A Guide To Buying An Acoustic Guitar

A Guide to​ Buying an​ Acoustic Guitar
Knowing how to​ choose the right guitar and how to​ identify a​ bad one, will save you from countless headaches, not to​ mention finger aches .​
Acoustic guitar bodies come in​ basically the same hourglass shape, with some variations, but they do vary in​ size, color, wood-type, style, and extra features .​
You can even buy an​ acoustic guitar so small that fits into a​ hiking backpack .​
Guitars come in​ a​ very wide range of​ prices, but when it​ comes to​ instruments, in​ general, you get what you pay for, especially when you buy new .​
There’s a​ real difference between getting a​ bargain and buying cheap .​
But whether you buy new or​ used may be determined by many personal factors including your budget, and each has their own pros and cons .​
Buying new, gives you a​ warranty and, hopefully, a​ return period, if​ for some reason you’re not totally satisfied with your purchase, or​ something goes wrong .​
Under ‘usual' circumstances, a​ used guitar can usually be purchased cheaper and has already gone through its break-in period .​
Commercially built guitars are usually mass manufactured .​
Custom-made guitars are exactly that .​
They are custom built and tailored to​ your specifications by a​ highly skilled guitar maker .​
Prices for a​ custom-built guitar vary considerably, depending on the skill level of​ the craftsperson you contract the job to, but, as​ a​ rule, they are generally quite higher than a​ commercially built guitar of​ similar quality .​
Each custom built guitar is​ unique and therefore hard to​ compare in​ price to​ a​ commercially built guitar .​
Understanding some of​ the parts of​ a​ guitar will definitely help you when it​ comes to​ the Pre-Purchase Checklist .​
BODY: This is​ the part with the sound hole in​ the front .​
It is​ where the strumming is​ done, and it​ can vary in​ size .​
The actual size, shape, type of​ wood, coating, and general build of​ the body also affects how the guitar will sound, whether it’s a​ rich and warm sound, or​ a​ thin and ‘twangy’ sound .​
The body tends to​ be the part that also gets scratched, damaged, and generally banged-up the most .​
NECK: This is​ the long piece extending from the body and ends at​ the ‘head’ of​ the guitar where the ‘Tuning Heads’ are, also known as​ ‘machine heads’ .​
The strings travel from the ‘Bridge’ on the body, across the sound hole, along the ‘Fret Board’, which is​ attached to​ the front-side of​ the neck, and finally arriving at​ the tuning heads where they are wrapped around tuning posts .​
The tuning heads are then turned by hand, which then turns the posts, making the strings tighter or​ looser, thus affecting their ‘tuning’ .​
Necks tend to​ warp and twist if​ not looked after, or​ if​ the guitar is​ left propped against a​ heat source .​
BRIDGE: The Bridge is​ normally located on the front of​ the body, by the sound hole, and on the side of​ the hole opposite to​ the neck .​
The strings are usually fed through the bridge first before they cross the hole and travel up the neck to​ the tuning heads .​
The bridge is​ like an​ anchor-point for the strings .​
Metal bridges are best, but on most acoustics they are either hard plastic or​ wood .​
Bridges have a​ tendency to​ crack and split over a​ long period of​ time .​
FRET BOARD: The fret board is​ glued to​ the front of​ the neck .​
This is​ the part you press the strings onto to​ make chords or​ play individual notes .​
Because it’s glued on separately, a​ fret board can be made of​ a​ wood that’s different from the neck .​
The strings travel over the fret board and the distance they are above the fret board makes a​ difference to​ the playability of​ the guitar .​
If the strings are too far above the fret board, then they will be hard to​ press down, making the guitar hard to​ play .​
When a​ beginner plays a​ guitar, initially his or​ her fingertips are very soft and need to​ be hardened .​
a​ guitar with the strings too far above the fret board, also known as​ having a​ ‘high action’, will cause the player’s fingers to​ hurt so much that they are likely to​ put the guitar away in​ discouragement and possibly stop playing altogether .​
