SMG: Advice For Buying Your First Guitar!

I was recently asked for advice from someone looking to purchase their first guitar. Given the multitude of brands, differences in style, tone, and feel, and wide range of quality among instruments, this is an overwhelming proposition for the first time buyer. My response to this particular person is given below.

Check Out Your Local Guitar Mega Store

“Since you’re just starting out, a large retail store like Guitar Center or Sam Ash is your best bet because they have the largest selection for you to actually try, from cheap guitars to very expensive. They also have a knowledgeable staff though sometimes they can push an instrument on you just to make the sale so take your time and don’t feel pressured in any way.

“Go there and ask them all your questions. Try every single guitar you would consider buying and even a few that you know you won’t buy so you can get an idea of the differences. Even though you’re new to this and don’t know what to look for, pick them up anyway. See how they feel. Listen to how they sound. It’s only by comparing several different instruments that you’ll be able to learn about the various styles and how they suit you.

Spend What You Can Afford

“It’s not necessarily true that you need to spend more money to get a better guitar, but at your level you should probably pay as much as you can comfortably afford. You can get some very good guitars for not a lot of money but if you try to save money you can also get crappy guitars for cheap that you will not enjoy playing and will end up being waste of money. Remember to set aside some of your budget for extras like picks, strings, a tuner, a winding peg, maybe a strap, etc. But only get what you need.

Refine Your Choices and Read Online Reviews

“Bring a notepad with you and write down the guitars that interest you and why. Don’t be shy about this! Take your list back home and read reviews about these guitars and shop for the cheapest prices online. You will always see both good and bad reviews for any guitar, even the expensive ones, so don’t think one or two bad reviews means you shouldn’t buy a guitar. But if a guitar gets a LOT of bad reviews then you should probably stay away. Find one or two or three guitars you’re most interested in, note the cheapest price you can find, and go back to the store. Play them again. Once you feel comfortable with your choice, ask the store to match the price you found online. Most stores will do this provided the price you found is from a legitimate US retailer. I advise against buying instruments online because two guitars of similar make and model can feel, play, and sound different – probably not by much but potentially by enough that one feels right to you and the other doesn’t quite cut it. Buy the specific instrument you’ve played.

Note: This was in response to someone shopping for an acoustic guitar. With respect to electric guitars, consistency is key. This means it’s important to play the guitars you’re trying through the same amp at the same settings. Forget about effects but do play the guitar both clean and distorted.

If you have questions about buying or playing guitars, or anything related to guitars in general, let us know and we’ll feature your question in a future blog post.

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