Introduction: A Poor Person's Guide to Buying a Guitar

Every websight I have seen that tells you how to select and buy a guitar are directed toward adults with money. I am not even in high school, so none of these help me! I have picked up quite a few tricks of the trade from my grandpa. I will teach you how to find a good deal on a used guitar, and what to look for in any guitar that you might want to buy. I have 5 guitars (on 1-14-12) and I got most of them very cheaply. The acoustic below is a Takamine gs 330s. It sells new for $324, but I got it for $125, plus I got it with a case.

Step 1: Acoustic or Electric?

Acoustic guitars generally cost more than electric guitars, but it evens out after you buy an amp and a cord (requisite for an electric guitar.) Acoustic guitars are better for people who want to just pull their guitar out and play, or for people who would like to take their guitar places. Electric guitars have amazing effects, and you can distort the sound as much as you want, to accomodate for any style of music. Both of the guitars below are the ones that I have bought myself. The electric is a fender squier affinity series telecaster. The acoustic is once again my Takamine.

Step 2: Things to Look for in an Acoustic Guitar

When it comes to acoustic guitars, appearance isn't everything. You can find the best looking guitar you have ever seen, and it could sound like crap. The strings should not buzz when you strum them, and it must be comfortable to play. There are two types of acoustic guitars; nylon and steel stringed. I personally dislike nylon strings, and I think that steel strings sound way better, but it is up to you. Generally, heavy acoustic guitars are not good sounding. My uncle's old Grenada (in the top of the picture) weighs 2x the ammount that my Takamine does. Guess which sounds better. A pickguard will protect your guitar from scratches, and it is a great thing to have, but it does slightly decrease the sound of the guitar. I would recommend that you get a guitar with a pickguard if you are just starting. Also, guitars without lamination sound better.

Step 3: Things to Look for in an Electric Guitar

Do not invest in a small toy electric guitar (one is shown below). They are not worth having, and will not stay in tune for more than 5 minutes. I got one in the 1st grade, and I am now happy that I can pass it on to my brothers. Althogh electric guitars can get very expensive (look up "Fender Strat Standard U.S.A.) you don't have to spend nearly that much. The first guitar shown is a Dean evo xm, and it sounds terrific for its price. They sell new for $130. I recieved this one as a gift from my grandpa, who bought it used for $50. It is my seconed favorite guitar, and my favortie electric. The next is my fender squier tele. New for $180. I got this off of craigslist for $100, and after buying it I realized that the previous owner had gotten an "action job" on it. These can cost up to $60, so I got a $200+ guitar for $100. Always check the action, and see if the strings buzz when you strum them. Check for scratches and dents, as they lower the value of the guitar. Plug in the guitar to an amplifier, and listen to find out if there are any noises that shouldn't be there. Make sure the pickups work, as well as the toggle switch, and the volume and tone knobs. Always research a guitar before you go to look at it, so you know how much the retail price is. Remember, to play an electric guitar, you need an amp and a cord.

Step 4: Well Known Brands

When buying a guitar, try to stick with well known brands. Don't buy a guitar if it a brand you have never heard of. Definately ask someone who knows about guitars if you're not sure. Here is a list of some well known guitar brands.

Fender Squier

Art & Lutherie
Simon & Patrick

Step 5: Final Thoughts

Craigslist and Ebay are the secret weapons of guitar buying. There are so many people that sell their guitars daily online, and they are sometimes extremely cheap. My grandpa has bought many guitars on craigslist. Remember, always check out the guitar before you buy it. Look for any flaws in the making, or dents and scratches. Make sure the strings don't buzz, and that it sounds good. Look for a well known brand, and always make sure the pickups (on an electric guitar) work. Consider how much money you are willing to spend, and ask yourself, "is this guitar worth it?'' Good luck.


ytrewqj made it!(author)2016-06-26

my guitar teacher has an Epiphone guitar and changed the pickups to seymour duncans and he says it plays better than his Gibson USA guitar which is worth over double the price!!!

WilsonPage made it!(author)2016-07-15

ask your teacher what he would choose if he had the choice between a Gibson or an Epiphone guitar :-)) I had both and beleive me, even if you change the pickups on an Epiphone...

