My first guitar was a random acoustic my dad’s roommate left in his house after he moved out. I peeled an AAA sticker off the bottom, and had no idea what scale length or body type was, but I learned my first chords and songs on that guitar. I’ve kept that guitar with me for the past 10 years while I learned more about what makes each guitar different. The first guitar I bought was a Squier VM Jazzmaster after days of research.
I’m going to share with y’all some things to consider when buying a new guitar, especially when shopping online. That being said, you can learn to play on any guitar that is properly set up and tuned. While a guitar’s individual differences may slightly alter your learning experience, anyone can learn to play any kind of music on any guitar.
Music is extremely fulfilling for me, because I’m always pushing myself to practice old skills, create beautiful sounds, and learn something new. Especially during COVID-19, picking up the guitar has made my days brighter, and maybe this quarantine activity can do the same for you.
Here are some factors in guitars that could push you toward a specific guitar, in no particular order of importance.
- The amount of money you spend on a guitar does not always correlate with quality. As prices climb higher, the differences and benefits start to get less obvious. Online marketplaces sell a variety of acoustic and electric guitar sets for $100 to $400 that include everything you need — a strap, strings, tuner, guitar stand, and an amp, if it’s electric. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good set up and make all the music you want.
- Body size and weight
- Body Size: Everyone has different preferences for how big or small they want their guitar to feel against their body. Ed Sheeran likes to play Martin’s Little Martin guitars, which are smaller travel-sized acoustics. Traditional sized acoustic guitars still vary in size. Dreadnought guitars have a larger body, which allows them to be louder and have more low sound in comparison to concert sized guitars, which are slightly smaller and thinner, giving a more balanced and slightly quieter sound.
- Weight: Some guitars are heavier than others, and if you intend on standing to play, checking its weight can help you and your shoulders choose a guitar. Acoustics are larger and lighter than electrics. Electric guitars on average weigh eight pounds while acoustic guitars typically weigh between 2.5 to 6 pounds. Electrics are considered heavy when they weigh any more than nine pounds.
- Scale length
- The scale length of the guitar measures the distance between the nut and bridge. Guitar scale and neck length affect fret spacing and string tension. If your arms are on the longer or shorter side, make sure to check the length of the guitar scale and fret sizes so you can play chords comfortably, although most guitars will fit most people. In addition to fret spacing, longer scale guitars need more tension in order to tune the strings, whereas shorter scale guitars tend to need less tension to be brought up to pitch. If it’s hard to fret at first because of string tension, you can use a lighter gauge, or thinner guitar strings.
- Guitar pickups are electrical transducers that sit below the strings and strumming area on a guitar, converting string vibrations within a magnetic field into electrical signals that are amplified through speakers. The pickups have magnets, and the sound changes depending on how wire is coiled around them. Even though pickups can vary to suit certain genres, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from playing anything you want on your guitar, so whatever pickups you have, they should be able to handle whatever lick you throw at it.
- Single coil pickups have one set of coils and can give a clean, versatile sound that is used in many music genres like pop, surf rock, and country. An issue people encounter with single coil pickups, though, is that they tend to give off a humming noise at high volumes, but this can be combated with copper shielding of the pickup cavity.
- Humbuckers have two coils, which cancels out the hum and gives a warmer sound than single coils. Humbuckers also take distortion and gain better, which may impact your buying decisions if you like heavy rock and metal.
- P90s fall in between because they are single coil pickups wound in a way that provides the highs and mids of a single coil and a thick low end of a humbucker.
I hope you enjoyed reading about guitars and that some of this information makes the process of buying a guitar online a little less intimidating.