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!

Guitars & Virtual Window Shopping 🎸


Is there a word for the internet version of window-shopping?  I certainly have enough guitars.  I really dig my oddball collection.  But, I’m always looking.  I made a wishlist before, so I thought I’d update it.  Of course, this list is subject to change by the minute, and like a rodent with shiny objects I can be easily distracted.

 

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Traveler Guitar TravelcasterTraveler Guitar Travelcaster – It’s no secret that I dig weird guitars.  This is pretty neat.  I love the idea, even if ESP had it first.  Supposedly, the ESP ones were only made & sold in Japan.  The Traveler  Travelcasters look pretty snazzy, and Traveler makes some other really cool stuff.  I bet it really would be useful in a travel capacity, & provide some fun on stage.  I see these ads constantly.

BOHOBohemian Guitars Oil Can Guitar – Who doesn’t want one?  It’s like a cigar box guitar cranked up to 11.  They look like a ton of fun, and they’re not really all that expensive.  These Boho axes are real attention grabbers.  I also see these ads constantly.  The reviews appear to be fanrastic.

Millennium Falcon GuitarA Millennium Falcon Guitar – There have been various builders to create this to varying degrees of success.  I’d love to get my scruffy nerf-herding paws on one.  I even blogged about it before (check the comments).  You know I have an appreciation of weird guitars and of Star Wars, so this is a natural.  Bonus if it includes lights and sounds!

Peavey T-60Peavey T-60 – These Peaveys seem like a sort of underground or unspoken holy grail, especially if you get the amp in a case.  The T-30 and T-15 look cool to, but I dig humbuckers. so 60 may be the way to go.  Hell, a Peavey Mantis would kick some butt too.

Gibson Reverse Flying VGibson Reverse Flying V – I mean, I already have a Dewey Decibel FlipOut, so why not continue the trend?  This one will probably never happen unless I win the lottery.  I like my guitars cheap, and this one is not cheap.  Epiphone, how about a limited run here?  The hate for it online alone drives my want for it.

Archer Flying Cheese WedgeArcher Flying Cheese Wedge – This thing is absolutely ridiculous.  I love it.  If I ever found a cheap one, I would pounce.  I mean, CHEESE.  Who doesn’t like cheese (besides the lactose intolerant)?  I think it has something to do with Wisconsin sportsball.  I just like cheese.  A lot.

Hello Kitty Squier StratocasterHello Kitty Squier Stratocaster – This is another gem sought after by a bunch of weirdos. The quality is the stuff of legend if you can snag it for the right price.  They were cheap for a bit until someone let out the secret they they’re no joke.

Dean ML Acoustic, Kramer Imperial aXAcoustic ExplorerKramer made one, Dean sort of makes one.  They are so ridiculous.  I may settle for a Flying V one. Ha ha.  Even the little ukes may satisfy this yearning.

Esteban Midnight LegacyEsteban Midnight Legacy Electric Guitar – These were going for $75-ish online for a bit, then they jumped up.  Strat pickup configuration on a Les Paul shape?  All black?  “E” shaped headstock?  Sign me up!

Gianni Doubleneck SG/Telecaster HybridGianni SG/Tele-style doubleneck – As with Bigfoot, some people refuse to believe that these even exist.  The cries of “fake” and “photoshopped” abound with this type of axe online.  It is ridiculous.  Really, I don’t have a double-neck.  I need one, right?  I do have a 12 string… so a 6/12 would be boring.  I would love to get one of these and make one neck a baritone or Bass VI scale.  I mean, this is cool too if we’re getting really weird.

Wylde Audio Warhammer, Dean Split Tail, Gibson ZVOne of those goofy Zakk Wylde guitars – Any of the trifecta of insanity will do.  The Gibson ZV, the Dean Split Tail, and the Wylde Audio Warhammer are all sort of the same shape.  I don’t know the story behind the jumps from manufacturers, and I don’t really care.  They are so metal, it hurts.  I play so poorly for metal, it hurts.  So, it’s a natural fit of pain.  Right?  Right?  This may have trumped my old longing for a Transparent Green Lucite BC Rich.

Xaviere 550SCE_BKXaviere RTS_550SCE_BK Dreadnaught – This is all cosmetic.  I just really dig the look.  Plus, I really dig Guitar Fetish.  I might even sell the 12-string to get this.  Maybe?  Anyone heard anything about the quality?  I really like the look and sort of want to jump before they’re gone.  I mean, if I sell the 12-string… that opens up my double-neck options.  Right?

 

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What’ on your list?  Gimme something awesome in the comments, bonus points for sub-$300-ish.  What haven’t I heard of yet?  What am I forgetting?  What need to I need to meet or gap do I need to fill?  What is your holy grail guitar?  Post some photo or links too!