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Fig.1. Buy a guitar which is easy to play (good action & straight Neck) and stays in tune (quality tuning heads).  

 -There are many variations of guitar.  Each variation is tuned the same and plays the same notes in the same place on the fretboard.
Any song may be played on any guitar.  The main difference is the sound and playability.  Some variations are better suited to certain styles of music.
-Left Handed guitars are available for Left Handed players.

-Fig.2  The Classical Guitar’s wide neck and nylon strings are better suited for fingerpicking.

-Fig.3  The Acoustic  Guitar is musically versatile and highly portable.  It is used extensively for Country, Rock and Folk playing but is also does a respectable job with other styles such as Hard Rock, Blues, Classical & Jazz.
Its warm “natural” sound is great for playing with Vocal accompaniment.

*If you are buying an acoustic guitar, consider getting one with a cut-away body so you can more easily reach the higher notes.
*A built in pickup (usually located under the bridge) is an option should you want to amplify and manipulate the sound.  It is more prone to Feedback so volumes must be kept lower.

-Fig.4  Electric guitar (Must be amplified, excellent sustain, electric signal may be manipulated adding distortion etc. or allowing controlled feedback.
It uses lighter (thiner) strings than the acoustic guitar making the notes easier to fret.
The two most popular styles are the Les Paul (Fig.4) and The Stratocaster.


-Fig.5  Archtop (Semi-acoustic guitar).  Great for Country, Blues and Rockabilly & Rock (B.B.King, George Thorogood, Stray Cats (Brian Setzer) & Ted Nugent.

 

-Fig.6  12-string guitar (twice the strings for a very unique sound).  Not great for learning.  Somewhat more difficult to play.  The strings are tightly grouped together and playing each note requires fretting 2 strings (twice the effort needed).
The cut away option is great for reaching notes in the higher REGISTER.

-Fig.7  There are some odd variations of guitar. L-R: Silent, Double Neck, Backpacker & Dobro.

-The type of guitar you buy will depend on The type of music you enjoy and want to play.  Visit your local music stores and become more familiar with the guitars before deciding.
Electric guitars are much better than acoustic guitars for playing Rock, Jazz and Blues especially for live performances.

NOTE:  You can still play these styles of music on the acoustic guitar and sound great!
The Fretboard layout is the same for every guitar. 

 -Personally, I would recommend starting off with a good acoustic guitar.  Its sound is easier on the ear, less annoying to others who may not share your enthusiasm, less of a hassle to play ( no plugging it in, turning on and adjusting the amp and effects).  Just grab it, tune it up and play.
-The sound of an acoustic guitar is pure and clean.  The distortion of the electric will hide mistakes but when you are learning you want to hear your mistakes so you can correct them.
-Acoustics lend itself well to vocal accompaniment (something you may want to consider once you get your playing up to speed).
-You may find the electric easier to play due to the thinner strings, lower action and flatter frets however, once you become proficient on an acoustic guitar you will find transitioning to an electric is very easy.  You will find you now have better control of the electric guitar.

 Fig. 8  My guitar of choice would have to be the Acoustic Dreadnought Cutaway.

With a built in pickup and medium gauge strings.  Taylor makes a quality instrument with great sound.

-The price will vary considerably for the same type of guitar depending on it’s brand name & quality (materials & craftsmanship).

For example: you can get an Acoustic dreadnought for anywhere from $100.00 (maybe less) to $5000.00 and more.  On the low end you generally get what you pay for but it is possible to find an excellent starter guitar for $200.00 to $300.00.  If you know you are in it for the long haul you may want to invest in a higher quality instrument.

-Electric guitars are generally more expensive due to the Electronics and cost of additional gear (Amp, chord 7 effects).
-In my opinion the Taylor acoustics and Gibson electrics offer the best value in terms of quality, playability and sound.  This is my personal preference.  There are other good brands as well.

-There are Great deals in the local Buy & Sell.  If you know what to look for, you will generally pay about half the cost of  new.  Be sure to check the guitar over thoroughly because it’s Buyer Beware when buying second hand.

-If you venture into a pawn shop, be sure and check the guitar very carefully.  My experience has been that great deals don’t usually find their way into the pawn shops.

-If you buy new you will pay the premium.

-Check the price of your guitar at different music stores as the price can vary considerably from store to store (get the price With Case).

-Try to get the store to throw in (or at least discount) some extras such as Picks, Strap, Tuner, Humidifier and Stand.

