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Guitar buying advice

I'm not in love - guitar instrumental Beginners Ear Training Exercise No Control by The Dirty Fakirs Hybrid Picking: Highs and Lows The Graham Young Showreel Harmonic Scales and hearing chord tones.video lightbox

Buying Tips

What will I need to start lessons at the Leeds Guitar Studio?

Not a great deal is the short answer. To learn the guitar there are only a few essentials but here is some advice on what to get and where to get it.

Guitar

  This one's kind of obvious! If you haven't got one already you can come for a lesson, borrow one and get a feel for the instrument before splashing the cash for one of your own. I can also advise you on what to get as part of the lesson as well as tips on stringing and tuning the instrument. However here's some advice concerning buying a good instrument. You can also watch the video at the top of the page for more detailed advice.

Acoustics

Steel Strung: The most popular choice of people playing pop/rock/folk/blues based styles. In recent years there has been a proliferation of good quality budget instruments around the £100 - £200 mark. Anything below £100 is generally to be avoided. It'll be much harder to play and tune and will ultimately prove to be a false economy. Brands such as Stagg, Tanglewood, Samick, Aria all produce good instruments and new brands are coming along all the time. Shops take what's currently the best value at any given time. Keep an open mind and do some research on the net prior to going to view. Alternatively have a look at the reviews in Guitarist magazine and see if anything there is recommended. Also get an instrument with a cutaway - that is a guitar with a bit missing near the upper frets. The way I teach you'll be playing all over the neck more or less straight away and as you advance this limitation will annoy the hell out of you. We also have access to a source of quality second hand instruments that have been setup properly. These are often absolute bargains. Just ask and we'll see what's available.

Classical or nylon strung: Really only appropriate for playing "Classical" or Flamenco style guitar involving the exclusive use of the right hand nails and a specific repertoire. Not really what I teach. They're not terribly good for strumming chords either as the string tension's so low. You can learn on a classical guitar but what I teach you won't be classical guitar music or technique.

Electric

 There are two main paradigms: The Strat and the Les Paul

OK - Polemic time. Look away if you're a Les Paul player but be aware this opinion is the result of 25+ years of teaching and playing experience.

I'm increasingly coming out in favor of the strat particularly for learners. The Les Paul has several fundamental design problems that make it harder for beginners. Very few Les Pauls' balance correctly and this tends make the student adopt bad posture habits by way of compensation. Any instrument should balance by itself and no real effort should be required by the player to maintain a comfortable and effective position. Les Pauls are nearly always body heavy.

Pointy/Odd shape Guitars.

Okay...Whilst they may look cool whlist posing in the mirror (hey, you could have saved your money and used a tennis racket for that) or making your first video but once again they can seriously hamper your early development. Save them for when you can play a bit.

Strat styles: The budget brand that is by far my favourite at the moment is Cort. They make quality instruments with good hardware for peanuts. Harder to find but well worth the effort. Ibanez do reasonable budget guitars also. Any Mexican made Strat, any new squier Strat should be at least okay. Yamaha Pacifica's. Yamaha as a rule don't make anything bad so you're on safe ground with any of their stuff. Stagg do good copies too but exercise caution as they can be hit and miss in my experience.

Les Paul: Cort, Epiphones, Yamaha, Stagg.

Practice Amp

If you're buying a small practice amp there is only one choice at the moment. The Roland Cube series. Fantastic amps. Check them out. They sell themselves.

General Advice on buying a Guitar.

Check every fret on every string. Listen for rattles or buzzes. Many things can cause this. It may just be a badly made instrument or a perfectly good instrument that hasn't been set up properly. Look down at the neck from above along its longest edge. To give you an idea of how much bow there should be Carvin recommend the following:

  Fret the 1st fret of the bottom string with one hand and the top fret with the other and the look at the clearance between the 7th fret and the string. There should be just enough space to slide a playing card in there. To be fair most other instruments aren't capable of that sort precision but it will give you an idea of what to expect.

Look down the length of the neck from the bridge end. It should be straight along the two outer edges without any warping or twist. Although a guitar neck is adjustable in terms of bow it's not in terms of neck twist. If there's signs of distortions like these stay clear!

Also check the frets. How neatly have they been put in? The ends should be smooth so that when you run your hand along the edge of the neck you don't feel any rough edges. The electric's should be quiet. Are the any clicks or scratching noises as you turn the control knobs? Does the whole instrument feel solid and well put together? Certain instruments have a "rightness" about them - trust your instincts.

Offer cash and see if you can blag some extras. See if they'll throw in a gig bag (you'll need something to carry it around in right?) or a guitar cable. If the strings on the instrument seem particularly old and cruddy see if they put a new set on for you. The shop only pays a couple of quid for a set so they'll probably sweeten the deal for you if you ask. Remember: any guitar is only as good as it's strings. Replace them regularly.