What type of guitar should I buy

7 tips to help you recognize a good guitar

Guitar buying tips for beginners and advanced players

Avoid mistakes when buying a guitar

(Image: © shutterstock premier - Lukiyanova Natalia frenta)

What do I have to consider when buying a guitar? How do I get the best possible instrument for my money? Questions that especially concern beginners when it comes to their first guitar. But even advanced players may not know all the criteria that are important when making a purchase, because personal taste and playful profile play important roles in the overall impression of the instrument.

Nevertheless, there are a few points that you should first check with a guitar in order to get a first impression of the quality it offers. In the following article we have listed seven features for you that should help you to be on the safe side when buying your guitar.

Which guitar should I buy? Information on this is available from our sales advisors:

1) Verification of manufacturing defects

Before you get an impression of the sound and playability of an instrument, it is worthwhile to first look at the exterior of the selected model and check for possible errors. This includes inadequately glued attachments such as the bridge on acoustic guitars. But the body-neck transition should also be examined in detail. Here it should be ensured that screwed necks sit in the neck pocket without play and that glued necks are connected cleanly and perfectly aligned.

The surface texture gives a first impression of how conscientiously the instrument has been processed. If there are any imperfections in the paintwork or in the general condition of the wood, which may even be a hindrance when playing, it is advisable to look around for another instrument. Small optical defects in the paintwork, on the other hand, do not necessarily have to be a knockout criterion for inexpensive instruments, provided that the instrument makes a good impression in the other points, which we will examine in more detail in a moment.

But if the instrument has a high price, there should be no paintwork defects.

2) The factory setting

A good factory setting is without question important for a positive impression. If this is not the case, some tonal and playful potential may be lost. Of course, you can still get a lot out of a guitar with a subsequent setup. Nevertheless, a manufacturer who stands for good quality should deliver their instruments ready to play.

You can find out how to get the perfect string position and the right tuning in our workshop:

3) The nature of the frets

This fact can actually be assigned to the first two points. Nevertheless, I would like to point out again separately that badly processed frets unfortunately come under your fingers again and again with new guitars. For example, if the frets are not polished properly at the end, this has a negative effect on the feel of the game. The fret edges should also be neatly rounded and the frets must also have a uniform height, otherwise a really clean setup of the string position is not possible.

For a good feel and a clean sound, the frets must have a uniform height and should be neatly rounded at the edges.

4) intonation

There are several points to consider when it comes to intonation. You can easily check for yourself whether the instrument is octave-pure. To do this, compare the harmonics on the 12th fret of each string with the fingered note at the same point. If there are deviations here, the guitar is not properly adjusted. This can usually be made up for, but should be the case with a manufacturer who demands quality ex works. You should completely refrain from buying if the frets are not placed completely neatly on the fingerboard. In this admittedly rare case, the so-called bundle purity is not guaranteed and subsequent correction is very time-consuming. Sometimes, by the way, inferior or played strings can cause intonation problems. If you like the instrument itself, it is worth trying again with a new set of strings, especially if you are buying a used instrument.

You can find lots of practical tips on service topics such as setting the octave purity here:

5) Wood used

How a guitar sounds and what potential it also has in its ongoing tonal development depends largely on the choice of wood.

In general, one can say that the body of an acoustic guitar should be equipped with a solid top, as this is very important for the vibration properties. All the better if the instrument is made entirely of solid wood. This feature is unlikely to be found in inexpensive guitars. For example, whether you prefer spruce or cedar wood depends on your personal taste. The only thing that helps here is trial and error.

In the case of semi-acoustic models in the electric guitar sector, completely laminated bodies are not uncommon, even in higher price ranges. If you are looking for an electric guitar in solid body construction, some types of wood have established themselves in this version, depending on the model. Alder or ash are used for instruments that are expected to have a lively sound and that tend towards the classics from Fender. The Gibson Les Paul, which is very popular in the rock guitar landscape, is mostly made of mahogany. Maple or mahogany necks and rosewood fingerboards are also classic and proven combinations. So if you meet these materials, this is a first indication that you are on the right track in terms of sound technology. Nevertheless, there are a lot of deviations or crossings here too, which can also sound very good.

With acoustic guitars, a solid top is essential for good vibration behavior.

6) vibration properties

Now at the latest you have to prick up your ears. How does the instrument react to fading notes or chords? Do you have the feeling that the sound of all strings is reproduced cleanly and evenly? Does the instrument react sensitively to dynamic playing styles? If this is not the case, even the best setting will not help. Here, too, you should look for another guitar.

The assessment of these points is the hardest to answer for a beginner without a question. Here it helps to consult an experienced player if necessary. In conclusion, we will come back to this point.

7) Hardware used

The hardware of a guitar should of course also be checked carefully. This includes the pickups and electronics, string holders and bridge, the saddle and of course the tuning mechanisms. So check with electric guitars whether all potentiometers work properly and without background noise and also check whether the pickups are properly shielded. Classic single coil pickups are an exception here and are typically more susceptible to interference. In addition, piezo pickup systems should ideally not have any noise or at least only have a very low level of noise development. If the strings have been stretched beforehand and still often get out of tune, this may be due to the machine heads or the saddle or the bridge. These problems should also not arise with a good quality guitar.

The hardware of an instrument should also ...

Last but not least, I would like to point out that it can't hurt to have read up on the following topics in advance:

  • Which type of guitar best suits my ideas?
  • Which manufacturers are considered to be renowned within the budget that is available to me

In addition to customer reviews on the Internet, there are fortunately a lot of reviews on these topics on our site, which were made by experienced musicians and provide information about the advantages and disadvantages of the respective instrument.

As already mentioned in the article, the sound assessment and also the assessment of the playability in detail without question require a certain basic experience.

Despite the tips mentioned here, it is highly recommended for beginners to take their own teacher or an advanced player from their circle of friends with them on the shopping tour.

I wish you all the best in your search for your instrument!