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).