So, you’re buying someone (or yourself) a first guitar?


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 Guitar & Gift Guitar Purchase Guide

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.

Learn the difference between single-coils, humbuckers, and P-90’s. See what the people you want to sound like play.

Don’t rush it.

Look at Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, ShopGoodwill.com, ebay, Music Go Round, Reverb, Craigslist, etc. See what floats your boat or calls out. Something will catch your attention. Something will call you. Something will pull you. It might not be the exact guitar you want, but it gives you a place to start looking, at styles or brands.

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!

Guitar-Related Facebook Forum Bingo!


Back in the day, I used to go to websites, message boards, chat rooms, or forums, & blogs. Now it’s mostly Facebook groups.

I’m a simple man. When not enjoying real-life things like family time, noodling poorly on the guitar, drawing mazes, or watching some funny or sci-fi-ish stuff on the TV, I enjoy reading things on the internet. This would include subjects like guitars, gear, guitars, music, Star Wars, guitars, guitars, and surprisingly enough …Guitars.

Picking up a theme? I’m in some guitar groups of varying purpose, from celebrating the instrument in general, to celebrating ugly ones, celebrating cheap ones, celebrating unique ones, alternating between building camaraderie or trolling between fellow guitarists, and making fun off bass players & drummers. I may have G.A.S. – It’s gotta be a real thing.

After a while, you start to notice a repetitive pattern of seemingly-canned responses.

At first, I thought of a drinking game. But, I’m too old for that, and I’m currently on antibiotics. Ha ha.

Bingo then? I made two crude BINGO cards with some free online help from My Free Bingo Cards and Bingo Baker,

It may seem light a slight, but it’s not. I’m in there. I have said the thigs. I have typed the things. I have read the things. I have heard the things. We all have a common interest. This is a celebration of you, & us. 🍻

How quickly could you get a line, or even fill up the card?

What responses have I missed?

Please, elaborate in the comments.

What would go on your Bingo card or cause you to take a drink?

What do I need to add to my pin boards?

I would love to hear what you have to add.

What are your favorite places to discuss and ogle guitars on Facebook or online in general? You can even share some of your favorite guitar photos or memes in the comments.

You may want to take a look at the Guitars & My Guitars categories here at the blog.

So, I set up a living room rig. 🎸


This morning I felt like playing the guitar. I didn’t feel like jamming in the basement by my work bench where all my stuff is set up. I didn’t bring up the Laney 2×12 or the Orange Micro Terror. I brought out the Fender Blues Jr. & a Yamaha MSR100 powered speaker so I could run my new DigiTech Trio into two different outputs.

The Trio was a birthday present from my wife. It was on backorder from Sweetwater for a while & we have been really busy so this was my first chance to try it out.  I set it up like this…

Living Room Rig Setup

It started out as a pile of stuff in the corner.  Then I remembered that I had an old RCA-Victor TV cabinet in the garage purchased from our house’s previous owner that I thought about turning into an amp someday.  The Blues Jr. fit where the TV went, and the Yamaha PA fit underneath where the speaker grille is.

Then I had a cabinet and I pile of pedals.  So, I cut up a milk crate and made a goofy pedal board with a Donner power supply & some zip ties.  The “board” fits inside the cabinet with the blues Jr. too.  It was a morning long project but it felt good to get it done & know I can jam a lot more easily.  It may be tricky if I just want to use the Trio & some headphones.

I do have a Dirt & Ernie pedal & an A/B/Y that I use to run the Jr. & Micro Terror at the same time.  Maybe a board extension will eventually be in order?  How cool would it be if the doors came off & were the pedalboard?

Oh well.  Enough monkeying.  Time to jam.

I will eventually have to give a serious(?) evaluation of the Trio.  I do already know I want a looper now.  Ha ha.  It was pretty intuitive & loads of right out of the box.  My 4 year old told me to turn it down right away, so it had to be cool.  Right?

 

Monkeying with the DigiTech Trio:

I apologize for the “living room while the wife and kids are home” volume, and the Crocs.

 

My little dude seemed to like the idea.  He has all the moves down.  Maybe some day he will want to play too!

Do you have a living room, bedroom, or other small setup rig?  Share some in the comments!  Any thoughts on any of this equipment?  Any tips for the Trio?  You can comment below here at the blog with WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, or a Gravatar login.

Should you be featured on #GuitarHoarders? 🎸


Narrator: “Up next on Guitar Hoarders; Jim, 48, a self-professed ‘Blues Lawyer’ from Oaklahoma is going through a divorce due to his recent failure to remove 27 partscasters from his bathroom, leaving his soon-to-be-ex-wife to do her business in the rose bushes out back.”

