The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Guitar

We were recently asked to contribute to a guide for buying your first guitar. If you are in the market to buy a guitar and would like to learn a little bit about what to look for, here are some tips:


Broadly, there are 2 kinds of pickups that you will find in electric guitars, Single Coil and Humbucker. Some guitars will have just one or the other, and then there are guitars that will use a combination of both. The first electric guitars all used single coil pickups whose sound is often described as bright, clear and transparent. Single coil pickups lend themselves well to country, rock and pop styles.

Double coil humbucking pickups were developed as a way to eliminate the slight hum that can be produced by single coil pickups. Hence the name ‘humbucker’. These pickups produce a thicker, meatier sound and are most commonly associated with hard rock and blues style playing.

A lot of modern guitars will feature a combination of single coil and humbucker pickups which can be switched together to produce a wider variety of tones.

When purchasing a new guitar it’s important to play through an amplifier to hear the different tones specific to that guitar, you can then judge if this sound suits your style of playing.


A Guitars neck profile is a very important but is an often overlooked area of consideration when buying a new guitar, especially for beginners. Neck profiles are often described by letters such as “C”, “U” or “V” in shape, this is in reference to the shape of the wood at the back of the neck. Modern manufacturers will often abandon this letter analogy and describe the guitar neck as being wide or narrow and use terms such as thick or thin.

No matter how it’s described, the neck profile has a major effect on how your hand fits the neck and how easily you can move from one fret to another. A lot of blues players prefer a fatter “C” profile neck as the chunky feel allows for stronger string bends whereas metal players often prefer a wide flat neck which facilitates fast movement up and down the neck.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to neck profile, it’s simply a matter of trying as many different types as you can and finding one that fits you comfortably. You should be able to easily move from one chord shape to another and single note runs should feel smooth at all positions along the neck.


As they say, ‘The Devil is in the detail’. Particularly when purchasing an instrument at lower price points, it’s important to look for small imperfections that could have a big impact on how the guitar performs long term.

Pay particular attention to how the frets are finished, are they smooth along the edge of the neck? Poorly finished frets can have sharp or rough ends, also check that frets are seated and dressed correctly by playing up and down the neck of the guitar; frets that are not seated or dressed correctly can cause strings to buzz. A good value budget guitar should still have great finishes.


It’s always a good idea when purchasing a new guitar to keep in mind the intended use and ability of the player when setting your budget. Experienced players who are regularly playing live in front of an audience will most likely be looking for a more expensive instrument, where every effort has been made in the design and construction to produce a superior sound. For these players, the sound of the guitar as well as its durability will be the most important factors.

Beginner guitarists may wish to start with a cheaper instrument that still has all the features that they require but, when amplified, may not produce a sound that is as rich and dynamic as their more expensive counterparts.

When thinking of budget you should also factor in the accessories that most guitar players will need, the most important of these being. . .
• Guitar Strap
• Tuner
• Guitar Picks
• Amplifier and Cable


For more hints and tips, you can read the whole article here.

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