I’m in a lot of guitar-related Facebook groups. I’m probably in a lot more guitar -related (and general music-related) Facebook groups that ought to be allowed. I see a lot of talk about guitars, and a lot of opinions about guitars. People are very strong and vocal about their opinions. (Did you see the guitar bingo cards?)
One post I see quite often is someone who is buying a guitar for their kid, or even one for themselves. It usually contains no details or insight and boils down to “I am buying my kid a guitar, what should I get?” or “I want to try playing guitar, what is the best one to buy?”
The responses come in swiftly and are predictably all over the place. Guitarists who frequent guitar-related Facebook groups are a wild bunch. It’s hard to get a good feel when advice is all over the place.
I am certainly no guitar expert. Hell, I’m not even that great of a player. Ha ha. I have, however, played a very large variety of guitars over the years. I happen to own a wide variety of guitars and am a bottom-feeder of sorts… All of which I feel plays well into qualifying me to dole out advice on the matter of a starter guitar.
First, you need to ask yourself some questions. We need more to go one than “Which guitar should I buy?”
What’s your budget?
What kind of music do you listen to?
What guitarists (or musicians, bands, artists) do you enjoy?
What would you like to sound like?
If this is a GIFT guitar, this becomes tricky if you want it to remain a surprise. You’ve got to do some homework. If a kid is dreaming he wants and Explorer or a Jaguar and you get him a Stratocaster or an SG, there may be some disappointment or it sitting in the corner for a bit.
What do you see yourself or what does the recipient see themselves playing? What kind of noise is yearning to be made? Get an idea of a shape in mind, maybe even a color… or whatever is there sparking that interest.
Check local Facebook sale groups too. I help moderate one for my area and it is a FANTASTIC place to get great deals on gear, ask, & answer questions, etc. It’s also all invite-only so it’s relatively drama free.
I’m largely ignoring acoustics, but that may be what you want. They are so versatile and a great place to start learning.
Go to a music store and pour over the stuff. (I know things are different right now with a global Covid-19 pandemic, but I hope they will eventually return to a much more normal state of existence. Please follow the guidelines in a store or if meeting someone to purchase via an online ad.) Play it all. See what feels good.
Soon you’ll have a Pinterest board for beautiful, weird, ugly, and random guitars you find on the internet.
All the references I can think of for name-dropping for guitar players are ancient. But if you want to play like Slash and you get a John Mayer guitar, it’s not going to be as exciting, right?
Get your budget set. I personally stick to cheap guitars and I love them. You can get some really nice guitars for $300. One group I frequent calls anything $500 & under cheap. I can dig that. You can also get some great guitars for $100 if you’re looking in all the right places.
Used gear is a great place to start. Stuff depreciates rapidly. Stores pay pennies on the dollar for value so they’re able to make a profit, so the best bang-for-your-buck may be some sort of local online sale. Although, Music Go Round seems to have reasonable used prices in person.
Avoid any listings online that say “great for beginners” or “great for a first guitar” or “great for kids.” Loosely translated this means “this guitar is a steaming pile of poop.” Usually it has terrible action, won’t hold a tune or even intonate properly, or has some other hidden issues.
If anyone lists something online for free and says “Make an offer” they are the worst kind of person, so just keep scrolling.
Don’t pay over $50 for a used First Act unless it was one that came with a Volkswagen. They were $50 new at Walmart. Some brands with great budget axes can include Squier, Lotus, Hondo, Dean, Hamer, Schecter, Ibanez, New York Pro, Galveston, G&L, Peavy, Epiphone, Kramer, and so many more outside of the ones everyone seems to know like Fender and Gibson. Don’t pay too much attention to the headstock logo though.
I would also probably be wary of new “starter packs” that come with a tiny amp. Do your research & read reviews on that kind of stuff.
Stick to your budget & play everything that you can that resembles what you’re looking at online. You might like a heavy guitar or a light guitar. You might like a wide neck or a skinny neck. You might like a thin neck or a heavy one.
If you want a cheap new guitar and are not concerned with the logo on the headstock, I cannot recommend Agile or SX and Xaviere enough. I hear nothing but good things and they’re just great axes. I have heard mixed reviews on Hard Luck Kings.
