Buying a new guitar

buying guitar

Whether it’s your very first guitar, or another to add to your collection, buying a new guitar should always be an exciting time.

I remember being 14 and taking a trip to the nearest guitar shop with my uncle who was going to teach me electric guitar, how excited was I? - I’d saved a couple of hundred quid and I’d been watching Clapton who at the time blew my mind.

I already had a preconceived idea of what an electric guitar should look like, black strat with a white scratchplate. what else did I need? oh yes a practice amp, marshall lead 12 fitted the bill.. I couldn’t quite afford the reverb version and didn’t want to wait. so after trying the 2 or 3 guitars the store had within my budget I handed over the £200 to the fat guy behind the counter who was indifferent to whether I made a purchase, he stubbed out his cigarette on the counter and counted the folding before stuffing it into his pocket, he didn’t care if i’d made the right decision or offer any kind of advice.

I left the shop with my Hohner strat copy in black and a Marshall lead 12 combo, no lead, no picks, no spare strings incase I broke one, and no tuning device (there wasn’t smartphones with tuning apps back in those days either). Those things although useful didn’t even feature on my radar, I had a strat and a marshall! - albeit a copy of a strat it still looked like the one clapton was using.. so my guitar adventure began.

Why are you guitar shopping?

This is an important question you need to ask yourself. If you already have a guitar, but you’re not enjoying it, think about what you don’t like and remember things to avoid. Guitars are very personal and if you feel that you’ve connected with one you’ll find it more inspiring to play, get a better sound and want to play it more. does it look good? does it sound cool? does it play great? - if you’re just starting out the you won’t know the answer to these other than how it looks, so maybe take someone with you who can play already or get the guys in the shop to show you how the guitars differ in sound from one model to anther, bear in mind the type of music you think you might want to play.. you’re not going to want a 7 string monster with active pickups if you’re playing country music or ‘the shadows’

What’s your budget?

How much do you want to spend. Having this figured out early on will save you lots of time when searching your local guitar shop. A starter guitar can go for anywhere from £60 upwards, the more you spend generally the better the instrument will sound and play. the quality of the parts, the woods used, the craftsmanship will all be evident when you buy a quality instrument, this said, you can still buy a cheap(ish) guitar which can play and sound great so don’t get hung up on having to buy an expensive instrument

Acoustic or electric?

This is a pretty important question you’ll need to be asking yourself. Do you want to get an acoustic guitar or an electric? ask yourself what style of music do you want to play? If you’re looking forward to strumming some Ed Sheeran, go with the acoustic. If you’re looking to bust out some Hendrix then an electric is for you. Either way, you can’t go wrong, but this decision made beforehand will save you a lot of time when you get to the shop.

What type of body?

If you decide to go with an acoustic guitar, there’s a lot of choice out there and you don’t want to be bewildered by the number of options so again try to narrow it down first. If you’re small then you’re not going to want a Jumbo or even a Dreadnought size guitar probably.. so look at smaller bodied folk size or parlour sized guitars as they’ll suit you better, if you think you’re going to want to do more finger picking then an Orchestra model (OM size) or folk body will project better, a Dreadnought will sound deeper and will suit a strummer better. Similarly with electric guitars you have options, Strat, Tele, Les Paul, Semi, Flying V, Explorer will all feel very different and give you different sounds.

Electric guitar style?

So you want an electric guitar, you’ll find solid body, semi, floyd rose, hard tail, string through, single coil, humbuckers, p90… aargh!! what are all of these and what do they mean? - I’d suggest that you call into your local store and get them to demonstrate the differences.. if you’re just starting off then chances are you don’t want the complications of a guitar with a floyd rose or floating trem system… ask the sales assistant for some honest advice, they should be helpful!

Used or new?

You can sometimes grab a great used guitar when you know what you’re getting into. And just like buying a used car, you should only buy a used guitar if you know what to look for. Here are a few things to ask yourself when buying a used guitar: How does it play it probably the most important one! - after that, does it feel comfortable, how does it sound plugged in if it’s electric or acoustic with a pickup? does it look cool (not so important but it is a factor you need to consider)

Online or in-store?

In the age of the internet you may feel like you want to just click on the picture of the guitar you like, add to basket and drop your credit card details in while you sit in front of your favourite soap opera, and then the lovely delivery driver brings you a cardboard box within a few days. Easy as this is, it’s much better to go into a shop. Any good guitar store will have someone who can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. And you should really get a feel for the guitar before buying and feel comfortable you have some support from your local shop should anything go wrong.. Some things are better left to the good old bricks and mortar (RIP Woolworths and your favourite record shop)

Do I need a Fender or Gibson?

You might think you need to start with a Fender or Gibson in order to impress your mates. These brands are aspirational and great if you have the money to splash but you can buy some fabulous guitars at a fraction of the price which will get you started on the road to guitardom. Their far eastern manufactured models from Squier, Epiphone, ESP, Ibanez, PRS to name a few are fantastic value for money. if you pick a ‘brand’ you’ve at least heard of then you’re probably going to get a better residual value should you wish to trade it in or sell it on for an upgrade at a later stage.

What else do you need?

Every guitars will require some accessories. if you’re an electric player then you’ll need to grab a small amp lead, also spare strings, cleaning kit, strap, case, stand are also hand extras but not essential . Nearly all new guitars should have a ‘setup’ by a professional to make sure that the guitar is in the best playable condition it can be, you’ll hear words like ‘action’ and ‘intonation’, ‘truss rod’ which as a beginner will mean nothing to you but are essential to your guitar playing properly and giving you the best chance to progress at a rate you’re happy with.. without a setup you can risk the guitar being so hard to play that it puts you off practicing or worse, puts you off playing forever. we’ve seen so many guitars which are purchased from ‘non guitar shops’ without mentioning any names, they shouldn’t be selling guitars as they’re doing more damage to potential guitar players than you can imagine. We had a pink electric guitar bought into the shop just the other day which needed a replacement string as the little girl had broken it christmas day, the strings were at least 1cm off the fingerboard so the poor girl didn’t really stand a chance of getting a note, let alone a chord from the thing.

I hope this has given you some food for thought in your quest for guitar purchasing.. it’s a long journey and if you’re just starting you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.

If you have any questions then feel free to email us

All the best!

Tony Rawson (Director Musicstreet)


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