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So you’re looking for your first guitar. Where do you start? Between music stores and the wealth of guitars available online, you may not know where to look first. The truth is that either buying a guitar online or buying one in person is a viable option — you just need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.
How to Buy a Guitar Online: Tips for Guitar Beginners
Is buying guitar online good? That all depends on how carefully you make your selection. Here are some quick tips to consider:
Consider the source
There are plenty of scams out there. Make sure you’re shopping on the website of a real music store or on a reputable site for instrument sales. If a guitar deal looks far too good to be true, it usually is.
Even though you aren’t in a physical store, you can still ask about a given guitar. Most online music stores have helpful representatives, and most online sellers are very responsive.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options. It might help to make a table to quickly compare the specs and prices of the main guitars you’re considering.
Listen to demos
You can usually find a video demo for just about any guitar model. Since you can’t play a guitar from an online store in person, it’s a good idea to at least listen to it.
Is Ordering a Guitar Online a Bad Idea?
No, but making an online guitar purchase without doing any research at all, especially buying a guitar as a beginner, is a bad idea. Make sure you look carefully at specs, condition, and price before committing.
Things to Consider When Buying Your First Guitar
Whether you want to order guitar online or pick one out in person, make sure you evaluate it thoroughly:
Quality of Materials
When buying an acoustic guitar, spring for one with a solid top if you can. These guitars are of much better quality (and produce better sound) than models with laminate tops.
Be sure to look at other specs, too. This might take some research, but it’s worthwhile. If you’re buying an electric guitar, look up the pickups to see if they’re of decent quality. If you’re buying an acoustic, do some reading on tonewoods to see which ones you might prefer.
Materials are important, but so is the overall build quality. A well-crafted guitar is carefully built with plenty of attention to detail — a good example of great craftsmanship in an inexpensive guitar is the specialty bracing Yamaha uses in their beginner models
Judging a Guitar’s Quality
Before selecting a guitar or bass, make sure you know a bit about the make and model. The brand can give you some insight into quality, but most guitar brands offer a huge quality range.
If you’re buying in a store, even a quick visual inspection can give you a clue about quality. If you notice lots of runs in the finish, sharp frets, and other flaws, chances are good that it’s a low-quality guitar.
Playability is crucial, especially for beginners. After all, if a guitar is difficult or uncomfortable to play, you’re far less likely to continue with the hobby.
Signs of Playability
If you’re a beginner selecting your first guitar, you might not be entirely sure of what good playability feels like. Here’s what to look for:
- Neck – Many players find thinner necks easier to play.
- Nut width – This is the width of the neck at the headstock. If you have larger fingers, you may prefer a wider nut width.
- Action – This refers to the distance between strings and the fingerboard.many players prefer lower action (shorter distance) because it makes playing easier.
A guitar that sounds good will make practicing much more enjoyable. But “good” sound is very subjective. In a store, try playing the guitar and listen to its tone. If you’re buying online, try to find a quality demo of the guitar.
When you’re shopping for a first guitar, it can be helpful to know some reputable brands to look for. Most of these brands offer affordable yet decent-sounding intro models aimed at beginners. Here are some to look for:
To make shopping easier, make sure you set a budget before you start. If you’re committed to playing guitar, it’s better to budget more if you can. But if you aren’t sure how long you want to stick with it, a less-expensive instrument might be better.
Buying A Guitar Online
You’ve probably asked yourself “Should I buy a guitar online?” at some point. Here’s a quick rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.
- Saves you the hassle of going to a store
- Makes it easier to compare specs
- Gives you access to a wider range of instruments than you’d find in a store
- You can’t try out the exact guitar you’re buying beforehand
- You’ll need to make sure you avoid scams
Buying a Guitar In-Store
Plenty of old-timers insist that buying in-store is the only way to go. And while many would disagree, buying in a store does have its advantages:
- You get to try the guitar before you buy
- Staff members are around to answer questions
- In many cases, the shop will include a free setup with purchase
- You have access to a smaller selection of guitars
- For some, going to a store can be a hassle
Buying a Used or Second-Hand Guitar
Buying a used guitar online or in a store is a great way to save money, but make sure you shop carefully. Here are some tips:
Look for issues
Whether it’s online or in a store, look very, very closely at any guitar you consider.
Be sure the price is right
Sometimes, sellers will inflate the price of a low-end guitar just to see if someone will pay it. Don’t fall for that trap — do some digging and see if the same or similar guitars sell for comparable prices.
Test it out (or listen)
In a store, testing out a used guitar is critical. Depending on where you’re shopping online, you may be able to listen to a clip of the exact instrument being played. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
When it comes to buying guitars online vs. buying in-store, neither choice is universally better than the other. And if you’re like most guitarists, you probably browse the guitar selections both in brick-and-mortar stores and online fairly often! No matter where you buy your guitar, a lot of the same principles apply — make sure that you carefully evaluate your options in as many ways as possible before you choose your new guitar.