Top 10 Things to Consider
When Buying an Electric Guitar
Whether you're inspired to learn by one of the guitar greats or by Guitar Hero, there's a lot to know before buying an electric guitar. We've provided the most important facts here to give you a base for making an informed purchase.
1. Body Style
Guitars have their own styles and so do you. Choose a guitar that is right for the kind of music you want to play. Solid-body electric guitars are the most common, come in the most varied styles and have no acoustic restrictions. Semi-hollow (or semi-solid) guitars have a rounder, darker sound. They have solid wood centers (to minimize feedback) with large chambers on either side and sound holes above them. Hollow-body guitars, a choice for most jazz guitarists, are large enough to be played acoustically without an amp, but produce feedback with too much amplification.
Most electric guitars have 22 frets. If you would like to play a higher octave, get one with 24 frets. A guitar with smooth frets will allow you to do more with the guitar and make playing it easier and more enjoyable.
If you already have a favorite amp, use a similar one when testing electric guitars, as it will sound different with each type of amp. All guitars sound fantastic on a top-of-the-line amp, but you need one that sounds best with the amp you'll be playing with.
Even with electric guitars, wood type influences the tone. Hard woods such as alder, ash, mahogany, maple, rosewood and basswood are the most common. They are often used in combination with one another to create unique tones.
The best necks are tight, rigid and straight to ensure the action remains consistent. Bolt-on necks are most common for electric guitars, and they can be repaired more easily than set (or glued) necks. While set necks are often more expensive to buy and repair, their solid attachment ensures stability. Within the neck is a truss rod which is a metal bar used to reinforce the neck. Necks come in various shapes, such as C-shaped, thin, wide-thin, etc., and it's important you choose one that's a comfortable fit for your hand.
6. Scale Length
Most guitars have one of two scale lengths: 25-1/2" (provides a high tension and more trebly sound) and 24-3/4" (the lower string tension is slightly easier to play and provides a less trebly sound).
A tremolo and a stoptail are the two main types of bridges for electric guitars. Also called a whammy bar, a tremolo bridge lets you bend all the strings at once. It's good for "metal" styles of play but can throw strings out of tune. A stoptail bridge is more stable for tune because it's fixed onto the body of the guitar. Many players prefer the stoptail feeling as it provides more sustain.
The action is the physical distance between the string and the frets. The greater the distance, the more difficult it is to hold the string to the fret and produce a clean note. However, if the action is too low, it may result in "buzzing" frets when the string is plucked. It's best to ensure the strings are easy enough to push down without being too low.
Research the manufacturers of the guitars you're interested in, and educate yourself on the details of the various models so you can make an informed choice. Check out review sites, read about the pros and cons, and consider others' opinions. Research is important, especially when you're buying online.
10. Cost and Quality
Buy the highest-quality instrument you can afford, but remember that quality can be found at different price points. If you can't afford the guitar that feels and sounds best to you, consider saving longer to get one you can use for years. Also remember that you can trade up as your play improves, and that a quality guitar will have higher resale value.