Buying a New Guitar – Secrets to Choosing the Right One!

Buying a new guitar can be an often exciting moment, but you have to stop your excitement getting in the way of making an informed decision. Sometimes the prettiest guitar on the rack (or even the most expensive!) isn’t your best option…

The first thing that I will point out is that even if a guitar costs $5,000, it may not necessarily be better than a guitar that costs $2,000. The first rule when buying a new guitar is…

– No Matter how good you think the guitar is before you play it, no matter how much you like the guitarist/band or are told how good the guitar is. DO NOT decide that a ‘Signature’ guitar is going to be amazing before you play it.

What a ‘Signature’ guitar is a guitarist’s guitar. E.g. Zakk Wylde, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn all have signature guitars. The biggest difference (Other than the price) is generally just the looks. There are exceptions to this rule however, sometimes guitars are ‘just right’. For instance, I actually own a Slash Gibson Les Paul Signature model. This was released in 2007 with a limited run of units (1,400 if I remember correctly) and this is the best Les Paul I have ever played! It has a chambered body (so it’s a bit lighter than a standard Les Paul) and quite honestly just kicks ass. I would prefer if it just said Gibson on the head-stock and not have Slash’s hand drawn picture haha, but hey, the benefits definitely make that worth putting up with.

The thing about most signature guitars is that they are very over priced, and only cost a lot because they have a guitarists name on it. So DO NOT buy one unless you first test it against other guitars first and decide that it is actually a better guitar because of the instrument, and not the name on it.

Now another thing, you can buy a $100 guitar, or one that costs 50 times the price at $5,000. But the $5,000 guitar will not be the same value as the $100 one. Why? Because the $5,000 guitar is not 50 times more instrument than the $100 guitar…

It has strings, a bridge, a neck, machine heads etc. Once you realize this you find that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a good guitar.

I was actually told this by someone who builds guitars from scratch, and to be honest, it was a little bit of an eye opener. While I would much rather play one $5,000 guitar than fifty $100 guitars (lol), keep this in mind while purchasing. You don’t have to spend crazy amounts unless you are wanting something top of the line. You can get really, really great guitars for around $1,000.

Secondly the brand. Brands in some cases really are just the little stamp that appears on the head-stock and of course the body shape. This may shock you but if you have ever said that Cort make bad guitars, you are also saying that Fender, Ibanez, Jackson and a whole lot more brands make bad guitars because they are actually made in the Cort factory! (Cort don’t make all of their guitars, but they do make a lot of the cheaper range. A key point to spotting if it was made it the Cort factory is to look at the serial number of a Cort guitar, then see if the same font and positioning is used on your guitar or the guitar you are looking at). So Cort take the best parts out of all the Guitars, so Cort are actually a really great brand. Obviously their cheaper items are no where as good as their more expensive items. But if you want your best bang for buck, go with a $500 Cort (acoustic or electric, both a great).

Now, once you play through a lot of guitars at all different price ranges and have found a guitar you like the feel of. Play through every note on every string. Don’t play hard but just as you usually would pick a note. This is done to make sure there are no problems with the fretboard. If there is a buzz on any string, make sure you ask the shop assistant if they can get it fixed for you, don’t let them tell you that it’s just the way all those instruments are. BUT make sure you are being realistic… If you play any guitar strings super hard, every guitar in the world, no matter how much it’s worth, will buzz (it is just pieces of metal strapped onto a piece of wood after all!).

Also, when you buy a new guitar, make sure you ask the shop too get a professional setup done. What this is, is setting up the action correctly, adjusting the truss rod, the bridge, the nut, the intonation (making sure it stays in tune going up the fretboard) and fixing up anything else that could hinder it’s play-ability.

Now you should be ready to make an informed decision when buying a new guitar, so go down to your local music store and try a few out.

One more quick note… Buying online is obviously very handy, especially these days. But guitars really are just pieces of wood, and no piece of wood is the same. So I highly recommend not purchasing a guitar unless you can first play it to make sure it does actually play well. You can get two guitars that are the exact same model from the exact same batch, but one can play good and the other not so good just because they are different pieces of wood.

About the Author

Charlie Wallace is the founder and CEO of Guitar Mastery Method. He is also an internationally touring guitarist and an online guitar teacher (exclusively for Guitar Mastery Method). Charlie grew up playing basketball and spends a lot of his spare time playing it and watching the NBA. He currently lives in his home country of New Zealand.