Whatever you buy, I suggest, and a I cannot stress this enough, get a pro setup. Find local music shop… preferably from work of mouth or asking locals online. Find someone that recommends a tech or luthier that does great work. This person will ask you questions. Give honest answers. I suggest getting a lighter gauge pack of strings at first. Tell them you want 9’s. I would say $75 for a pro setup and a few bucks for a new pack of strings will make even the rattiest of guitars into beautiful machines. Figure it into your budget if you need to.
If you’re close to Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs, I may even recommend the guy that has polished some of my proverbial turds and made them into rock n’ roll machines.
Amps? Well, amps are whole different animal. There are headphone amps, practice amps, and combo amps. It’s all in the budget/preference mix. Maybe that will need to be another blog post?
You (or the gift recipient) will fall in love with the guitar if you get the right one. Soon you’ll have GAS.
Don’t hesitate to ask me any specific advice here in the comments or with the contact form.
Feel free to add to my advice, or contradict it in the comments!
You’re a smart cookie. You’re a planner. You’re not waiting until the last minute to get your significant other a gift (or many gifts) for Valentine’s Day. As it turns out, the A-Maze Mug could be a perfect gift, or compliment to any gift. You read that they’re available, right? If you’re thinking of getting one, I have thought of some messages that you could use to go along with it on a gift tag or a card.
❤️ You’re a-maze-ing!
❤️ All my paths lead to you!
❤️ I am lost without you!
❤️ My prize at the end is you!
❤️ Finish this maze, then meet me in the bedroom!
❤️ Relax with this maze while I start making you some hot tea.
❤️ I’m a-maze-d that you’re mine!
❤️ I’m glad you’re with me along the way!
❤️ We can solve anything together!
You could also use it as a parting gift. Break up with class! Include messages like this;
💔 Get in the kitchen, and make me a coffee!
💔 This is maze is still less confusing than you!
💔 Sorry, it’s the end of the line for you.
💔 Luckily, you can erase the mistakes & start over on this mug. It’s been nice knowing you!
If you have any additional ideas for notes, please leave them in the blog comments below!
Ghost kitchens scare the shit out of me, as it comes to food allergies and cross-contamination issues.
Say a wing place pops up online and their menu features only chicken wings, fries, and cheese sticks… seems safe for me. But, as a person with severe food allergies… the place could have a full kitchen and share cooking surfaces and/or fryers with shellfish, to which I am highly allergic.
I like to see a restaurant’s full menu. I determine where I may go after looking at menus online. If they’re not showing the full picture, that is a lie to the consumer. It’s even better if they can provide a chart for allergen ingredients or better yet cross-contamination.
Hey, we talked about it before… No one, not two, but three times.
It’s finally here! Get an A-Maze Mug from Ci3!How cool is that? Each mug comes with a dry-erase marker so you can solve the maze, both in a nifty box covered in mazes!
More cool maze-related merch coming soon. What else would you like to see? Socks? Masks? T-shirts? Books? Puzzles? Mirrors? Tiles?
I haven’t ever done anything to make my mazes available for any kind of sale, so this is exciting to me. What do you think?
I am eternally grateful to Mike Copen for the nudge and the opportunity. It’s so cool for artists, designers, entrepreneurs, & creative types to support each other.
Of course, I think they’d make great gifts for friends, family, teachers, co-workers, or even anyone that may be hard to buy for. Who doesn’t like a nice warm beverage? Solving the maze with the dry erase marker is a good opportunity to kind of zone out in a zen-like state, to help you regain focus to start the day or even decompress at the end of a long day! I know that’s the drive behind drawing them.
These would be great for coffee, tea, hot cocoa, warm apple cider, ramen, or one of my soup recipes.
Please, share the link if you’re so inclined. I’d like to see how far these can go. Thanks in advance if you plan on making a purchase!
My cousin recently made a Facebook post asking for your top 25 albums. No restrictions. Just the thought that 25 is easier, yet more difficult than a top 10.
He’s right you know.
Opening up the post top 10 or eve 15 tier really digs into stuff. There are a LOT of great albums that I skipped that really deserve to be on here. This is what I was feeling recently. This may be a slightly different list tomorrow or a drastically different list next year.
I took it as 25 albums that I dig, that I like to listen to the whole way through.
