Buying a decent guitar is a challenging task, particularly if you are not yet a good player. The good thing is, there are some practical techniques you can use in selecting and buying a quality and affordable instrument.
You may have to be practical, buying a guitar at a price that won't empty your savings account. And, as with all purchases, it is important to do as much research as possible before buying anything.
Before going to the store, listen to different players and determine what kind of instrument you would like to play. There are several types of guitars made to play different styles of music and it would be a good idea to select one that closely approximates the style you want to learn.
You will have to find a balance between quality and price. Buying a very cheap guitar may be self-defeating, because (most probably) will be poorly made and difficult to play. On the other hand, paying a fortune for your first guitar isn't very desirable, especially if you're not even sure if playing guitar is something you will stick with.
Used guitars are generally a lot cheaper than new ones. An old acoustic guitar in a good shape can be a great bargain, considering that over time the wood ages and the sound matures - it's one of the reasons why quality instruments will hold their resale value and some will grow in value over the years.
If you are planning to buy a used guitar, be sure to inspect the instrument closely for any damages. Make sure that the tuning knobs all work and turn easily. Any crack, no matter how small on the body is a bad sign. Press a string down at each end of the fingerboard - it should touch all the frets. Play a few notes and chords; see if the guitar sounds good and is easy to play on. Ask if the instrument has ever been repaired.
Probably the most important consideration when choosing between an electric or acoustic guitar is what type of music you want to play.
If you want to learn to play rock music, choosing the electric guitar is the logical choice. Electric guitars have smaller bodies, smaller necks, and it's much easier to press down the strings. They, however, require the purchase of an amplifier, effects, cables, so they can end up costing a little more.
The acoustic guitar is a little harder to play than the electric, but it does not require additional equipment. If you're focusing on classical music or only want to learn to strum your favorite songs, an acoustic guitar is probably best for you.
Keep in mind, that if you get stuck with the wrong type of guitar, you're going to have much less motivation to pick it up and play it regularly.
New American-made guitars tend to be more expensive, so most beginners are going to end up with an imported one, as many guitars are made in the Far East today. The Asian makers in fact make reasonably good guitars in all the popular styles, but obviously if your main interest is the classical/Spanish style, you should look for Spanish imports as well.
The best acoustic guitars have sides and back of East Indian or Brazilian rosewood. The tops can be of spruce or Canadian cedar with even spacing between the annular lines of the grain. The neck is usually made of Spanish cedar, and the fingerboard of ebony. Acoustic guitars can be made of spruce, maple, rosewood, or mahogany, each having a different characteristic sound.
Inexpensive guitars are usually made of lesser-quality woods as laminates or plywood. The appearance will be good, because quality woods are used to for the outer layer, but the sound of a plywood guitar is rarely as beautiful as one made with solid woods. Sometimes the top will be solid with laminated wood for the sides and back, which is preferable to plywood only.
As well as costing more, the solid wood guitar will need more care since it is more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. At the very minimum, try to get a guitar with a solid top. This will give you the advantage of improved sound. The laminate body acoustic guitar will be better for a beginner because it is sturdier, less likely to crack or scratch with mishandling.
For electric guitars however, it does not much matter what wood is used to make the body. The ideal thing is to have a strong, non resonant body - quite the opposite of what you'd like in an acoustic instrument. The body is more important for its decorative value than its composition.
Over the years electric guitar manufactures have come up with necks and bodies made of graphite compounds and metal. These materials do offer some advantages over wood, they are more stable than wood and are less likely to shift over the years. They can offer unique designs and sound good, but some argue that wood guitars, with all their faults still are the best, and nothing can substitute for the "feel of the wood," and for the fact, that each wooden guitar is unique as the trees that are made from.
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