The internet has led to changes that would have been impossible to understand just a decade ago. Buying a guitar in Chico 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 Chico, 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 Chico, but even still it’s possible to find great sale.
There is something about pawn shops. In fact, some people recorded whole albums about them. As a man, I think it's the smell. Seriously. Next time you walk past a pawn shop, walk in and take a big huge sniff. It's the smell of a potential bargain, a possible rip off. Pawn shop hunting is the modern day civilized hunting expedition.
On a recent hunting trip I managed to trap a PRS SE Single Cut Soap bar Model. It's an SE, so it's a Korean model. I had a look online and it lists for about 700 pounds, so it's still a bargain.
Basically, I was looking for a cheap guitar case at the pawn brokers because I'm one case short these days, and as I was leaving I saw it in the window. I came home, asked the better half if I can get guitar number seven and she said ok, because she knows how much I want a PRS, and [suck up mode] because she is the most lovely person in the word [/suck up mode].
I went back up to the pawn broker, and asked for a play. It was awful. Absolutely unplayable. He said he had it in there for a while and that it had been reduced because for some reason he can't sell it. All the problem was is that the bass side of the bridge was WAAAYYY to low. I pulled out a ten cent coin, four turns of the bridge bolt, BINGO, perfect playability.
Yeah, the tone control will likely need replacing, but big whoop. It sounds beautiful, even with the dead strings on it. I even got him to throw in a case for $0. Bargain and a half.
How much I hear you all ask.
$499 Australian Dollars. Go do the math! I can't wait to finish paying this off in the next few weeks and going wild. It just seems to be that every guitar I want is falling right in front of me. I few months ago, I was really wanting an S-S-S Strat. Then I get a phone call from someone I had not seen in two years offering me her partner's guitar that he does not play. It was an S-S-S Strat. $100 later and it was mine. Now I get the PRS I've been wanting for years.
So here are my rules for pawn shop guitaring.
1. Never impulse buy
You see something you like, don't just grab it and run (unless you think you can get away without getting caught). Play the guitar for a while. Put it down and come back in the next few days. See if it still feels the same and has the same appeal as that initial reaction. The last thing that you want to do is to buy a guitar that you loved at the time only to take back to the same pawn shop a few weeks later.
2. Have a goal
This follows on from tip number one. Have a goal as to what type of guitar you are after. By that I mean you should a clear definition of what you want to buy. This will help you avoid the impulse buy, and focus your attention so you don't get distracted by all the shiny things in the shop. Going back to my PRS example, I've been looking for a nice guitar with soap bar style pickups now to round out my collection. I wasn't necessarily after a PRS, but that came as a giant bonus. It was the only guitar that had the features I was after, and as such was the only guitar I picked up and tried. Don't by a guitar that you don't need, unless of course it is something exceptional.
3. Play with the knobs and know how a guitar works
The ones on the guitar you dirty fiends. Turn all the knobs, waggle the lead, and flick all the switches. Make sure they all work, and if not, have a rough idea if you can fix it yourself or how much it may cost you. You don't want to spend $100 on a guitar and then have to do $300 worth of work on it. The PRS has a busted tone pot, and I can most likely fix that myself, and at worse, I no someone who will fix it for a few beers. You also need to know a little about the setup of guitars. The PRS again is a great example. The strings were to low, and after looking down the neck I could tell the issue was just the bridge height. Simple things like that can get you a bargain. This guitar had been ignored my who knows how many people before me because they did not know how to correct that simple problem. A little knowledge is your friend here.
4. Try some different amps
This is very important. The person running the pawn shop will always plug you into a small Fender combo and crank the reverb. I honestly think that those small combos were designed by Fender exclusively for the pawn shop industry because they make every guitar sound great. So try the guitar with that crappy 15W no name amp as well. It will give you a much better idea on the true sound quality.
5. Don't pay for the case
From my experience, the person who pawns off any decent guitar will have had it in a case, and the case will likely be out the back of the shop. Ask about the case, ask if it is included in the price, and if not ask why not. 75% you'll get the case for free, 20% heavily discounted, and the remaining 5% involves you walking out of the store. They want the sale just a bad as you want to buy the guitar so let them chase you.
Well, I've got a few weeks until I get my new pawn shop beauty. I'll make sure to let you know how she settles in.
How to Fix Acoustic Guitar Buzz
There are many things to consider when buying your first guitar. However, if you do your research you can come away with an instrument that will be a solid tool for starting your lifelong relationship with guitar music.
