Buying Your First Electric Guitar – What to Check Out in a Strat Style Guitar

So, you and a buddy who can play (or your Guitar Teacher) are standing in your local Music Shop.  You have come to take a look at a Strat style guitar – choices, choices, choices! Before you came to the shop you will have done some research to home-in on some makes in your price range. In general the quality of budget guitars is very good today thanks to modern computer based manufacturing however there are still a few points you need to look for.

So which one do I check out first. Well the first thing that will probably catch your eye is the colour. Is the colour important? Well it is to you but it will not make the guitar sound any better (but some say red guitars sound the best!). Colour choice is a personal thing – you may like a sunburst  one because your favourite guitar player has one or it’s the colours of the team you support. As just mentioned colour does not affect the sound but it can affect the re-sale value of the guitar – most budget guitars will be a stepping stone to a higher priced model and often you will need to sell your first guitar to be able to afford the new one. “Safe” colours that generally sell well are black or white. Sunburst or red ones (or other “bright” colours) tend to be polarising – that is, you will either love or hate them. All that said, if it don’t like the colour don’t buy it!

Now the first thing you will notice when you pick up the guitar of your choice is its weight. A typical weight will be around 8 pounds (3.5kg) plus or minus a little. There has been a lot of discussion about whether light or heavy guitars sound the best but I won’t get into that other than saying what matters is how the guitar sounds to you.  What is important however is how comfortable is it to play. My personal preference is for lighter guitars as I find them more comfortable to play both sitting down and standing.

The next thing to look out for is how the neck feels in your hand. Necks can come in all shapes and sizes (as do hands!) – they can be “C” shaped, “V” shaped or “U” shaped, wide or narrow, fat or thin. In the budget category manufacturers do a lot of market research to offer you a neck that, to most people, will feel good – not too wide (a typical width at the nut is around 42mm) and not to big in the hand (the “C” shape is a good compromise).  A good tip is to try a few different necks and compare how they feel. Always buys a guitar with a neck that feels right for you.

Starting at the “pointed end” – called the headstock, point the guitar away from you and look down the neck. What you should see is essentially a straight neck with a very slight under curve (called the neck relief – which if measured should be around 0.010″ at the 8th fret but that’s getting a bit technical!). Also the frets should look even – with no high ones. To an inexperienced eye “sighting” a neck can be difficult so again ask a friend who knows what to look for to check it out for you. As you have gone to you local Music Store, they will have checked all the guitars they stock so it’s unlikely you will get a major problem with a new guitar (buying a used guitar can be a different matter though!).

On the headstock there will be six machine (tuning)heads – check that these turn smoothly and easily. Defective machine heads can be a major source of tuning instability. I am continually surprised that the quality of the machine heads on budget guitars is really very good these days but you can get exceptions so check them out.

Moving down the neck we find the “nut” – usually made of hard plastic (but can be bone or metal) with six slots cut in to it to act a as string guide. A badly cut nut can be a major contributor to poor playability and tuning instability since the strings don’t move smoothly and freely through the grooves (they get “pinched” and can stick). A quick and easy check is to gently lift the string out of its slot – it should lift out without catching or sticking.  As an additional check, play each string open (not fretted) and listen for any “rattles” or “buzzing”  – this can be caused by the nut slots being cut too deep and the string is fretting out on the first fret. Again the Music Store should have checked that all is OK but it does no harm to double check.

In the next instalment I will share tips on what to look out for with the fingerboard & frets, electrics and the Tremolo.

Getting Started – Buying Your First Electric Guitar

Right – so you’ve decided to learn to play guitar! A good decision, one small problem – no guitar!

There is now a world of choice for people starting out so which guitar do I buy?

How much will it cost? Well let’s help out with some tips.

First off – set yourself a budget. How much? Well a good “starter guitar” will cost around £120 to £200 (approximately $200 to $300). Yes you can probably find something cheaper but generally with guitars you get what you pay for – it’s an old saying but “buy cheap, buy twice”.

So where to buy? The Internet has some good prices but my own personal preference is to go to your local friendly Music Shop. My logic is that choosing a guitar is very personal decision. The feel, the weight, the sound, the colour are all best evaluated via a hands-on test drive. Also, you local Music Shop will have a range of guitars for you to try and also give you advice on what best suits you, plus if it goes wrong, and they sometimes do, they will be able to quickly fix it for you.

Another good tip – if you don’t know your Strat from your Les Paul, take a friend along who already plays so that they can help you make the right choice. Also, your Music Teacher can help out too.

Decisions, decisions – what do I buy? Where do I start? The most popular guitar since its launch in the 1950’s is the Fender Stratocaster. The Strat, or one of its many clones (which should fall into my suggested budget guidelines), is a very comfortable and versatile guitar. It’s body is chamfered so there are no hard edges and it also has good upper fret access. The versatility of sounds comes from three single coil pick-ups, which impart a bright and punchy tone. Strats have been used in nearly every musical genre – rock, blues, country, jazz even folk. They also have a wonderfully fun device called the Tremolo Arm (or whammy bar). This can give hours of pleasure from simple little whammy dips to out and out drive bombing effects acheter viagra en tunisie.

What if the Strat is not for you? Then my next other “check out” guitar for folks getting started is the Gibson SG or, one its many copies (again lower in price than an original) . They are generally lighter in weight and have possibly the best upper fret access of any guitar. The pickups are usually humbuckers which are visually bigger than single coil type and have a warmer darker tone.

So what does it feel like to you? Any guitar should feel comfortable to hold, after all you are going to spend a lot of time together. Check that the neck is not too wide or thick – not everyone has big hands or long fingers so make sure it feels right for you. To be fair most manufacturers do a great job of making guitars these days and offer really good high quality products.

In the next instalment I will talk you through other things to check out when you buy your first guitar. Keep reading the reviews – getting opinions of current users has got to help in narrowing down your options and will go a long way to helping make the right choice.