"When buying a guitar - Take ALL necessary precaution..."
There are many things to consider when you buy your guitar. For instance, whether or not you are a beginner or a seasoned professional will determine just what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend. If you're a beginner to intermediate player, there are many excellent online dealers that carry a good range of brands at reasonable prices. I've recently added a page to help you when buying a guitar, and this page carries merchandise from Musiciansfriend.com which I'm very happy with.
These online stores "live and die" by their reputation and so can't afford to have mediocre instruments or service. As we all know, news travels very fast on the web, and they'd soon be out of business if they tried to "pull a swift one" on anyone. You can pretty much trust that their instruments will be good, and you can view pictures of them online so don't be afraid of buying guitars online if you're looking for that sort of convenience.
If your heart is set on going to a "bricks and mortar" store when buying a guitar, actually getting it in your hands to get the feel, then there are a few things you should know before you go. The most important thing is of course the sound of the instrument. Is it a sound that you are happy with and feel comfortable?
The different types of wood that classical guitars are made from will give each instrument its own peculiar sound, but in general, guitars with cedar tops produce a more "warm' tone, whereas spruce tops are likely to be more "focused" or 'concentrated". I've been asked, in the past, to accompany parents of some of my students to help to buy a guitar. If the instrument is new then these things aren't so important, but I still check them anyway.
So, one of the first things I always do is check along the neck of the instrument by looking down from the nut to the end of the instrument. That is I physically pick up the guitar and hold it out from my body so that the head stock is pointing towards me. Next, check the length of the guitar neck. See if the fret board is straight. There should be NO bowing of the neck at all.
I also look behind the bridge on the guitar to see if the top is buckled or bowed. I strongly advise anyone NOT to buy an instrument that was showing any signs of these defects. It's just not worth it in the end.
The third thing I do when purchasing a guitar is to hold down the strings from the second fret to the twelfth fret and see if the string length touches all the intervening frets. There will be a problem with craftsmanship if you have any significant variation here.
I then check the sound of the instrument to see if it has the qualities that I'm after. They are: projection; quality of tone and; comfort i.e. is it the right size for me or whoever we're buying the guitar for? Children, especially younger ones, will obviously need a smaller guitar than adults, and it depends on the size of the student. Classical guitars usually come in half, three-quarter, five-eighth and full size.
If you've covered all these areas when buying a guitar, you'll usually come away with a decent guitar that will last you many years of happy playing. If you're a more advanced player or have the money and inclination to buy something a little better, you know, that DREAM guitar, then you'll have to invest a little more time, money and testing to achieve it.
Sharon Isbin, writing in the Classical Guitar Answer Book suggests these areas when purchasing a "dream guitar": Beauty of Tone; Dynamic & Timbral Contrasts; Clarity & Speed of Response; Sustain; Balance; Resonance; Intonation; Projection; Condition. She goes on to elaborate on all these points in the book.
Phew! Talk about attention to detail! I bet you didn't think guitar buying took so much effort. If you're buying a guitar of quality and it's worth the money then it's worth the time and effort to research.
I hope this has been of help in buying a guitar.
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