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Picture of How to Find the Right Guitar
This Instructable will be a guide to what you should look for when buying a guitar. I will address all of the different aspects that you should consider so that you can know what kind of guitar will fit you best.  It will be directed towards buying an electric guitar so if you are looking for an acoustic this Instructable isn't for you. Also, I know this Instuctable doesn't cover every aspect of guitar shopping but it covers some of the more important parts.
 
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Step 1: A Good Fit for Your Style Of Music

Picture of A Good Fit for Your Style Of Music
One very important thing that you should consider when choosing a guitar, is the type of music you will be playing. For example, if you play a lot of hard rock or heavy metal, you might want to get a guitar from Jackson, B.C. Rich, ESP or Ibanez. These brands make most of their guitars with thinner necks and lower action (strings lower to the guitar neck). Both of these features allow for faster and easier playing so these are good guitars to shred on. Another example is if you play a lot of blues you might want a Fender Telecaster or a Gibson Les Paul. These guitars are mad with smoother sounding pickup which are perfect for soft rock, blues and jazz. It is also very important the the guitar you choose has the right sort of sound for your preferred genre.

Step 2: Hardware

Picture of Hardware
When choosing a guitar, you have to look at the hardware. Everything from the pickups to the wood used for the body affects how the guitar will sound and feel. Again, some hardware will be better suited for certain styles of music than others. For example, when you play a guitar from brands like B.C. Rich, Ibanez or Schecter, you will find that they have pickups with a harder sound with a lot more gain rather than the smooth sound you get if you played a Fender, Gibson or PRS. If your going to be playing hard rock or metal, brands like Ibanez have pickups that work well for that style of music. The type of bridge is also an important thing to look for. Fixed bridges are much easier to tune but at the same time lack the abilities of a tremolo bridge. Floating tremolo bridges, like ones from Floyd-Rose, add a vibrato bar (sometimes called a Whammy Bar) which give the ability for guitarists to add effects like vibrato or dive bombs by moving the bar. These bridged lock the strings into place so that your guitar doesn't go out of tune when you use the bar. Although this is a nice feature to have these kinds of bridges are VERY hard to tune (I personally have 2 guitars with floating bridges, on Floyd-Rose and the other Edge, and I can say from personal experience that they make it very difficult to tune or replace strings). Some guitars offer bridges with vibrato bars but no locking mechanism. These bridges go out of tune very, very quickly because the strings are not locked into place so if you buy a guitar with one of these bridges, plan on not every using the vibrato bar. The wood used to make the guitar body also makes a big difference in the sound. Low end guitars use cheap wood that doesn't allow for the sound to sustain well. Higher end guitars use wood that helps keep the tone and sustain the sound. Usually when the guitar body feels heavy, it will hold the sound better.

Step 3: Play it Yourself and Compare

Picture of Play it Yourself and Compare
One thing I can't stress enough is that YOU SHOULD NOT BUY A GUITAR WITHOUT PLAYING IT FIRST. If you just buy a guitar without playing it or even seeing it in real life you may end up being very disappointed with your purchase. Just because a guitar looks good does not mean it plays well. Go to your local guitar shop and play the guitar for 45 minutes or more (preferably more) until you make sure it feels comfortable to play. 45 minutes might seem like a long time but just playing the guitar for 5 minutes doesn't let you get the full effect of what the feel of the guitar is like. Another very important point is that when you are shopping for a guitar, you should always look at a lot of different makes and models before buying. Even if the first guitar you play seems like the perfect one, make sure that you try other ones out too. After you have found the right guitar and confirmed that it is the one you want then buying it at the store of online fine.

Step 4: Compare

Picture of Compare
Even after you find a guitar you like, make sure to look at other ones. Although the first guitar you found may seem like the right one for you, if you continue looking you may find something much better for the same price. But you'll never know unless you look.

Step 5: Price Isn't Everything

Picture of Price Isn't Everything
Just because a guitar is expensive doesn't mean its better than one with a lower price. When shopping for a guitar don't ignore guitars just because they are cheap. Usually the more expensive the guitar is, the better it sounds and plays, but there are a lot of guitars that sound good and are not expensive. Again, the only way to find this out is by trying lots of different guitars.

Step 6: Quality

Picture of Quality
A very, very, very (did i emphasize that enough?) big part of selecting a guitar is finding one thats made from good quality parts. No matter how good a guitar looks, if it's made from cheap materials it will just fall apart and you'll have wasted you money. The best way to determine the quality of a guitar is just by playing it. If the hardware feels cheap or pieces rattle around, this shows you that this might not be the right guitar. Another very important thing is making sure the neck is straight. A warped or bent neck is a sure sign of a cheap quality guitar. Another way to determine a guitars quality is by looking at customer reviews but I'll talk about the in the next step.

