How To Choose Your First (Or Next) Electric Guitar

iStock_000011970017XSmallMust be something in the water lately… I’ve been getting a LOT of emails about choosing a first electric guitar. So many such that I thought it time I give you some tips here.

Tip #1: Decide On Your Budget First

If you can spend $500, there’s a guitar for you. If you can spend $2000, there’s a guitar for you. If you can spend $200, there’s a guitar for you. See the pattern?

There are a variety of guitars in a variety of price ranges. Set your budget first and don’t go over it unless a particular guitar compels you to do so (more on that later…)

Also keep in mind that once guitars hit about the $1500 and up range, you tend to be splitting hairs. There isn’t really a “better” or “worse” at that point, they are just different.

Tip #2: Play Many Guitars

The more guitars you can try, the better you’ll learn what you like.

Some guitars have humbucking pickups and some have single coil pickups. Listen to the sound of guitars with both and decide which sound you prefer.

iStock_000014640293XSmallLes Paul style guitars (Gibson and Epiphone guitars in general) tend to have a “short scale” which is 24 3/4 inches of vibrating string length. Fender (Strats and Teles) guitars have a “long scale” which is 25 1/2 inches of vibrating string. That means that for a given pitch, the longer scale guitar will require more tension on the strings.

That can, however, be mitigated with a change in string gauge, so this is not an exact science. Also, some Fenders (Jaguars and Mustangs  I believe) have an even shorter scale still, like 24 inches. PRS guitars are often somewhere in the middle between “short scale” and “long scale.” So options abound.

Neck widths also vary widely, as does the radius of the fretboard (how curved it is.) All of these things go into a guitar’s general feel. So if you can pinpoint the things you want, it’s much easier to find a guitar that suits you.

Tip #3: Don’t Worry About Quality (Much)

10-15 years ago, purchasing a guitar that was made overseas in China, Vietnam, or Indonesia was a 50/50 proposition. About half the guitars I saw from those places wouldn’t have made good firewood, let alone guitars that played well.

Today, that’s changed a LOT and I’m really surprised by many overseas guitars. Especially in the $400-$800 range, but even in the $200-$400 range. So if you can’t take home the guitar in your hands (see Tip #4 below) you can at least be comfortable that it should be fine and won’t fall apart in less than a year (I’ve seen it happen.)

With all that said, if you are playing a guitar from a brand you’ve never heard of, be wary. Check the major music retail sites and see if that brand can be found at any of them. If not, it’s a smaller brand and you may want to move along.

Tip #4: Take Home The Guitar In Your Hands

No two guitars are the same, no matter what they say. You can take 2 Squier Strats off a wall, in the same color, with nearly identical serial numbers, and they won’t be 100% identical.

So when you play a bunch of guitars and you find one that “speaks” to you, take that one home. It’s common for a salesman to say, “Let me grab you a new one in a box from the back,” but tell them you want the guitar in your hands. They can put the one from the box on the floor to replace the one you’re taking.

If the salesman insists on you taking the one from the back, make sure you play it first and you are comfortable with what you’re taking home before you pay your money.

In the event that you HAVE to order the guitar and cannot try it first, make sure to order from a reputable place that accepts returns and be prepared to send the first one back. I’ve had good luck with Sweetwater, Wildwood Guitars, and Musician’s Friend. All will take a guitar back if it doesn’t work out (but always double check that first.)

This isn’t so much of a deal with the high end guitars, as there isn’t going to be one in the back in a box.

Tip #5: Get It Setup Right Away

Yes, it’s an extra expense, but in my experience as soon as your new guitar gets home and gets a few hours of playing time, it’ll need some attention. Guitars are wood and flexible, they adapt and settle in their environment.

iStock_000001256830XSmall1I have been known on more than one occasion to not even take a new guitar home, but instead take it straight to my repairman for a good setup. You certainly don’t have to do that, but I encourage you to have it looked at by a professional in a couple of months or maybe even less. Don’t have the strings lowered too far, they should be comfortable to play, but if you are a beginner you aren’t going to be subtle and you don’t want unnecessary buzzing from hitting things hard.

Finally, don’t spend your life looking for a guitar. If it’s your first, it certainly won’t be your last so don’t fear making a mistake… there’s always next time… and the time after that… and the time after that.

