Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

Buying Your First Electric Guitar

It’s close to the holiday season and a lot of people will be purchasing their first electric guitar. Here are some things to consider:

A lot of a guitar’s tone come from the pickups. Humbuckers have a more rocking sound, and Single Coil pickups are better for bluesy and clean tones. There are other pickups like P-90’s and more. A guitar could have 2 humbuckers, one humbucker and a single coil, 3 single coils, etc. The best way to figure out which pickups and configuration you like is to see what the guitar student’s favorite players or bands use. For example, Slash plays a Les Paul with humbuckers.

There are fixed bridges and floating bridges. A fixed bridge cannot move, while a floating bridge moves up and down to stretch the strings. This changes the pitch higher and lower. This is fun, but can leave your guitar out of tune. I personally don’t use it a lot. I generally recommend beginner guitar students to get a fixed bridge to avoid tuning troubles, and to make it easier to tune down for songs.

Don’t forget you can’t just buy an electric guitar. You need at least an amp and a cable. Most guitar companies have a beginner guitar package that includes: amp, cable, gig bag, picks, strings, a strap, and maybe even an instructional DVD. Most all of these packages are similar in quality, but I have found that the Ibanez packages have been very consistent and are a decent quality. If you don’t buy a beginner package, at least include the essential accessories in your purchase.

I certainly have a preference in brand, but when you are buying a beginner guitar they are all very similar. I always tell guitar students and parents to avoid department stores. First of all, the ones found in department stores are typically cheap. Go to a real music store. Also, you will get better service when things go wrong…and trust me, they just might. You can’t really go wrong with any of your major brands such as: Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, etc. They all have expensive models and cheaper models. They are sometimes under a different name. For Example, Fender uses Squire, and Gibson uses Epiphone. Also, the brand may be dictated by the kind of guitar that would best match a band, player, or style a student likes.

Make sure you hold and feel a guitar before you buy it! It’s much better to buy local. The action refers to how high or low the strings are to the neck. Make sure that the guitar is playable. You don’t want the strings to high because it will be very arduous for the student to play. At the same time, you don’t want it so low that the strings are very buzzy and dead. Make sure there are no dead spots on the guitar. If you can’t test it out, ask an employee to help you out, or bring someone experienced with you. Any reputable music store should be able to test that out for you, and be willing to fix it before it goes out the door. For that matter, most stores will set it up for you for a certain amount of time for free beyond the purchase.

There are many things to consider when buying an electric guitar, but this will get you in the neighborhood. Make sure you find that brand, style and pickups that work you. Buy it a reputable music store, check the action, and grab any accessories you may need. Good Luck!

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