- Be courteous to the retail people.
- Limit your testing time to 10 minutes maximum.
- Keep your volume in check - IOW - avoid cacophony!
- Be honest with the dealer. Expect the same.
- Determine your honest level of commitment - Are you going to do this for a career or weekends with your friends?
- What is your spending limit? It's no fun buying a nice new electric guitar and not purchasing an amplifier. Consider all of the equipment you need to be able to reach your goal.
- What type of Guitar do you want or need? Oh man, There are positive things about every guitar and also pitfalls. Determine your style of playing and research what type of guitar is needed to obtain your tone. In time; if you continue playing an instrument with commitment you will find that excellent tone is paramount.
If you look into the various brands available you will find that they all have various levels of performance qualities. The performance levels are not always listed as student, intermediate, expert but rather with branded labels that evoke a more sophisticated ideal of the product. You can look in most catalogs and find Epiphone guitars and Gibson guitars. Generally speaking, Gibson guitars tend to be regarded as having better quality and structured better for the more experienced player. Fender guitars not made in the USA are generally the entry level guitars while those instruments made in the USA are better suited for the experienced player. Cost is also a dead give-away regarding the playing level of a instrument and in many situations it is the more expensive instrument that is better suited for the expert. Hence, being honest and determining your own needs is important. Furthermore, the differences between models of Pro level vs. Entry level are often blurred with technical terms that confound the customer and this makes the purchasing decision more complicated. In some cases, the differences between guitars can be little while the cost is big. For this reason it is important to sit down with each guitar and evaluate it based on it's own merits because no two guitars are the same and sometimes inexpensive guitars play better than expensive guitars. Try it then buy it.
Evaluating a guitar
It is important to look the guitar construction over in fine detail. Look at the front, the back, the neck. Most inexpensive guitars use a urethane coating that tends to hide everything beneath the surface. You check the body of the guitar using various angles and look for large marks in the urethane. This could be a sign of poor construction.
If you are looking at an acoustic guitar you will need to know that whether the top is a laminated top or solid top. Are the sides laminated or solid and also the back. Look into the guitar and check the glue job - Is it messy, is the wood cut well or poorly?
Most guitars have binding around the body. Check the uniformity of the binding. Does the binding look uniform as it surrounds the guitar?
Neck construction is important. Are you buying a set in neck? Bolt on neck? Be certain that the construction is symmetrical and if it's is a bolt on - the neck fits the body pocket well. Check all the frets for sharp ends that will make playing a pain!
Hardware and Electronics - This is an area where I could write for hours and still not quite convey all the information required to make an informed purchase. Like playing a musical instrument itself, the complete knowledge of components and electronic takes time, trial and error to learn. IN most cases you get what you pay for and what I mean is: the manufactures use inexpensive materials and processes on the entry level guitars. This is the reason they are entry level. In most cases the guitar or equipment is NOT meant to last many years as statistics show that often the entry level guitar becomes a lonely piece of furniture once the neophyte player quits. Therefore, softer metals are used for the inexpensive tremolo, low strand count wire for the electronics, low skill level workmanship on pickups.
Do your inspection and look for the following situations:
- No gaps in joints
- No globs of glue
- Smooth Finish
- Set up well - string height is good and no excessive buzzing.
- Guitar is rattle free
- Tuners turn smoothly - MOST PEOPLE NEVER CHECK THIS UPON PURCHASE
- Fret ends are smooth
- Frets are uniform in their level
Be courteous and honest to your sales person and expect the same. If you find a sales person that you are uncomfortable with - Find a different person that is informative and helpful.
Bring a friend. Maybe a friend will help you feel comfortable (if not - curb them).
Using the basics I've provided you can comparison shop and ultimately get a instrument that you may keep for the rest of your life. This experience should be an enjoyable experience and if it is not. Hold off until you are comfortable enough to buy the instrument or equipment that enables a better playing experience.
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