Got any more tips for buying your first electric? Share them below and maybe you’ll help some fellow newbie out…

61 Comments

  • Michael Chappell

    Reply Reply June 13, 2017

    Hey Griff,
    Thanks for the Tips and for all the tips on this page, all very helpful. I started to learn electric guitar back in Jan 2013 and started with a Suzuki Telecaster in Sunburst colour with white pick plate, stunning and stunning sound, Reduced from AUD 400 to AUD 100 Loved it and I still love it.

    Then looking for different sounds:
    Got over a period of 3 years the following: All New
    * ESP LTD Twin Double Humbers..Gutsy Sound like Les Paul but A$300 in White
    * Squire Strat present.
    *Epiphone Dot 335 Semi Hollow Twin Humbuckers in Cherry red A$650 with hardcase.
    *Epiphone EJ SCE 200 Electric Acoustic Jumbo Flat Black cutaway plus Gibson strings Including Hardcase and all set up by shop.. All my guitars are set up and re-strung by my retail shops of trust..
    *Valencia Acoustic Electric Guitar (25yrs old) second hand paid about A$200 20 yrs ago still has a good sound and was my first guitar back then for mucking around on to see if I would like it.Still love it..
    Line 6 Practice AMP & Marshall 100 Watt Amp..

    I now have all my sounds and gaining more and more experience with BGU courses and Griff..

    I have tried the Gibson Les Paul @ A$ 2,500 also Gibson 335 and Fender Strat all around A$3,500 they are all great guitars but give similar sounds to what I am getting and I am still learning..so when I win the Lotto I will go on a cruise with my wife..All good.

    Thanks
    Michael-Sydney-Australia June 2017.

  • Warren

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    I think a lot of first time buyers get taken advantage of at the retail music stores when they buy a new guitar. A lot of the time, you can find a good used guitar for a fraction of the cost of a new one. And if you haven’t played that long, you’re definitely going to transition and develop your particular sound and preferences. So if you’re extremely wealthy, buy, buy, and keep buying until you find something you like. If you’re watching your pennies like most guitarists, consider a good used instrument that has been checked out by a professional or experienced guitarist that you trust. Then, when it’s time to trade up, you don’t lose so much. Heck, you might make a profit on it. And as already stated in previous comments, almost any guitar will need to be set up……figure that into the cost of your purchase.

  • Lorne Hanson

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    Man, I had a Gretsch Electromatic (Korean) that was sweet. Then, I got a deal on a new PRS SE Zach Taylor (Les Paul style). I sold the Gretsch because I never played it. Love, love, love the PRS and it was only $349. Same thing happened when I bought my Martin D18V. Had to sell the Gibson J45! Didn’t play it anymore!

  • Rick

    Reply Reply June 7, 2017

    Hello all
    Really apretiate all you do Griff. I agree, play as many as you can if your shopping for that one guitar and when you find it don’t hesitate. I tend to buy used and out of the ordinary. If you find a used one that you like, get it. If it was going to fall apart, it already would have. If your shopping for your first guitar, do your research first and by a decent one just for resale if this thing doesn’t work out for you. Hopefully it will though. My first was a strat copy that my dad bought in Vietnam, have no clue what happed to it. Made my second in high school. , no clue what happened to it either. ( I grew up in the 60s and 70s). I finally bought a 73 les Paul, thought it was the best thing ever. Played many gigs with it. Then a strat loved it too. I have bought and sold to many to list. I loved every one, and not happy that I sold any of them. If you like it buy it and keep it to use. They all have a purpose. You or someone in your family will be glad to have it

  • Keith Serxner

    Reply Reply June 7, 2017

    Years ago I bought a Samick….they make guitars for Epiphone. It looks like a beautiful book matched Gibson. Great sound and feel. Maybe it was $250. I have strats, Gibsons, G&Ls,Ibanezes, Danelectros and two kits. The feel is what is most important. The sound is…..whatever the sound is. When Paige and Plant came out of retirement, Plant was playing a Danelectro.

  • John strickland

    Reply Reply June 7, 2017

    Your article is spot on. For a first electric, I would go for an Epiphone and cheep and easy to play. I went into Guitar Center with the intent to buy a Taylor. I played everything they had and finally decided on a Breedlove 25 year adversity Presuit. Never looked back.