They may not contain my favorite songs from the artist, or may not be my top favorite artists, but these are 25 dam solid albums that I have enjoyed end-to-end on multiple occasions and sometimes on repeat.
Because I like to talk (type/read) about music on the internet, here we are. I’ll drop a short explanation. They’re ina alphabetical order, couldn’t begin to order them. Please, share yours in the comments.
25 is harder than you think!
12 Hits From Hell – The Misfits | This was the album that never was, that should have been. Is it the ultimate bootleg? Bobby & Doyle on the same tracks? Probably Glenn & I think the producer too? At any rate, the songs shine. It’s inherently an unnatural entity, but isn’t that in the spirit of melding dark campy lyrics with poppy melodies over distorted guitars and driving rhythms? I wish this got a proper release.
…And Out Come the Wolves – Rancid | This album is frantic and melodic and gravely and beautiful. How do you not like the unapologetic frantic pop punk shenanigans infused with a bit of street and reggae and ska? I know this is the album that “cool” rancid fans pretend is not the best. Listen to it. It smacks you around for less than an hour and makes you happy about it.
American Cheese – Nerf Herder | I had a hard time picking, because How to Meet Girls could easily be here too. I think “Jacket” is my favorite track, so that slightly tipped the scale. These guys are fantastic, and Parry’s solo stuff is a trip. You can tell they’re fans of a lot of the same stuff I grew up on. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. They can really craft a powerful melody.
Appetite For Destruction – Guns N’ Roses | I wore out this cassette tape at least 3 times. I have bought the CD more than a few times. A friend gifted it to me on Vinyl. I bought the digital version of the new 8,479 “disc” set… even though I may or may not have had decent quality bootlegs of 99% of it. I think it’s the first album I dove into head first. Just listening to how Slash & Izzy play off of each other, Axl’s layers of vocals octaves apart with Duff & Izzzy singing, Duff’s guitar-like bass grooves locking into Adler’s swing. Lightning in a bottle may be a cliché, but it totally fits here. These guys had their finger on the collective pulse of punk, metal, glam, hard rock, classic rock, and pop culture. They rocked harder than most of their peers and these are great damn songs. The arcing overall crescendo of “Sweet Child of Mine” was just epic, and definitely contributed to my itch to pick up a guitar.
Bitter Tongues – Ann Beretta | I heard “Bottlecaps” on a Lookout! or Asian Man or some other comp and just had to know more. I think pretty quickly, I acquired all the albums and even Inquisition and eventually Sixer, Foundation, and Rob Huddleston’s solo stuff. It reminded me a lot of Rancid, and obviously pays homage to the Clash and some more street punk stuff, and even folk or honky-tonk. These guys took their influences and blended them together so well to make something in a voice all their own. It’s anthemic. It feels working class-ish and just relatable and super catchy.
Bloody Kisses – Type O Negative | It doesn’t sound like anything else. I think I heard the “Blood & Fire (Out of the Ashes Mix)” on the Mortal Kombat soundtrack first. It was dark. It was Sabbathy and Misfitsy and Metallicish. I needed more. I think there was about a year where 90% of what I listened to was Black Sabbath, the Misfits, and Type O Negative. I used to put this on low on repeat when I went to bed at night. It is best enjoyed as a whole album. Even within a lot of the songs, it’s like there are movements. The metal guitars and incredible bass vocals are fantastic. Again, they had an incredible balance of humor, a dark scary tone, and it’s just… fun. Don’t tell anyone the goth kids are having fun though.
Boogadaboogadaboogada! – Screeching Weasel | If the Ramones created the pop-punk template, these guys stole it and ran. This is just a fun, snotty, whiny, poppy, witty, and goofy album. What a great sense of melody mixed with suburban angst and sloppy buzzing guitars.
Chimborazo – Foundation | Rob can really craft a song. This is a beautiful stripped-down heartfelt collection of stories in song form. It’s awesome how much emotion can be conveyed with a few lines. Rob is definitely up there as one of my favorite song writers.
Countdown to Extinction – Megadeth | I know. this is the “sell out” commercial album. You can’t deny that every track is killer metal while also being commercially successful. It represents a time to me where the “underground” stuff that I was aware of became mainstream. Why not celebrate more people being able to discover something you already know is great? Dave is a monster on the fretboard and sounds like an unhinged maniac on vocals. These songs are put together really well.
