Friday, December 7, 2007

Buy a guitar - What to look for when buying a guitar

Who wouldn’t want a shiny new guitar under the tree for the holidays? But it should come as no big surprise that not all guitars are created (literally) equal. So, what should you look for when buying a guitar?

Well, first, you need to decide what kind of guitar you are looking for. This is largely dependent of what kind of music you’re looking to play. If you’re looking to become (or by a guitar for) an aspiring singer/songwriter you probably want a steel string acoustic guitar. If it’s a future rocker or blues guitarist, you’ll most likely want a solid body electric guitar. And Jazz musicians and Rockabilly guys tend to favor hollow body electric guitars. If you are buying an electric guitar you'll need an amplifier in most situations, as they are extremely quiet when they are not plugged in.

In the most general terms, it is easier to play on a quality instrument. Not too long ago quality was just another way of saying “big bucks”, but thankfully that is no longer the case. Some of the less expensive brands carry familiar names: Epiphone, Ibanez, Yamaha, and Washburn to name a few. These are a good place to start.

Buy a Guitar Tips

Keep in mind the size of the person who the guitar is for. Many acoustic guitar and Hollow body electrics bodies are rather large (dreadnaught and jumbo bodies) and younger smaller students might have trouble just reaching the strings. So in these cases it is better to opt for the smaller body versions of these instruments. Solid body electrics are typically small and this is seldom an issue.

The height of the string over the fingerboard determines how much pressure is going to be required to play the guitar. The height is lower towards the nut and headstock of the guitar and should only increase slightly up the neck, to about 3/32” at the 12th fret.

The neck should be fairly (almost totally) straight. An easy way to check, even for non-players, is to hold the lowest string down of the first fret and the twelfth fret at same time. The string should be equal distant off the frets the entire distant between your fingers. If there’s an increases distance between the strings and the fret in the center, or if the strings touch the frets in the center the neck is not straight. This might be fixed with an adjustment of the neck’s truss rod, but don’t do this yourself. Ask the dealer to do it, or look for another guitar.

Fret every note on the guitar and listen for buzzing, and try turning the tuners (tuning gears). They should feel smooth and moving easily, not hard, stiff or gritty. Listen to each string as you turn the tuning gears, the pitch should smoothly raise and lower without pings.

When buy acoustic guitar generally speaking solid woods sound better than laminates (a high-end name for plywood). Unfortunately, they are usually more expensive. I would recommend a guitar with at least a solid top (face of the guitar). The top is the soundboard, and its vibration fueled by the strings is the largest part of the instrument that you hear.

The back and sides of the guitar are usually mahogany, maple or rosewood, though many other woods are now being used especially on less expensive guitars. Maple usually sounds very bright, rosewood tends to have low lows and an articulated high end, and mahogany emphasizes the mid-range frequency. This is all a matter of personal taste, but I prefer the warm sound of mahogany guitars.

Solid body electric guitar bodies are usually made of two or more pieces of wood usually ash or alder though mahogany is not uncommon, sometimes with a cap made of another wood is placed on top.

If you choose to buy electric guitar keep in mind that the string’s vibration is transferred to the amplifier through the guitar’s pickups. Generally, there are two types of pickups, single coil and double coil (also called humbuckers or humbucking pickups). Obviously, the double coil pickups are about twice the size of a single coil pickup and they tend to have more mid-range and less high-end than their single coil counterparts. Again, it’s all a matter of taste…great music has been made with both styles of pickups in just about every style of music, and just about every guitarist have used both at some point in their career.

Don’t forget that a guitar in itself is a great gift, but is near useless without
guitar lessons. I encourage you to look at the guitar lessons offered at EasyMusicLessons.com, where you can find lessons for yourself or the guitarist in your life.

Easy Music Lessons is a company created by musicians, for musicians, run by musicians. Nowhere will you find a company more compassionate about providing a product applicable to the needs of their customers. We know exactly the level of passion and dedication it takes to learn (and master) an instrument, the requirements expected of working musicians, and what it take to be considered at successful musician at large. We combine our wealth of experience with the best that technology has to offer and pack it into each and every lesson series we have to offer, along with 24/7 customer support for every lesson we sell.

If you find a great guitar or a great deal let us know so we can pass it on. Good luck, good licks & happy hunting!

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