  • ken

    Reply Reply June 7, 2017

    I built my first guitar out of walnut in 1957.Never again.I love the kits out there. You can make some really nice guitars from them.There is also some real junk. They don’t have to be expensive to be good.As far as foreign guitars I kind of like the ones made in Indonesia. The quality and set up are very good if you really look at them.I went int Guitar center with $3000.00 and decided I wasn’t going to be so cheap and buy my self a really good Gibson or Fender.I left with a Epiphone sg cost $120.00. The only one of that type I liked after hours of trying the high dollar ones. I also bought a squire tele. I loved the sound and action all for another $120.00. Those are my favorite along with the musicians friend double cut kit. Out of ten in the house the last 3 are my favorite.They all sound great through my 1980’s Fender concert 2 amp. The amp is modified to the tones I love from the 60’s. Now I.m into building custom amps.At 75 years old and playing since the 1950’s this is my retirement hobby.If you are looking for a guitar try all you can until you find one you like no matter what the cost and you will keep it for a long time.

  • Midnight

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Yeah, truth here. I bought a Fender Deluxe American HSS (Shawbucker) on spec, without playing it, and it’s clear after some months playing that we’re not in love with one another. Loretta will probably have to go.

  • Børre Thoresen

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    There are thousands of both youngsters and adults out there who have tried to play. But surrendered. Try to buy a used one. Many of them are almost not used. Here in Norway you can get ok. Guitars between 50-300 USD And as they say here, play, play, play. I am 70 and have had and have more guitars of different brands. But I have not been dedicated enough to get anything but some chords that can be used in cozy parties. So do not spend a lot of money on your first guitar. Good luck!

  • TA Ratko

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I have one electric guitar – Fender Highway One Tele creamy white with a rosewood fretboard and fat frets, about $800 new from a small guitar shop. It looks sharp! The store set it up for me with a 6-piece Stratocaster saddle instead of the 3-piece that comes stock. This setup makes it easier to keep it in tune.

    My acoustics include a 1976 non-electric Epiphone dreadnought that my mother played in her church group band; a Martin mahogany acoustic electric 12-string; a Taylor 214ce (my beach and sitting around guitar); a mahogany Taylor 516ce that is maybe my fave; and, a drop-dead gorgeous Taylor 900ce that has a gorgeous, still-evolving voice. I still have the first acoustic guitar I purchased in 1974, a Yamaha parlor guitar that cost $100 back then!

    I almost never play my Telecaster at home, but have taken it out to a number of open mike jams – most fun one can have with one’s clothing on, IMHO. I’ve taken to heart Keith Richards’ view that one must master acoustic to get a handle on guitar.

  • Bruce

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Great article great advice. Picking a new axe can be very intimidating. There are so many guitars to pick from. All of these points will make it much easier to find the guitar that is right for you.

    • PAUL

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      I HAVE HAD SO MANY GUITARS IN MY 40+ YEARS OF PLAYING GUITAR AND SINGING. I USE TO MAKE CUSTOM GUITARS FROM SCRATCH .JUST WOULD BUY THE NECKS. DID NOT HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO BUILD NECKS. THEY WHERE CALLED DRAGONFIRE CUSTOM WERKS. I HAVE 1986 AMERICAN STRAT AND A 1969 LES PAUL I LIKE MY STRAT, BUT I MADE MY OWN TO SUIT MY STYLE AND GET MY OWN SOUND. THERE WILL NEVER BE AN ELECTRIC GUITAR WITH A CEDAR TOP OUT THERE! I MADE THE BODY FROM BIRCH AND THE NECK IS A FENDER STRAT, WITH MY HEAD STOCK DESIGN. THEY HAD AIRBRUSHED DRAGONS AND CHINESE CHARACTUERS ON THE BODY . MY CEDAR TOP SOUND GREAT EVEN GUITAR CENTER WAS THRILLED WITH THE SOUND AND THE LIGHT WEIGHT. ACTION IS PERFECT AND INTONATION IS SET. THAT’S MY GUITAR EVEN WHEN I PLAYED A GIG, I WOULD USE THAT GUITAR AND MY STRAT.

