Guitar Purchase Advice – Part 2
In part 1, I talked about some common questions people have when buying a guitar (often their first).
In part 2, I’m going to talk about some other aspects to consider when buying a guitar.
How will I use this guitar?
Sometimes people get caught up with trends and they end up with a guitar that doesn’t really suite their style or their need. For instance, your favorite guitarist might be SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughn) but you and your friends are putting together a death-metal band. That single coil Fender might not give you the sound you need. Or maybe you’ve always wanted a PRS so you went out to get one. But now you’re finding that the neck it thick and doesn’t suite your fingers/style.
So think about how this guitar is meant to be used and get the one that suites your playing style and gives you the sound you need.
So when looking for the right guitar for you, try to find a comfortable guitar that feels right in your hands. There are a variety of different neck designs. For electrics, the extremes are V-shape which are very thick and will pretty much force you to play “wrapped around thumb” style to very, very thin and wide necks which are more appropriate for “thumb behind the neck” style of playing.
This is also true for acoustic guitars. Necks vary from model to model. In general, I find this with string spacing.
Before buying a guitar, definitely pick it up and play it first.
Use the Right Amp
When you’re trying out guitars in the store, sales people tend to either (a) plug you into the nearest amp they can find or (b) take you to a private room and plug you into the most expensive (ie “the best”) amp they have.
But you really want to know is what this guitar might sound like through your amp. So see if you find your amp or an amp like it. For instance, if your amp is a steady state Marshall, trying a guitar out on a all-tube Fender will not give you an idea of what it might sound when you take it home.
The vice versa is true also. If you’re trying out an amp, try to use the guitar closest to what you have.
If you use your pedals a lot, ask the sales person to also hook up a pedal that you might have so you can get an idea how the guitar might work with your pedals/effects.
Fit and Finish
This refers to the build quality of the guitar. Are there any loose parts? After playing it for a little while, does it stay in tune? Are the frets sticking out the side (of the neck)? Any defects on the finish?
Keep in mind that even though most guitars are made by machines, two guitars that should be exactly the same may not be. So look at the guitar carefully and if you find some imperfection that you don’t think should be there, pick up another one. Especially for low to mid-end guitars, a lot of times stores will stock more than one of the same model (but often in a different color).
Natural Sound – Even for Electrics
This isn’t exactly scientific or even quantifiable. But a lot of times when I buy an electric guitar, after checking it out on an amp, I’ll unplug it and just listen to it’s natrual vibrations. I’ll often put my ears up against the body of the guitar while I play and listen to the wood vibrate. In general, I look for a guitar that has a strong, round sounding vibration (rather than “tinny”).
After having bought a number of different types of guitars, the last and most important thing I look for is if the guitar inspires me to play more. Does it feel like natural like an extension of my hands? Do I pick up a bunch of guitars in the store and keep coming back to it? These are sure signs that the guitar inspires you to play and keep playing.
Guitar is a tool. When the tool inspires you to use it and to aspire to higher heights, then it’s doing more than just its job. If you are a hobbyist, you probably find your uninspiring guitar(s) collecting dust.