3 September 2008

Guitar Buying Guide Part 2 - At the Guitar Shop

The first part of this series on buying a guitar recommended that you try out guitars at a shop before buying. Trying a guitar is the only way you can judge how it feels to you as well as the guitar's sound and other qualities.

This post describes a process you can use when you visit a guitar shop to select a guitar. This can be an intimidating experience for novice guitarists; you might not feel comfortable showing off your meagre playing skills in public.

Don't worry, though, staff at a good guitar shop will make you feel comfortable and offer sound advice whatever your level. So don't be afraid push open that door. But are you in a good guitar shop? Well, you will usually know quite quickly thanks to your...

First Impressions

Within the first few minutes in the store you should be able to tell if you're in a worthy guitar shop or not. Try to find a sales assistant to explain your needs to. In a good shop you will find someone who knows about guitars and understands your questions.

The state of the guitars on display is another good indicator. Are they clean, or is there a layer of old dust your grandmother would be ashamed of decorating them?

What about the strings? Do they look fairly new or are they more rusty than old uncle Bob's '57 Chevy? If they look clean enough to touch without gloves, strum a guitar or two to see if they are in tune.

Clean, freshly strung and tuned guitars on display are a good sign that you're in the right kind of a place. Now it's time to move on to the selection process. Ask the shop staff if you can try guitars (it's only polite to do so) and then get on to...

Short listing

Your task in the shop is to identify the guitar that you want to buy. To avoid any regrets try as many instruments as you can before making the decision.

Start by selecting two guitars in your price range and trying them out side by side. Play a few things on them and note how you feel about the guitar, its comfort and the sound it makes. Give it a shake to check for loose parts and take a look at the joints to ensure they are clean and solid.

This is a good time to have a guitar player friend on hand. Have them play for you so you, this lets you hear the sound from the audience side. As well as another perspective, this position also allows you to compare the volume and projection of the guitars sound. If you don't have a friend handy ask someone from the shop staff to play for you.

After you've tried the two guitars for a little while decide which of the two you want to reject. Then choose another guitar and repeat the side by side comparison with the one you kept.

Repeat this process, rejecting one of the pair each time until you home in on your guitar. Of course, you can always take back a guitar you've rejected and try it again if you're not sure.

Take home the one you tried

It might take you more than one shop and more than one visit to really home in on the guitar you like. Don't be afraid to take your time.

When you do finally make your decision, you must remember this golden rule of guitar buying.

Take home the very exact guitar that you tried in the shop.

Yes, pick up and take home the very guitar that you played in the shop. Under no circumstances accept another of the same model from the stock room.

Different guitars of the same model can vary considerably, taking one you haven't tried could lead to an unpleasant surprise when you get home.

Now, it just might be that the display model has a couple of marks or scratches on it, and you'd prefer one in mint condition. In this case, take the stock model and try it out.

Compare it to the display guitar and make sure it is as you want it. If it's not as satisfying in any way then take the display model. You'll end up scratching it a little anyway so don't worry...

Finally, remember that you can probably get a few small extras thrown in for free, or at reduced cost, with your guitar purchase. Items to think about here are new strings, a strap, a case or bag, tuner, or picks.

Ask, too, about a free set up one to three months after purchase. A new guitar may move a little as it gets played regularly or due to the change in conditions in its new home. A set up and string change after a short while ensures that it stays in top shape for you to practice.

In the next part of the series, you will learn more about the details to look out for during your guitar selection process. Sign up to get it delivered free by email or to your RSS reader.

More on buying a guitar...

Guide to Buying Your Guitar Part 1
Guitar Buying Guide Part 3 - 5 Important Features
Guitar Buying

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