To the untrained ear of most moms and dads, all guitars often look the same. After all, they’re made of wood, they have six strings; how different could two guitars be? The answer: very. Type of wood, internal bracing, quality of manufacturing, how pickups are made for electronics – each aspect of the guitar matters.
I worked with a band yesterday preparing for the Fall Show. Both guitarists were playing really nice electric, single coil pickup guitars. The problem? A single coil pick up won’t make the right sound to properly re-create the original song. That song needed humbuckers to work. The problem wasn’t the guitar – both guitars were nice guitars. The problem was the guitar wasn’t the right kind of gear for that song. For sports parents, it’s like bringing a $1,000 tennis racket to a golf tournament. It’s a great piece of gear but isn’t right for that sport.
So how do you navigate the complicated world of purchasing a guitar? Start by forging a relationship with a music store before you decide to purchase. Create a relationship with a sales staff member – build one that is based in trust and a long term connection. That sales team will want you to be happy and will have your best interest in mind, not just the short term sale. (Often brand X will offer an incentive to employees to sell their guitar, a $50 bonus perhaps. If you don’t have a relationship with the store, they may try to sell you a guitar just because they get that bonus – not because it’s the best guitar for you.)
And, please, don’t buy online. Your online guitar has never seen a technician. It left China (or Indonesia or Mexico or the moon), sat on a ship for a while, arrived in a warehouse, and then arrived at your door. No one has touched it in months. That means the heat and cold have been warping the wood for months. It might not be intonated right. Or some of the electronics have rattled loose in transit. Or the bridge might be pulling up. Purchase from a real, live person who takes the time to open up the box, check the guitar over, and make adjustments where necessary.