Narrator: “Jim’s wife, Tonya, thought the rented apartment two towns over was for another woman, but it was way worse than she could have imagined. It was full of Chibsons and falsely advertised ‘Lawsuit Era’ LP copies that were actually nothing of the sort.”

Tonya: “I wish his browser history had said PornHub or RedTube, but no… it was all Reverb, eBay, ShopGoodwill, Craigslist, and the lowest of the low… local & national guitar forums on Facebook!

Don’t even get me started on LetGo and OfferUp. I wish I had found Tinder or even Grinder. That, I could deal with.”

Narrator: “Tonya did at least see a bright side to all of the madness.”

Tonya: “I mean, I guess at least it wasn’t Reddit.”

Jim: “I guess I don’t need that many guitars. I mean, I don’t get to play as often as I like. Most of my time is spent online explaining to n00bz how tone wood makes a huge difference, why I think Gibson is overrated and how they have gone downhill, the best types of wood for a fretboard, you know… the important stuff. There are some real idiots out there. How can you have fun if you’re not getting the best possible tone from your fingers?”

Narrator: “Jim is seemingly unaware that he has a problem.”

Jim: “GAS? No, never heard of it. Wait, is that the psychobilly jam-band that plays every open stage night at Free Beer Tomorrow over in Tulsa? No?

Anyway, did you know that Slash’s Les Paul that he used on Appetite for Destruction wasn’t even a Gibson?  And now they endorse him?  I mean.  If you don’t know that, you shouldn’t even be allowed to play Guitar Hero.”

Tonya: “I’m currently living with my sister.  Her husband plays the bass, so he can’t afford to have a hoarding problem.”

Jim: “That guy?  He doesn’t even know the difference between active and passive pickups.  Heh.”

Narrator: “At this time, Jim refuses counseling.  He thinks they can work it out.”

Jim: “I was teaching her how to play, but Mel Bay is so dumb.  We re-started with a ‘Top 50 riffs of all time’article form an old guitar magazine out of my pile.  I mean, there are only 8 notes, right?  Or is it 12?

I was trying to tell these guys at the county fair that they were playing the riff for ‘Lay Down Sally’ wrong, but you just can’t tell some people things.  I have a tabographic memory.  That’s where you can instantly remember every guitar tab that you have ever seen.”

🎸

TLC, I have another TV show for you.  This is a comment from a guitar group gone awry because I amuse myself way too much.  Who wants to do a YouTube sketch comedy show for a very specific audience?

Guitar Collection 2017

Messing around with some of my guitars 🎸


Guitars Demoed this time around

Guitars Demoed this time around

The other night I broke out some of my toys for some fun.  Some cats demo their stuff online, so I decided to make a video of my jam…

Here are the guitars used:

Here was my setup:

Ran it into a Planet Waves tuner pedal, out to a Y-splitter cable. One end went into an Ernie Ball wah pedal then into a Fender Blues Jr. The other end went straight into an Orange Micro Terror rockin’ a Laney 2×12 cab.

Here are some photos if you’re into that kind of stuff:

I’d be interested to know what you think, if you own a guitar like one of these, or if you have something even wackier to share.  Please, comment up.

If I ever buy another guitar…


I certainly don’t need another guitar.  I’m always looking at them though.  There are just so many different kinds out there, and I can appreciate almost all of them.  Some I actually sort of drool over, & eventually I end up with one.  I don’t think 13 Guitars in 2013 will ever become a reality.  I can always add cool guitars to my Pinterest board, right?

These are some that I’m always thinking about…

Epiphone USA Map Guitar

Epiphone USA Map Guitar

Goofy Map

Like this…

The Epiphone USA Map Guitar – It has to be ridiculously cumbersome to play, but no more than my Galveston B.B. Stone.  The brown finish is neat, but I’d love it to look like an old-school pastel textbook map of the USA.  They pop up on ebay every once in a while, but none are ever priced low enough that I feel it’s a “must buy” because I’ll never see the same deal again.  There are other companies that make them too.  I’m not picky, I just like the shape & the idea.  It would certainly be a fun one on stage.

Fernandes Ravelle

Fernandes Ravelle

Fernandes Ravelle Deluxe

Deluxe

The Fernandes Ravelle – I’d like any of them really, but the green Dave Kushner model is awesome.  I dig the green color, and the sweet pick guard with holes in it.  I love how it takes the classic Les Paul shape, and makes it a little Alien.  The curves are awesome.  I dig the sound too, on the Velvet Revolver albums & live show.  I’ve seen a few in action at shows around here, but I’ve only seen one for sale at Guitar Center in Robinson.  I almost dropped more money than I could afford on it… it was only around $500 which seemed reasonable.   Sadly, I made a sound financial decision that day.