  • Bruce

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    My first electric was a Fender Starcaster strat. Learned to set it up by watching YouTube and downloading Fender’s owners manual. Bought a Line 6 Spider 3 modeling amp next. After talking to a friend who saw a Jay Turser JT133 at a pawn shop I bought it for $200. Had it set up at a small boutique guitar store. I replaced the tuners with Grovers ($50). Wonderful sounding semi hollow body that looks much like Clapton’s Es335. Sold the Starcaster and Line 6 to an excited teen and bought a Blues Jr. Humbolt model as I wanted a tube amp. No more strat so I found a Nashville Deluxe Telecaster at Guitar Center. Honey Blonde with Maple Neck. I can make almost any music I like now with these guitars and I have less than $1300 invested.

  • Andy

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I just purchased a Gretsch G5420T from Sweetwater. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase and customer service. The guitar plays great and looks fantastic. I also have a Washburn 12 string acoustic ($300) and a Sigma I inherited from my Dad when he passed. I think the most important thing is to play,play, play, as many guitars as you can before buying.

    • "JD" Gemmell

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      Hi Andy …. you are so right – play, play, play; And TAKE YOUR TIME SHOPPING – a valuable lesson I was given from a now accomplished lead guitar player in a darn good local band.

  • Rick

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Brain must not be connected to finger #1, DeArmond is a X155! The AF 105nt would be an Ibanez, an outstanding guitar in its own right, wanted one till I found the DeArmond! Wish I’d started playing 60 years ago, though, with young fingers and brain!

  • Chris Nation

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Martina has a very valid point. Beware ‘headstockitis’, a condition which may well cost you a lot of money for a disappointing guitar. I bought a 2nd hand Fender Strat Deluxe F.S.R. (Factory Special Run). Fabulous looking guitar, ebony fingerboard, fancy tone controls – but horrible thin-sounding Fender Noiseless p/ups and fret-sprout on the high E side that would grate cheese.

    Sold on for no loss. Good riddance. Got a Stat Plus with those creamy Lace Golds and a neck to die for. I had to sell as I was going broke … I´ve got 2 more Plus’s and neither have that same fabulous feel under the left hand as the first one, so Griff’s advice of taking home the one that feels right is sound advice.

    Look out for the Strat and Gibson-slayers – Ibanez. I have a great Roadstar 135 (s/s/s). I love the sound of the Fender TBX tone control, so I installed one of those with Tonerider ‘City Limits’ p/ups.

    For a humbucker guitar, take a lok at the Artcore range. I just bought a superb Artcore AM73, very Gibson 339 – but for GBP175 inc shipping, a steal.

  • Rohn

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Great comments makes me feel right at home im not the only one that has had and still do many guitars. Their like women beutiful and you want them all. I have had many guitars mostly semi hollow 335 types. I learned something though because of 2 guitars I Had a Gibson 335 and a Les Paul custom both beautiful guitars but I wouldn’t play them cause I didn’t want to scratch them lot of $$$$$$$ tied up in those 2 guitars so I sold them and replaced them with knock offs. you know I cant tell the difference and im not worried about hurting the replacements. someone here say MIM Squires are good guitars, theres a sunburst 1 locally for sale 100.00 think ill go buy it cause I want a Sunburst Strat. beats paying a bunch for an american Strat. this just happened to me last month I sprung for a Sunburst American strat on ebay, the seller was a rip off artist they never shipped the Strat. Ebay refunded my Money after a fashion so be careful if you deal with mail order. later

  • Joanne

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I recently bought a brand new Fender T bucket. ( an inexpensive acoustic electric ) The first thing I did was take it to a tech for new strings and a setup. Money well spent. I play it a lot and love it.

  • JACK FLASH

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    That was very helpful. I don’t have alot of cash so cheap guitars are all I can look at. I have Rocksmith 2014 to keep it in tune but I think my Suire H.S.S. needs to be looked at. I think maybe the strings need to be lowered after a year and a half of about 3 to 4 hours a day of practice. Like Griff said I practice in spurts and my back sometimes is the main culprit for the amount of time that I can stand or sit. I am thinking of getting a Joe Bomassa Epiphone Treasure electic guitar from Sweetwater but need to save so I can make a good down payment. Everybody seems to think that I have millions of dollars or something,,,don’t understand that….Maybe you could do one on pickups…Have your setup in the treasure chest but do not know what you had done to your pickups…I have a list of your pickups but no cash….

