Buying the perfect guitar for your musical journey can be frustratingly overwhelming. There are many options to choose from and plenty of things to preoccupy your mind.
The selection process gets more complicated when you are clueless about what to look for in a guitar. To make the experience less stressful, you may want to learn the five important things to consider when buying a guitar.
1. Electric or Acoustic?
Your choice between an acoustic and electric guitar boils down to what music genre you envision yourself playing more often.
Electric guitars are ideal for rock and metal, although you can also use them for playing R&B, jazz, blues, country, and pop songs.
Most people say electric guitars are easier to play and can produce a greater variety of musical tones. The downside is that you need a few accessories to enjoy the electric guitar’s full musical qualities and performance.
On the other hand, acoustic guitars are suitable for aspiring singer-songwriters, folk and country guitarists, and bluegrass musicians. However, adding a removable pickup can also turn the humble acoustic guitar into a worthy electric axe that can play rock, R&B, and blues songs.
If you can get hold of only the best acoustic guitar, you may not even need a pickup to produce excellent electric guitar-like tones. The sound it produces is also brighter, warmer, and more natural.
You might even want to consider getting an acoustic-electric guitar. You can play it like any other acoustic guitar when you are alone or with friends. Plug it into an amplifier and it turns into an electric guitar, ready to wow the crowd.
2. Guitar Size
Getting the correct guitar size is crucial to your playing enjoyment. Too big, and it would be difficult for you to reach and grab the fretboard, let alone play the strings. Too small, and your stubby fingers will not have enough room to move about.
A full-size guitar can measure anywhere between 36 and 40 inches, some longer. However, a more accurate measurement you should consider is the guitar’s scale length.
Your choice of a guitar’s scale length depends on your arm length. A full-sized guitar typically has a 25-inch scale length. Your arms reach should be long enough to reach the end of the neck near the headstock at about 25 inches.
If the scale length is too long for your reach, you may want to get a ¾ size guitar with a 22.5-inch scale length. You might also want to consider a mini guitar or half-guitar with a scale length of about 20.5 to 22 inches. There is also a ¼-sized guitar with a scale length of 17 to 19 inches.
Scale length impacts the guitar’s fret spacing, string tension, and string gauge, all of which can affect playability and overall tone.
3. Shop Online or In-Store?
Buying a guitar in-store gives you the chance to test-play the instrument before buying it, as recommended by music experts at Guitar Junky. You can check whether the guitar stays in tune or not by playing a few chords. You might also want to check the string action.
Buying a guitar in-store also allows you to assess the guitar neck’s straightness and relief. You can also determine if the scale length is right for you. If you are going to buy an electric guitar or an acoustic-electric guitar, it is also possible to check the working condition of its electronic components.
If shopping for a guitar in-store is not feasible, you may want to buy it online. However, it is often best to read customer reviews and shop only at reputable online music stores or e-commerce platforms.
Ensure they have a clear return and exchange policy or an extended warranty for your guitar. It would also help if they can give you a virtual demonstration of the guitar’s physical and musical characteristics.
4. New or Used?
There are a few advantages of buying a used guitar. First, it has a more beautiful and elegant sound that comes with age, but only if the previous owner took meticulous care.
A second-hand guitar also looks more classic, and more vintage. It can also be more affordable. If you have a particular brand, model, and style in mind, a used guitar might be an excellent option for you. However, rare vintage guitars can set you back by a few thousand dollars.
If you prefer a guitar with advanced sound-production technologies, cutting-edge design and materials, and a brand new look, you should get a new guitar. It also comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, giving you confidence in your purchase.
In general, a used guitar is suitable for newbies who are still exploring the world of string instruments. If you are hell-bent on embarking on a magical guitar-playing journey, buying a new instrument is always a good choice.
Many factors play into the price of a guitar. For example, electric guitars are often more expensive than acoustic instruments because of integrated electronics. They may also feature more advanced materials.
Guitar size is a price factor, too. A mini guitar will always be more affordable than a full-sized guitar. You can get a half-sized acoustic guitar for about $50 to $150. A full-sized acoustic can cost you about $75 to $200, often depending on the brand and model.
In general, buying online saves you more money than purchasing a guitar in-store. Many guitar manufacturers with online shops and online guitar retailers can provide you with discounts and freebies with your purchase. Some also offer free shipping and handling, including an extended warranty.
Used guitars are also cheaper than new ones, except for collector items.
For example, the Fender Stratocaster used during the Reach Out to Asia concert in 2005 sold for a whopping $2.7 million. Why so expensive? The electric guitar has the signature of contemporary guitar legends, such as Brian May, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Tony Iommi, Eric Clapton, Sting, Bryan Adams, and more.
These five important things to consider when buying a guitar should point you in the right direction in your musical journey. They are not absolute, of course. However, these considerations should give you an idea of how to come up with your guitar selection criteria. The perfect guitar should be within your grasp.