This post was taken from a live Q and A session with Jonathan Boyd.
How do I select a quality guitar?
First of all, Joe, I’m glad you’re asking that question. That’s a great question to ask, because that’s going to allow you to play guitar a lot easier, a lot better, and have a lot more fun with it. But, the one part that’s kind of missing that we need to define here is what does quality guitar mean to you?
In general, we can just assume that anybody who wants to play guitar wants to be able to play easier, wants to have fun playing guitar, or put forth less effort to play guitar. They want an instrument that sounds better and a guitar-playing to be more fun. So, let’s, let’s go for those four qualities. I’m going to break down a few different categories of different guitars that you can be looking at.
Selecting a Guitar for the Genre You Want To Play
In general, depending on what style of music you want to play really is going to kind of dictate what type of guitar you want. So, if you’re into stuff like Pink Floyd, Jimmy Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and even stuff like Nirvana or anything like that, something like a Strat-style guitar is probably going to serve you better. Mainly that what’s been used in blues-based type rock and blues-based type music. If you are interested in something like shredding or playing really fast or playing like 80s’ Rock or 80s’ musician general, something like an Ibanez or a guitar flatter neck. The actual fretboard actually has a radius or curve and fretboards that are flatter actually help you play faster because all the fretboard is closer to all of your fingers.
A Flatter fretboard equals faster playing a faster, more accurate playing if you’re interested in playing really fast or if you’re interested in playing shred style music, et cetera. And yes, there are exceptions we’re making, this is kind of a general rule, right?
And then on the other end of the spectrum, you have guitars like big jazz boxes or big jazz guitars, fancy looking guitars with little F-holes on each side. If you’re interested in, listening to somebody like Joe Pass for American Jazz. If you’d like traditional jazz or John Coltrane or Miles Davis or anything like that’s probably gonna be in the realm that you’re going to want to look in.
Then of course you have a Les Pauls, Les Paul’s definitely works for blues, the rock arena, that kind of thing as well. But I think those are really the biggest categories of guitars. I think we think I’m missing anything brought as far as like the bigger categories.
Should I buy an Acoustic or an Electric Guitar?
Acoustic guitar. A lot of people ask, “Should I learn on electric or acoustic first?” Because some people say their teacher told them that an acoustic guitar makes an electric guitar easier to play. Well, maybe in the sense it could make your fingers stronger because the strings are thicker on acoustic. But my motto is Why waste time? Just go, go directly to what you want to do. Do you want to play an electric guitar then get an electric guitar, play it? If you want to play an acoustic, mainly guys who want to play acoustic are interested in strumming, maybe singing when they play, maybe playing around a campfire or you don’t need an amp, or they’re just interested in fingerstyle type guitar then go for it. Even classical if you like that kind of thing. Classical Acoustic Guitar is another category as well.
Best Guitar For Price
Now, when you, when you’re looking at the price and we’re talking about the quality of guitar these days, honestly, there are so many guitar makers that make pretty quality stuff at lower price ranges. In fact, my dad plays a guitar he bought called a Wolf. I never heard of them before, but a Wolf brand guitar. And it was like a Paul Reed Smith copy around $500. They polish the frets, they set it all up, they did everything and it feels great. It sounds great. It’s $500 bucks. So there are definitely a lot of quality options out there nowadays. So at the end of the day, what you’re really looking for is a guitar that, that you can pick up that inspires you to keep playing. It that’s really, it that’s the criteria. It really doesn’t matter if that I had a guitar, no kidding, that was $3. I looked it up on eBay. It was worth $3. And it was a novelty acoustic classical guitar that, that my uncle may have given me. It was worth nothing, literally. And I loved playing it just because of how it sounded, how it felt, et cetera. So that’s the number one quality is if you can go to a store if you can go somewhere and touch the guitar and play it and it makes you want to keep playing it. There’s your first sign right there that it’s a good guitar for you.
Related: Custom Guitars are cheaper than you think
The Tech of a Guitar
When buying a used guitar you want to look at the tech that’s on the guitar. When we actually talk about the tech aspects when you look at if the frets in good condition? It may be hard to judge that when you’re just starting or if you’re trying to ask this question about what’s a quality guitar. But the most important thing really is, is aside from, does it make you want to keep playing it? It’s really how the guitar is set up.
You could have a $3,000 guitar and if it’s not set up correctly, it’s going to be difficult to play. It’s not going to feel like quality or you could be playing on a really cheap guitar that could be played a lot better, but if you don’t have it set up properly, then it’s gonna feel like garbage.
What does setup mean? A lot of, a lot of newer players don’t really know what to Setup means. It just basically means how the guitar is adjusted. So there are saddles towards the bottom of the guitar. You can raise and lower the saddles. And of course, what that does is raise and lower the strings off the fretboard, the higher the strings are the harder it is to play. The lower the strings are, in general, the easier it is to play until you get to a certain point. Now, there are a lot of nuances that we don’t have time to get into in this article. We could spend hours on this one question. And then, in fact, we will create a course on Setting Up A Guitar, to help students get their guitar in an order where it’s so much easier and more fun to play.
Setting Up A Guitar
I think most guitar players are afraid of adjusting their guitar, I was like this too, afraid of adjusting the trust rod, the internal bar that is inside the next of the guitar, because they think they’re going to break something, it’s just generally not true. So the piece of the guitar next at the top where the strings rest on top of before it is wound in the machine heads is called a nut. The lower your strings are basically to the fretboard. The easier it’s going to be able to play is going to be to play that your fret size, the bigger your frets are, the easier it is to be more accurate and play fast. The smaller your frets are, the more your fingers are actually going to sort of drag on the actual fretboard itself. This is all indicative of more like kind of classical guitars or vintage guitars or older guitars that have smaller frets.
How I Would Buy A Guitar
What I would do if I was going to tell somebody to go to a guitar store. They should pick out something or find something that interests you based on the style that you want to play, or the styles that you want to play within that category. Try, just try to pick up as many guitars as you can and find ones that make you want to keep playing them. Do you like how it looks? Is it inspiring for you to want to pick it up and want to play it because that really matters? In order to practice guitar, you have to keep picking it up. So having a guitar that makes you want to pick it up, means you’re going to get better a lot faster. And then the last thing is just to get your guitar set up. Just go to a guitar store, pay somebody to set it up for you. It’s so worth it. It might cost you somewhere between $40 to $50 to even $100 for a really good person, but it’s, it’s so worth it.
Just had my 30 old fender Strat retreaded I love it. This is mine. So it definitely makes a difference. -Greg Lalonde-
Literally, what Jeff is talking about there is having the metal pieces (frets) ripped out and new ones put in. And that probably means because he’s been playing it so much, he’s worn the frets out. So a good job there, Jeff. And that’s something I don’t think most people wouldn’t even think about doing that.