  • Jesseray

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Good advice. Though I have several high end expensive guitars, I have far more cheap ones. (Some new some used)
    Many of these inexpensive guitars play/sound as well if not better than the costlier ones. ( And many of them were purchased online.)
    It is MOST important to find the one that feels/works for you… I recently bought an older used Koren Strat. ($400 with case.). My guitar guru friend loved the guitar….thought it a REAL players guitar…. But not having his abilities…it doesn’t feel that way to/for me… Be your own judge.

  • Wal Callaby

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    If I had to add a #6 to your list, Griff, it would be not to buy new if there’s a good used one out there, and don’t fret about cosmetic damage- you’ll put your own dings in the lacquer soon enough. And watch the weight too. My Hondo LP and Squier Tele are both seriously heavy beasts, and therefore do not get played as often as the cheapo 60s Teisco Guyatone, which is featherlight by comparison. Oh, and don’t go overboard on pickups. Sorry Strat fans, but for the blues you really only need a good neck pickup- my ‘go to’ guitars are all ‘juniors’…

  • Steve

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Great advice Griff. I’m with you on taking home the guitar that feels right in your hands, not “one just like this” from the back room. And you’re also right that there will be a next guitar…and a next…and a next. I don’t even know how many guitars I’ve bought at this point. And now I’m also making them, just to make sure there are plenty of guitars for everybody. 🙂

  • Wayne

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I’ve played guitar for over 30 years now although I’d still not compare myself a professional like Griff. He is truly amazing and up until around 10 years ago all I knew were a handful of open chords and had never taken the time to learn more. Since then I’ve learned scales, bends, hammer ons, and more importantly for myself is a lot of theory. I’ve said all of this to point out I’ve learned at least 80% of it from Griffs videos. He is truly an amazing instructor with a vast amount of knowledge on teaching guitar and it’s no different with choosing and purchasing a guitar. Take notes on all of his advice and apply them when purchasing a guitar and I promise you will not go wrong. Thanks griff, your truly an awesome guitarist as well as an instructor. If I lived within 100 miles from you I’d be bugging you every week for private lessons. Take care all

  • Neal Sims

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    My advice is to,find a guitar dealer you can trust. I had a local small music store where they set up every guitar for free. Prices,were,comparable to the big Guitar Center stores. Unfortunately they closed and now I drive into Seattle to find a store like that.
    Then take it back in every rear or so for a tune up. Things change in a year. The way you play changes and you might need a different set up.

    • Rick

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      + 1 on the local store and buying used! Bought a used SG Classic and DeArmond AF105 NT
      Used, couldn’t be happier, especially the price of the DeArmond!

    • Jim

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      Hi Neal, where in Seattle? I’m in Tacoma and am always looking for a good place to take my Firebird.

      • Neal Sims

        Reply Reply June 15, 2017

        I play mostly acoustic so I go to Dusty Strings. Great place.

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    A couple of years ago I bought a Charvel Desolation Soloist made in China for $499 and was amazed at how the quality was better than the original Charvel’s from the 80s. Same with the cheap Jackson guitars which I have played.

  • Greg

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I’m probably the king of cheap guitars. A Mexican Fender Strat I got from a buddy, a nearly functional Gibson Sonex I’ve had since college in the 80’s, a Chinese Tele, a Korean Gretsch, a real Takamine, and I still have the first guitar I got, a really crappy Kent (just like Bruce Springsteen’s first guitar!).

    Frankly, I’m blown away by the quality of the $600 Gretsch and even the $100 Tele. The big orange hollow body Gretsch is just beautiful to play and look at, I think it’s one of the best starter guitars out there because you can play it plugged in or not, and it’s loud enough unplugged to hear easily, but not so loud you’re going to annoy everyone you live with when you practice.

    The Tele was a total surprise. I bought it on a whim, expecting to be disappointed since the company selling it is known more for cheap HDMI cables than musical instruments. But, it plays great, the fit and finish is just as good as my Strat, the hardware is really nice, and it makes all the right sounds, which is why I wanted one.

    We seen to be in a golden age for inexpensive quality guitars. Just read the reviews, try to find people talking about the one you’re interested in online, pick a reputable retailer, and if possible, play it in person.

