There must be something in the air, a guitar catastrophe seems to have struck certain readers. Yesterday, Kelly Hoss left a comment asking for some advice on purchasing a guitar to replace her cheap starter guitar whose neck was breaking. This morning, I received an email from another Kelly, in Montana, in a similar predicament.
My reply to Kelly's comment goes some way to answering guitar purchase questions. But after posting it, I remembered a couple of other points. Prompted by the extra questions from the Montana Kelly I decided to create a small guitar purchase guide to help.
The guide has been split into several parts as the first draft was rather too long for one post. The first part, below, deals with the process of preparing to go shopping for your new guitar. A little preparation ensures you get off to a good start and improves the chances that you choose a guitar that satisfies and keeps you happy for a long time.
Set your budget
Figure out how much you can spend on your guitar before you start choosing models. Remember to allow for any additional equipment you might need, such as an amplifier for an electric guitar.
As a novice you probably don't want to spend too much, and that's fine. But if you can afford it, don't be afraid to go above the entry level models. Spending a little more at the outset can work out cheaper in the long run as your guitar lasts you through years of learning and playing.
This is probably also a good time to mention that second hand guitars can be great value. The wonderful thing about used guitars is that they usually sell for about half the price of the new model. Even more wonderful, this price doesn't really change much with time, so you could very likely resell it for about the same price you paid.
As you can see a used guitar could be a nice low risk investment. Ask your local guitar shops if they have any; shops often take them from other players who trade in for a different model.
Do a little research
While you're figuring out your budget do a little research to prepare your shopping trip. Take this opportunity to learn a little more about guitars and you'll feel more confident about purchasing.
It's a good idea to learn a little about guitar woods and how they influence the guitar's sound. Here's a good article on guitar tone woods.
You can take a look at many different guitars at manufacturers sites and online stores. You can also read some user reviews, Harmony Central is a good place to find these, but don't get too carried away with them.
Of course, you can also just hang around here for a day or so more and pick up more tips arriving in the rest of this buying guide :-)
"Try before you buy" is good advice for a guitar purchase. That's why I recommend you buy from a shop if you have one nearby.
You should plan to make more than one visit to the shop so you get time to consider your options and avoid a rush decision. It can be easy to fall for a good looking guitar in the shop but regret it later.
But how should you try guitars at the shop? That's the topic of the next part of this buying guide, sign up to get it delivered by email or to your RSS reader.
More on buying a guitar...
Guitar Buying Guide Part 2 - At the Guitar Shop
Guitar Buying Guide Part 3 - 5 Important Features