This article provides some important tips and advice on how to buy a guitar. It points out some of the things that can catch out beginners when looking for their first guitar. Even if you’ve been playing for a while, you might learn a thing or two. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and read on.
Choosing a Guitar
If you’ve arrived at this article, you’ve probably decided that you want to play guitar and are considering your options for which one to purchase. Should you go for the cheap electric guitar that your friend offered to sell to you last week, or should you go for that lovely steel-strung acoustic guitar that caught your eye as you walked past the window of the music store earlier today? Well, here at the guitar instructions website, we sympathise and will do our level best to give you all the advice you’ll ever need on buying a guitar.
Acoustic or Electric?
First of all, you must choose the kind of guitar you need. There are two main categories of guitar: acoustic and electric. Which type you go for largely depends on your musical preferences. What kind of music do you want to play – rock and roll, country, blues, classical, heavy metal or maybe you just want to learn a few guitar songs to sing around the campfire?
Even if you’ve narrowed your search down to electric or acoustic, there are many different types of each and the choice can seem quite overwhelming. A good way to narrow down your options further is to think about the types of guitar that your favourite artists play. Do they play acoustic or electric guitar? If they play acoustic, is it a steel-strung “folk” guitar or a nylon-strung classical guitar? If they play electric guitar, does it have humbucking pickups or single coil pickups?
Considering these questions can help you to reach a decision.
Your next move should be to go down to the music store and try out as many different guitars as are available, to find out which one fits you best. You need to examine the way the guitar feels when you hold it. Does it fit your body and does it feel comfortable to you?
Comfort is a critically important factor to consider when buying a guitar because, if your new guitar is not comfortable to hold and play, it won’t matter how good it sounds because you’ll never play it. Worse still, it could cause you to injure yourself because it is not ergonomically suited to you and your body.
The action on the guitar is also very important. The action is the distance from the strings to the fretboard and how hard it is to press the strings down against the fretboard with your fingers. If you are trying a guitar that needs the strength of an 800lb gorilla to play a barre chord then you should probably put it back where you found it and move on to the next option (unless you actually are an 800lb gorilla, in which case go for it!)
It’s always a good idea to bring a friend who is already more experienced in playing the guitar than you are. They will be able to advise you and guide your decision.
Guitars for Small Hands
Hand size is obviously a factor in your decision on which guitar to purchase. Are you big or small in the hand department? If you have small hands, you could play a 3/4 size guitar. People with smaller hands find these guitars much easier to play than a full-size guitar and you should consider them as a realistic option.
Don’t think of buying a guitar that’s smaller than the standard size as cheating and also don’t get the idea that 3/4 size guitars are only for children – this really isn’t the case. After all, you wouldn’t think twice about buying a smaller bicycle if that meant it fitted you properly, or a pair of shoes for that matter. It’s the same principle here… get the guitar that fits you.
Think about the width of the neck and guitar fretboard. Some guitars have thinner necks and some are fatter. It’s all a matter of physical size and comfort.
The big factor, which I haven’t mentioned so far, is price. There is so much choice, it’s hard to know where to start. You could pick up a second hand, cheap electric guitar for peanuts, or you could spend thousands of dollars. Choose a price range that suits your budget and try out the guitars within that price bracket to find the one that is best for you. Bear in mind that you tend to get what you pay for, but be careful because there are always the exceptions that prove the rule and catch out the unwary buyer.
If you’re buying a guitar, you’ll usually be buying a few accessories to go with it. Here’s what you should be considering.
In terms of your choice of guitar pick, I would go for middle of the road. The choice tends to be one of three categories: light, medium and heavy. Too light gives you less control and too heavy can feel sloppy in the hand, so I would recommend you go for a medium pick until you develop good technique. The most important thing is how the pick feels in your hand. Does it feel like it’s going to slip out of your fingers? If so, try a different one. Some picks come with textured surfaces that help you to keep them in position, even if your hands become wet. It is possible to buy picks made from tortoise shell and these have a really good grip to them.
When it comes to picks, there’s a lot of different shapes, so it’s important for you to know how it fits in your hand and whether it feels comfortable and stable there.
A good guitar strap is a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of playing standing up. Choose one that’s in your price range; prices vary anywhere from $10 to $50 or $100 depending on what it’s made from and which company makes it. I’d recommend that you buy a good leather strap. Leather straps tend to be wider (and therefore more comfortable on your shoulder) and keep the guitar in a stable position. Again, make sure it feels comfortable and stays on the guitar well without falling off.
You may want to get some strap locks if you’re going to be playing standing up, especially on stage doing a live performance. You don’t want your guitar to drop off your shoulder and get damaged – or damage you (a heavy guitar landing on the foot can be very painful).
Now You Know How to Buy a Guitar
In summary then, the key things you need to look out for when considering how to buy a guitar are comfort, price and quality. And that, in a nutshell, is all you need to know about buying a guitar.