You may be thinking of buying a guitar for someone or for yourself. If you don’t know how to do it, you may go home with a less-than-perfect choice. Here are things to keep in mind: please note: this list is in a random order, not the order of importance or succession - read the whole thing before you shop:

• Have an open mind. If you go to a guitar store and think you already know what you want because of something you’ve read or heard (I’m not including those of you who have gone to the store & played the guitar you want to buy already) you may miss out on opportunities to purchase a guitar more suited to your needs, taste & bankroll. If you are very experienced and have a particular brand of guitar you prefer, it’s fine to start there. But if you’re inexperienced, DO NOT SHOP BY BRAND ALONE. Gibson & Fender are not the only guitar companies making instruments worth playing.

• If at all possible, take a knowledgable person with you. I don’t mean someone who has a guitar. I mean someone who knows you, your needs and knows guitars. Your teacher, if you have one, would be the first choice. If your teacher is unwilling to at least TRY to coordinate a time to go to look at guitars with you — you might have the wrong teacher. If we're approaching a major holiday season, the less “free time” your teacher may have. Be reasonable about when you ask him/her to help you shop for a guitar.

* If you are going to spend more than $800 or $900, DO NOT PLAN TO GO HOME WITH A GUITAR THE 1ST DAY YOU SHOP. If you’re in the market for a “serious” guitar — the $1,000 and up range, you really don’t want to be motivated by impulse. Lay off the caffeine, don’t go hungry and don’t go in uncomfortable clothes (remember guitar shops need to maintain a consistent temperature and humidity level for the guitars, so shopping in an all wool Aran sweater or leather pants or skirt may look good, but you’ll be hot and not in the best frame of mind.)

• The guitars you will be looking at/handling/playing are not yours until you pay for them. Don’t wear zippers, snaps, necklaces, oversized belt buckles etc. that can scratch the guitars.

• Play every fret of a guitar you are considering purchasing. If there is a buzz on any fret that you are CORRECTLY DEPRESSING, ask someone else to play the fret. If it buzzes for them too, you should not buy THAT PARTICULAR instrument. If a sales person/repair shop person tells you the neck needs a slight adjustment, let them do it and play every fret again. If you have no buzzes, fine. If there are, ask for a different guitar of the same model out of stock and begin your process again. If they tell you that’s the only one and they will lower the price for you — you are NOT INTERESTED. Look at other instruments.

• Do not purchase a 1/2 or 3/4 size guitar for children. Usually those guitars are not thoroughly tuneable and will be frustrating for the child and their teacher. If the child can’t hold a “real” small profile guitar, like a Baby Taylor or comparable (which is not an inexpensive "toy," it's a real travel size guitar) they should wait to begin playing unless you will pay a guitar maker to measure and custom build a guitar for your child.

• If you play with a pick, take 1 or 2 with you. :-)

• Take someone who plays guitar so when you are close to a decision of what you’d like to buy, you can hear THEM play it. You don’t hear your acoustic guitar very well when the soundboard is facing away from you.

• Play several instruments. Don’t purchase by your eye’s sensibility. In the decades I have played guitar, I can probably count on 1 hand how may truly “ugly” guitars I have seen that I’d consider buying. It’s about sound and playability. After those requirements are met, you can think about comparing the appearance of candidates for purchase. (Aside: I had a student named Amanda, who, when going to get her first guitar, thought she wanted a purple one. NO JOKE! Well, it was a process, but when she left the guitar store, it was a natural wood acoustic she finally selected and she’s glad.)

• Consider the kind of music you think you will be playing. If you are going to be playing primarily jazz, you may want to look at brands other than Fender and Ibanez for an electric guitar. If you are going to play with your fingers, you should consider a nylon string guitar even though you think you want a steel string. If you are going to play for more than personal entertainment, consider an acoustic-electric with either steel or nylon strings.

• Don’t buy the cheapest thing you find that’s called a guitar. Cheap guitars are like cheap shoes or cheap medical care. In guitars, you get what you pay for. That isn’t to say not to buy a guitar with a discounted price. It is to say, you usually can’t get anything that is really tunable for less than $180 to $200. If you’re spending much less you will probably be sorry.

• Once you’re in the $400 - $600 range on a acoustic, you are usually paying for details, like tuners or pick ups etc. Be well educated on your needs and the value of “premium” parts to you and your personal needs.

Buying online? Only do it if:

1) You already know the reputation of the seller/company and you can have at least 30 days to return for REFUND, if you desire. READ THEIR TERMS & CONDITIONS CAREFULLY. Optimally, someone you know has done business with them before.
2) You have played/heard/seen the instrument you want to buy at a guitar store or a friend has one that you have played.
3) You absolutely cannot get to a guitar store to purchase the instrument or the price break is significant. Be careful that you are sure of the model or model number of the instrument you are considering. Some companies make extremely low priced look alikes to their quality instruments. Don’t forget that you get what you pay for.

I hope these tips help you or your loved ones get a guitar that suits your or their needs. You might want to print this out for when you go guitar shopping.



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Wednesday, November 1,   2017