Buying your first guitar can be an exhilarating experience. No matter what age you are, this moment has the potential to influence the majority of your spare time for the rest of your life. It could even be the first stepping-stone that influences your future career. Getting it wrong could result in an unjustly empty wallet to aching hands from a poor design.
There are plenty of pitfalls to watch out for so here are some handy tips to make sure you get what you need.
Big brands aren’t the end-all of guitars
You might have your eyes on that 1962 custom Fender Stratocaster at 3,000 dollars- but many new players can’t be certain they will stay the course, and could end up with a very expensive antique. At the same time, you want affordable quality.
There are many cheap copies of your favourite guitars but there are also some lesser-known brands whose imitations are well known for such great sound and playability at a comfortable price.
Fender telecaster: for a single hum bucker pick-up axe suited to blues, jazz and not too heavy indie styles; try the Vintage V52.
Gibson Les Paul: the other big daddy of the guitar world is more suited to rock and metal styles with a highly versatile tone; for its just as good-looking but easier cousin, try the Tanglewood signature LP.
Which leads us on to…
Don’t buy online!
As sacrilegious as it sounds, sometimes the real world deserves our attention; trying before you buy is key. Visit your local shop and take a friend/family member with you who know, preferably, their guitars. Shop dealers are full of information but can press you into something you might not be comfortable with. Try a range of instruments and go with what feels and sounds ideal to you.
Go for a low action
‘Action’ refers to the distance between the strings and the fret board. The lower the action, the easier it will be to hold down the strings, giving you untold relief so you aren’t put off playing for life.
Ask the shop dealer to lower it for you; they should be more than willing to help.
Check for intonation
A highly important factor you should consider is that the note of every fret is correct according to its place on a scale. Poor intonation means it will never sound right when you play higher up the neck, no matter how well tuned your strings are.
An easy way to check this is to play an open string then play the same string on the twelfth fret. These notes should be precisely one octave higher: the same note but at different ends of the scale.
If they’re not, then the guitar’s neck is most likely warped and you need to put it down and try something else.
Overall, the instrument should have good playability and a decent sound for a beginner to progress; this is what will keep you inspired and keep coming back for more.
BY THE WAY…Be sure to check out our Guitar Playing Tips page for more information on how to improve your guitar chops.