Selecting a New Guitar
Melbourne-based teacher Nicole Rogers (classicalguitarnstuff.com) provides a teacher’s insight on what to look for in buying a good guitar.
There are a myriad of things to think about and look for when choosing a new guitar, be it your very first guitar, your first “good” guitar, or you’ve been in the game a while and looking for something different.
So with a new year now well upon us, and nearly into its second month, school and new university courses (hello new music students and well done for getting places by the way!) starting back in Australia shortly, some may be contemplating either picking up a guitar for the first time or upgrading or changing up their existing model.
And different folks will probably tell you different things to be looking for, some probably completely different to my own! Anyhoo, I thought I’d share with you some of my own thoughts, experiences and sage words of advice that I’ve picked up over the past few years as I’ve become more and more intimately aware of the nuances of different guitars and the indescribably exciting journey of picking a new axe.
First up, a good solid practical one for you – know your budget. How much are you willing to spend on your guitar? You don’t want to be testing out a whole bunch of awesome axes to find that they’re about $1000 over what you’re willing and/ or able to spend.
Where you can, make sure you can get the best guitar you can for your budget, particularly so if just starting out. That orange box of a beginners guitar – yes, how terribly rude of me but it’s true, that’s what they are. And I have it on good authority that that’s what the Spanish call them. So must be true. Anyway, I digress….. So yes, that orange box of a guitar is soon going to become quickly redundant as you become a better guitarist.
An “el cheapo crappo” guitar (that’s a technical term of the trade….) may in fact also hamper your learning and your playing because they’re quite awful instruments, physically, to play, they sound awful (which is never an encouraging thing for a beginner) and thereby you’ll perhaps be less inclined to want to play it. Probably a bit of a false economy, the ol’ orange box beginners guitar. There are some fantastic beginners student guitars being made now, for an investment of around AUD$500 mark. As a beginner, it’s worth paying a little extra.
Be aware that you don’t know what you don’t know. Huh? Getting all Donald Rumsfeld on you now. Go with me on this. When I was selecting my first “good” guitar, I wasn’t aware that there was a whole plethora of choice out in the widey world about the guitars I could play and choose from. I didn’t know this at the time, and didn’t know the right people to ask about finding out. I’m not saying I made a bad choice in my guitar (I didn’t; it was the right guitar for me at that point for sure), but some other points of comparison wouldn’t have gone amiss.
So talk to a few folks, your teacher will be a good start and is likely to know the best places to check out in your local area, and do a bit of research.
Knowing what you want can be a good thing. Sounds kind of like an obvious thing to say, but you’d be surprised. How well can you articulate what you’re looking for? Knowing what you want, or at least some notion of what you’re after can help you in searching out the guitar for you. It can help those searching out guitars for you or selecting stock from their shopfloor to pinpoint a few options for you (helping them to help you) and give you a handful of instruments to try rather than 20 gazillion options which all start to sound very similar after the 900th one.
And even if you do know what you’re looking for, it pays to be open minded. There may be an option that you’d not been aware of (see point above on unknown unknowns) or not really given much thought to, that may just pleasantly surprise you.
The piece of advice I’ve reserved for last is probably the piece of advice that I consider the most important. The right guitar will find you. That sounds a bit “woo woo” doesn’t it? Heh heh! It’s not really.
You’ll know when you’ve picked up the instrument that is the right one for you – something just clicks, it plays perhaps more fluidly than any of the others, the sounds, the tones, the vibrations resonate in your ears and your body like none of the others do. It just feels right. It’s something akin to falling in love. If you can’t take that guitar away with you right there and then, you just can’t stop thinking about it. The sound. The vibration. The feel. It’s true love! Well at least deeply amorous infatuation!
If haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about then you’ve probably not experienced it yet. But you will know. Trust me. Follow this piece of advice and you’ll definitely not make a mistake in your purchase.
OK. I did lie when I said that was the last piece of advice. There’s one more.
To coin a phrase I heard an associate of mine use recently (you know who you are!) – “there’s no “perfect” guitar, there’s only “perfect right now””. This is excellent because it means we get to go through the whole exciting and enthralling journey again in the future, experiencing developments in both guitar construction but also in ourselves - hearing with different ears, playing with different hands and fingers…..Oh, and gives you a chance to top the piggy bank back up again!!