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How to choose the best guitar for you

Updated on February 12, 2015

So many choices...which guitar is the right one?

Most guitarists these days have trouble choosing a guitar because there are so many to choose from.It's often referred to as option anxiety.
Well, take heart axe-slingers. It's easier to pick one than you think.

First, go to a store that carries a lot of respected names like Martin, Fender, Gibson, Guild, Taylor, Washburn, etc.

Then narrow down what you are looking for in your mind- are you looking for an acoustic guitar or electric? Each guitar has it's own set of technical (and subjective) construction criteria.

For instance, acoustic guitars come with and without pickups-decide which one you need. If you are performing in public venues like clubs, concert halls and coffee houses, I recommend a pickup equipped guitar to guaranty that you are heard clearly.

Also, acoustics come in laminate and all solid wood varieties (solid wood is usually more expensive but is considered the superior sounding construction method)...decide which is most important- having a solid wood guitar that will steadily improve with age, or get a laminate that sounds good now and save money-just realize it will basically sound the same 20 years from now, whereas a solid wood will "open up" or get better sounding as the wood ages.

Also, realize wood choice does affect the tone. Mahogany and Rosewood are the usual woods used for acoustics, but Sapele is also used frequently, and some use maple or cherry. Each have their own acoustic qualities, so compare a few to hear the differences. You may be quite surprized at the differences.

If looking for an electric, there are tons to choose from. Starting with the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Pauls. There are dozens of models of strats. The most common are the American Standard and the Mexican strats. The American Standard is the latest upgrade of the traditional strat with the newest technology. The Mexican versions are made more like the traditional strats of the 50's & 60's. The sound quality may or may not be to your liking, depending on the style of music you prefer. Also, Fender makes a model called the Telecaster which has an American & Mexican counterpart like the strats, and for the same reasons. The Gibson Les Pauls and ES-335's are constructed with different woods and electronics, and tend to be darker and warmer sounding than the Fenders. Both Fender guitars tend to be a little brighter than comparable Gibson guitars which are more focused in the lower mid-range than Fender guitars. However, there are lots of variations in both Gibson and Fender guitars, so you should try a few out before deciding on one. You may be surprised that some of their lesser known models- like the Fender Jaguar or Mustang, or the Gibson SG or Firebird-may just have more of what you like.

Of course, there are other well known brands-and some lesser known brands- that are quite good like Gretch, Eastwood, Ibanez, Blueridge, Yamaha, Schecter, B.C. Rich, ESP, etc. and you should always keep an open mind/ear for these brands, some of which offer a lot of bang for the buck-in fact some of their models are right up there in popularity with the Fenders & Gibsons.

If you have the time to try out some lesser known brands and are considering one for your collection, you can certainly get a decent axe for a lot less these days than say even 10 or 15 years ago. It's well worth it. They may not sound like a Fender or Gibson but you may just discover a sound or tone that's more YOU...and that's a good thing!

One thing to keep in mind-if a product says "as good as a.. (your favorite brand name here)" or "sounds better than a ...(same here)" than think for a second- why buy something that sounds or looks like what you really want? The only reason not to buy the big name version of that guitar is because it's out of your range financially.
Otherwise, to buy a knock off or similar guitar just to save a few dollars can be more expensive in the long run-especially if you end up eventually trading the lower priced guitar towards the guitar you should have bought the first time around!

Go with a brand name that's respected-or at least somewhat known- when possible. Try the guitar when possible. If you're like me, the right guitar will grab you right away- usually I need about 30 seconds with a guitar and I know it's going to be mine. If it doesn't grab me within a minute, I usually don't buy it.

If you have to sleep on it, don't bother- keep looking. Eventually the right one will grab you and MAKE you buy it. Really, it's worth the quest to keep looking- the right ones are the ONLY ones you want to keep anyway, so why settle for one that you know won't be staying?


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