When looking for a guitar, it’s not like you just stride into the store and point and say, “I’ll take that one,” or purchase online without doing at least a little homework. After all, electric guitars are big-ticket items.
Even a relatively inexpensive instrument will still cost you. Most people drop $250 to $600 on their first electric, and the really expensive ones are practically investments, so you want to buy smart.
So to help you navigate the glut of information that will undoubtedly come your way when researching your new instrument, here are 10 basic electric guitar-buying tips:
A guitar with well-adjusted action should be easy on your hands and fingers—you shouldn’t have to have a vise-like grip just to comfortably hit a C chord.
Try out different guitars. Play them. Hold them. Play them standing up and sitting down. Stand in front of a mirror with them. Plug them in and turn them up. Hold it up high like George Harrison. Hold it way down low like Slash. It’s different horses for different courses—there are no hard and fast rules, but your hands, eyes and ears will tell you which one is the one.
If you’re a beginner, guitar packs are a cool and very affordable way to go—containing everything you need to start playing: the guitar, small amp, strap, gig bag, tuner, cord, strings, picks. Some even have stands and instruction books/DVDs.
Guitars are made of wood, and wood changes with temperature and humidity. On the long road from manufacturer to dealer, it’s natural for a guitar’s original factory-spec setup to change, so don’t worry if everything isn’t tip-top right off the rack, spec-wise. Electric guitars are highly adjustable machines, and a setup can make an amazing difference.
Most domestic guitar makers also offer models built outside the United States that deliver good quality for great prices. Imports built in Japan, Mexico, China, Korea and elsewhere have improved in recent years and often mean solid value, especially if you’d prefer to wait a little longer to buy a more expensive U.S.-made instrument.
The amp affects the sound too. If you’re trying out several guitars in a store, try them out through the same amp. That amp, by the way, should be as close as possible to the one you have or the one you’re going to get. Use your amp, if possible.
If you’re new to playing and you don’t really speak guitar fluently just yet, bring somebody with you who does. If you don’t know a truss rod from a humbucker and action from intonation, it certainly couldn’t hurt.
New or used, it’s fairly simple to hit websites like eBay and CraigsList to see what the instrument you’re after is going for in various degrees of age and condition (while it’s great to get a baseline for price, we recommend buying Fender guitars only from an authorized Fender dealer, which guarantees that you’re buying a genuine Fender product covered by warranties).
There is such a thing as too much advice. If 10 different well-meaning confidants are trying to sway you in 10 different directions about what to buy or where to buy it, remember that you’re the one who’ll be making the call, spending the money and playing the guitar. Get what you want. That’s our advice.
Related to No. 7 above. If you don’t speak guitar yet, start learning. Ask questions of those who already know something, and there are all kinds of cool books and websites that are great educational resources.
No matter the style you play, we’re certain that you’ll find the perfect axe in our store! Stop in and get your next favorite guitar.
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For many years, Joe has been the man that so many of our customers and friends have relied on to build, repair, advise and troubleshoot their stringed instruments. It doesn’t really matter what it is, if it has strings Joe can repair it (unless it’s been broken into splinters!)