The internet has led to changes that would have been impossible to understand just a decade ago. Buying a guitar in Altadena without hearing it is one such change. But keep a few things in mind when you do it and it can be a convenient way to score a good instrument at a good price.
There’s really two kinds of people who should be buying their guitars in Altadena, experts or really serious guitar players and beginners. The first group knows exactly what kind of guitar they want, and at that level of price and quality they can be assured that that particular guitar will be terrific. Beginners don’t really care as much, so long as it has six strings and can play. The truth is each guitar is unique as its made out of a particular sheet of wood that experiences conditions unlike any of its fellow models at the factory. Each sheet is alive, and guitars can age with grace or misery depending on how they’re maintained. This needs to be kept in mind when looking at a store in Altadena, but even still it’s possible to find great sale.
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.
Buying Your First Guitar
As most guitar players would agree, finding the perfect tone for the electric guitar that they play can seem like a never ending process. Great sounds often come from a mixture of factors such as the purposeful engineering, accidental combination and a moment of inspiration just to name a few. Some of the most famous guitar players such as Brian Seltzer, Eric Clapton and others have a very distinctive sound that you can immediately hear and recognize. That didn't happen overnight though. Most likely it was a sound that they worked on for hours, days, and even years to get just right. It takes a combination of equipment setup and their guitar that really shapes what it is actually going to sound like.
The fact of the matter is that great tones come from great guitars. When you have a high quality guitar you are going to get a good sound more often then you will when you have an inexpensive badly made guitar. Even if you have a less desirable guitar, if you treat it right and "trust" the guitar you are holding then you can relax a little more and settle into the playing rather than letting the guitar lead so to speak. This will produce a better tone as well. You can't necessarily blame bad playing on your guitar, but you can certainly credit a good sound to the guitar you are using.
That brings us to the guitar setup. This can have a significant effect on how a guitar sounds and how well it plays. There are several things that can cause a guitar to sound poor. This includes bad fretting which can upset the guitar's action and cause intonation problems. If you have string nuts that are improperly set up you can cause dull notes and intonation problems as well. To expect the best from your guitar you need to have it set up properly and the best way to do this is to take it to a professional guitar tech that knows exactly what they are doing.
The most significant way to change the sound of your guitar is to change your pickup. There are hundreds of pickups to choose from, with new versions coming out all of the time. It is difficult at first to choose between all of them, but talking to people who have similar taste in music as you do may help. It helps to know what kind of guitar sound you want to have. Then take the time to listen to several pickup manufacturers that offer sound files that you can listen to online. You can hear the pickups there or you can try them out with different guitars at your local guitar store. Either way, have some patience and go through every single one of them if you have to in order to find the perfect sound for you.
Finding the perfect tone and sound for your electric guitar may not happen right away but by spending the time researching and trying out various guitars, you are taking a step in the right direction.
The internet has led to changes that would have been impossible to understand just a decade ago. Buying a musical instrument without hearing it is one such change. But keep a few things in mind when you do it and it can be a convenient way to score a good instrument at a good price.
There's really two kinds of people who should be buying their guitars online, experts or really serious guitar players and beginners. The first group knows exactly what kind of guitar they want, and at that level of price and quality they can be assured that that particular guitar will be terrific. Beginners don't really care as much, so long as it has six strings and can play. The truth is each guitar is unique as its made out of a particular sheet of wood that experiences conditions unlike any of its fellow models at the factory. Each sheet is alive, and guitars can age with grace or misery depending on how they're maintained. This needs to be kept in mind when looking online, but even still it's possible to buy.
Let's say you're looking for a vintage guitar. You know what an old Gibson ES125 will sound and play like because presumably you've played one before or you have a particular interest in that guitar. There is variety in each instrument, this truth can't be said nor emphasized enough, but you can count on quality guitar makers to make reliably good instruments. Most sellers are very upfront and compile a list of the defects, repairs, problems with the instrument. Typically they'll have close up shots of the damaged parts. This will convince you they're being pretty honest. It'd take a cynic to believe that they're listing the minor defects so to appear honest only so they can get away with a big, big problem. Check the seller's history on eBay. Many reputable music shops sell on eBay too, so if you can find out where they're located and learn more about their business this should help.
If you are a beginner looking for your first guitar the internet is useful too. Perhaps you want the bottom of the line guitar to experiment on to see if you might actually seriously take it up. Or maybe you want to find a good guitar at bargain prices. In this case, look for a company you trust and a guitar model you've played before or you know is really decent. There's no shortage of companies: Norman, Simon and Patrick, Art and Lutherie, Seagull. You don't want to buy a no-name guitar nobody's ever heard of without playing it, but the internet is full of people moving and desperate to get rid of what they can for a penny or people who don't know the value of what they have, and tapping into that is a good idea. Look to see if there's a way you can get your money back or some type of assurance that you'll be fully satisfied with your purchase.