- Category: Guitar lessons online Guitar lessons online
- Published on Sunday, 31 January 2010 13:58 31 January 2010
Here are what I believe to be the six most important things to consider when buying your first guitar.
Most beginning guitar students start with a steel-string acoustic guitar since it's so versatile. You can use it to play rock, blues, folk, country, jazz, and everything in between. Plus, you don't have to buy an amplifier and cables as you would if you purchased an electric guitar.
So the advice below is geared mostly to people who are considering purchasing this type of guitar. And I am assuming you are buying a new guitar. If you want to buy a used guitar, there are additional considerations you will want to be aware of to ensure the guitar is in good condition (see bottom of this article).
There are so many brands of guitars today, and many of them are of questionable quality. It really does help to buy a better quality guitar if you can afford it because a good guitar is easier to play and sounds better.
However, if you are on a budget, there are a few brands of guitars that are well enough made, even at the $300-$400 range. The two brands I recommend in that price range are Seagull, and Simon & Patrick, partly because they make reasonable quality guitars at decent prices, but also because they are Canadian companies, which is nice.
Guitars in the $800-$1500 range tend to be easier to play because they are constructed better. If you can afford a little more money, my favourite brand right now for acoustic guitars is Larivee. They are so easy to play and sound fantastic, and they don't cost that much more. And they are also Canadian made!
2. Size Matters
Make sure the guitar is comfortable to hold -- not too big to get your arms around especially if you are a petite person. The "Dreadnought" guitar is the most popular shape for steel string acoustics because their large sized bodies offer great response in both the bass and high frequencies. But they are rather big and if you're on the petite side they may be uncomfortable to play.
3. Action (string height)
One thing to look for is lower "action" -- this means that the strings are not too high above the fretboard so that you don't have to push too hard to fret the notes. Some cheap guitars have high action, which means it will be harder on your fingers, especially for a beginner. Many stores will do a free "setup" of a guitar after you buy it, which could include lowering the action.
4. Tuning Pegs
Make sure the tuning pegs don't feel loose when you turn them. If they are cheap tuning pegs, then you may have difficulty keeping the guitar in tune, which will be a royal pain.
5. Solid Wood or Plywood
For acoustic guitars, there is a lot of marketing about solid wood tops versus plywood. Guitars with solid wood tops tend to sound better, however, they are more expensive. If your budget is limited, don't be too concerned about this. The difference is minimal, especially to a beginner's ears. It's more important to get a guitar that is comfortable to play.
6. Looks matter
It's also important to buy a guitar you really like the look of. Buy a guitar that will inspire you to pick it up and play. You want a guitar that speaks to you as you spot it from the corner of your eye and it says to you: "Pick me! Play beautiful music with me!" As you improve your musical ability and strengthen your artistic confidence, this guitar will be the instrument though which you express your true self.
Additional advice for used guitars
If you plan to buy a second-hand guitar, all of the above advice applies, but you should also strongly consider checking that the neck of the used guitar is not warped.
You can do this just by looking straight down the neck from the body of the guitar looking lengthwise, straight down towards the head stock.
The neck can be slightly bowed, which is not uncommon for acoustic guitars, but it should be either straight or very close to straight so that the height of the strings above the fretboard is fairly consistent over the entire neck. If it's excessively bowed, do not buy the guitar. It will be difficult to play and this is not something that can be easily fixed.