Fretlight Guitar

Fretlight Guitar

Fretlight® Guitar – It seems like it would just be really fun to play with one.  I might even learn a scale other than the pentatonic with one.  I like the old school one with the knobs & switches.  I don’t know if I’d even gig out with it, unless you could program it to make a cool light show or spell out the name of your band or something tasteless & offensive on the fretboard.  Maybe even the word “POOP” because, well, that’s always funny.

Hallmark Guitars Wing-Bat

Hallmark Guitars Wing-Bat

Hallmark Guitars Wing-Bat – Or the George Barris Batman guitar.  I’ll probably never have enough money to own this thing, but it sure is cool.  No Batmobile beats the 60’s Batmobile… and this thing looks like it was in the trunk all along.  If anyone has one that needs a good home, let me know.  I’ll play it & take care of it quite well.  I’d gig out with it too.  It’s a shame when these collector guitars hit a shelf somewhere never to be played again.

DIPinto Mach IV

DIPinto Mach IV

DiPinto Mach IV – One of my favorite guitars playersplays one of these sweet-looking axes. It’s very eye-catching.  It’s almost like a Mosrite, but not quite.  Gel from The Eyeliners is one hell of a guitar player, & the reason I want one.  I’m generally not a fan of red guitars, but with this… I’d like a red one.

Annihilator

Annihilator

Annihilator copy by Oktober Guitars – I’m not nearly as cool as Doyle, but I’d love to play one… being a Misfits Fiend for all these years.  I’m not sure I’ll ever have $600 lying around for a guitar that I wouldn’t play all the time.

I do also want a bunch of other stuff that’s not so specific.   I’d love to have a hollowbody, something like an Ibanez Artstar/Artcore or Epiphone Flamekat.  I’d love a custom Millennium Falcon guitar.  I’d love one of Tom Bingham’s creations like the Record guitar or suitcase guitar.  I like weird stuff, like the Bigfoot Guitar or the Electric Ant Farm guitar.

I’d like a translucent guitar.  I did want one of those lime green BC Rich models that were out a while back.  They had them in Warlock, Bich or Mockingbird styles, but I’m not sure I could pull that off.  I’d also like a see-through Galveston (or any “off “brand) Les Paul or Telecaster.  A translucent guitar with LED’s in it would be incredibly fun.

I would like a Fender Toronado or Gibson Firebrand too.  Maybe any sort of double-neck or even a 6-string banjo.  I’m sure there are other guitars out there that I want that I just don’t know about.

Check out my Guitars Board on Pinterest for an ever-evolving list.

What’s on your wish-list?

Everything Changes but Guitars? I disagree.


I saw this graphic online through Guitar Fail the other day, & again through Guitar Squid:

Stratocaster Evolution / Everything Changes but Guitars (I wish I knew the original source.)

Stratocaster Evolution / Everything Changes but Guitars (I wish I knew the original source.)

At first, it made me laugh and think “humph, yeah…” in agreement.  The more I thought about it though… it’s wrong. How is it wrong?

Well as far as concept cars go, it’s a whole different world from everyday-use practical cars.  Nothing has gone all that far from 4 wheels, 2 headlights, gasoline powered.  (Yes, there are hybrids and flex-fuel all over the market… but arguably people don’t like them unless they look like “normal” cars.)  But, this blog isn’t about cars.  I’m sure you knew I was going to talk guitars, because that’s what I do.

There are a ridiculous amounts of varying styles of guitars & guitar innovations out there.  Some of them may not be “reinventing the wheel” exactly, but there is always some great stuff happening, and there has been since the inception of the stringed instrument.  How do you think we got so many varieties?

Krank Amplification | Evolution Of The Electric Guitar

Krank Amplification | Evolution Of The Electric Guitar

I agree that too many axe-slingers fall into the Stratocaster or Les Paul shape trap.  For years I held a disdain for both shapes… but I come back to them.  Why?  Perhaps they’re good designs.  Perhaps they’re iconic.  Perhaps they sound incredible.  Perhaps they work.  There are many other options out there.  If you find yourself chuckling to and agreeing with this graphic, I challenge you to help me to add to my list of innovative guitars.

Any fans of the Guitarz Blog, Tone Fiend, Guitar WTF?, or gUitarREN should be into this.  (Any cool guitar blogs I’m missing?)