Danzig – Danzig | When you’re 15, Danzig is the coolest thing on the planet. Punk. Goth. Metal. Badass. He reads weird books! He reads comics! Rick Rubin probably deserves a lot of credit for image crafting and turning Samhain into this. John, Eerie, & Chuck provided a killer band! John definitely had an instantly recognizable sound. It sounded like metal, but it was clearly channeling the blues and hard rock. Danzig does not seem to have a sense of humor about his music, but that makes it humorous.
Dookie – Green Day | This was a solid album. Again, it brought stuff I liked to the masses. It took me a while to realize what a solid album this was. I don’t even know if I’d put Green Day at the top of my Favorite Bands list… but an this is a great pop punk album. Those drums! That wild bass! The vocal harmonies are perfection. Mike Dirnt is the yin to Bille Joe’s yang. You can tell these guys loved what they do. You can tell that subject-matter wise, they’re not the Sex Pistols or the Ramones… but they loved all that stuff. Is this skate punk? I don’t care about labels. This is well-crafted end-to-end and hit the right place at the right time.
Energy – Operation Ivy | A great example of working backwards to find gems. Like the Misfits, it has some Lo-Fi appeal that is just hard to quantify. Energy is so appropriate. It’s like they had to let it out before it became destructive. It sounds so sloppy but it is so tight. It’s chaos. It’s chocolate and peanut butter. Watch the East Bay Punk documentary!
For Dancing and Listening – Guns ‘n’ Wankers | I wish more people knew about Guns ‘n’ Wankers. I wish I knew more about Guns ‘n’ Wankers. This album stands alone as incredible. It’s a bit of a mish-mash as Fat Mike could not leave it alone for the Fat Wreck release. It’s missing a few of the more metal tracks. I don’t know if Duncan Redmonds wrote all the songs, or what. His sense of harmony is fantastic. The song structure is just great. The tone is great. I love where the vocals sit in the mix. It’s another example of great storytelling with just a few lines.
Good Company – The Dead South | Usually I like loud distorted guitars. I like them clean too. This is clean acoustic guitars, as well as some more traditional stringed instruments, and just powerful melodies and vocal arrangements. Some of the vocals almost sound painful and sorrowful. I dove pretty hard into their discography after hearing the first few tracks.
High Risk Behaviour – The Chats | These kids are what I wish AiXeLsyD was! Ha ha. They are cheeky, hilarious, and totally serious. Ha ha. These songs are super fun. I need an Australian to English dictionary. This is another one that I heard an instantly wanted more more more.
Kill ‘Em All – Metallica | What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? It is the template. It is the sum of its ingredients and the sum of it’s strong-willed creators. From start to finish it just assaults your eardrums and raises your heart rate. Those riffs! That bass solo! Is he singing about the apocalypse? All killer, no filler. I think the first time Metallica hit my radar, it was …And Justice for All. When I worked back to this my mind was successfully blown. It was SO HEAVY at the time, which seems almost quaint now. Again, they get hate for success, maybe borrowing too hard from their influences, or for not being cool to Mustaine, to selling out, but… you can say they have ever compromised.
Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys | The kids that are too cool for school or old heads will give you Paul’s Boutique for sure. I get that, and respect that. Again, this album brought it to the masses. This made music fans give a resounding collective “What?” Hardcore kids rapping? Sampling? Playing guitars? I don’t care if it’s hip hop or punk or pop. I love it. Another Rick Rubin album on the list? He must be on to something.
Master of Puppets – Metallica | This album could be included for just “Orion” and the “do-do-do-do do-do-do” double-lead part in “Master of Puppets.” This is another cassette tape that I wore out at least twice. I remember it being a go-to when I used to mow lawns for cash. Metallica matured here, but they weren’t yet racked by tragedy or swelled with excess. You could feel what I think was Cliff exerting guidance & expertise. All these songs felt great together. My favorite Metallica songs mostly reside on other albums, but this album makes a great statement as a whole piece of art.
Ramones – Ramones | Again. This is an iconic no-brainer. Did the Ramones start punk? People will argue to the end of time citing earlier examples. Are they what you think of when you think of punk? They are to me. It’s either that or the Sex Pistols. This album is fantastic. Guitar panned hard to one side, bass to the other… so you can play along! Cranked out in just a week, it’s frantic. It’s intimidating. Its 4 guys that have no idea what they’re doing while simultaneously knowing exactly what they’re doing. It’s loud, it’s catchy, it’s funny, it just rocks.
