Tuesday, 4 February 2014

When Buying your first guitar...

There are many things to consider, but the most important thing to remember is that learning to play is great fun and can be a hobby that lasts for many years. Not only is it great fun, but it could lead to joining a band with your friends or becoming a musician in your own right. For a complete beginner it may be worth considering a cheaper learning guitar and using that to see if its a hobby for you. 

1) Budget - If you're a complete beginner keep your budget low. Consider guitars around the £150-£300 mark if you're buying a new guitar. You might even find a bargain in the second hand guitar market on sites such as eBay or your local guitar shop. Please remember that with guitars you get what you pay for, cheaper guitars could be very poorly made and have bad sound quality. If your hobby becomes more serious, it is likely you will have to buy another more expensive guitar later on.

2) Research the Subject - There aren't many specialist items it would be advisable buying without having researched the subject first and a guitar is no different. If you have a friend who is an enthusiastic guitarist, make sure you ask their advice. Also look at guides online that tell you which brands to look for and which ones to avoid.

3) Acoustic or Electric? - There are many factors which decide which is best for you, for example an electric guitar is generally easier to play but require more equipment, where as an acoustic is a lot more portable and convenient. Ultimately your decision is likely to be based primarily on what genres you like and what style of guitar you would like to play.

4) Shop - You should never buy a guitar without playing it first, so you know what you're getting. Not doing this is a huge mistake. If you have a guitar playing friend bring them along, it is likely they'll be able to recognise subtle tone qualities that you can't. 

When buying a guitar. Whether it is your first, second or third. It is highly likely the person selling your guitar knows more about it than you do. So you should be researched and prepared, as you don't want to pay over the odds. 

Each guitar - down to make and model - has its weaknesses. You'll want to do your research to find these out. There are however a few universal truths with guitars, which you should always check before buying:
Check the fretboard. 
Every guitar's got one. Are the frets lined up? Are any damaged? If so, test those out first. 

Check the Action 

What's the "action", you ask. Action is the space between the fretboard and the strings. You'll want this to be as comfortable as possible. The better your action, the better your playability.

Check the pick-ups. (Electric Guitars only)
Pick-ups are the plaques behind the strings where you strum. They pick up the sound and translate it out. You'll need these in tact if you're going to rock. If you're buying second hand, the seller may have stripped out nicer pick-ups and put in worse ones. Make sure you check these out. 

These three are universal, you'll need to check them on all guitars you look at it.

5) Play the Expensive Ones - Try out the expensive guitars so you get a feel for them and can compare it to the ones in your price range. Then make sure the assistant shows you the guitars in the higher end of your price range first.

6) Check the Tuning - Before trying the guitar, make sure it is tuned to concert pitch or standard tuning. This acts as a good bench mark when comparing guitars.

7) Check the Feel - Try as many guitars as you can whilst sitting and standing. If for any reason they do not feel natural it is likely they are wrong for you. Once you find a guitar that feels good in your hands and on your body, then you have the right one for you.

8) Test the Frets -  Place your index finger directly behind the first fret on the fattest string (E6). The fret is the raised metal "line". Now pluck the string with some force. If there are buzzes, pops, or odd noises there could be something wrong. Apply that hard pressure to check behind each fret on each string. If there is any "non musical" noise, ask the salesperson to adjust and re-tune the guitar. After the retune try the guitar again, if the problem persists, don't get it! The most important thing when buying a guitar is to judge each one by feel, sound and appeal.

9) Buying the Guitar - When you've finally settled on a guitar you like and you feel completely happy. Make sure you ask for a warranty, some new strings, a gig bag and a tuner. If you're new to the guitar you won't have any of these, so it will be a good investment. It is worth considering that most dealers leave the factory strings on their guitars, a new set of strings will brighten up their sound instantly.

10) Start Learning! - Now you've got the guitar you want plunge head first into learning the basics, whether from a private tuition, books or even Youtube videos. The more you practice the better you will get, as with anything worth doing.

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