How to Buy a Guitar

Buying a guitar can be an exciting thing to do, whether you are buying your first instrument and are aiming to become a maestro or have been playing for years.  The thing with buying a guitar is that no two are the same.  You probably already know that you will only create the best sounding music when you are confident in your instrument.  It is a bit of a music cliché, but you play your best stuff when you feel ‘at one’ with your guitar.

electric guitar

Truth be told, experienced guitarists know all there is to know about buying an instrument, so this is aimed at those of you who are looking to ‘take the plunge’ and learn to become a competent player yourself.

Before You Hit the Shops

The nature of a guitar means that you simply have to buy it in the shops.  At the very least, you need to try it in a music store before ordering it online, but why do that for a small discount when you can take the actual guitar you just tried out?

Before hitting your local music store, however, you need to keep these thoughts in your head.

Patience Will Pay Dividends

As we already said, buying a guitar is an exciting thing to do.  For too many new or novice players, that manifests itself in heading to the store and buying the first guitar they see.

This is perhaps the worst thing you could do.  Even when you feel you have found the one for you, go away, think about it, have a coffee or a cigarette, and then look at it again.  If you have to go back to the store tomorrow, or next week, then so be it.

Tool Up on Knowledge

Know what you are looking for before you go to the shops.  If possible, take a friend who is already a competent guitarist with you.  Sales people have a habit of preying on weaknesses and knowledge gaps, and those in a music store will be no different.

Researching and having a knowledgeable companion will mean you avoid the store salesperson seducing you with one-way information.

When you decided to buy a guitar, you might not have reckoned with the need to be a savvy shopper while doing it, but it could well be the most important thing to remember.

Hitting the Shops

Anytime when you are a novice and go somewhere targeted primarily at those who are familiar with something, it is an intimidating experience.  Whether it is going to the snooker club for the first time or joining the gym, seeing yourself surrounded by experts, or at least those that are pretending to be experts, can be an unpleasant experience.

However, much like the other two examples, you can easily forget about what everyone else is doing and focus on your aim.

Getting Set

If you have already started playing and have your own guitar pick, then take it with you to the store.  This will probably make little difference in terms of the sound, but you will be more comfortable and confident when it comes to trying out an instrument.

If you are buying an acoustic, then you can play away (it is safe to assume that in a music store the guitars will already be tuned correctly).  Should you be looking for an electric guitar, then the only way to get an idea of the sound is to use the amp you plan to use at home while in the store.  Do not worry if the store does not have the exact same one, just get as close as you can to it, you do not need to take yours along with you!

Act as You Normally Would

Look, this is all about you and buying the perfect guitar.  If the music store attendant says you are not allowed to turn the amp up to the volume you would at home, then give serious thought to whether you actually want to shop in there.

The best music shops will have small rooms out back where you can go and have as much time, and volume, as you need in order to get a feel for the instrument and decide whether it is the one for you.

Play Something Simple

Remember our earlier point about ignoring everything that goes on around you.  Do not start trying to show that you are the next Jimi Hendrix – even new guitarists get emboldened with new instrument in hand – as you will probably just make a fool of yourself.

Play some chords or something of similar simplicity, so that you can get a feel for the sound the guitar creates, and you feel about playing it.  You can worry about everything else later, if you need to at all.

Take as Long as You Need

This might sound harsh, but whether the salesperson is on commission and their daily target is not your concern.

Whether you spend an hour or most of the day trying different guitars, it does not matter.  If you are having trouble with one salesperson, make your excuses, go and grab lunch, and come back and get help from someone else in the store.

If you want to think about your purchase, then be honest enough to say so.  This actually works well as a test of the salesperson, too.  If they start with the whole “gone after today” pitch, respond with a firm, “that is fine, it is more important to me to consider my purchase.”


Almost every store that sells good quality instruments is independent, which means that you can negotiate over the price.  We are not suggesting you start trying to get 50% off, for example, but if your research has told you the price is 15% too high, then there is probably room to manoeuvre.

Get the Guitar You Want

If you stick to these tips, your process will end with you happy in your new guitar.  Do not be tempted to rush or skip any of these steps, or else you could very easily find yourself with an expensive case of buyer’s regret.

Image Source: DaveOnFlickr

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