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.

Guitar stereotypes are always fun:


So, where do my favorite toys fall on this amusing scale from Gearpipe?

GearPipe.com | Trustworthiness of Guitars Scale

GearPipe.com | Trustworthiness of Guitars Scale

I do have to say…  I don’t get why the Prince guitar is for repugnant individuals.  I guess if you’re not Prince, it is a goofy axe to sling.  I am glad that the boring Washburn/Jackson/Ibanez shape is all the way on the left though.  I just can’t get behind them.  I’m not sure why the oh-so-common Les Paul and Stratocaster shapes convey any level of trustworthiness of the player.  Perhaps I’m over-thinking.  This is quite amusing nonetheless.

Seriously though, I can’t find any of these…

Dewey Decibel FlipOut

Dewey Decibel FlipOut

Galveston - B.B. Stone

Galveston - B.B. Stone

Six Flags Batman Guitar

Six Flags Batman Guitar

If you’re quick and lucky, you can win a copy of this poster from Guitar Noize.

Guitar Blog: The Paradox of Tone


DuncanDesigned

Image via Wikipedia

Killer article about tone & the myriad of choices available today:

Guitar Blog: The Paradox of Tone

I don’t know how I missed it, it’s a rather old post… but is a great read.  I’ve gone through bouts of “I don’t care what it sounds like as long as it’s loud and dirty”… mostly to ignorance, and I’m still like that for the most part… but I do know bad tone when I hear it, at least as it stems from my guitars/amps (the rare effect), and any more I’d rather not put out bad tone… I’d like my bad playing to come through as well as possible.  Ha ha.

The Square Guitar | My Galveston B.B. Stone


The square guitar.  People have gone out of their way to tell me how ugly it is at shows.  People have exclaimed their approval and asked where I got such a crazy instrument.  People have just shaken their heads in wonderment or disapproval, sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.

Galveston B.B. Stone

ERiC AiXeLsyD's Galveston B.B. Stone

Many years ago now (2000 if the date on the photo below from the day I bought it is accurate), I saw it hanging on the wall in a venue where my old band used to play that also doubled as a music store.  I had to have it.  I don’t know why.  It was just absolutely goofy.  I had certainly never seen another one.  Would I again?  Probably not.  It had to be mine.  I ended up trading in a nice “Cimar by Ibanez” Fat-Strat style guitar that I had recently purchased from Music Go Round in Monroeville just to buy the thing.  I paid $75 for the Fat-Strat, and somehow got $125 off of the price of the square guitar in dealing for it.

Galveston - The day I bought it...

Girl? No, guitar! - 12/23/2000 - The Day I bought the Square guitar.

At first, I didn’t know anything about it other than it was a Galveston and it had a “Made in Korea” sticker on the back.  It took me a while to track down that it was a B.B. Stone model, and that there are only about 8 or 12 of the Galveston brand in the US.  B.B. Stone is apparently a Korean blues artist and guitar-builder, and he designed the guitar with Jerker Antoni of Sweden’s Eagle Instruments.  There are 24 pieces worldwide, the ones around the world are branded with the  groovy Eagle headstock.

I did have to replace the original pickups, as it didn’t quite have enough punch.  My friend and musical gear advisor (most likely to his dismay) Dave suggested & helped install some killer GFS pickups.  Now the sound is a little better, and it gives an aural kick in the ears to match the obvious kick in the eyes.

Dancing E.Sure, there are other square guitars… like Bo Diddley’s iconic square guitar, or the George Barris-designed Dragula by Hallmark.  This one is pretty simple though, and for better or worse, it’s become part of my rock n’ roll identity.

I have come across other owners, almost bought a black one a few years back, but didn’t have any extra cash at the time.  There are a few reviews up at Harmony Central.  I’d love to get a hold of the 23 or so other owners out there and get their thoughts on them.