Step 7: Look at the Reviews

Picture of Look at the Reviews
Another good thing to do before purchasing a guitar is to look at customer reviews. By doing this you can see what people have to say about the guitar you are considering buying. If the overall reviews and rating are positive then maybe it is a good guitar, but if most people leave negative feedback then maybe you should start looking for another one. Good ways to find customer reviews are by looking at websites like http://www.guitarcenter.com or http://www.musiciansfriend.com/ or by Google searching the model of the guitar followed by the words "customer reviews."

Step 8: A Few More Things to Think About

Picture of A Few More Things to Think About
A few more things you may want to consider are the look of the guitar, the pickups, if it is a hollow or solid body, the price, and the reputation of the manufacturer. Also, if you feel like I have missed any important points say what they are in the comments below and I will add it to this guide. 
dawg0652 months ago
Best guitar I bought is a Hagstrom ultra Swede model.
Felt right.has the tone I'm looking for.
Not bad for $325.00.
jeff.dumas.93 months ago

One very, very, very, very, very important thing to pay attention to when buying your guitar is how the neck feels in your hands. Consider YOUR hands. Hands come in different shapes and sizes. Think fingers vs. thin, more flexible vs less flexible joints, long vs. short. This matters a lot. I seldom see this brought up in "buying your first guitar" articles. Go into the guitar store and when you are playing guitars, play a first position F and C chord and some bar chords. Can you make these chords sound clear and clean? It matters. The best, most expensive guitar on the wall won't make you happy if you find down the road that you got one that isn't right for YOU. Most guitars from any major guitar maker these days can be set up to play decently, what you can't change is the size of the guitar and the size of the neck. String guages make a big difference too, not only in how the guitar feels and plays, but, also in how it sounds. Learn a little about the differences in strings.

I like the what type of music do you want to play aspect. I often, in my own school fall short of this though because most of our students are younger and beginners but I like your perspective. Thanks
nfk113 years ago
i just got a $170 guitar made by EPIPHONE, AND ITS WAY BETTER THAN UR SELECTIONS!!!!!
freeza36 nfk113 years ago
When you say "your selections" do you mean the guitars that he listed, such as the Fender Telecaster, ESP, Ibanez, or a Gibson Les Paul? In any case, epiphone is not better.
nfk11 freeza363 years ago
i know i was just joking. but i have a nice electric. it sounds like it has a pedal that's making the sound.
freeza36 nfk113 years ago
Yeah, I figued you where. What kind of electric do you have?
nfk11 freeza362 years ago
oh just an epiphone its okay i guess i mean a lead guitar is not what it will be ever ??? i got mixed up XD
freeza36 nfk112 years ago
Haha im confused. Eventually imma get an Epiphone Wilshire.

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Epiphone-Worn-1966-Wilshire-with-Tremotone-Electric-Guitar-106526072-i1819085.gc
nfk11 freeza362 years ago
cool mine is an Epiphone SPECIAL! its pretty koolbeans.
freeza36 nfk112 years ago
I almost bought a special once.
nfk11 freeza362 years ago
i got it at a Sam Ash store for $170
freeza36 nfk112 years ago
Ive seen them for under $100 here at Guitar Center
nfk11 freeza362 years ago
yeah sam ash just overprices everything. but i dont live near a sam ash anymore.
mdog934 years ago
I would argue never to play one guitar, and decide that's the one you wnat. Never, always COMPARE. I got an electro/acoustic guitar for christmas just gone and I went to some shops with my dad. We didn't have a massive budget but we wanted a reasonable guitar. Sound quality was the most important thing.

Anyway I played two yamahas (not the best guitars, but i was surprised at how they sounded) and there wasn't much between them but the more expensive model sounded slightly nicer.

Then I decided to compare it to something more expensive, a tanglewood model, and it was sooo much nicer and before i tried that i would have been happy with one of the yamahas, and yes it was about £60 more. But hell was there a difference.

One more thing, maybe more so for acoustics and electro/acoustic guitars than electrics but it still applies- the best sounding guitars are not necessarily the most expensive. You can find great, really good sounding guitars for very little money these days. Sometimes even better than more expensive ones. But the only way is to play them and find out.
Does anyone else agree with any of those points?
jvdlcr125 (author)  mdog934 years ago
Thats a good point, I'll add it to the guide...
cool cheers :) have you ever played a tanglewood guitar?
freeza36 mdog932 years ago
I have once. Liked it quite a bit.
jvdlcr125 (author)  mdog934 years ago
Nope I've never played one
ahh, they are really nice quality. MAde it the UK, well some are some are just 'designed' in the UK
jackyroo4 years ago
Guys, some proof-reading of these articles would really make them look much better ( there or their ?).

On this topic, I think that stating "Fender or Gibson for blues" isn't even scratching the surface of available choices. It actually made me stop reading into it.

