You can get a very good start on guitar repair, care and maintenance by checking out our web site for the following book titles.
Guitar Payer Repair Guide
FAQ: Electric Guitar Care and Setup
FAQ Electric Guitar Care and Setup
Electric Guitar Care, Maintenance and Restringing
FAQ: Acoustic Guitar Care and Setup
FAQ: Bass Guitar Care and Setup
Guide for buying an acoustic guitar !!!
Knowing just how to choose the right guitar and how to identify a bad one will save you countless headaches, not to mention finger pain.
Most all acoustic guitar bodies come in basically the same hourglass shape, with some variations, but they do vary considerably in size, color, wood-type, style, and extra features. You can even buy an acoustic guitar that is so small that fits into a backpack.
Guitars come in a wide range of prices, but in general when it comes to instruments, you get what you pay for, especially when buying new. There’s a big difference between getting a bargain and buying cheap.
Whether you buy new or used may be determined by many personal factors including your budget, and each has it’s own pros and cons.
Purchasing a new guitar, gives you a warranty and, probably , a return period, if for some reason you’re not totally satisfied with your purchase, or something goes wrong.
Under ‘normal' circumstances, a used guitar can usually be purchased cheaper and has already gone through a “break-in” period.
Commercially built guitars are usually mass produced. “Custom-made” guitars are exactly that. They are custom built and tailored to your specifications by highly skilled guitar makers.
Prices for custom-built guitars vary considerably, depending on the skill level of the craftsman you contract the job to, but, usually, they are quite higher than a commercially built guitar of “similar” quality. Every custom built guitar is unique and therefore hard to compare in price to a commercially built guitar.
FOR THE "TECHIES" OUT THERE:
Understanding a number of the parts of a guitar will definitely help you when it comes to your Pre-Purchase Checklist. Take a good look at the guitar diagram on the first page, if you need to, print it and take it with you as you shop for a guitar. In the descriptions below refer back to the guitar diagram.
BODY: This is the large part with the sound hole in the front. It is where the your strumming is done, and it can vary in size. The actual size, shape, type of wood, coating, and general build of the body also affects how the guitar will “sound”, whether it’s a rich and warm sound, or a thin and ‘twangy’ sound. The body tends to be the part that also gets scratched, damaged, and generally banged-up more than any other.
NECK: This is the long part extending from the body and ending at the ‘head’ of the guitar where the ‘Tuning Heads’ are located, these are also known as ‘machine heads’. The guitar strings travel from the ‘Bridge’ on the body, across the sound hole, along the ‘Fret Board’, which is attached to the front-side of the neck, finally arriving at the tuning heads where they are wrapped around the tuning posts. The tuning heads are then turned by hand, which then turns the posts, making the strings tighter or looser, thus affecting their ‘tuning’. Necks tend to warp and twist if not taken care of, or if the guitar is left propped against a heat source.
BRIDGE: The Bridge is normally located on the front of the body, by the sound hole, and on the side of the hole opposite to the neck. The strings are usually fed through the bridge first before they cross the sound hole and travel up the neck to the tuning heads. The bridge is like an anchor-point for the strings. Metal bridges are best on electric guitars, but on most acoustics they are either hard plastic or wood. Bridges have a tendency to crack and split over a long period of time.
FRET BOARD: The fret board is the wood glued to the front of the neck. This is the part you press the strings down onto to make chords or play individual notes. Because it’s glued on separately, a fret board can be made of a wood that’s different from the neck.
The strings travel over the fret board. Their distance above the fret board makes a difference to the playability of the guitar. If the strings are too far above the fret board, they will be hard to press down, making the guitar hard to play.
When a beginner first starts playing a guitar, his or her fingertips are very soft and need to be hardened. A guitar with the strings too far above the fret board, also known as having a ‘high action’, will cause the player’s fingers to hurt so much that they are likely to put the guitar away in discouragement and maybe stop playing altogether.
STRINGS: Acoustic guitar strings, come in many varieties or ‘flavors’. They can be made out of nylon, brass, steel, or a combination. Nylon strings are usually only found on Classical guitars and Student guitars, because they’re easier on the fingertips. They have a rich, warm tone to them.
Strings sets come in different ‘weights’, and/or sizes. Strings that come from a package marked ‘Heavy’ are usually quite thick and sound “beefy”. Strings that are light, or extra light, are very thin and normally have a brighter sound to them, but are also quieter sounding than heavy strings.
String choices are really purely personal taste. Light strings are easier to press than heavy strings but also sound quite different. The more often and longer strings are played, the dirtier they become. If a cloth isn’t run over and under them, from time to time, the sound will become very dull
THE PRE-PURCHASE CHECKLIST
- Before buying a used guitar, compare cost against the price of a new one, unless the guitar is quite old. You can also compare its used price to other used prices by going to an online auction and either searching for the same or a similar guitar.
- Check the overall condition of the wood for cracks, scratches, splits, dents, chips, etc.
- Also you will want to check the lacquer finish for cracks and splits.
- Check the guitar’s neck/fret board for warping and twisting. This is done by holding the guitar flat on its back, with the sound hole facing upward. Bring the guitar up to eye-level, with the neck running away from you and the edge of the body almost touching your face. Your eyesight should skim across the front of the body and down the fret board. You will be able to see if the neck is twisted or bowing.
- Tune the guitar, or ask the seller tune it for you.
- If you know how to play about five or six chords then go ahead and play them. If you don’t know how to play, ask the seller to play some chords for you. This check ensures that the neck of the guitar is not warped, even though you couldn’t physically see it. If the neck is warped, and the guitar is properly tuned, then some of the chords will sound good, but others will sound as though the guitar is out of tune. If this happens, check the tuning again. If it persists, then don’t buy the guitar.
- Check the bridge of the guitar. If it’s made out of wood or plastic, then make sure it’s not cracked or splitting. The bridge needs to be rock-solid, as a lot of pressure is exerted on the bridge by the strings.
- Check the tuning heads. Do they turn easily, or are they very stiff and hard to turn. Even with the high tension of the strings, a good quality guitar will have tuning heads that are fairly easy to turn.
- Check the ‘action’ of the guitar. Are the strings quite a fair distance from the fret board? Do they seem easy or hard to press down at various points on the fret board?
- If you are buying the guitar for yourself, and you know how to play, even if you’re a beginner, then play the guitar.
- Ask yourself, how does it feel?
- Does it seem easy or hard to play?
- Can you fit your hand around the neck/fret board comfortably to play chords or notes?
- Is this guitar a comfortable size and shape for your body? Is it easy to hold?
- If you plan to play standing up, ask the seller for a guitar strap.
- Do you like the sound, the color, etc?
- If your not a guitar player, have someone else play it for you so that you can judge what it sounds like.
WHERE TO BUY
Buying a guitar from a physical retail music or guitar store allows you to ‘test drive’ many guitars and ask more questions up front. Buying online or from a catalog may bring you more of a cash savings.
Where ever you choose to buy your guitar, if you know what to look for, and spend a little extra time and effort in your search for that ‘perfect’ guitar, not only will your fingers thank you, but also your ears, and all of those who will come to join you around a campfire, or go to see you in concert. Maybe, who knows?
Enjoy your music !!