Monday, November 12, 2007

Midlife Crisis: How to Buy Your First Guitar

For every guitar that is played, there are many more gathering dust in the closet, possibly to become “vintage” a few decades from now. You want to start out with an inexpensive model initially. If you later decide the hobby is not for you, you are not out a lot of money. I got into the guitar based on an interest in exploring blues driven vintage rock, but the comments would apply to any type of guitar you wish to acquire. I was lucky enough to have a co-worker who loaned me a guitar out of his 20+ guitar collection, a great option if you know any guitar enthusiasts. However, with a little research, you can purchase your own and will find that inexpensive does not mean poor quality.

The major makers produce guitars that range from a couple hundred to many thousands of dollars. Manufacturers such as Fender and Gibson and many others produce quality guitars with good playability for a low price point.

Playability is especially important when you first start out because you are building new muscle memory for fretting notes, picking strings, forming chords, and building calluses on your fingertips. You are not going to progress as quickly as you are capable of with a poor quality guitar unless you are especially gifted. Just because Jimi Hendrix started out on a ratty guitar with one string does not mean you have to or can. Think of it the same way you would about golf clubs with perimeter weighting for a larger sweet spot. To find the guitar that will give you that sweet spot playability, your best chance of finding it for the right price is to do a bit of research.

Bookstores such as Borders® and Barnes & Noble stock a large variety of magazines devoted to the guitar, all of which include gear reviews in each issue. Experienced players conduct these reviews and clearly outline the pros and cons of each model. In addition, these magazines provide web links and other resources for further exploration. For example, the Epiphone Dot Studio, pictured at right received high marks in GuitarWorld magazine and sells for under $200 at "Guitar Center" stores. Through research, narrow down the options that appeal to you and then head out to your local guitar store!

Guitar stores feature electric guitar starter kits (guitar, amp, cable, strap) especially during the holiday season. Likely, the guitar options you are interested in based on your research will not come packaged like this. Starter kits will likely have a lower price than the guitar you have decided on but remember that the goal here is the best playability for the lowest cost. This enables you to maximize the practice time you have available. Stick to the research you have done and leverage the knowledge of staff at your guitar store.

I have yet to visit a guitar store where the staff was not knowledgeable and enthusiastic about more people learning to play guitar. Outline to them what you are looking for, the research you have done, and go from there. Worse case, if you do not like your purchase these stores usually have generous return policies.

Lets Rock!