Learning Centre > Guitar Basics > Buying a Guitar
Buying A Guitar - Do
You Know What To Look
Buying a guitar is an important decision that my students have
often asked me about. They want to know what they should be
looking for. This is an important question because no two are ever
exactly alike. There is a wide variety of types, styles, colors,
makes, and models to choose from. The question is, which one is
right for you? If you don't know what to look for when you're
buying a guitar, you could end up spending a lot more money than
you really need to. On the other hand, getting a "deal" may also
get you a lemon. Following are some important questions to
1. What style of music are you interested in playing?
The basic skills required when learning to play are the same
regardless of the style of music you may be interested in.
However, you should understand when you are thinking of buying a
guitar, that some are more suited for a particular style than
others. Getting started in the right direction can help you to
avoid costly mistakes. Do you like Rock'n Roll, Jazz, Bluegrass,
or Classical music? Considering your own personal tastes can help
you to determine whether to buy an electric or an acoustic guitar
2. Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced guitarist?
buying a guitar for beginners I usually recommend a nylon stringed
acoustic or an electric, as they will be the easiest on the
fingers. However, students with small hands may find the wider
neck of a classical guitar hard to play because of the reach
involved. Something to consider in this
case is a 1/2 or 3/4 size. Musical style, personal preference, quality and price are the key
determining factors to consider when buying a guitar for
intermediate and advanced players.
3. What is the tonal quality of the instrument?
Tonal quality refers to the unique sound of each individual
guitar. When you strum the strings or listen to it being played
what do you hear? Does it sound deep, bright, soft, dull, tinny?
The instrument should resonate (transmit the full vibrating
quality of it's sound) clearly.
4. How is the action?
The action is simply how high or low the strings are set on the
fretboard. This will greatly affect the playability. If the
strings are set too high they will be difficult to push down and
you will be working harder than necessary to play the instrument.
On the other hand, if the strings are set too low they will likely
interfere with the frets, which may cause a buzzing sound as you
play. You should check each fret thoroughly before buying a guitar.
This can be done by using the first finger of your left hand to
play each string at every fret up and down the neck. Do you here
any buzzes? Does the guitar sound in tune at every point? Is it
easy to push the string down? If you are unsure about doing this,
then try to take someone who plays guitar along with you as you
5. Is the neck straight?
If the neck is straight the intonation will be consistent. This
means that when a specific note or chord is played at different
points along the neck it will remain in tune. If the note or chord
sounds out of tune at different points, then the neck may be
crooked or warped. You can check the neck by looking along it's
edge. Begin from the base of the body and continue on up to the
base of the head. You should see a straight line. If you don't,
the neck may be bowed, twisted, or warped.
6. How does the neck feel in your hand?
Necks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you will need
to determine what feels comfortable to you. Some necks are round
and some have a v-shape angle to them. When you cradle the neck in
your hand be aware of the fit. Thin necks tend to be easier for
small hands, but are generally not as strong as heavier ones. For
example, a 12-string guitar will have a heavier neck than a
6-string. Buying a guitar that is the wrong size for your hand can
be a factor in developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
7. What are you willing to spend?
If you're just starting out, you really shouldn't need to spend
a lot of money when buying a guitar. Knowing what your budget will
allow can help to speed up the process though. If you only have
$200 to spend, don't waste time looking at more expensive models.
You can always upgrade later after you've had sufficient time to
explore your musical interests. I personally own 9 or 10 guitars
and there is always room for one more! Be realistic about your own
needs and keep these questions in mind as you shop. Better yet,
print them out and take them with you! Be sure to read
10 BEST GUITAR BUYING TIPS on my website to find even
more help in this area. Happy Hunting!
Kathy Unruh is a singer/songwriter and webmaster of
Learn Guitar. She has been writing songs and providing guitar
lessons to students of all ages for over 20 years. For free guitar
lessons, plus tips and resources on songwriting, recording and
creating a music career, please visit:
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