How to buy a guitar. A quick and easy guide you have to know before you head to a guitar store!

“Friends never let friends go into a guitar stone alone.”

Here’s how to buy a guitar! IMPORTANT: Never go into a guitar store to buy a guitar without facts about the price and availability of that guitar in your area. Most music store salesmen are about as motivated as used car salesmen. They know which guitars have the highest margin. If you go into your store without a plan you may come out with your salesman’s favorite pick, but may not be the best guitar for you in the long run. My recommendation is that you take with you an experienced guitar player whom you trust.

A note about price range.

Also, a quick note about price range: I’m often asked “What guitar should I get?”. My answer is always the same: “What’s your price range?”. Acoustic guitars in particular live in specific price bands. The entry level acoustic: $100-$300. The intermediate: $500-$1,000. And the professional: $1,000 and up. I intentionally left out the $300-$500 range. The biggest difference between an entry level and an intermediate guitar is the type of wood and binding that the luthier, or guitar maker, uses to create the instrument. You will find a better instrument after you cross the $500 barrier. Normally, you will not notice a significant difference between a guitar for $250 and one for $400. I recommend folks stay in the $250-$300 range. You may find an acoustic guitar for $299 and then the same guitar for $449, but with electronics (making it an acoustic electric guitar). Don’t be fooled into paying that extra $150 for electronics that cost the manufacturer $8 to install. The majority of their cost is in drilling the holes in the wood. Rather, buy the nicest $299 acoustic guitar you can find and then add the electronics later. You’ll be glad you did. The sound quality when plugged in will be much better. When you begin to look at intermediate or professional guitars is when I would consider an onboard pickup and electronics package that come pre-installed. Most of the time those pickups are hand selected for that particular instrument and are part of the guitar’s original design.

Ask for a bundle.

While you are negotiating the final price for your guitar, consider asking for a few items as part of a bundle. You will want a new set of strings. You don’t know how long that guitar has been on the shelf, being played by who knows how many people. You’ll also need a strap (get one you like), a tuner (if you have a smart phone you could download an app), and you’ll want to buy a capo. The capo is discussed in greater detail in WEEK FOUR of this book.

Get the case.

Finally, spring for the hardshell case that is made for your guitar. Unlike a grand piano that moves once a decade, your guitar is small enough to go places. It will be in your trunk with all your baseball gear. Maybe your little sister will have to sit on it in the middle row of your parent’s minivan. Who knows? Get the case that fits the guitar snugly so that it is supremely protected when you aren’t performing or practicing. Again, you’ll be glad you took this advice. 

Go with a plan. Do your homework!

To sum up, go to your music store with a plan (and with a musician friend) and be prepared to negotiate for a bundled price. Also, remember to budget for a hardshell case if you are able. Some stores may want to sell you a warranty. While I’m sure it seems tempting, typically warrantees have deductibles and aren’t worth all they are said to be worth. Since you may be buying a lower end instrument (especially if this is your first), know that you are going to get scratches, bumps and bruises on it. You may want to disregard the store’s warranty pitch.

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