STRINGS: Acoustic guitar strings, come in​ a​ wide variety of​ ‘flavors’ .​
They can be made out of​ nylon, brass, steel, or​ a​ combination .​
Nylon strings are usually only found on Classical guitars and Student guitars, because they’re easier on the fingertips .​
They have a​ rich, warm sound to​ them .​
Strings sets come in​ different ‘weights’, or​ sizes .​
Strings that come from a​ package marked ‘Heavy’ are usually quite thick in​ size and sound beefy .​
Strings that are light, or​ extra light, are very thin and usually have a​ brighter sound to​ them, but are also quieter sounding than heavy strings .​
String choices are purely personal taste .​
Light strings are easier to​ press than heavy strings but also sound quite different .​
The more often strings are played, the dirtier they get .​
If a​ cloth isn’t run over and under them, from time to​ time, the sound becomes very dull
- Before you buy a​ used guitar, cost-compare against the price of​ a​ new one, unless the guitar is​ quite old .​
You could also compare its used price to​ other used prices by going to​ an​ online auction and either searching for the same or​ a​ similar guitar .​
- Check the overall condition of​ the wood for cracks, scratches, splits, dents, chips, etc .​
- Also check the lacquer finish for cracks and splits .​
- Check the neck/fret board for warping and twisting .​
You can do this by holding the guitar flat on its back, with the sound hole facing upward .​
Bring the guitar up to​ eye-level, with the neck running away from you and the edge of​ the body almost touching your face .​
Let your eyesight skim across the front of​ the body and down the fret board .​
You should be able to​ see if​ the neck is​ twisted or​ bowing .​
- Tune the guitar, or​ have the seller tune it​ for you .​
- If you know how to​ play about five or​ six chords then play them .​
If you don’t know how to​ play, ask the seller to​ play them for you .​
This check ensures that the neck of​ the guitar is​ not warped, even though you couldn’t physically see it .​
If the neck is​ warped, and the guitar is​ properly tuned, then some of​ the chords will sound good, but others will sound as​ though the guitar is​ not tuned .​
If this happens, check the tuning again .​
If it​ persists, then don’t buy the guitar .​
- Check the bridge of​ the guitar .​
If it’s made out of​ wood or​ plastic, make sure it’s not cracked or​ splitting .​
The bridge needs to​ be rock-solid, as​ a​ lot of​ pressure is​ exerted on the bridge by the strings .​
- Check the tuning heads .​
Do they turn easily, or​ are they very stiff and hard to​ turn .​
Even with the high tension of​ the strings, a​ quality guitar will have tuning heads that are fairly easy to​ turn .​
- Check the ‘action’ of​ the guitar .​
Are the strings a​ fair distance from the fret board? Are they easy or​ hard to​ press down at​ various points on the fret board?
- If you are buying the guitar for yourself, and you know how to​ play, even if​ you’re a​ beginner, then play the guitar .​
- How does it​ feel?
- is​ it​ easy or​ hard to​ play?
- Can you fit your hand around the neck/fret board comfortably to​ play chords?
- is​ the guitar a​ comfortable size and shape for your body? is​ it​ easy to​ hold?
- If you plan to​ play standing up, ask for a​ guitar strap .​
- Do you like the sound, the color, etc?
- If you don’t play, have someone else play it​ for you so that you can judge what it​ sounds like .​
Buying a​ guitar from a​ physical retail music store allows you to​ ‘test drive’ the guitar and ask more questions up front .​
Buying online or​ from a​ catalog may bring you more cash savings .​
No matter where you buy your guitar, if​ you know what to​ look for, and spend a​ little extra effort in​ your search for that ‘perfect’ guitar, not only will your fingers thank you, but also your ears, and all those who will come to​ join you around the campfire, or​ even go to​ see you in​ concert .​
Who knows?

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