Buying a Guitar

Buying a Guitar

What you need to know before buying a guitar buying a guitar

Buying a guitar? But what sort of music do you want to play?

This is an important point as there are 3 main types of guitar:

Classical, Steel string Acoustic and an Electric instrument.



Classical or Spanish guitar

A Classical guitar has nylon strings and is generally mellow in sound. It is usually played using the fingers and not a plectrum. It has been used by guitarists such as Julian Bream, John Williams and Segovia. Also a few jazz and pop artists to get that warm sound that it produces. Nylon strings are less abrasive on the fingers and gentler for young children.

Classical guitars come in 3 main sizes:

½ for children generally between about 6 to 8

¾ for ages generally between about 8 to 11

Full size for 11 years and above

It is always best to get advice and try a guitar first before purchasing. Children and adults all differ in size.

Another thing to remember is all guitars feel and sound differently according to the woods used in manufacture and neck widths.

For a new good student classical guitar prices start at about £40 for a half size, to about £90 for a full size model. Makes I would recommend are Admira, Yamaha, Jose Ferrer and Valencia.

If you want to pay a bit more and need a full sized classical guitar the Merida Trajan T5 have excellent reviews.

Steel string acoustic

Steel strung acoustic guitars are used for pop, soft rock, blues, country, folk, strumming and finger style and have larger bodies and narrower necks.

Artists that have played acoustic guitars are Ed Shearan, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Katie Tunstall, Tommy Emmanuel, Michael Hedges, Robert Johnson and hundreds of other musicians.

Strings come in many gauges and for a beginner I would recommend light gauge if possible as they will be easier to press down and less taxing on your fingers.

There are several sizes of body such as 000 and Parlour guitars that have a small body, Jumbo or Dreadnoughts that have large bodies.

I personally prefer smaller body guitars as I find them more comfortable to play especially if playing seated, however, it is best to try a few and decide what you like.

Often acoustic guitars are fitted with pickups and are known as Electro-acoustics

Prices vary tremendously from £100 to several thousand, but for a beginner you can buy a very reasonable acoustic guitar for £100-£150 such as the Yamaha F310, Epiphone AJ220S- VS, Epiphone AJ100CE- NT and many others.

Electric guitar

An electric guitar has a much narrower neck and lower action (string height from fret board). The strings are also thinner making them easier to press down for bar chords and to bend; however, narrow necks make it harder to play finger style.

Electric guitars can be fitted with single coils or hum bucking pickups and even a combination of both. Single coil pickups tend to have a thinner and crisper tone than hum bucking pickups. These are favoured by blues, country and pop artists such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Albert Lee, Brad Paisley and Hank Marvin.

Some guitars using single coil pickups are the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster.

Hum bucking pickups tend to have a thicker, fuller and more powerful sound and sustain notes well these are favoured by rock, heavy rock and metal musicians and also some jazz players such as Slash, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Zakh Wylde, Randy Rhodes and Duane Allman.

Guitars using humbucking pickups are Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, Ibanez and many more.

Some guitars have humbuckers and single coil pickups giving you more versatility.

Some guitars using both pickups are the Yamaha Pacifica, Fender HSS Stratocaster etc.

There are always exceptions as well, such as Gary Moore playing blues with a Les Paul. So, the above are general guidelines.

For beginners I would recommend the Yamaha Pacifica 112 or the Fender Squire Stratocaster both retailing about £200. But make sure they are the solid body versions and not hollow inside the body. This will give more sustain.

When buying a guitar, if it is difficult to press the strings down due to a high action (strings high above the fret board), then ask the shop to do a set up on it.

A set up involves lowering the action, adjusting the truss rod (neck adjustment). Also putting on a gauge of strings that you prefer. As mentioned earlier, light gauge would be easier for beginners.