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!

Posting #AllMyAxes. 馃幐 (Part 2)


Did you see part one?聽 I felt like posting all my guitars online simply for something else to look at, and I thought others might enjoy.

I still plan to blog about some of the more interesting ones.聽 Hopefully you guys enjoy the content.聽 Thanks for the likes on social media.聽 I don’t think anyone else started to use the #AllMyAxes hashtag.聽 Oh well.聽 Ha ha.

Show me some of yours in the comments, tag me on social media, or use your own hashtag!

 

The Family Ukuleles & Mandolin

The Kids' Guitars

 

Inspiration from Hoke路E路Geez (My new ‘New York Pro’ Strat copy)


So, I bought a guitar this past Saturday.聽 I wasn’t looking for a guitar.聽 This guitar was looking for me.

Hoke路E路Geez | INDOOR FLEA MARKET 路 CRAFTS

...and SO MUCH MORE.

Some of my extended family had rented out the lodge at our church camp for the weekend.聽 My cousin & I were out killing time and exploring while the ladies stayed in for their main objective; scrapbooking.聽 When in the area with time on my hands, a trip to Hoke路E路Geez is an absolute must.聽 It’s located right on Route 30 in Bedford PA by the Sheetz.聽 (Sheetz is a good bright red & yellow landmark, right?)

In what was once (perhaps obviously for people my age and older) an Ames department store, rests the one of the craziest/coolest places I have ever been.聽 My first trip there was in search of antiques… I collect old Coca~Cola & other glass bottles.聽 I had no idea what I was in for.聽 Hoke路E路Geez is full of …Everything.聽

Stuffed Squirrel on display (& for sale!) at Hoke路E路Geez (Bedford, PA)

"Help! I'm not dead! Some redneck just stapled my nuts to this driftwood!"

It’s got crafts, antiques (from old pop bottles to the machines), furniture, a weird leather biker-jacket section, a hardware section like someone emptied a Harbor Freight in 1978 and dumped it there, of records, new stuff made to look old (think the store in Cracker Barrel), toys, tools, books, records, a section chock full of cassette tapes (mostly hair metal), musical instruments of all varieties, a stuffed squirrel that my cousin photographed with his phone, nunchucks, swords, toilets, knives, flooring, gun parts, cabinetry, pistol crossbows, stuff you’d see in a thrift store or at a garage sale, a Weinermobile pedal car, … and other scattered oddities/treasures.

Yeah, I said musical instruments.聽 Of course, I flock nearly immediately to the old guitars.聽 Hoke-E-Geez also serves as an aged acoustic graveyard.聽 They have several dried out yet beautiful acoustics ravaged by time & strings that pull the neck past the point of no return. They would be great as decorations, or for this…

Guiar Fail | Acoustic Guitar Recycling

Guiar Fail | Acoustic Guitar Recycling

There I Fixed It | First Smash, Then Season

There I Fixed It | First Smash, Then Season

In fact, if I ever find one for the right price, it might make a cool antique bottle shelf… with some glass shelves & a light or 2.

Back to the story at hand though…聽 There we are strolling through the wonderland that is Hoke路E路Geez, like a bee doing its “tell the others where the honey is” dance. We were exclaiming “Woah!”, “Look at that!”, or “What is that?” with each erratic hop to the next section.

Toy Accordion (or Button Box?)

I can already play "Iron Man" and "Happy Birthday" (very poorly).

The first beauty I spied was this toy accordion for $12 and change.聽 It seems ridiculous and awesome.聽 Maybe I’ve seen The Bloody Seamen one too many times lately.聽 Looking online, it seems to be a fair price… and not difficult to master. I’m not sure of the name brand.聽 I have no idea if it’s a Hohner, Schylling, Barcelona, First Act, or something else.聽 I have found a bunch online that look similar.聽 This doesn’t match the colors of any others exactly, and of course it has no brand/name/logo in it.聽 Also, it appears that I have been shorted a book.聽 Also, is this really an accordion, or is it just a button box?聽 What’s the difference?聽 Are the butterfly-like designs up top too girly?

The next thing of interest that I saw was this beautiful New York Pro Strat knockoff…

New York Pro - Natural Finish Strat Copy
“Psst… you, yeah you… buy me. Yeah. I know I’m not a goofy guitar, but you need me. Look at my woodgrain. It’s not fancy or elegant, it’s just ‘there’. Buy me. I probably have really crappy electronics and hardware. Buy me. I bet no one has ever heard of ‘New York Pro’ or knows where we’re made. Buy me!

New York Pro - Strat Copy

New York Pro - Strat Copy

Well, the photo to the left is the photo that I sent to my wife along with the price, asking (only half kidding) if I should buy it.聽 There was some other black no-name Strat copy behind it.聽 The body on that black POS wasn’t nearly as solid, hefty,聽 or well-cut.