  • JB Stein

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Strats not starts

  • JB Stein

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Exactly correct; no two guitars play and sound exactly the same. I played at least 10 starts the day I bought my USA made standard American strat ( sunburst- a beauty as well). Professionally setup- as u rec. Also own several Martins- best one is D-18 Golden era- beautiful balanced sound none of my others- even a D-28 can match. Also own one Gibson AG pro from Guitar Center. Again played many guitars before that one spoke to me- it sings. Only one of two acoustics I have with a pick-up installed as well. Beautiful sound – distinct from the Martin. Great for blues. All professionally set- up. Made huge difference. Keep up the great work Griff. Please comment on need ( or not ) for guitar humidifiers. I keep all my guitars in their hardshell cases- in cool location. THX.

  • Len Canter

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Excellent Advice !!! Especially Tip #5..Get it Set Up ASAP for your own playing style.

    Experimenting with different strings will help. Lots of good manufacturers and different gauges of strings out there, Recently I changed strings on my 2003 Acoustic Gretsch G3713 Historic Series from Elixir Lights to Ernie Ball Bluegrass. The Elixir Strings were more comfortable, but I wanted to know what Bluegrass Gauge would do for the sound.
    Wish I’d known about “Set Ups” and Lowering Strings when I got my first guitar, a Sears & Roebuck Acoustic Silvertone in 1958. The strings seemed to far from the neck, etc. If I’d had it set up right, it would have saved a lot of frustration and i might have progressed more with the guitar.

    I’m retired and have several guitars; Including a 1997 Gibson Les Paul, 2013 DiPinto Galaxy 4, 2014 G&L Comanche, 1992 Ibanez Universal 7 String, 1992 Gretsch 7594T White Falcon, 1998 Gretsch G6120 Nashville, 2015 Gretsch, G5022CWFE A/E, and others. What feels good and sounds good to you makes a difference in your mood and attitude. At my age , i figure I need all the help I can get for creating a passable sound that others might enjoy.

  • PatB

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    My first electric was an Ibanez RG series from a pawn shop my instructor worked in. $125.00. Crappy color with sparkles and dinged up, pups of unknown origin, but I liked the neck. I have carried it all over the country on airplanes, dropped it and jammed it in car trunks. I still play it and set it up for slide. Great slide neck. Easy to adjust with an allen wrench. It sounds really good with my Nace amp and I don’t apologize for it. It looks good between the Gibby SG and ES339SH. Still trying to get my friend to sell me his Mexican Squier. Play everything you can get your hands on and one will choose you. Incidentally, my experience aside, you will be more likely to play/ practice with a guitar you like the looks of.

  • Alex Mowatt

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Great advice as usual Griff. Being somewhat long in the tooth before reaching the ‘jump in feeling’ as far as electric guitars is concerned I favour a Fender Stratocastor. That is largely because many of the UK role models such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck play them a lot.I do appreciate there are probably a million enthusiasts that will disagree with that statement, and that there more electric guitars out there than you could shake a stick at. I am governed by a few factors, price, past mind-set, inexperience of handling very many guitars for consideration, my age and likely playing life expectancy. None of that will deter me from my final goal of owning on. I have several acoustics and an electro acoustic resonator but not a full on electric guitar – so far. Good to read your take on selection all the same. Keep up the great work. Alex.

  • JimT

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Agree with much of what you and others have said, Grif. I would add a couple of things that I have found to be true for me.

    1) Don’t buy an ego trip, i.e. buy a ‘name’ guitar to impress anyone. There are dozens of really good guitar manufacturers out there other than the name brands that will impress your friends. Buy the guitar that fits you.

    2) Buy a guitar to PLAY not sit in your living room to admire. It’s an instrument meant to make music not reside in a display case.

    3) If you’re like me in that you’ve basically only played in smaller venues with bad acoustics and constant noise surrounding the band, a good $500 guitar will sound exectly the same to 99% of the audience as a $3500 guitar and you don’t have to obsess about someone stealing it or spilling beer all over it. Especially if you can snag an $800 guitar used or on sale for $500.

  • Stan

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    My dad was a pretty good plank spanker, he gave some advice when I first started playing and for me it has been very good advice. He said, son if it don’t sound good unplugged it probably won’t sound good plugged up to your amp . Meaning if it really rings out and sustains well without amplification she will sing for you when you add your amp and toys. Now you have a gem of guitar, a keeper. Hope this helps someone in the hunt for that sound, that tone, that elusive sweet spot on your knobs and buttons.

