Buying An Electric Guitar

Let me tell you now and you can thank me later...
if you are at all serious about learning to play, buy the very best electric guitar you can afford, even if it means buying a battered-looking used model from the pawn shop.

Here's why...

Really cheap, imported guitars look great and all shiny just like real Fenders or Gibsons, to the untrained ear they sound okay, and make a noise just like a guitar, but they ain't much good and can be difficult to play, you won't know that when you start because you cannot play yet and just think it is your inexperience, with a cheapo import you are making life difficult for yourself.

Having said that, there has definitely been an improvement in budget-priced imported models in recent years, but I would still go with a known brand, for example Epiphone guitars are owned by the Gibson Guitar Corporation and was Gibson's main rival in the archtop market prior to its acquisition in 1957.

Accoustics are slightly different but cheap accoustic guitars will always sound terrible. only the best accoustics will produce the best tone, because of the way they are made and the materials they are made from, that is why they are very expensive.

With any guitar it's all about the tone, how it looks is mostly academic... you will notice that some well known guitarists use old, battered instruments that look like they have been pulled from a dumpster, the reason is they sound fantastic.

No two guitars are ever the same although they are meant to be, out of a 100 produced only one or two may have an absolutely perfect tone, mainly because the wood they are made from is organic and no two pieces have identical cell structures within the wood itself.

Fender or Gibson - Jackson or Ibanez?

If you have a fat wallet then you can buy whatever takes your fancy, if not I suggest going for a good mid-priced guitars from one of the major makers.

You can play any type of music on any make of electric guitar, but some makes are more suited to a particular genre of music, for example many heavy metal players favour Jackson guitars, because apart from anything else, for the heavy metal image they look way cooler than say a guy playing a Rickenbacker.

The reason I picked out these two most popular makes of electrics is just to illustrate the difference in types as these two makes are poles apart.

Apart from the materials and pickups used for each model, the big difference between Fender and Gibson type guitars is in their construction.

With Fender's the neck is bolted to the body, whereas Gibson necks are glued in place permanently, which in theory should give a better tone, but world famous guitarists use both. So that's that theory out the window!

My take is this, it depends on what sort of music you want to play and how you want to play it. For lots of 'widdling' around the 24th fret the Fender is perhaps easier to play because the neck joint is slimmer (because it's bolted). For superior tone and sustain of a fretted note, little beats a Gibson (listen to Gary Moore's string bends at his live concerts)

Beginners Note: Sustain, is the term used for the length of time a fretted or unfretted note continues to ring out after being struck.

Which Make Should You Buy?

Top quality guitars are all good and very expensive, you will not get a cheap one unless you buy secondhand, and there is nothing wrong with doing that, just check that the neck is not twisted (golden rule) and the frets are not too badly worn, unless you don't mind paying a good few bucks for re-fretting at a guitar shop.

Any top brand you like the look of will do fine, but be aware they all have different shapes or profiles of neck. If you have small hands then the Fender-type neck will like likely suit you best.

I and many of my contempories love the shape of the Fender neck, I don't know how long Leo Fender took to arrive at this particular profile, but it is ergonomically perfect for a human hand in my humble opinion.

Ibanez rock-type guitars have a wide, shallow neck suitable and are eminently suitable for very fast playing or 'shredding'.

Gibsons are superb of course, but their construction makes them thicker around the 24th fret area, and the fab Les Paul's do not have the double cutaway like the SG model, thus more skill is needed to play them around the 24th fret area.

If you have hands like bananas and very thick fingers you may struggle early on to play chords, early on because you cannot get your fingers to fit on the strings.

String spacing on guitars is virtually standard but there are a few models with slightly wider spacing that will undoubtedly suit you better if you have really large hands.

My hands and fingers are probably slightly larger than average for a man but my fingers are long rather than thick, even so I really struggled to fret chords properly as a beginner, it took a lot of practice and patience.

The classic beginners mistake is to apply too much pressure to the fingers, which make the pads of your fingers spread out and touch other strings they shouldn't.

You may have noticed many of the worlds very best guitarists have hands like a girl, with really slim fingers, so if you have 'girly' hands this is a definite advantage for you.

Buying An Accoustic Guitar

Unlike electrics guitars, which are one-size fits all, accoustic guitars come in a variety of different sizes and are commonly fitted with 5 or 6 strings, I suggest you go for a six string model that will fit comfortably under your arm, there are at least ten different size acoustics.

Large accoustic models or 'Dreadnoughts' produce the most sound volume and really small ones can sound a bit 'thin', medium sized models are a good compromise, depending on how/where you intend to play it.

The top makers of accoustics are Martin, Taylor, Takamine and Yamaha, if you can afford one of these you won't go wrong, don't fret? (haha a pun) if you don't have the money for one of their beautifully crafted high-end models, they also may have good budget instruments available to suit any pocket, and of course the top makers of electrics also have traditional accoustic instruments in their product catalogs.

99% of all acoustics are made in the traditional way with the sound hole in the center of the body, for something more stylish check out the range of Ovation guitar models, where several offset smaller holes are used at the bridge end.

Closing Tips

Guitars from the top makers are costly yes, but they do hold their value well on the used guitar market, and over time can become quite valuable, cheap imports become virtually worthless secondhand.

Avoid buying 'fad' electric guitars, by fad I mean those of weird shapes and garish colors, sure they may look cool, but residual values are very low.
One last tip, if you are going to practice sitting down, make sure you get an guitar that will sit on your leg without sliding off, because that's a pain in the a$s, Flying 'V' anyone?