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Guitar Buying Guide

This Guide is designed to help you buy a guitar that is right for you based on your skill, your budget, and your playing style.

General Tips:

  1. Make sure it stays in tune
  2. Make sure it sounds good to you.
  3. Make sure it feels good to you.
  4. Check it for damage such as a bent neck.

Skill Level
If you are a beginner, you might wonder whether you should get an electric or an acoustic. I recommend an electric because it is easier to play, it will not make your fingers hurt as much, and you can play most acoustic music on an electric but you might not be able to play electric music on an acoustic. If you are an intermediate player, I would suggest that you have an acoustic and an electric.

Your Budget
Many players would like to have a custom Gibson or Fender, but many people cannot afford the high costs. I would not spend less than $200 on a new guitar. If you are spending less than this its quality probably will not be very good. You can normally find a good guitar for $200 to $500. I like the Mexican Strats for this price range. They seem to have good quality for their price. Other good guitars in this price range are Epiphone guitars (A division of Gibson). They seem to do a nice job for their price. I also like Ibanez guitars. My first guitar was an Ibanez for $240 and it was a great guitar for what I used it for. If you are looking for an acoustic in this price range, you probably won't find one with an acoustic pickup.

Acoustics generally run higher than electric guitars because they are harder to make. When you look for an acoustic guitar look inside of it to see if it was glued sloppily. If the guitar isn't a thousand dollars, don't be upset to find some glue because many of the cheaper acoustics are mass produced, therefore, they are not done as cleanly as the expensive acoustics. Another thing to look at is whether the guitar has a solid top. If not, its tone will not be as good. The same goes for the back and sides of the guitar, but they are not as important as the top. Cutaways are a type of acoustic that are growing in number because of the access to the higher frets. The problem with this is it takes away from the sound. The sound will not be as loud with a cutaway as it would be without one.

If you have more that $500, you can get a great guitar. You can probably afford a Gibson, or a good Fender electric, or a good Martin or Taylor acoustic. Whatever you do, don't sacrifice quality for price. You will be much happier when you get a better guitar for more money than less money for a bad guitar.

Your Playing Style
Your playing style will greatly affect the guitar you buy. If you play jazz, you should probably buy an archtop guitar. If you like blues, you should probably buy a Strat, or a Gibson ES-335. If you like country, you should look into a Strat, or a Fender Telecaster. If you like rock, you should look into a Les Paul or Strat.

If you like distortion, look for a guitar with a humbucking pickup at the bridge. If you like a twangy sound, look for a guitar with single-coil pickups. If you like a big fat sound look for a humbucking pickup near the neck.

It's hard to tell someone what to look for, but let me tell you this: If it sounds good, buy it. No two guitars are the same. If you ever saw Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar you would notice that it is extermely beat up, but it sounds great. He had several other guitars of the same make, but none of them sounded as good. Just remember, looks don't make the guitar, the wood and craftsmanship make the guitar.

Copyright 1996-2000 Patrick MacFarlane All rights reserved.