Seems like everybody plays guitar these days. But are they playing the right guitar? There are a number of ways a guitarist can purchase a guitar and have it be the “right” guitar for him or her. And, these days it can even be done from the comfort of your own home – if you take the proper precautions!
So Many Different Kinds
A guitar is a very personal instrument. There are so many types of guitars, not to mention sizes, sounds and styles. If you don’t know what you want or like, don’t open a catalogue and order something to be delivered. There are so many variables; odds are that you could be unhappy with your purchase, whether immediately or down the road.
Begin with the Basics
Here are some basic considerations when deciding what to buy:
- Acoustic or electric?
- Modern or vintage sound?
- Type of wood?
- Body size?
- Neck shape?
- Heavy or lightweight?
- Scale length (generally 25.5” or 24.75”)?
- If electric – single-coil pickups or hum-cancelling double coils (humbuckers)?
- If electric – solid body, hollow body or semi-hollow body?
A lot of choices, eh? Even more choices will arise as you become a more accomplished guitar player. You will have a better idea of what works for you. For example, people with large hands may favor a larger neck, while more diminutive players may favor a slim, tapered neck.
Let’s Start Shopping
Where’s a good place to start shopping for a guitar? With your ears! What are your favorite guitar songs? Now, find out what guitar, or guitar/amplifier setup was used to play that song. Use the Internet. Go to YouTube and plug in your favorite guitar players’ names. There you can see what they played to achieve the sound you love.
Do as I Say, Not as I Did
Don’t do what I did! Back in the 1960s, my dad bought me a cheap, imported electric guitar – a Hi-Lo – from a neighborhood department store. For an amplifier, he helped me find a used Galanti accordion amp for sale in our local classifieds. The epitome of cheap! The guitar/amp combination was awful, and nothing I played sounded like the stuff I was hearing on the radio. It just sounded, well, cheap!
Now, my friend Gerald had the right idea. He really liked the guitar sound Pete Townshend of The Who was getting at the time, and wanted to sound just like that. He knew that much of the sound was coming from Townshend’s fingers, but getting the right equipment would be a logical start to accompany lessons and practice. So, Gerald saw that The Who guitarist was playing a Gibson SG Special, outfitted with two Gibson P-90 single-coil pickups. His amplifier of choice back then was an eardrum-shattering Hiwatt. So, that’s exactly what Gerald bought. Sure, he had to work two paper routes to pay for the stuff, but at least he didn’t sound cheap. And he sounded a lot more like Pete Townshend than I did!
Same goes for acoustic guitars. If your favorite acoustic guitarist plays a Martin, Gibson, Guild or Taylor … don’t go getting another brand and expect to parlay their sound. Ain’t gonna happen. You like their sound, play what they play.
This is where the local music store becomes your best friend. Go there. Get to know the owner and staff. Play a lot of guitars and ask a lot of questions. You won’t be a bother or a nuisance. Music people love to talk about music. While you may pay a little more at a small local guitar shop, and the selection may not be as vast as it is online, the value comes from the hands-on experience.
There is such a thing as a “dead-sounding” guitar. Each guitar is made from a different piece of wood. Some wood is more resonant. Most guitars are assembled by human beings. So there will be a degree of assembly variance that will affect the final sound and playability of the instrument. Once again, the local music dealer can make sure you’re not getting a “dead” one.
Online Retailers Have Plenty – But Beware
If there isn’t a music store near you, do use the online retailer, but make it clear that you reserve the right to return an instrument if it turns out to be something other than you expected.
Popular Online Musical Instrument Retailers
Here are some popular online music stores you could try:
Time to Play
Get out there and get a guitar. If you get the right one and love playing it, you’re probably going to want others. Got a favorite guitar? Let us know. Got a favorite local music store with a friendly, helpful staff? Tell us … we’d love to visit! Why? We love guitars!
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