Guitar Buying Guide
Purchasing a Guitar
Consider the following when shopping for a guitar:
- Choose the guitar that suits the style of music you like to play. If you are drawn to heavy metal, for example, you are likely to get more use from an electric guitar than you are from the acoustic alternative.
- Shop for a guitar that matches your proficiency and your desire to learn. If you are certain that you are committed to mastering the art, look for a guitar that will suit where you hope to be in 2-3 years’ time so you don’t have to upgrade as your skills develop.
- The most cost effective way to purchase guitar equipment is to buy it as a set. You can’t pick and choose what's included but you can be sure that all the gear will be compatible.
- If you are shopping for younger players, consider ¾ guitars as they are much easier to handle and play than the full-size alternative.
Types of Guitar
Electric guitars are favoured by budding rock stars as they are used throughout so much iconic music. Their potential, however, exceeds replicating famous songs. Pair them with an effects boards, for example, and you can create a wholly unique sound.
- Electric guitars are available in 3 main body types: solid, hollow and semi-hollow. Solid is the most common and the slimmest. Hollow body guitars produce more resonance and deeper bass while semi-hollow guitars produce a warm sound with increased sustain.
- An electric guitar’s pickup impacts upon sound. The most common is a single-coil, which produces a bright sound but is prone to producing hum. Humbucker pickups reduce this hum and offer a louder tone suited to heavy metal and rock music.
- Scale length affects the range and playability of a guitar. Young players and beginners may find a smaller scale length easier to manage.
Acoustic & Acoustic Electric Guitars
Acoustic guitars and acoustic electric guitars produce a radically different sound to electric guitars. They are often favoured by singer-songwriters and musicians drawn to country or folk music.
- Acoustic guitars are available in a range of body sizes to suit different users. The main sizes, in ascending order, are: concert; auditorium; dreadnought and jumbo. In the broadest sense, increasing body size increases the volume and the bass.
- The tonewood used to craft an acoustic guitar affects the sound. Spruce is often the ideal, but choice should be based on preference. Laminate guitars are more affordable but are inferior to solid wood guitars when it comes to sound quality.
- Acoustic-electric guitars produce the same sound as a conventional acoustic guitar. However built-in pickups and a pre-amplifier mean they can be connected to an amp for a bigger, undistorted sound.
The bass guitar is an essential component of all guitar bands and the centrepiece of genres like funk. The key to choosing the right bass is understanding your level and how keen you are to progress.
- Bass guitars are available in acoustic and electric varieties. Your choice between them should be dictated by the type of music you play. If you play the bass in a rock band, for example, an electric guitar is likely to better suit your needs.
- Pay attention to the size of the bass guitar’s scale when making your choice. A 34" scale is considered the standard. Younger players may find a 30" scale easier to handle; experienced players may enjoy the extra range of a 35" scale.
- Most bass guitars come with 4 strings, but 5 and 6 string models are available. More strings equate to more options, but beginners may wish to start with 4 and work their way up.
Amplifiers & Accessories
If you have an electric or acoustic electric guitar, then you will need an amplifier and the requisite cables to make the connection. Consider the following when shopping for either or both:
- Choose the guitar amp that suits how and where you will use it. For example, a 15W amp is likely to offer enough power for home use but not for gigs. Live shows require a minimum of 30W.
- Consider the size and weight of an amp when making your choice, particularly if you travel to gigs on public transport. Some amps are extremely large and unwieldy.
- Pay attention to the amplifier's cable length when adding to your equipment. A longer cable offers greater flexibility when setting up your playing arrangement.
Strings & Picks
Strings and picks affect the sound and the playability of your instrument. Your choice should be dictated by your preference but you may find it helpful to be aware of the following:
- The type of string used on a bass guitar is radically different to that used on an acoustic. Be sure to choose strings that are designed for the guitar you play.
- Guitar strings are available in variety of different materials and thicknesses (gauge), with each variant producing a different sound. Consider your playing style when deciding which is right for you.
- Your choice of pick should be dictated by the type of music you play and your proficiency. For example, beginners may find larger, thicker picks are easier to use.
Guitar Straps, Stands & Cases
Straps, stands and cases make it easier to play, store and transport your guitar. While they do not impact upon musical output, they should still be considered essential gear.
- Guitar straps are available in a variety of materials, styles and colours. Your choice should be dictated by your preference but always choose a strap that can be easily adjusted to suit your frame.
- Guitar stands can prevent your instrument from getting damaged when not in use. If you gig a lot, look for a collapsible stand that can be reduced to a compact size for easy transportation.
- Guitar cases come in hard and soft varieties. Hard cases offer far greater protection but can be bulky. Soft cases are easy to store when not in use but offer little to no padding.
There are numerous other accessories that can increase the scope of your guitar and help you make the most of the time you spend playing it. Look out for the following:
- Multi-effects pedals represent an affordable alternative to purchasing several different pedals. Look out for ones with Bluetooth connectivity as they allow you to adjust settings with ease through your smartphone.
- Guitar slides enable you to create a wholly different sound from using your fingers on the fretboard. They are available in a range of materials but glass and steel are the most common. Think about how you will carry yours as glass can shatter easily.
- Electronic guitar tuners help you tune your instrument with a high degree of accuracy. For the best results, look for models that can be connected directly to your guitar.
Capture your latest creation with instrument microphones. Choose from a wide range of mics with features such as app compatibility that make it easier than ever to record your work.
Cables & Adapters
Make sure you can connect your electric guitar to all of your equipment by adding cables and adapters to your gear. Choose from a wide range of options and keep playing without limits.
Sheet music helps you learn your favourite songs. With a huge choice of tracks and artists to pick from, you can be sure to find what you need to emulate the musicians you love.