JAMS NOTES - How to Buy a Guitar Part I

How to Buy a Guitar Part I

I know, I know, I can already hear the feedback.

Yes… I am writing a blog on, “How to buy a guitar”. But, here’s where I’m coming from.

With nine years of owning and operating a retail music store I have learned there is indeed a wrong way to buy a guitar. 

This article is tailored mostly for those buying their first guitar. However, the experienced guitarist who has purchased many a-guitars in their lifespan may learn some things as well. After all, there’s always a friend, niece, nephew, tax collector, mail man, etc. asking advice on what is the best guitar to buy for a beginner.  Let’s face it pro, those memories of your first guitar are kind of fuzzy. You could use a refresher.

Yes..there is a wrong way to buy a guitar…and I am here to scare you straight. 

JAMS is very fortunate and blessed to have built a great reputation with our customers. Every week new customers and potential guitarists visit our fine store based on recommendations from their friends. Every situation is unique and there is no one answer solution, but we are equipped and experienced to steer you in the right direction. This is a loaded topic that I could talk about for days, but I will condense it down to the most common questions and situations. Please, enjoy.

Should I buy an Acoustic or Electric?

This is indeed the most asked question we get from a new guitarist. The preception from most customers is to start with an acoustic model. But, I actually recommend an electric guitar as the first choice. Electric guitars tend to be easier to play due to their thinner  necks and lighter gauge strings. They also don’t have as large of a body so it’s easier to rest your arm comfortably on the instrument. There are pros and cons to both sides. So, my response is always followed by my own question. “What style of music…?”

If the goal is to play hard rock then I recommend an electric model, but to strum chords and sing then an acoustic is the way to go. A small amp is necessary to really justify using an electric so that’s an extra cost, but why give a kid wearing a Metallic T-Shirt an acoustic guitar. Playing guitar is a long process and staying motivated is key. Your first power chord deserves to be on an electric. Johnny Cash just doesn’t sound the same with an electric. You can learn the same chords, notes, scales, and modes on both acoustic and electric. So for your first choice go with a guitar that suits the style of music you hope to play. 

Do looks matter?

Absolutely, looks matter. Owning a guitar is a crowning achievement. Nobody buys a guitar then immediately hides it in a closet. (That comes later after the shame of not practicing.) When you buy a guitar you take pictures, show all your friends, create a MySpace account, call your mom and dad, take it with you to parent teacher’s conferences and so forth. Guitars are shiny pieces of art and they are worth showing off. The most legendary and glorified guitarists in history are equally known for the axes they wield. Choose a guitar that expresses your potential inner-guitar personality. As I mentioned before, learning to play guitar is a process, so buy a guitar that looks good and keeps you motivated.  

Should I buy used? Is Facebook Marketplace a safe place to buy an instrument?

Buying used is an excellent way to get a quality guitar at a terrific value. But for all you first time buyers, I strongly suggest that you don't venture out into the Facebook Marketplace or Pawn Shop realm alone. Let me ask you some questions: Do you know what a truss rod is? Where is the bridge on a guitar? Do you have a keen eye to see if the neck is straight? Do you know what all the knobs and switches control on a guitar? What is a pickup? If you don’t know the answers to these questions then you are setting yourself up for failure.

Guitars are pretty resilient, but there are certain parts that can become defective and could make the guitar worthless. Buying on Marketplace is always a risk. Even experienced buyers can initially overlook flaws during the transaction and once the deal is made, it’s finalized. Too often the person selling the guitar has no knowledge of guitars. They could be selling you a defective guitar and not even realize it. It’s not uncommon for someone to buy a guitar, hid it under the bed for years. Without proper attention and maintenance the neck could easily warp yet go unnoticed by the owner. Then when it’s time to sell the owner considers it as “like new” and sells it to the unsuspecting buyer.  Ye be warned. 

-Chad Daniels

Be sure to check out Part II next week.

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