There are a lot of misconceptions about buying a guitar. People tend to bypass the less aesthetically pleasing or second hand guitars for the cheaper, shiny- looking brand new ones. As hard as it is to understand, the cool looking guitars are not always the best to play. So how do you know what is good and what is unsuitable?
I have learned that there are two golden rules:
1. Spend as much money as your budget will allow. You get what you pay for.
2. Whenever you buy a guitar, ALWAYS have it professionally set up. Then from that point on, have it set up at least once a year.
1. Does it feel good to hold?
Sit down and hold the guitar as if you were going to play it. If you are holding it correctly, it should mould to your body and you shouldn't feel any discomfort.
2. What is the action like?
The action is the distance between the strings and the fret board. Ideally, a nice low action is preferable as it makes playing easier. A high action makes it uncomfortable and difficult to press the fingers down on to the notes. A high action can actually impair your ability to progress on the guitar if not fixed with a set up.
A low action makes pressing the fingers down on to the notes a lot easier and the guitar should feel a lot more comfortable to play. However, if the action is set too low it can sometimes cause the strings to buzz on the frets which will affect the sound of the guitar. A good way to tell if the action is set too low is to play every single note on the guitar with one finger. If it sounds nice and clean, then there is no issue. If there are strange buzzes and inconsistencies in the sound, then the action is set too low. A good set up will remedy this.
3. Does it stay in tune?
Make sure the guitar is in tune before you test it, and then when in tune , play it solidy for 5 minutes. If it stays in tune then thats great. If it is out of tune after five minutes of solid playing, it could be fixed with a set up, but I would recommend that you leave it and look elsewhere.
Whether you start with an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, it is wise to be able to identify all the parts with their correct names. Take some time to study the images below and memorise all the part names.
Electric guitars can come in every shape imaginable and there are a huge range of different parts available. Although electric guitars can have many different types of parts, the basic layout and functions are normally all very similar. The below is based on a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.
Although you do not need to read music to play the guitar, you will want to learn how to read chord diagrams. All you need to do is understand where to put your fingers to form a chord. (A chord is more than one note played together at the same time - usually a minimum of three notes.)
The image opposite shows a basic chord chart of E major.The numbers below represent which fingers you should use and the 'O' represents playing the string open.
If you are new to playing the guitar its a good idea to familiarise yourself with the names of the guitar strings. So what are the names of the strings? I find the best way to commit to memory is to create a connection between what you are learning with something you already know. The best way to do this is by remembering by association. For example the names of the strings on the guitar ( from thinnest to thickest) are E,B,G,D,A and E. There is no pattern or logic to the order, so make up an acronym like the one above.
Notice that there are two E strings. One called 'Low E' because it is lower in pitch and one called 'High E' as it is higher in pitch. The above tuning is regarded as Standard tuning.
Guitar TAB or tablature is a simple way of writing out music for the guitar. Think of it as a map of the guitar neck. It shows what frets to play on each strings. Tablature is unique to guitar-based instruments and is the easiest way to communicate music notation on the guitar.
The six horizontal lines represent the six guitar strings. The lowest line represents the 'Low E' string. The numbers on the six lines represent the fret numbers to be played. A zero on a line means to play a string 'open'.
There are two basic rules to remember when playing TAB:
1. Numbers beside each other (left to right) are played one after the other.
2. Numbers lined up vertically (stacked on top of each other) are played all at the same time.