Purchasing a Guitar...


We live in an age of choices.  Whether we are talking about food, entertainment, music, TV channels etc. we have many many choices.  Choosing a guitar is no different.  Not only are their many different types of guitars but there are guitars at just about every price point.  With overseas production, especially in China, Korea etc. a decent guitar is accessible to just about everyone.

So, what is the first consideration?  Because there are so many choices at just about every price point over $200, I would recommend starting with the type of music you want to play.

Classical: If this is the musical style you want to pursue then you should bee looking at a Spanish style guitar with nylon strings. 

Folk and Bluegrass:  Many folk players play a smaller acoustic models but many play the same types of instruments a bluegrass.  This would be the dreadnaught body style with steel strings.  These guitars produce good volume needed for an acoustic band.  As long as it is a steel string acoustic other styles and sizes can be used as well.

Country:  Country is so diverse these days but two types of guitars probably dominate.  If it is acoustic country you want to play then choose an instrument similar to bluegrass.  If it is electric country the a solid body guitar like a Fender Stratocaster would be a good choice.

Jazz: Although jazz is played on many different types of guitars the standard by far is the hollow body electric with humbucker pickups.  This instrument delivers that mellow tone that is the jazz sound.

Rock & Pop: Semi hollow electrics like the Gibson Les Paul and solid body Fender style guitars are good choices.  For heavy rock you might want something really unique like a "Flying V".  Pop covers such a wide gambit that  almost any guitar could be used at one time or another.

There are several things that well made guitars have in common.  these can be found on American made and foreign made guitars as well.  But you need to be more careful when purchasing an import because the quality control is not as good as it is in the USA.

  • The wood on the back and sides will be made of good tonal, solid hardwoods: rosewood, maple or mahogany or even Hawaiian Koa.
  • The top of the guitar on well made classic and folk guitars are usually made from spruce. Although many fine jazz guitar also have used spruce on the top, as well.
  • The finger board is made of ebony, although some guitar makers may use rosewood.
  • The tuning machines are metal on most well made guitars, while classic guitars may use a very high quality plastic or even bone.
  • The finish of the guitar has a fine, very smooth feel.
  • All strings ring clearly both on open strings and up and down the fret board.
  • Low action: the fret board is low, requiring minimal finger pressure to depress a note or hold a chord.

  • When purchasing a guitar, it is advisable to buy a well known, quality guitar from a reputable manufacturer, such as Martin, Gibson, Fender, Taylor, Guild,  Epiphone (owned by Gibson), Takamine, Yamaha, Alvarez or Washburn, but there are literally hundreds of manufacturers around the world that make decent instruments.  The quality control of the well known manufacturers is one reason to go with them but warranty and availability are factors as well.  Many of the well known manufacturers have a line that is made overseas with cheaper labor that brings the cost down.  Many of these instruments are of very good quality.

    The ultimate decision to purchase a guitar lies with the student guitarist. If it feels comfortable, has a rich sound and it has a quality look and feel to it, this may be the right guitar. It's always best to purchase a better guitar than one would initially expect. Typically one should buy a guitar that could be easily resold, if there is a possibility that the student will want to eventually purchase a better instrument. All in all, the decision to purchase one guitar over another is entirely personal because in all likelihood one may own this instrument for many years