Playing a guitar at a store, then buying it on-line isn't actually the best approach. It will surely give an idea of what it's suppose to sound like, but each example is going to be different. You may even end up getting a lemon. Guitars do have issues. I'm not advising against on-line purchases and you can always return it, but it is such an individual fit, it's best to do it in person.

mdog93: you're right on with your points
Fender and gibson for blues? There are so many more comapnies that excell in blues...
jvdlcr125 (author)  jackyroo4 years ago
Thanks for the feedback, I'll be sure to make some changes.
haoran4 years ago
Dude, there's heaps of stuff you want to add to this guide. For instance:

* what sort of wood is the guitar made out of, and why does it matter? When I read that a guitar is made from ash, maple, basswood, etc, what effect does that have on the sound?

* pickups. Whats the difference between a single-coil and a humbucker? Why isn't it always better to have more pickups? (i.e., the difference between gibsons with 2 pickups, or the strat with 3 pickups.)

* scale. Whats the difference between a gibson scale and a fender scale?

* bridge. Why would I want a string-through body? Why would I want a fixed bridge? What's a floyd-rose, and why would I want it? What's the disadvantages of that? Is it good/bad to have an old-school gretsch style bridge?

* what am I looking for? What are desirable qualtiies, I.e., tone, sustain, action, playability? What are the trade-offs? I.e. less action = more tone.

hhiles haoran4 years ago
The wood, pickups, scale, bridge, tuners, nut, etc. are all good points to consider, but newbie guitarists may be a bit overwhelmed by all these details. Most brand name guitars are made pretty well these days, and a good guitar tech can make a cheaper guitar play like a more expensive one.

Picking the right guitar comes down to 3 things--how it looks, how it sounds and how it plays. Playing several guitars and comparing them is definitely the best way to go. Once you find a guitar that looks, feels and sounds just right, buy it. You can always replace any troublesome bits like the nut, bridge, tuners, pickups, etc.
freeza36 hhiles2 years ago
In all reality though, it will eventually come in handy (if they stick with it.) And I agree that it is a bit overwhelming (me, approximately 5 years ago) but I think its important that he at least mentions it.
hannahbs3 years ago
Hey I have a problem with finding a certain guitar. You see, I have been playing for 5-6 years and I have 3 guitars looking to buy a 4th, an electric one. my 3 previous guitars have been a Gibson (melody maker Joan Jet), a Taylor steel string guitar and a Fender Strat, I like the fender sound and I want another one, but I need one which is smaller than the original size. My Taylor guitar has a length that is 7/8 of the regular size, and its the best one I have ever played on. I am looking for the same size in an electric guitar, but I can only find kids models which are not in very good quality. You seem like you know a great deal about guitars so I thought I would give it a shot and ask :)
Hannah
jvdlcr125 (author)  hannahbs3 years ago
Hannah,
As far as I know most, if not all, short scale guitars are usually cheap, entry level guitars designed for kids. You may want to try going to a music store like guitar center and asking them if they know if there are any mid range or high end short scale guitars. If you don't have any luck with that your only other option (that I can think of) would be to get one custom made from places like the Fender Custom Shop (http://fendercustomshop.com/) or another custom shop from another guitar manufacturer (most guitar manufacturers offer custom order services). What's nice about this option is that you can have your guitar made how ever you want, with everything from the custom short scale to a custom body shape to custom inlays. The downside is that it's expensive but if price isn't too much of a problem then this might be a good route to go.

Thanks, sounds like I have a lot of work ahead of me :) I live in norway so guitar center will be sort of difficult but I guess I have to start looking in stores and ask around. Would be fun to make one, but I don't think I know that much of all the different materials and how I would want all the other details. Thanks though! it was very helpful.
I think PRS makes short scale guitars that are mid and high end.
fredellarby3 years ago
Another vote for comparing as much as possible.
I've been playing for over 45 years so I pretty much know what I want. I went out looking to buy a Taylor or Guild based on reputation. When I started looking the Guild went off the table. I tried a Tanglewood at about half the price of the Taylor and after trying them both, then having the salesman play them for me across the room so I could hear them better, I got the Tanglewood and saved nearly $1000.
what brand of guitar would i use if i wanted to play muse at a reasonable price?
jvdlcr125 (author)  madrobot36004 years ago
Well there's not really one specific brand that makes a guitar best for playing Muse so the best thing to do is to just try a lot of different guitars (preferably ones geared towards rock music) until you find the one that you are most comfortable with and one that sounds the best. I would suggest starting out by looking at Gibson or Fender guitars. Both of these brands are usually good quality and many of the guitars they make are geared towards rock so they may have the sound your looking for.
ski4jesus4 years ago
Midtown Music is a good store too...
ski4jesus4 years ago
Also, new strings can make a huge difference in tone on a guitar.
make sure the neck is straight