California used guitar center

Buying Your First Guitar

If you are buying a used electric guitar for the first time in California  – from a stranger, a music store or wherever, — prepare yourself ahead of time with the following tips and decrease the chances you walk away with a bad purchase.

As you read the tips below, keep in mind that some problems like intonation or slight bowing occur in virtually every guitar at some point. Fortunately getting an electric guitar serviced is usually under $50 and includes minor adjustments to the neck, frets, action, and intonation if needed. As a rule of thumb, any time you buy a used electric guitar, it’s a good idea to have it serviced, whether you get it from a store or a stranger.

That said, the tips.

1. Check the guitar for cracks, especially along the neck and the area between the neck and the head, which is the weakest spot on an electric guitar. Cracks in the finish are cosmetic and aside from their unsightliness, not a big concern. Structural cracks could result in the neck completely breaking. Finish cracks can run in any direction, but structural cracks tend to follow the grain of the wood and may fissure.

Scratches, dents and wear to the finish are normal: the guitar is used after all. Just take a look at the finish on Bruce Springsteen’s Fender Telecaster or Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Fender Stratocaster. Or should I say what finish? Unless such flaws bother you aesthetically, they don’t pose a problem.

2. Sight check the guitar’s neck to make sure it isn’t warped or bowed. The quickest way to do this is to hold the guitar at eye-level, once with the guitar’s body closest to you and again with the neck head closest to you, and look down either side of the neck. It should be straight. If the guitar neck is slightly bowed or warped, adjusting the truss rod should fix the problem and absent any other problems, isn’t a major concern. In fact, it’s a common problem. If the warping or bowing is pronounced and has been that way for some time, the neck may need to be replaced.

The most obvious advantage the guitar has over other instruments is its portability. Unlike a baby grand piano, you can easily pack your guitar around on your shoulder in a carrying case. I bought my first guitar when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a Stella, purchased for twenty-nine dollars from George Porcella, the proprietor of Porcella's Music Store in Gilroy, California. Since then, I have owned, sold, traded, pawned or lost a dozen or so more.

My love for the guitar soared in 1978 when I first heard world-renown classical guitar master Andres Segovia's The Intimate Guitar album. I listened to it on the recommendation of a teacher I had just begun taking classical lessons from in Santa Cruz. Capitalizing on the guitar's ability to produce both melodic and harmonic sound, Segovia was able to make his guitar sound like two separate instruments. In addition to being the world's most recognized classical performer, Segovia did much throughout his life to increase the popularity of his beloved instrument. He produced instruction books and materials, transcribed classical music to fit the guitar and held concerts, seminars and workshops throughout the world.

Prior to that time I began studying classical guitar, I had been able to play folk and country songs in the style of Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson using three simple chords. My newly learned music theory, coupled with a more developed ear, opened up a new world of learning and enjoyment for me. The right and left hand techniques used in guitar playing gave my body a better sense of balance and integration than playing a wind or brass instrument.

The guitar offers players the opportunity to experiment with techniques and create different styles and picking patterns, from Flamingo to Travis picking. Likewise, you can change and invent new musical styles by changing the type or thickness of your strings. You can also change guitar types from a classical nylon string, to a steel string acoustic. Electric pick-ups as well as electric guitars with amps and foot pedal attachments allow the player to increase volume and add special sound effects. Guitars can be played with a pick or with a variety of finger-pickings styles.

Still, the guitar has other has advantages too. Unlike most brass and wind instruments, you can play complex four, five and six note chords on a guitar. Although the use of a capo is frowned on by classical players, its use in other styles gives players the unique ability to quickly change keys to adjust to a singers vocal range or preferences.

This versatile instrument is also one of the few you hold over your heart. To the serious player like myself, this not only enhances the tone you produce from the strings, but makes your playing one with your voice.

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