State of Discontent – The Unseen | Yeah, another “sell out” album. The dirty street punks found a producer so they must be inherently evil and capitalist and whatever other darts you can throw. Regardless, it’s an album full of screamy-yet-melodic shenanigans and I’m all for it. It’s catchy without losing it’s edge in my opinion. These guys spit fire and you’re either flammable or not.
Static Age – The Misfits | It’s got “Last Caress” which is probably one of their most covered songs. It’s got a bunch of stuff that is lo-fi on its way to becoming hi-fi. It’s catchy, it’s campy, it’s sort of funny, it’s melodic, it has loud guitars, it checks all my boxes. It’s just fantastic.
The Impossible Kid – Aesop Rock | I don’t even know if I can do this album justice by writing about it. I don’t have his vocabulary. I got this album and could not stop listening, on repeat. It’s layer upon layer in between level upon level. It’s an introspective and deeply personal look at anxiety and artistry intertwining, but it is so incredibly relatable. The tracks flow right into each other. You don’t want to stop. It lacs the guitar presence of every other album on this list… but we need a little variety, right?
The Ozzy Osborne Years – Black Sabbath | Admittedly, I cheated. I could not pick a Sabbath album proper and I graduated from listening to the Bootleggy-ish We Sold Our Sul for Rock ‘N’ Roll to this all the time. This collects all the Ozzy stuff. The one sentence in the Wikipedia article about it is “This box set includes all songs from Black Sabbath‘s first six albums, excluding the songs without vocals.” It’s dark. It’s doomy. Iommi’s riffs are just massive, Ozzy melodies with Geezer’s lyrics and thunderous bass lines all marching along to Bill Ward’s inimitable swing is just crushing.
Tweet Tweet My Lovely – Snuff | This is definitely top 5, probably top 3, or even 1. Snuff have mastered sounding like snuff whether they’re playing punk, metal, ska, or anything else they want to play. Duncan Redmonds is a mad genius. Loz’s guitars sound beautiful… jangly almost. There are horns and keys throughout, and they’re not jarring. The vocal melodies and harmonies are epic. (Green Day cites them as an influence and you can immediately hear how.) I like everything Snuff has put out, but this was my first from them and it really encompasses the gamut of their sound.
Within a Mile of Home – Flogging Molly | I could have probably picked any Flogging Molly album. This is where my taste in music & my wife’s taste in music overlaps. (Although, I have brought her more into punk rock and metal than she has pulled me into pop and top-4o-ish country.) We always end up with Flogging Molly, Willie Nelson, or Johnny Cash on road trips… usually all 3. Flogging Molly definitely has a punk rock ethic and bent. They have beautiful tales set to music in a traditional Irish vein. It’s sentimental. It’s raucous. It makes you tap your feet. This is a collection of bangers that also tug at your heart strings.
Honorable mentions would probably have to go out to The Sword, The Bloodhound Gang, Masked Intruder, Aerosmith, Avenged Sevenfold, Graves, Gotham Road, Dogpiss, Duncan Redmonds, Rob Huddleston, Wat Tyler, Crotchduster, ALL, Descendents, Poison, The Devil Makes Three, Alice in Chains, Warrant, Peelander-Z, Willie Nelson, Def Leppard, Johnny Cash, AC/DC, Teenage Bottlerocket, Ozzy, Jimi Hendrix, and so many more that I am probably momentarily forgetting. Don’t even get me started on greatest hits, compilations, and soundtracks.
What are you waiting for? Leave yours in the comments!
I know I just said these are solid albums, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they contain solid songs too. Check out 2 tracks from each album!
For me, posting on YouTube is sort of like blogging. It’s more of a creative outlet than anything. I like to play the guitar, and I like weird guitars (Exhibit A & Exhibit B), so why not show off my weird guitars?
I posted not too long ago about Christmas playlists on various platforms. Ultimately most of them are frustrating because you can’t just pick a song order without signing up for a “premium” account. I’m already subscribed to enough stuff.
I have other YouTube lists (Naughty & Nice), but I decided to pull some of my favorites and put them all on one: