How to Buy A Guitar :
First, a little modern guitar history. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the American guitar companies could not make a cheap, beginner guitar. Labor costs and material costs became too high for what would be (now) a $99 guitar. Cheaper labor was found in the FACTORIES of Japan. At first, the guitars were not well made but it did not take long for the Japanese to make a great (and more expensive) product. Then, the seach went to other countries for their FACTORIES’ cheaper labor. Korea, Indonesia and China produce high quality, affordable guitars of all types. It is not the guitar companies that make the guitars, it is the oversees FACTORIES that make guitars for all the “Name Brands” There are a few things to consider when buying a guitar. The students’ age (which is really their size) and whether you should get an acoustic or an electric guitar? This page is mostly for those that are just getting started. If you have played a while you know what “shoes” fit your feet!
First, what KIND of guitar should you get? Some people say that you should always get an acoustic guitar first. It will help you build your muscles and strength. Others say that you should buy an electric guitar because they are much easier to play. Sorry to say, but BOTH are right. It really boils down to budget and what the student WANTS to play. Full size acoustic guitars start at $99 while electric guitar packages with an amplifier tend to be in the $150-$200 range. Smaller acoustic guitars range from $39-$69.
Acoustic guitars = less stuff and are self-contained. Electric guitars = more stuff but it DOES more. Use headphones to practice or record on to your computer. USB guitars are also available that come with software that turn your computer into a cool recording studio.
What about Brands? Who makes good guitars?
This begs the question, DOES IT MATTER where the guitar was made? The answer is NO….. BUT… make sure the guitar is easy to play. All guitars can be set up (adjusted) by your local music store to make sure the strings are close to the neck (low action). If you buy your guitar from a retail store, this should be done before you leave at no charge. You can also have lighter (thinner) strings installed to reduce the tension and make the guitar easier to play.
The most affordable guitars are made in China. In the last decade they have become to be very good quality. Computer driven machines cut out the pieces making the guitars very consistent in quality. All of the guitars made in China are made FOR the Brand Names.
If is says “Made in China” it is not made BY the brand on the headstock. Think of Televisions or appliances. There are so many name brands but the products are all made in the same factories.The hierarchy of guitars from the most affordable to the most expensive (generally speaking) is as follows: China, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Japan, and the United States.
What About Quality?
The cheapest acoustic guitars are all laminate (very thin plywood) they range from $99-$199. Laminate guitars are very strong but less vibrant in tone.
Next is a solid top guitar. The TOP is one thickness of wood, not plywood and they range between $200-$600. They are usually louder and warmer in tone than a laminate guitar. And sound better with age.
The most expensive acoustics are all solid wood (no plywood) they range $600+. Solid wood guitars are warmer and louder. Gold plated hardware and fancy inlay work (abalone or “mother of pearl”) can add a bunch to the cost as well but do not affect the sound or playability.
First, what is an electric guitar?
An electric guitar is just that. An instrument that creates electricity! It is an electric generator. Here is how it works… An electric guitar has a “pickup” on its top. A guitar “pickup” is simply a coil of wire sitting on top of a magnet. When the metal string moves (is plucked ) in the magnetic field, it creates electricitry in the coil of the pickup. The signal leaves the guitar through the cable into the amplifier and is “amplified”! Nothing acoustic here, just an electric signal. There are different types of pickups. The two basic types are single coil (one coil ) and humbucking pickups, (two coils together that cancel or “buck” hum). The two types have their own signature sound. If you don’t play guitar, this makes no sense whatsoever. If you are new to guitar you will have to play guitars with each type of pickup to know the difference. An electric guitar is simply a plank of wood with strings and pickups. That is it. The guitar amplifier can alter the tone of the instrument from clear and clean to mind melting distortion (nothing actually melts……) Also guitar effects can add cool tonal shapes to the instruments’ sound.
Entry level ($99 – $199 ) gets you a good playing solid body guitar with a bolt on neck and a basic finish. Black, Sunburst, solid colors Etc..Mostly made in China or Indonesia.
Next level ($199-$399) gets you nicer woods, more variety in finishes and choices in pickup types better overall quality. Set necks (glued neck joint) or bolt on neck. Made in Korea, Indonesia and China.
Upper level ($399 and up!) Set neck or bolt on neck, nice maple top or exotic woods, mahogany body, gold plated hardware etc. LOTS of choices in woods and finishes and body styles. Made in America, Japan, Korea, etc.
Here is the deal.
If it is made in the US, it is made by the name on the guitar. It will cost the most. If not made in the United States, the guitar was built in an overseas factory that supplies many different guitar companies. It will be a fine guitar to play and more affordable.
Your best choice is to buy a guitar at a retail music store.
If you need repair or have warranty issues, it can be taken care of on the spot. Guitars are adjustable to be “set up” to play easier or you can install lighter gauge (less tension) strings on them. Just a little adjustment can go a long way to make a guitar easier to play and help your guitar player improve quicker and enjoy the guitar sooner. Lastly, your musical instrument shop is one of the only places you can trade in your used instrument towards the purchase of a new or another used one.
Try that online!
Play Loud Play Often!