Monday, 6 July 2015

Buying your first guitar

Walking into a music shop for the first time can be quite an intimidating experience! You think that you won’t know what to ask for, that the staff will not help you and that you don’t know the (inevitable) jargon that will be bandied around to make you feel inadequate!

It needn’t be like that. Shop around and if you don’t like the shop or the attitude of its staff, go somewhere else. You would do the same if you were buying a TV!

But you can go in ready to do business if you read up on few of the big questions.

Don't buy on-line! You'll almost certainly be disappointed by getting the wrong instrument...


What kind of guitar should I get for my style of music?


What do you like to listen to? Do you want to play in this style? Are particular makes or models associated with that style?

If you want to play folk music, for instance, you will need an Acoustic Guitar. Some of these instruments have a built in pickup so that you can plug it in to an amplifier and be heard by the whole street! These are referred to as ‘Electro-Acoustic Guitars’.

If you want to play classic rock, you will want an Electric Guitar. You will need an amplifier to plug in to or you won’t be heard. Electric guitars are usually made from a solid block of wood – solid body guitars – but some models are known as ‘Semi-Acoustic’ because they have hollow or partly hollow bodies. Don’t confuse these with the ‘Electro-Acoustic’ guitars mentioned above. One is an electric guitar with a hollow body, the other is an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup. They sound completely different.


What brand should I look at?


There are a lot of brands out there. Most cheaper guitars are made in the far east, mostly in China (at the moment). The quality of these guitars varies greatly, but origin is not a clear indicator of quality. Anyone can make a good guitar, and anyone can make a bad one! Some brands are very well known and have very good reputations to preserve, even with their lower cost ranges. So if you buy a guitar from a top brand, even if it’s less than £100, you can be confident that it will be worth the money and see you through the early stages of learning the instrument. For starter guitars, look for Epiphone, Squier, Yamaha, Fender and Gibson.


How much should I spend?


Prices for a decent quality first guitar range from £80 to a few hundred. You shouldn’t need to spend more than £300 (though you can if you want to!) but you shouldn’t expect to spend less than £80 if you want something playable. If the guitar is for a child from six to ten years old, you will probably want to get a classical guitar with nylon strings, this could cost as little as £50 for a ¾ size guitar. Remember that you get what you pay for, so you should expect a £300 guitar to be much better than an £80 model.


What else should I consider?


The most important thing is to buy an instrument with which you feel comfortable. Even though you may never have played before, you can tell if you are going to get on with the guitar. Try to hold the strings down against the fingerboard with the fingertips of your left hand. Can you press the strings down easily, or is it very difficult? Is there a gap of more than one millimetre between the strings and the finger board? If there is, this might be why it feels difficult to play.

If it’s an acoustic guitar, sit down with it on your lap and put your right arm over the top so you can strum the strings. Does it feel comfortable? Or do you think it might get a bit tiring because of the size of the body? Acoustic guitars come in many shapes and sizes, so try a few and find the one that feels most comfortable.

Your aim should be to buy a guitar that helps you to learn, not one that makes it harder than it should be, leaving you thinking it must be your fault you can’t play it!

Finally, don’t be afraid to make your final choice based on the look and colour of the guitar. So long as it’s within your budget, has the right sound for your style of music and is comfortable to hold and play, you can choose the one you like the look of the most.

Talk to the staff and ask as many questions as you want. The staff should be ready to give you good advice without being patronising, so you can make the right choice. After all, if you get on well with the instrument and become a good player, you’ll be back for an upgrade soon!