MirceaB6 made it!(author)2016-06-14

Since you have no idea about guitars I'll teach you a thing: heavy guitars make a sustained, long sound while the light ones give a shorter sound. If you play fast (like in flamenco e.g.) you would like your guitar as light as possible. Sound is more complex than long or short, so comparing the sound of two guitars as heavy and light is the stupidest thing you could have made.

Everybody knows to buy used expensive guitars for half the price. Except for that: DON"T A BELIEVE A THING THIS MORON TEACHES YOU OR YOU'LL REGRET!

Tatanka789 made it!(author)2015-02-08

Great arcticle, I share your frustration trying to buy quality instruments on a budget have a couple tips I wanted to share-

-in addition to eBay and Craig's list, check your local pawn shops. They often have good deals (made even better by the fact that there's no shipping charge like there would be on eBay) and from what I understand deal in fewer stolen instruments these days.
-check the used racks at your LOCAL music store, I've had better results there than at chains.
-IMO buying an electric with no amp is fine starting out, I learned to play on an unamped tele. Plus for apple usesrs there's a whole plethora of amp simulator apps out there if you just want to play with tone.
-It can be a good idea to borrow a guitar for a week or two when your first starting out, to a) see if you even like it and b) get experience playing a quality instrument so you have a base line when shopping.
Hope this helps.

Aadieu made it!(author)2014-03-03

as a sometime guitar dealer and occasional guitar tech, gotta say: ALL wrong.

sorry kid, marketing content masquerading as info has you all turned around, thinking just how Guitar Center or the big brands want you to think

brand means NOTHING, because *only* 5 non boutique brands actually build all their own stuff, and you likely know only 2 of em

Gibson USA (not epiphone), ESP Japan (as in not LTD), FGN (fujigen japan), Cort Korea, Samick Korea/Indonesia

...not even fender, because they deceptively mix it up and offerforeign cheapies under their main brand, despite implying that Squier is their Epiphone/LTD licensed copy brand, and stuff labelled fender is always real. Kort and Samick ARE cheapies, but dont deceive about origins.

EVERYTHING ELSE offers a range from the worst chinese junk to real serious gear for four digits under the same headstock logo, all tne whilenot owning the plants they license to do their stuff. so, no point arguing Fender vs Jackson or Epiphone vs LTD before looking up the made in country and serial codes - both pairs of examples offered can have come from THE SAME ASSEMBKY LINE. (in fender and jacksons case, THREE DIFFERENT PLANTS IN THREE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES EXIST THAT HAVE PRODUCED BOTH LABELS AT SOME POINT)

plant and country are what matter. ONLY ones that are ever good:all japan, expensive korea, or mid and up usa (cheap usa or korea can be utterly bad). buy used, aim for good manufacture (year brand country can track origin reliably, unlike just brand), buy unpopular versions of good stuff (ex: fashionable models of ESP sell for ~$1k used, but lesser known fukk fledged standard models can be had as lkw as $400)

MadGuitarist made it!(author)2014-02-17

I think so u should also include ESP guitars in the well known brands

Southpaw69 made it!(author)2014-02-07

For guitars & basses, the best value for the money is a Mexican made Fender. The Fender "Squire", ESPECIALLY the new & newer ones (made in the last 5 years) have really gone down in quality.

If possible, get a Mexi Fender made 10 years ago, and upgrade the electronics. This will give you the most bang for your buck. The fit & finish of the Mexi Fenders from 10 years ago are actually VERY good. The wood was better than what they use today too.

A Mexi Telecaster is a good bet. A Mexi P-bass or Jazz bass is good as well. Just get- (in order of most bang for the buck & importance to sound & performance) New electronics- pickups, pots, wiring, jack. Then, bridge, nut, tuning machines.

I found a structurally sound early 90's PBass on craigslist for $65, and turned it into a monster! I got some '51 reissue pickups with correct wiring & tone cap, and pots, jack, etc- and it sounds GREAT. I got some vintage tuning machines on it, and if you didn't look at the headstock decal, you'd swear it was a vintage USA bass.