The most important elements of your new guitar are sound & playability.
You want your new guitar it to sound good, play smoothly, tune easy and  stay in tune.

What to look for and check to ensure you get a solid guitar for your money:

1.  If you live in a dry climate check it for cracks in the wood (particularly acoustics).  Cracks will affect the sound.  Sound waves cannot travel across the crack as they resonate within the guitar.  A Humidifier at the sellers home is a good sign.  Better yet a specialized guitar humidifier which sits in the sound hole when the guitar is not in use.  I have seen guitars survive without humidification but I have also seen some nasty cracks in dried out guitars.

 Fig. 9  This Humidifier is held in place by the strings when the guitar is not in use.

2.  Check the finish for small cracks.  If the guitar was transported in a jetliner flying at 30000 feet it could well have gone from -40 deg. to +40 deg. during the duration of the flight.  This can cause fine “hairline cracks” due to the thermal contraction and expansion.
Bringing a guitar in from the cold of a winters day and opening the case without allowing the guitar to acclimatize to the indoor
temperature can also cause the finish to crack.

3.  Carefully inspect the guitar for Dents, Chips and Scratches.  Belt buckles can do some serious cosmetic damage to the back of a  guitar and devalue it considerably.  Inspect it at different angles by viewing a light in the reflection.

4.  Check the frets for wear.  This will be evident by grooves worn underneath the strings.

 

 Fig. 10  Fret wear.

5.  Check for loose frets which are lifting out of the fretboard.

6.  Run your hand up and down the neck and make sure there are no rough edges on the frets.  They should feel smooth.
Your hand should not catch on the edge of the Nut.  This can be filed down later but is a sign of poor craftsmanship.

7. *Important*.  Tune the guitar before inspecting it.  Use a Tuner to get the proper tension on the strings.

8.  Look down the fretboard from the Nut to check for bowing of the neck.  Excess bowing can usually be corrected by adjusting the Truss Rod.

9.  Check that the action is not too far off the frets at the 1st and 12th fret.  If it is, it may be hiding a more serious problem (like a lifted fret).  More effort will be needed to fret the notes.  String height may be adjusted by changing the string gauge, adjusting the truss rod or modifying the Nut and/or Bridge.

Fig. 11  Vibrating String shape.  A certain amount of string height is required for the string to vibrate freely.

10. Strum all the strings at once and listen for buzzing.  Move on to the next guitar unless you know what the problem is and are prepared to repair it.

11. If the guitar sounds dull it may need new strings.  Have a good look at the strings to see if they are dirty or oxidized.

12. Fret each note (there’s only 120 of them) and listen for buzzing when you pick the string.  Again, see 4. above.  The guitar may require a “Set Up” (adjusting Action and Neck Bow).

13. Bend each string as far as you can then recheck it’s tuning to see if it has slipped.  This could indicate poor quality or worn out Machine Heads.

14. If you are buying an electric guitar then plug it in and make sure the electronics work.  Jiggle the chord and make sure the sound  is solid.
Turn the volume and tone controls and listen for crackles.  Play each note and compare the volumes.  They should be the  same.  Move the pickup selector to ensure it works.

15. At the very least you should learn how to tune the guitar and how to fret a note so that you can check out the sound before you spend your money.  Nothing could be more disappointing than buying your new guitar and getting it home to find it has a flaw which affects the sound.

You want a guitar which stays in tune, is easy to fret and does not buzz when you play a note.
“All of the notes must be checked before you buy”.

16. If you don’t feel comfortable buying a used guitar then find a reputable music store.  The more reputable music stores have a refund policy if you are not 100% satisfied with your guitar.

17. Shop around and try a few to get the feel of the different guitars before you make a decision.

My advice to a beginning guitarist:

-Buy an acoustic cutaway Dreadnought for around $500.00 with a hardshell case.

-To get the most bang for your buck look for a used guitar from someone who bought it new then lost interest.

-If you do buy used then install new, light – medium gauge strings of good quality (Elixir Strings).  Replace with the same gauge otherwise it will affect the ACTION (string height).

-Buy some picks of various thicknesses to try.  I like 0.50 or 0.60mm thickness (I like the pick to have some flick but still be rigid).

-Buy a stand so your guitar is always readily available and isn’t easily knocked over.

-A small humidifier which sits in the sound hole is a good idea.  Especially in dry climates.

-Check ALL the points listed on this page before you buy.

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