  • John Y

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    When picking out a guitar of course you want one that sounds the way you want it to sound, plays the way you want it to play
    , etc. those are must items but you can check a couple of other
    things that will only take a minute and could save you a ton of grief later.
    Take each string and tune it down and back up a step or so.
    If any of the tuners are too hard to turn , now is the time to
    have them fixed, before you leave the store.
    If the store where you are shopping has a luthier on site
    take the guitar over to him and let him check the neck for
    straightness and ask him to check it at every fret for a buzz
    or a discord.
    At a reputable shop they will do this gladly and free of charge and faster than a novice ever could.
    Remember it is your money… make it work for you

  • Mr P Griffin

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I find that Shecter Guitars are brilliant guitars and not too costly to buy.

    Check a Shecter out 1st before you purchase an electric guitar !!!

  • Mike B

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I’m kind of a newbie. I’m 60, and just started learning a couple of years ago. I inherited an Epiphone SG from my son. I really wanted a Strat that I could afford. Found one on an Ebay auction. It’s built from parts of other guitars, has a narrow body… Maybe Japanese or Korean? I’ve loved it from the minute I first played it. Since then, inspired by this experience, I built one myself, using an American Strat body and a MIM maple neck. It cost me more and in some ways I still prefer my Ebay Strat.

  • Michael

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I purchased a Gibson Les Paul Studio 2017, but I couldn’t get it to sound right through my Fender Blues Jr. Amp. I decided to return it and got the Fender Start Eric Clapton model and it sound great and seems easier to play than the GIbson.

  • Mark Wales uk

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Cheers Griff
    For the advice I purchased a fender telecaster modern player a few years back I wanted a good little work horse
    To save my 1980 les Paul and 1999 fender blonde from wear and tear
    I did try it out with a fender twin reverb as I use after playing it I asked the guy in the store to play abit and try out the different
    Pickups as I stood back and had a listen since purchasing the guitar I’ve played it everyday some guitars make you want to play and others don’t
    I picked it up for a steel plus I had him to chuck in a new set of strings
    And I named her Brenda 😎🎶

  • Ray Kraft

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Three years ago I saw a used Ibanez archtop on the wall at Guitar Center, played with it awhile, took it home, fell in love, used but I couldn’t find a scratch, $375, original $800. Three years later I now have 5 Ibanez archies and they’re all fine, each has its own voice.

    You can buy a good new Ibanez Artcore archtop for around $400, great value, good blues and jazz instrument.

    One thing I think is very important, find a neck that feels comfortable to your hand, fingers. This is very personal. Fender and Ibanez are my favorite necks, PRS, Gibson, don’t feel right, but that’s just me, maybe perfect for you. If the neck isn’t comfortable you won’t like to play it.

  • bob parsons

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I am an accoustic guy….love my Larrivee…made in BC, Canada…tried many others but as you say “it spoke to me”.

    I also have an Epiphone “Les Paul”…….plays well but very heavy…..will look for a Fender type.

    Good advice…thanks Griff.

  • Mike

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Hi all, I have never had the pleasure of owning a high end guitar, although I have played a few. My favorite guitar that I own is still my British made semi acoustic Wilson that I bought in 1972. All my guitars (9 to be exact)are in the £500 range and I wouldn’t change any of them.

  • Bill45

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I believe Sweetwater includes a professional setup with every guitar. Plus their equipment (besides guitars) usually comes with a free warranty even if other retailers charge extra for a warranty. I have always had a good experience with Sweetwater.

    • Steve P

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      Have two Sweetwater guitars.
      Had each set up after I played them for a bit.
      Has nothing to do with Sweetwater.
      Gibson j45 Gibson Memphis 335.
      Brought them to a private luthier.
      Authorized by Martin & Taylor.
      It’s worth it.
      Sweetwater experience always positive.

  • cowboy

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    good advise Griff…and the good news is that there is that are so many good playing guitars being made…with the used market better than ever…I usually won’t buy unless there is a good sale or used price…its easy to want more than one…later.

    cowboy

  • Ken Widger

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Good info Griff. I have put together kits from the far east, cost me $79 on eBay. All the parts are there. They indeed are cheaply made, but if you have some chops in the “good with your hands” area, you make your own guitar.
    That finished guitar was under $100 and it plays nice. It is no Les Paul though it doesn’t look bad, sounds a little funky, but certainly worth the time and money. (Change out the cheap hardware for some good stuff and you will add $500 to the cost.)