Just make sure the neck isn't warped (a little bit off can be corrected via the truss rod), no cracks in the body, etc, and have someone who knows how redo the action & electronics.

Shop around locally for a deal on a used Fender and trick it out! You'll be glad you did. I love my PBass & Tele. If I put a USA decal on the headstock, YOU'D NEVER KNOW by looking or playing it.

AlmightyFduffle made it!(author)2012-01-24

ESP guitars are also good, they are used in metal music lots. They should be considered if you are into music like metallica, pantera and heavy stuff:)

freeza36 made it!(author)2013-02-01

Yeah I've played a few esp guitars.I don't much like the sound of it for anything other than metal, but it does sound great for metal.

jaxboy made it!(author)2012-09-23

Your Dean is gorgeous! As for the weight of guitars, if a guitar is made from laminated wood, it will generally weigh more, and all other things being equal, will not sound as good, as the sound does not travel as well through the layers. Solid hardwoods almost always sound better than laminates. You gave some good things to look for in a guitar. However, if a guitar buzzes because the strings touch the frets, you can easily adjust that out with the truss rod if the neck is not too out of true. I got my "as-new"electric Ibanez, amp, cord and stand for one third new price of the guitar because of that, and had it adjusted in about a minute. As for your uncle's guitar, I would take it to a good place that sells guitars and ask their advice about why it sounds so bad. They'll tell you if it is worth investing in a setup. I'll bet a professional setup would do wonders, and the cost is not prohibitive. It would be a fitting thing for your uncle's memory. I agree with the other poster to get an electronic tuner. $12-20 will get you a good one.

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-10-01

Well thank you. As for my uncle"s guitar, Ive already had an action job. Theres not much I can do now. But thanks for the criticism. And you must have gotten a pretty good deal on your Ibanez.

kamakiri made it!(author)2012-05-29

I've found that weight doesn't matter as much as the guitar being balanced. That's why I can't play a Les Paul -- the neck always wants to go up and the body is way too heavy. An SG is the perfect guitar for balance (*sigh* why did I have to sell my SG in the 80s?)

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-05-30

Thats why I love my fenders. I couldnt live without my (squier) tele.

kamakiri made it!(author)2012-05-23

Go to Rondo music ( for some amazing deals on GOOD guitars. I've bought at least five from them and I've played the best -- Gibson L6-S, SGs, Strats, Telecasters, Precisions, the LOT and Rondo's SX guitars definitely make the grade. Check them out. (Not affiliated in any way).

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-05-28

I dont see any major brands there, but I definetly see a few that I would love to have. Thanks for the tip man,

kamakiri made it!(author)2012-05-29

You are welcome! I know them so well by now. I've never even talked to them on the phone! Talk to Kurt -- he's a good guy and he's the owner.

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-05-28

I just came across the resonators on this website and instantly want one

nfk11 made it!(author)2012-02-20

uh,what about falcon in acoustic

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-05-12

falcon is one of the lower priced brands, but it is a brand nevertheless. Thanks for pointing that out

GyroGearLoose47 made it!(author)2012-01-29

Great ible, keep it up and add more when yuou can. One way to lower cost at a music store is to check the consignments. Thanks again.

wanna+beco made it!(author)2012-01-27

Also, buy a good tuner..Great ideas here!

fire-is-fun made it!(author)2012-01-16

Weight doesn't have an effect on sound in acoustic guitars.. In fact, many heavy guitars can sound better. The type of wood used effects the weight and tone, and some of the more expensive, heavy woods sound MUCH better, but make the guitar cost over one or two thousands dollars.

The reason your uncles guitar might not sound as good is the neck may need to be reset, or its not in the right humidity, and you need a guitar humidifier.

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-01-17

in very expensive guitars, weight doesnt much matter, but in entry level guitars to intermediate, light guitars sound much better most of the time, when other variables are cancelled out. My uncles guitar has had an action job, and is cheap enough not to need a humidifier (it is a horrible guitar anyway)

freeza36 made it!(author)2012-01-16

im not saying weight is the only reason it does not sound good.

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