhere.
  • Check the frets - Check them for dings, notches, grooves make sure they all look good.
  • Inspect the wood - Check it over look for cracks, dry bits or distressed areas. 
  • Tone and Volume - Check any electric or moving components. Plug into an amp and listen for any noise and check the connections are good. If you hear a crackle. This is usually just some dust in the Pots. This can be solved with some Servisol.

Is It Right for You?

  • Go to a shop and play as many different Guitars as possible. When choosing a Guitar make sure you choose one that feels comfortable for you to play. We all have preferences and different size hands and many other variables. So the right Guitar is simply the one that feels easy for you to play.
  • Sound - When trying out an Electric Guitar make sure the amp sounds are set to a neutral setting to get an idea of how the Guitar sounds. If you have an amp at home make sure you try out the Guitar using an amp similar to yours. If you are testing an acoustic make sure you are not in a place / room with a lot of natural reverb. Everything sounds great with Reverb... sometimes.
  • Does it have all the features you want? - This goes for Guitar and Amps. If you know nothing and starting from scratch then keep it simple. If you are particually looking for a trem such as a floyd rose make sure you do your research first.

Be Careful Online

Be careful when buying a Guitar online. Especially if this is the first time you are buying a Guitar. Sometimes reviews are not enough or a true representation of the quality of an instrument.

Good Guitars are not cheap but Good Guitars also do not have to cost the earth. Sometimes its safer to make your own judgement and see the item in person. Also sometimes it pays to stick to a brand name. I often get some customers that buy unbranded Guitars from EBAY or Amazon and they are literally the worst. Difficult to play and poorly made. Not saying every Guitar or Ebay and Amazon is this way but just be careful. You know the saying.. 'Buy Cheap Buy Twice'. (I have often falling foul of this but luckily not with Guitars).


Gigs and Pay to Play

Pay to play is something that is often talked about on the internet and a practice this is employed by some gig promoters.

If you are a band and you are asked to pay a fee to play a gig then you need to seriously think is this gig worth doing. Most of the time the answer is no. Only on extremely rare (and I mean extremely rare occasions) should you consider to pay to play a show.

The pay to play concept should not be confused with promoters asking you as a band to help sell tickets to your fans. Some smaller gigs and promoters will ask bands to help sell tickets to their fans and receive a commission on sales instead of receiving payment for a show. This is still employed by promoters putting on lesser known original acts. 

This is not a bad thing. To be honest if you are playing your own material and getting out on the scene and doing some support slots this practice is the most common you will probably encounter. You should only demand a fee if you have invested in building a significant following or invested in noteworthy marketing.

However you should not be expected to sell a specific number of tickets.

Small promoters are taking a gamble by putting on unknown acts. Which is fine its their choice. However if you expect a fee when you have not invested in developing your own following then your unlikely to be attractive to promoters. 

The other option is to simply put on the event yourself. Hire the venue and promote your own performance. Then you are in control. Most small venues allow you to hire and put on your own night.

Promoters will do their best in promoting your gig. But as mentioned they do gamble on unknown acts and commonly do not offer a fee for every band that plays. Typically only a commission.

Best advice is to put on your own shows and definitely invest in marketing your band. Treat it like a business and forget the cost of rehearsals as part of your investment. Your rehearsals help you develop your product but do not offer anything in appeal to promoters of other clients.

This is a sensitive subject amongst bands.

How to Read Guitar Tab

How to read Tab (Tablature)

Tabs tell you how a song is played on the guitar. Its different from traditional notation as it uses a series of numbers instead of symbols to tell you the notes to play.

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