8 essential tips to buy a guitar: how and what
Starting to play any instrument is always a big challenge. Having the instrument helps! I decided to post some suggestions that may help begginers in the moment of buying a guitar.
What you should buy depends on three basic factors:
- how much you want/can spend,
- how sure you are that you want to learn it
- what kind of music you intend to make with it.
1) Money issues:
A guitar can cost you anything from €50 to €500 (amateur level guitars). If you just want to give it a try, then it doesn't make a lot of sense to invest a lot. Spending no more than €100 would be a good goal. Or just find someone to borrow you one - make sure it's not a family antique!
If you're sure that you love it and you will dedicate yourself, then it's maybe worth to invest a bit more: >€200 -300. Often there are nice deals by €50… luck matters in these things!
2) What kind of guitar to look for:
There are many different kinds of guitars. The standard guitars can be grouped in
- acoustic: sound great without no amplification, perfect to study.
- electric: should be connected to a sound system (to play Rock, Pop, etc.)
- semi-acoustic: something in the middle; they sound really soft and can be amplified.
Depending on the style you're aiming for, you can also choose:
- a steel stringed guitar: to play Americana, Folk or Pop;
- a nylon stringed: to play classical music, Spanish music or Brazilian bossa-nova;
- an electric guitar: to play Rock, Metal, Jazz.
Beware that guitars exist in all possible combinations of the previous (and many other) categories. But this you can investigate by yourself.
3) I’m lost!
The steel stringed guitars are more impressive when you're doing just chords, they have a bigger sound. But they're less finger-friendly when you're learning because the strings hurt your fingers more. In the end you'll be probably using a pick to play it, instead of your right hand fingers. So, you'll develop no right-hand finger technique.
Many begginers want to go immediately for the electric guitar – of course, everyone wants to be a Pop-Rock star! My suggestion, if you have no clue, is:
- look for a nice nylon stringed guitar somewhat between €100-200.
- something soft to play, with a nice sound, but with a big arm that forces you hands' articulations and muscles to develop;
- it should also be something that you can take anywhere: camping, to boring family meetings, to your lunch break. Later there will be time to go for the electric guitar, with all the amps, cabling and gear.
4) Where to buy
To start with, I would strongly advise you to go to an instrument shop – not internet or second hand markets. Buying in a shop a new guitar is usually more expensive than second hand buy. But they can help you choosing and if the guitar has any malfunction you can always go back to them. Buying it second hand allows you a better instrument with the same money, but you never know if the guitar brings any defect until you actually use it. You don’t know what to expect, so any defect will be considered normal. Anyway, it should always be a not-too-expensive instrument.
5) How to choose
a) Go to two or three stores, experiment the guitars yourself,
b) Most guitar shops have very nice musicians working there – usually guitarists! Ask their opinion and dig in! Ask if someone can play a bit for you ina few of the available guitars (specially if you're a girl, they'll be most happy to - all musicians love audiences!);
c) See if there is any guitar that somehow falls into your preference;
d) Take your time, think about it. If necessary, go back there the next day and try them again. Not so much for the money, but it's nice to have an idea of how they sound;
e) Browse the web for videos; notice the sounds, the techniques used (finger pick, etc.). Basically, listen, listen, listen!
6) Search for the sound – not the looks!
a) Feel the resonance of the instrument when you just strum the strings. Sooner or later you’ll fall in love by a beautiful sound, from one of the guitars.
b) PLEASE do not choose for a colorful, grafitti or Picasso sketch looking guitar. You’re paying for something that just makes your guitar sound worse! Simple wood with a nice polished varnish are the best. The more natural it looks, the better it sounds!
c) Think of violins, cellos, pianos – aren’t they all made out of beautiful wood? (Yes, there are exceptions – go for the rule!)
You should feel comfortable playing the instrument. Choose something that fits you body size, the lenght of your arms, the size of your hands and fingers. You do that when you buy a shirt, right? If things go well, you’ll spend much more time with your guitar than with any piece of clothing!
Go for something sober, classy. Many musicians keep their first instruments their whole life – that goes beyond the emotional side. It’s just that those instruments fit them!
8) Have fun
Fun is the moving force of life. Your guitar should, most of all, provide you wonderful moments and memories. It can be a great friend for harsh times, the best wingman/woman to capture someone's attention and even your future job! You never know. What really matters, either playing Folk or Metal, alone or with people, in a handmade or neon coloured guitar, is that it should be a lot of fun. But remember: no pain, no gain. It takes time, effort and a lot of dedication.