Beyond Guitar

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Purchasing a Guitar

When buying your first guitar, there are several "do's" and don't's" that your should follow. If you're not sure, bring a friend along who plays guitar to give you advice along the way...

DO: buy your guitar at a local, independantly owned music store. You will be contributing to your local economy, helping local musicians make a living, and preventing some non-musician in a suit in a high rise building (who outsourced his factory to China and pays his workers 17 cents an hour) from making his bonus.

DO: buy a case! and a shoulder strap! and a dozen picks! and two sets of spare strings! and a metronome. AND PLEASE, FOR PETE"S SAKE, GET YOURSELF AN INEXPENSIVE ELECTRONIC TUNER! 

DO NOT: buy your guitar from a chain store, or GOD FORBID an on-line or mail order outlet. ALWAYS play the guitar that your are considering before buying it. Would you buy a car you've never driven?

Checking the intonation: you'll need an electronic tuner for this. Tune the E string so that it is exactly in tune according to the electronic tuner. Now play a 12th fret note on that same E string. Does the 12th fret note register on the tuner as exactly in tune? Or is it slightly off? If it is exactly in tune, the guitar has good intonation. If it is not in tune, put that guitar back where you found it and find a different one.

Sighting down the neck: hold your guitar like a cello. Close one eye and look down the edge of the fretboard, from the first fret all the way to the 21st fret. The fretboard should have a slightly convex curve (bowl-like). The curve should be gradual across the full length of the fretboard, not across part of it. If the neck is perfectly straight, or is concave, the notes may buzz when you play it. Are there any frets that stick up higher than the rest? If so, that note may buzz.

Play all the notes: Play each note on the instrument one at a time. Do they all sound as clear as a bell? Or do some of the notes sound fuzzy, muffled, or buzzy? Play every fret on every string to find out.

I wish I had a nickel for each time a student showed me a cool looking guitar in a mail order magazine, only to order it and receive an unplayable, warped instrument. Don't be that person! Buy a guitar that you've held and played in your own hands!

What about a used guitar? Buying a used guitar is like buying a used car - you know there is something wrong with it that the seller isn't telling you, and that's why he wants to get rid of it! Robbs Music in Boulder has Brand New Epiphone acoustics for $75, so trying to save money on a used instrument does not make sense. The top reason I steer people away from a used instrument is playability. If you give a beginner a guitar that is difficult to play (the strings are hard to press down, it gives them blisters), the student will walk away from their first guitar experience saying that it was painful, unpleasant, impossible, frustrating, etc... But, hand them a nylon string guitar that is easy to play, and they will enjoy making sounds with very little effort, and no discomfort.

Andy's Recommendations:

All of the following instruments can be purchased through your LOCALLY OWNED FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD music store, Robbs Music. You can read more at their website:

Recommended Electric Guitar for Kids and Teens: "3/4 Size" Fender Squire Package, comes with amp, cable, strings, strap, picks, etc...

Recommended Electric Guitar for Adults: "Full Size" Fender Squire Package, comes with amp, cable, strings, strap, picks, etc...

Recommended Acoustic Guitar for Kids and Teens: "1/2 or 3/4 Size" Fender Jasmine Nylon String Guitar. 

Recommended Acoustic Guitar for Adults: Arts & Lutherie Nylon String "Parlor" sized guitar.