    I build guitars from scratch, and I have found that if you know how to set up a guitar properly, you can have a real sweet ax for not much money.

  • BB

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I feel happy to learn the decision making how to purchase electric guitar . I may go in for same in a few months . I have noted the main points . Thus I will be able to get good piece and set up .
    Thanks Griff

  • Jyff

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    I’ve had phenomenal luck with dent and scratch models. Some of them I still can’t find the blemish. They’re always reduced price.

  • Billy

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    All good points. Try to develop a relationship with your local guitar store if possible. They will learn the things you like in a guitar. A good dealer can make a difference and offer honest advice. Do not feel pressured into buying something from a pushy salesperson.

    Also, try to play through an amp similar to what you have at home. It will be easier to match the tone you heard in the store when you get home.

  • Mark M (UK)

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    You’re absolutely right Griff about no two guitars – even the same make and model – being the same. I’ve tried quite a few over the years and I recall buying a Gibson Les Paul in 2002. I tried three, the one I bought felt 20% lighter than the other two and the neck is like butter – smooth and creamy. Don’t be afraid to look at really old discontinued guitars either, certainly made in Japan ones. I received a 1971 Jedson Les Paul copy for Christmas. (A Jedson was my first guitar in 1976). Book matched top, stunning bridge pick up. It’s been well used but with a pro set up / new frets and strings it is fantastic. In fact I use these two as examples as the Jedson is a pick any time and play/practice/abuse guitar – the Gibson is such a work of art it rarely sees daylight. Pick a guitar you’re not frightened to scratch with picks and belt buckles – it encourages practice and the Jedson was eight times cheaper than the Gibson. Whilst writing – thanks for all your good work Griff.

  • Doug Evans

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Don’t overlook the used market. You can find some tremendous values in that arena plus if it doesn’t work out, you can typically sell for close to what you paid. 👍

    • legoge47

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      But I’ve heard that you need to avoid the cheap guitars from pawn shops.

      • Ray Kraft

        Reply Reply June 6, 2017

        Keep your eyes open. I got a beautiful red Squire Strat (Fender) from a friend who got it for her daughter who decided learning to play guitar was too much like work . . . $80 . . . not a scratch, sounds great, plays great. Squire Strats are good instruments, great values.

        • Lego47

          Reply Reply June 6, 2017

          Thanks for the advice. I had an Epiphone SG I bought in 2008. I thought it was a bit heavy at the headstock. I recently donated it to Guitars For Veterans. Hope someone will give it a good home. I have been thinking about a different electric guitar and not sure what brand to get. My budget is $300 or less.

          • Grant Ritter

            June 6, 2017

            Check out Guitarfetish.com…

            I’m pretty sure you can find something you like…
            eg: XV 500 series … solid mahogany body solid maple top…$219.00…

            Or if you’re a P90 afficianado look at the Earl Slick series…SL59’s are only$199.00.

            I have no connection with GFS. I saw your budget number and thought you may not have seen these.

  • Dave Keck

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Some really good points and agree with much of what you say. I have a few fairly high end American made guitars and I also have a thin hollowbody Yamaha SA 1100 that was produced in Taiwan in the 80’s. The guitar is a direct knockoff of a Gibson ES 335. It also happens to be a very good knockoff of a Gibson. I paid a few hundred dollars for it used almost twenty years ago. Although I could probably afford the Gibson today, I can’t justify because I don’t think I would be gaining any more guitar.

    Some really good guitars can be found today for around $500.00 and you are right Griff. The right guitar will speak you.

  • Doug Evans

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Excellent advice as always..! I wish I had this advice when buying my first 6 or so guitars.

  • Martina

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    My best advice is to not get stuck on playing the same kind of guitar your guitar hero plays just because they play it.

    I love the look and sound of a Les Paul, and with two of my key influences being Slash and Jimmy Page, I tended to only pick up Les Pauls to play, but as I matured I realized that if the Jackson or Ibanez I was holding sounded great and felt super great in my hands, that the name on the headstock mattered a lot less than how easily the guitar allowed me to express myself.

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