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Things to look for when buying a guitar

Updated on February 12, 2012

Most important things to look at when you are buying a guitar

We all want a guitar that looks great to us. But when you are buying a guitar there is allot more to look for in the guitar you are buying then just how it looks. Sadly enough allot of sales people will try to make a sale on a guitar just because the way it looks. DON'T BUT IT JUST YET! Not only because of it looks? Because if you know what to look for they will see that you know what you are talking about. They will start to make you better deals on guitars or even other equipment for that matter. This could save you some money$$$

There are a few things to look for when buying that guitar.

1. How does it play? Meaning is the action of the guitar right for you? Standard or wide fret neck as well as action I will get into below.

2. Is the fretboard straight. Look down the side of the neck at the string to make sure you see no warps or that the strings kind run off to one side or the other. They should look all in line perfectly from side to side with perfect spacing!

3. Does it stay in tune. If a guitar does not stay in tune longer then three minutes it worthless haha! Actually it should stay in tune longer then three minutes even. But you get the point.
4. How is the intonation? This is very important because if you are playing several chord shapes up and down the neck and it starts sounding out of tune on certain ones as you move up and down the neck or using different chords. Then this guitar needs work even after you buy it. (The guitar if new may need what is a called a "set up", and that should be free! as in (6))

5. Play this guitar for awhile before purchasing it. Play a few songs on it, or if you are a beginner? Have them play a few on it to make sure it sounds right to you!

6. If it does sound out of tune up and down the neck you will want them to do a full setup on that guitar before you ever decide to buy it to make sure the intonation is set right and it is playing great! if they do not want to do this for you? Then I would not trust them to begin with to make any purchases in that store.

7. After they set it up, play it again for while to make sure it is better. if not? Then more then likely that guitar is flawed and not worth buying.

8. Also look at string height from the neck. You don't want the string to be so high off the neck they are hard to push down. It should feel like butter on an electric guitar and even on most acoustics now and days that are decent.

NOTE: Acoustic is always a little harder the electric guitars.

9. Look around the neck area (and the back of the headstock) where the neck meets the wood of the body of the guitar. This is a mistake many people do not look for. Even in new guitars this can happen. If there are any hairline cracks in the paint there is more then likely a crack in the body and this can be very bad!

DO NOT BUY THIS GUITAR! Used guitars are a chance you take. So if you purchase on ebay? You had better ask them in a letter if there are ANY flaws in this guitar or cracks in the body etc.. And keep that email of his response! This is the only way you will beat him to get you're money back if there is! been there and done it before myself. Twice!

10. Check all the knobs on the guitar if it is electric by turning them up and down and listening for crinkling sounds or sounds of noise while doing it. If there is, then these pots need changed before you even buy it. This is a minor thing really because they do go bad over time with dust getting in them. They are not too expensive depending on what type you want to replace them with that is? There are some more expensive types.

11. Check the selector switch for the same exact thing as in 10. Any noise switching back and forth between pickups and it may need to be replaced.

12. Hit EVERY single note on the neck! If there is any buzzing on the frets there could be a few problems with it. 1. There could be fret wearing of the little metal bars you see going across then neck. Yes they wear down over time becoming flat spots depending on how hard the previous owner of the guitar was on his guitar. 2. The strings could be set too low if this is a new guitar and has never been setup before. Make sure you find out the true reason why! Fret work is more then what the guitar is worth in most cases. Sometimes it cheaper to get another guitar or buy a new neck!

13. If this guitar has a tremolo system on it there are even more things to look at when purchasing it.

A. What kind of tremolo system does it have in it? A cheap tremolo system will wear out faster then other better brands and it will have more noise in it when diving and pulling up on the bar. And sometimes they even have a cheap feel to them. Most of the time chrome types sound like crap to me and wear faster then the black or nickel finished ones.

B. How high does it set the strings off the neck and can it be adjusted? I have seen some that cannot be adjusted down any further and the string sit so high up off the neck it pathetic! This means this guitar either has the wrong tremolo system on it or the guitar was built wrong to begin with. Sometimes this can be fixed by installing a lower level tremolo system in it like mine that I have in my Ibanez. (Make sure you have a very experienced guitar Lutheran work on the guitar if work needs to be done). SOmeone who does not really know what they are doing can ruin it!

C. Checking the level of the tremolo. It should be very level with the body of the guitar nt resting back or forwards from the body. By pulling up on the tremolo bar and releasing it, then check to see if the guitar is still in tune. Then push down by diving the tremolo bar. The check again if it is still in tune. If it is not and you can hear a difference in the chord you were just playing is no longer in tune? Then there is something wrong with this tremolo system. The springs in it could be worn out, or it is not level the way it should be would be the first things to consider is wrong with it. It could even be more technical then that.


