Choosing and buying a first guitar is impossibly difficult. There are literally hundreds of them out there and among them there are the the damaged, the expensive and the downright crappy guitars that you have to wade through to find the one that you love. Luckily, we are here to help!
Hello, and welcome to UG's definitive buyers guide! Here at UG we believe that everyone has a perfect partner, and more-often-than not it's a guitar! In this series of guides, myself and other members of the UG columns team will help you to find your perfect guitar and try to save you some money as well. Over the next few weeks there will be specific articles on the best guitars, amps and stuff for beginners. Later, we hope to move on to more advanced gear creating what will become an undeniably quite fantastic guide to wasting money. Enjoy!
Part One: Your First Guitar
Choosing and buying a first guitar is impossibly difficult. There are literally hundreds of them out there and among them there are the the damaged, the expensive and the downright crappy guitars that you have to wade through to find the one that you love. Luckily, I'm here to help!
Most people don't even know what kind of guitar they're looking for, easpecially when you're looking for your first guitar. Jazz players need big hollow-bodied guitars. If you play metal, you'll be wanting humbuckers (more on this later). So look at your heros' guitar, ask the shop assistant and try to find a guitar which shares some of the character traits of the music you want to play. Don't go into this too much, as no two guitars are the same which is one of the main reasons for not buying a guitar you've never seen. You can take two strats and one will play like a dream and the next of the production line could easily be a dud. Now that you've cut out guitars which are of no use to anyone, it's time to find your new best friend.
Finding Your First Guitar
This is the really tricky bit, and before you even start you will need to know your budget, at least 150 for a first guitar, more if possible. You will also need to know what kind of music you play, as this will help you decide what kind of guitar to buy. For more advice on this, see the salesperson which brings me to the next point. Where are you shopping, make sure that the staff are friendly, and not pushy. Tell them about your situation and they will be more than happy to help. Also, check prices of some common brands in a few different places to see where the expensive shops are. That done, you're ready to shop.
The Next Step
If possible, take a friend who plays guitar, and go to the guitar shops you have deemed worthy of your business. Attract a member of staff and let them know you are going to be playing some guitars. Choose something that takes your fancy, knowing that it's in your price range and suitable, and check it over. Firstly, check it's not completely useless by playing each fret and checking for fret buzz. Then give it a good hard strum and listen for anything moving around (this is most noticeable with the volume turned down. Now look it over, any dents, cracks or bumps? Look down the guitar as if looking down the barrel of a gun to check for neck warping.
If this is all fine, then strum yourself some chords to see how it sounds. In the case of an acoustic, fingerpick a few notes to see if you get a very trebly sound and if the guitar is nice and loud. With an electric, check each pick-up works and that the tone and volume controls work fine. Don't worry about sounding crap, people understand if you haven't learnt to play yet, it's why you're buying a guitar! Everyone went through a point when they couldn't even play Smoke on the Water, and some people still can't!
Now this is where you friend/shop-assitant comes in. Get someone to let rip with a complicated solo, some harmonics and other fancy stuff that you can't do yet to get a real feel for the tone of the instrument. Once you've done all this, feel free to look at the price!
In the case of shop-assistants, if they're not friendly, and if they push you to buy a particular guitar, get out of thier shop. Also, haggle like there's no tommorrow! If you're spending 250+, then try to get a strap or lead free by saying something along the lines of "That seems a bit much...". Rather than decrease the price, they will often chuck in a free lead or tuner. I ended up with a strap, lead, tuition book and capo for about 20!
And once you've done that!
Well you'll need an amp and leads plus other accessories, and to tell you more about those there's a whole bunch of articles on choosing the right gear coming up, so why not bide your time and watch out for more great advice on buying guitars and amps from the UG columns team.
Hope to see you soon,
- Geldof the Grey
(aka Steve - firstname.lastname@example.org)