At this time of year lots of people are buying Christmas presents. If you’re thinking of buying a guitar as a surprise present for someone special then DON’T. Instead take them on a surprise shopping trip or buy them a gift voucher for a local guitar store. Guitar players will know and feel what’s right, and even if the recipient is a complete beginner they should have a say before any purchase is made.
- Style over substance? It is worth spending lots of money on a guitar that looks a certain way when you can probably buy something that looks less assuming but sounds better?
- Wood. You may find a maple neck easier to move up and down on a fretwood than rosewood. This preference depends on your playing style.
- Pickup configuration. A strat style guitar with regular pickups is more suited to blues, jazz and rock, whereas something like a Les Paul or SG with humbucker pickups is more suited to heavier styles of music.
- SCREECH! If you want to sound like Steve Vai, Van Halen, or White Snake then you’ll need a guitar like an Ibanez with a floating tremolo to make the guitar screech.
- Weight. If you’re going to be standing playing your guitar for hours on end with it hanging around your neck.
- Secondhand guitars. You can make them feel new by getting the guitar setup, buying a fretboard cleaner, and putting on a fresh set of strings.
- Haggling You’re already spending a lot of money on a new guitar, see if you can get good accessories like cables, a case, or a guitar strap thrown in or heavily discounted.
The most important thing
Does the guitar feel right to you? Before you go to a guitar shop do your research about different makes and designs. Avoid the temptation to just order online – you need to play one first, in the same way that you wouldn’t buy a car before test driving the same model. When you get to the store pick up a guitar that looks right and play a variety of things on it. Test it out on a rig that’s similar to the one you have at home. Even if it feels perfect make sure you then try at least four other guitars in the shop to compare it with, including a type you might not have considered. You need to try a range of guitars before making your decision.