DO NOT let them tell you that we can put a stabilizer inside the tremolo system to stop this! This will stop you from being able to use the bar all together! If you cannot use it what is the sense in buying it? You really have to pay attention because there are allot of them work on a commission and they are only trying to make a fast buck.

D. Check the Tremolo Bar itself! If there is slack after it pops in or screws in then it could be worn out in the threads of in the shaft it pops into. Sometimes stores will get a used guitar in that had no tremolo bar with it and they have just popped in any old bar the could find. You should still check the threading on the bar and down in the shaft it screws or pops into. If they cannot fix this problem to where it fits tight and smooth with no wiggling in it, don't buy it! Because when you are hooked to a amplifier or recording, you will hear that wiggling in you're playing and its annoying as hell!

E. Inspect all grooves on the tremolo system (Where the strings run through) If the are worn badly they could become a problem of having strings break all the time. ALL of them should also be the same brand as the tremolo system that is in it. Yes I have seen where they have used another one from another tremolo system to replace a bad one ans it never works just right. Also, It looks like crap as well having say a gold one and the rest of the parts are black?

F. Check ALL the Allen Wrench Holes for being stripped out and to make sure everything is snug. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN, Its better to just check to see if they are lose if you do not know you're own strength.

G. Look to see if anything looks like it is from another tremolo system as I said above in E. This means something had worn out and and its all going to wear out faster then normal. Make them replace the whole thing or give you enough money off to have it fixed yourself. If they do not? Don't buy it!

H. Check the grooves to see if they look worn out more then normal on the pegs that the tremolo system floats on. These are the pegs that screw down into the body of the guitar. If they are grooved all the way arounf the peg, they may not last long. Its not expensive to replace, but you do need to have the guitar re set back up they way it was when it came stock.

14. Check the tuning keys in the back the make sure the are not lose. If they are play it awhile to make sure they do not loosen up again? This can become a problem of keeping the guitar in tune.

These are the basic things you need to look at when buying a guitar. If there is anything else I can think of I will put them in here as updates. So check back here and even copy this article to take with you when buying a guitar as a check list. Just remember to use many chords on the neck up and down all the frets.

One last thing for now: VINTAGE does NOT always mean better! Sometime vintage can be a pile of trash!!! The whole guitar might be old and that is exactly what you are getting, an old worn out pile of garbage! If it has not been properly restored and working correctly? Its not worth the money they are asking for it...

In the meanwhile you can find out by going to my 3rd channel XLessons on You Tube. I have a video there called Up Close & Personal. This will tell you what to look for when buying a guitar a little better if you are not sure of what I am saying here. Oh you only thought I had two channels? yes I have 3! And a website called DreidMusicalX as you can see in my logo above. Check it out and join. Its fun and its free! Good luck with buying the guitar you alsways wanted.

See you all soon! If you have any questions just ask.

David William Reid


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    • profile image

      vishal sharma 

      6 years ago

      i am a bigner and want a simple guitar can anyone plz guide me

    • DreidMusicalX profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Yantis Texas

      Sorry I was gone for a while and missed XMas. But remember you also get pretty much what you pay for. Learning on a bad guitar can make it so he never really learns the best he could on a better one. There are cheaper guitars even in name brands like Ibanez, Jackson, ESP, Fender (I personally do not like because they are made cheap to me and never had good luck with them, or even a Gibson Epiphone Les Pauls that are the cheaper models. Even ESP has a cheaper model called LTD. Also find out what type of music he wants to learn? I can tell you this, a guitar in the price range of $50 - $299 is going to be a piece of garbage. $300 - $600 is going to be pretty good guitars as long as you follow the guidelines I wrote above. Anything above? You are going to have pretty much pro equipment. But even then? Look for flaws! Vintage does not always mean better!

    • DreidMusicalX profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Yantis Texas

      Josh, that is not just for used guitars my friend. Many times even new guitars are not built correctly or need setting up correctly with intonation. I have even seen some new guitars where the necks where bent badly. So when buying a guitar new or used look for these things.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hey man, thanks for the informative post about buying used guitars.

    • profile image

      Lise Raev 

      6 years ago

      My son wants an electric guitar and related equipment for Christmas. He's a beginner, so he really doesn't need anything expensive, just something decent and functional. Does anyone know where I can find the best cheap music equipment?


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