One of the first things to consider when buying your first guitar is whether you want an electric or an acoustic guitar. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and a large part of the decision comes down to personal taste and the type of music you want to play. First answer that question. What do the musicians you usually listen to play? Is that what you want to sound like? Pricing is not that much different between the two when you consider just the guitar. However, an electric guitar typically requires many more accessories (more on that later) which can rack up the price.
A second key issue to consider when buying your first guitar is whether to buy online or in a music store. I will say that each guitar is different and individual and this makes buying a guitar online a risky proposition. You have never gotten to touch or hold that guitar and there is no guarantee that you will like it. However, you cannot deny that the internet has become a great resource for comparison shopping and you can find some pretty great deals online. This is my "happy median" advice. Go into a local guitar store and play a bunch of different guitars.
Make a note of the model and brands of the ones that you like. Then go do a search online and see if you can get a better deal. Chances are, you will be able to. You can now order online with some degree of confidence that they guitar that will be sent to you is similar to the one that you played in the store. Sure, I may be talking about minute differences, but chances are you are going to spend a lot of time with this thing. So, you should like it.
Price range is a big factor to consider when buying your first guitar. This is largely a matter of the commitment that you plan to make to the instrument. If you are setting yourself up for a lifelong relationship, then invest and break the bank. You may never buy another guitar again. However, if you are wishy washy about whether you even want to play guitar, then don't sell the farm for the first one. You can get a good "intermediate" quality guitar for a few hundred dollars. I would not recommend going any lower in quality. Some of the guitars that you can get for $40 dollars in Wal*Mart are only appropriate for the most uncommitted individuals or for young children.
Another comment about pricing and budgeting: don't forget the accessories! These can add up. If you are buying an electric guitar you have to buy an amp. These can run you as much as the guitar itself. My advice on this is to always barter. Ask the shop owner if you can get free cords or tuners thrown in if you buy a package deal. This will be more difficult if you buy online, but you may be saving a substantial amount of money already anyway.
Finally, should you buy used or new? This question is akin to buying a car. You can get a great used car that will be reliable and will run for years because it is a decent car and the owner took care of it, but these take research and time. You can also get a vintage used classic that will run forever. This will break your bank. Don't buy any used guitar that is beat up or broken. Always be sure to buy from a reputable source if you go the used route.
By far, the most important thing you can do to protect your
acoustic guitar is to control the humidity of its environment. Ask
any guitar repair person. They are the ones who see, time and time
again, the damage done to guitars and other fretted instruments by
humidity levels which are too low.
Most acoustic guitars are the happiest in a relative humidity (RH)
above 40%. In fact, most acoustic guitars are built in a relative
humidity range of 45%-50%. The greatest danger to your guitar
occurs during the fall, winter and early spring. In cold
temperatures you need to heat your home; and when you heat your
home, the air in your home becomes drier. It can often drop to less
than half of the RH of the factory in which your guitar was built!
When the RH of your (and your guitar's) home descends to lower than
35%, all kinds of terrible things can happen. Cracks can occur in
the top, the bridge can lift from the top and the neck angle can
change. The warranties of most guitar manufacturers will exclude
guitars that have been stored in an inappropriate humidity. The
necessary repairs can be quite pricey.
The good news in all of this is that the solution is quite simple.
Store you guitar in a hardshell case and keep and maintain an
in-case humidifier. There are a number of different brands and
types of humidifiers on the market, in prices ranging from about
$12-$20. Check with your music dealer for the best one for you.
Don't forget to check and add water as often as necessary. If you
really want to keep on top of things, purchase a hygrometer (a
humidity meter). These can cost anywhere from $50 to $150, but an
economy model will be accurate enough.
Another important factor in caring for your instrument is, don't
use strings that are too heavy (thick). Most manufactures suggest
that you use light gauge strings, not mediums. Some players balk at
this, but the fact is, volume and tone are often more a matter of
playing technique than of string gauge. If you have a vintage
guitar, you might want to consider extra-lights. Another route you
can go (which I do with most of my vintage instruments), is to use
"silk and steel" strings. I think these are just wonderful, for a
number of reasons: but one is, they put much less stress on your
guitar. Read my article, "Acoustic Guitar Strings--The Merits of
Silk & Steel" at:
One other important caution regarding the care of your guitar: If
you use a capo, do not leave the capo on the instrument when you're
not playing it. The capo, when clamped on the neck, holds the
strings down on the fretboard and creates extra tension on the neck
and the top of the guitar. All acoustic guitars are destined, at
some point in time, to have problems due to the tension of the
strings. Why hasten the process by leaving a capo clamped on your
Taking these steps to care for your acoustic guitar may seem a bit
burdensome, at first. But if you start applying these principles
now, your guitar will give you many years of playing pleasure.
Copyright © 2007 Lee Griffith. All rights reserved.