Buying a Guitar
What should you be considering (other than price) when buying a guitar? Here is a breakdown of the main things to be concerned about.
Always Play the Guitar
Seems kinda obvious now that I’ve said it, right? You MUST like the feel of playing a guitar before you even consider buying it! Holding it must be comfortable and (I have to say this, it’s important!) it has to look “cool”. Right, that’s not something about the guitar, more about the look that you want.... Also, when playing it (assuming you can already play), you shouldn’t find it awkward or particularly difficult. The guitar should be easy to play, and if it’s not, try a different guitar! If you can’t play yet, then you haven’t found what you prefer, so it won’t matter so much for you at this stage.
So what about the build quality? How do you know if something is seriously wrong with the guitar? Here are some things to look out for:
The guitars “action” is the distance between the fretboard and the strings, if it is too high it can make the guitar difficult to play, but if it’s too low it can cause the strings to “buzz” against the frets. The action is also linked to the intonation, so you’ll want to make sure that’s set up properly (especially if you’re buying a classical guitar, because on these it’s not easily adjustable!).
Lift the guitar up and look down it from the base of the body along through to the head. The neck should be almost straight and with only a slight curve- so that the strings are closer to the neck at the nut, and get slowly further away as they reach the 12th fret. There should be no “bumps” or “wobbles” in the neck, because this means that the neck has “warped” and requires a truss rod adjustment (classical guitars don’t have a truss rod).
You should like the sound of the guitar. Again, seems kinda obvious now that I’ve said it, but don’t forget: this is what you’re buying the guitar for. Make sure the guitar sounds good to you, and sounds how you want. Test the note at the 12th fret against the open string, and it should be exactly an octave apart (you might want to use a tuner for this!), if it isn’t then the intonation needs adjusting.
…and talking about the tuning…
This can be affected by incorrectly set intonation, but (more commonly) it’ll be a problem with the machine heads (tuning pegs). When you tune the guitar up, the tuning pegs shouldn’t feel extra stiff, or particularly loose, they should also be able to hold the string in tune whilst you play (known as “tuning stability”). If they are too loose, you will most likely have to turn them alot to get the string up to pitch! However, if they are too tight they make not be sensitive enough to get the string exactly in tune. You don’t want to be spending years just winding the strings up to pitch, but also I’m sure you want the tuning pegs accurate enough to get the guitar in tune! Looser tuning pegs may also “unwind” and detune the string slowly as you play- again, this is bad!
So, if the guitar seems to be OK after the above checks, then it’s safe to assume that it’s a pretty decent guitar. One thing I would look for also, is build quality. Make sure the guitar is well made (i.e. try to avoid unpolished surfaces or messy glue joints), all things you would look for in most wooden products (furniture, for instance). You don’t want the guitar to fall apart once you get it home!
From Chainsaw Guitar Tuition