A Beginner's Guide to Buying an Electric Guitar

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Tips for Buying an Electric Guitar

For the beginner guitar player, buying an electric guitar or thinking about buying one is both an exciting and overwhelming experience. There are so many electric guitars out there with different body shapes, different electronics, different woods, and of course different prices. How do you choose the right guitar? Playing an electric should be a pleasurable experience, but the wrong choice could make playing flat-out unenjoyable.

The first question—the big question— confronting any beginning guitarist is how much are you willing to spend for an electric guitar? There’s no sense looking at $1000 guitars when you want to spend only $200.

Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when comparing low-end electric guitars with mid or high-end electric guitars. The benefit of low-end electric guitars is they are inexpensive, so if you decide playing guitar is not for you, you won’t be out a bunch of money.

Now there are some less expensive electric guitars out there you can buy brand new that won’t shred your fingers or offend your ears, but often one or two of the factory settings aren't set properly and can make playing these guitars frustrating. They don’t stay in tune. The intonation is off. The string action is too high. Poor quality electronics, and so on. Fortunately issues like intonation or string action can be adjusted by a guitar tech.

I would say $400-$600 is a good starting price range for beginners looking to buy their first electric guitar. It’s an affordable range that allows you to consider guitars that are new but not overly expensive as well as higher-end used guitars.

Once you have your price range, do you buy new or used? That really depends on how important it is to you to own a new electric versus getting perhaps a better quality guitar that is used but still in good condition. They key here is good condition. If you’re buying a used guitar from a reputable music store, it’s almost certain the guitar has been inspected and any necessary repairs have been made.

If you’re thinking about buying a used guitar from a stranger, ask questions about its age, how long the seller has owned the guitar and if it was new or used when he/she bought it, and if it has had any work done to it and for what reason. Check to make sure the body and neck aren’t warped or cracked, and make sure the electronics work: the sound shouldn’t cut in and out. When you play you shouldn’t hear any fret buzz or other rattling noises. Replace the strings if they are old.

My first electric guitar was a used Fender Telecaster. For me, I preferred to have a quality used guitar rather than a cheaper new one. But that’s me.

Whatever you decide, the guitar should feel comfortable to hold and play.

Something else to consider is the kind of music you want to play. If you like folk or classical, the electric guitar is not a good choice. An electric guitar that looks like a battle axe and delivers bone-crunching distortion is the wrong choice for someone who wants to play country. Make sure the guitar you buy is suitable for your musical preferences; otherwise, you won't be happy. There is a wide variety of electric guitars for you to choose from, so take the time to find the one that is right for you.

I hope that you find playing guitar as rewarding as I have, and I hope this article on buying an electric guitar has provided you with some helpful advice.