My cousin pointed it out I believe, & remarked on the natural finish.聽 I was stuck drooling over the $95 price tag since the neck was straight, there were no cracks, and it was nice solid body.聽 This was about the time we got into a conversation with a local cat who was into weird guitars and punk rock… and actually in a punk rock band up that way.聽 I can’t remember the name of the band.聽 I need to pop stuff like that into my phone.聽 The guy stopped & asked if I really had an accordion in the box marked “Accordion”.聽 I showed it to him & he’s the one that remarked that it was a button box & not an accordion.聽 After talking forever about weird guitars, rocking out, and goofy venues… we moved on.聽 He mentioned that there were other guitars “over there” pointing to a little music store-like area within the hallowed walls of Hoke路E路Geez.

This is where we happened upon some beast, made by a local cat that goes by Merle Kegg or Merle R. Kegg.聽 One of his custom-built axes had the letters “M R K” on the headstock.聽 The first one I spotted was a doubleneck… one 6 string guitar & one mandolin neck.聽 Yeah.聽 You read that right.

Merle R. Kegg - Guitar/Mandolin Doubleneck

Merle R. Kegg - Guitar/Mandolin Doubleneck

I apologize for the horrible quality cell phone photos, but I’m sure you get the point.聽 I find it an odd placement for the pickups… but then again some people like that neck pickup sound.聽 I generally stick as close to the bridge as possible.聽 The custom cases are pretty cool.聽 Then I came upon this one…

Merle R. Kegg - White Guitar

Merle R. Kegg - White Guitar

It caught my eye, and I believe the price was only $64 or $65… but I didn’t even take it out of the case once I got a closer look.聽 If there was a Regretsy-like site for homemade guitars, this may top them all.聽 I mean, I love the shape… and I respect the intent and the labor that went into this beast, but… wow.聽 The placement of the bridge directly up the neck’s ass is crazy.聽 The pickguard looks like flooring or wall tile.聽 I’m hoping this cat is Amish or 97 years old or has 7 fingers total or something.聽 I hate to be so harsh, but when I think a guitar is ugly, we have a problem on our hands.聽 There was no attempt to smooth out the edges or anything… the paint is applied like it’s the side of an outdoor shed… not a guitar.聽 Wow.聽 I’d like to see more of his work, maybe these were the odd ones out.聽 If you know anything more about his work, please post in the comments!聽 There were some other cool guitars (not made by Merle), ukuleles, mandolins & other stuff in that section.

I still hadn’t received a reply from the wife.聽 I got the accordion, my cousin picked up a few things, and off we went.

When we got back to camp, I asked my wife if she had seen the text with the photo.聽 She hadn’t.聽 She checked it out & liked it.聽 She asked that if I got it I could place it on the stand in the living room instead of my Batman Logo guitar.聽 She liked the wood (which I have since come to learn is mahogany).聽 We talked it over and she suggested that I go get it.聽 I told her it would need new guts, but she was still behind the idea.聽 After lunch, my cousin went to a nearby farm to hunt coyotes, and I went back to Hoke路E路Geez to hunt that guitar.

I came back with my prize:

New York Pro - Stratocaster Copy

New York Pro - Stratocaster Copy

I also managed to stop by the Bedford Banjo Shop.聽 It was small but very cool and reasonably priced in there.聽 They had banjos, guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, & more.聽 They were also very friendly and quite busy.聽 I tried to stop by another store nearby, but they were closed as it was after 2:00pm.

I have plans for this guitar… GFS Lil Killer rail pickups, some wooden knobs, a leopard-print pickguard, black hardware (& bridge & tuners), and I guess a leopard-print strap.聽 As soon as I put away some money, I hope to get all this stuff & have it all set up nice & pretty.聽 My go-to guitar guy has been Aaron at Lawrence Music lately.聽 He helped set up the Batman Logo guitar… and dropped in my Seymour Duncans.

Oh what I'm gonna do to this guitar...

Oh what I'm gonna do to this guitar...

You didn’t think I’d leave it alone did you?聽 It needs something in order to fit in with my other guitars.

I’m still at a loss with any concrete information about the New York Pro brand.聽 I’m not sure if it’s pumped out of a Chinese factory that puts many different brands on the same guitars?聽 They do have an odd cut in the top of the headstock that seems to be on every NY Pro guitar I’ve seen online.聽 I’ve seen them as kit guitars, for $99, for $149.99 and for $279.95.聽 Maybe they’re made by Galaxy Guitars and the same as their Starfire line?聽 It looks like they might call it the “Galaxy New York Pro Star Gazer”.聽 They may be distributed by Lou Capece.聽 I may have to write to them for more information.

If you have any comments/stories about Hoke路E路Geez, any information about the accordion/button box, any info on that other guitar store in Bedford, any information about the New York Pro brand, or any comments/suggestions about my plans for the guitar… I’d love to hear ’em!聽 Please share in the comments below!