Let’s talk about how the guitar is ever-evolving… Shape, materials, string count, innovation, & general insanity.

Indy Custom - Flycaster (Tele-V) Telecaster Flying V Hybrid

Indy Custom Flycaster (or Tele-V?)

There are lots of shapes out there past the Stratocaster or Les Paul, whether it’s somewhat normal or custom insanity.  There’s the SG, the Telecaster, V’s (Flying, Jackson & more), hollowbodies like the Artcore or Gretsch models, the Explorer, the Ravelle, all the crazy B.C. Rich shapes, the Airline, even the Flycaster.  Are there really not enough guitar design shapes out there to satisfy you?  The Stratocaster doesn’t need to change shape, because there are plenty of other options out there!  I’m barely hitting the tip of the iceberg here.  I didn’t even touch on my B.B. Stone, FlipOut, or Batman axes.  How many distinct guitar shapes can you name in the comments?  (Actual produced shapes, not one-offs!)  Bonus for posting or linking to photos.

There’s also material.  Certainly guitars are mostly made of all types of wood, but there’s also plastic, graphite, Res-O-Glass (fiberglass), the Lucite / plexiglass / acrylic transparent guitars, aluminum necks, and so much more.

Once we get past the plethora of guitar makes, models, & shapes available… there are so many other innovations.  Some are great, some not-so great.  Just off the top of my head I can think of:  Synthesizer & MIDI Guitars, Fretlights, 7/8/12 strings, double neck guitars, the chord buddy, the Coral Sitar, built-in-wireless, the robot guitar, 3D printed guitars, Evertune… but none of them have really busted the mold (yet).  They’re all niche stuff.  This doesn’t even get into the many styles of bridges, tuners, tremolos, locks, and other parts that have been refined… or wiring.  You can get CRAZY with wiring.

World's Largest Playable Guitar being set up at the Carnegie Science Center (Pittsburgh, PA)

World’s Largest Playable Guitar being set up at the Carnegie Science Center – Pittsburgh, PA (Photo Credit: Kara / @ohidontthinkso)

The traveling guitar exhibit is at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh right now.  I can’t wait to check it out.  It’s got the world’s largest playable guitar.  I was lucky enough to get a preview the other day via Twitter.  Tell me that’s not an innovation?  It will no doubt inspire many to pick up the guitar, or dust off the one they already have.  The entire exhibit displays guitars, how they work, their history, & all kinds of fun interaction.

So, next time you think that the guitar has become stagnant, I ask you to go get your hands one one of the many non Strat options above… or even a non-standard Strat option… like a Fat Strat, hot-rodded wiring, or a backwards one.  There are plenty of different, innovative, and goofy guitars out there.  Rock out on something original!

So, now what? (Customizing my New York Pro, finally.)


So, this past weekend, I finally got a chance to work on customizing my New York Pro, I thought I’d get a bunch of it done all at one time.  Well, I hit a roadblock or two as I was taking it all apart.  (Of course.)

I already got some great advice via Facebook, but thought I’d try & chronicle everything here.

It doesn't fit...

It doesn’t fit…

Once I got my work bench set up on the basement, taking everything apart was quite easy.  I just took out all the hardware, and when I went to line up the new pickguard, it didn’t fit. It’s really close, but it doesn’t fit.  I’m going to have to file or cut or sand or Dremel or some combination of all of the above.

It's not the same...

It’s not the same…

The holes in the pickguard aren’t going to lineup with the screws, either.  I’m going to have to maybe 2-sided tape it in place to mark all the holes once I get it cut right.  I have no experience taking apart guitars, but it’s odd that the neck doesn’t fit “perfectly” into the body.  There’s a weird gap there.  It’s also easy to tell (now) that the old pickguard has been cut.  There are some other spots where it doesn’t quite line up.  I hope I don’t have to route anything out where the pickups go.  I got them all from the same place, so I hope not.

Also, I thought I was taking the neck plate off… but it wasn’t having it:

That's supposed to come off when you take the screws out...

That’s supposed to come off when you take the screws out…

Help?

Help?

It’s stuck.  I feel like it’s glued on or was put on before the stain dried?  I bought all black hardware, including a neck plate.  Should I try to get this one off, or just let it go?  I even tried to pop it off using  a screwdriver through the 5th larger hole… all to no avail.

Any advice on that one?

If you’re interested in checking out my progress, take a look at the Photobucket album that’s my attempt to chronicle the whole thing.  (Or, sit through this slideshow…)