The internet has led to changes that would have been impossible to understand just a decade ago. Buying a guitar in La Jolla 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 La Jolla, 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 La Jolla, 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.
The Guitar's Advantages Over Other Instruments
When it comes to buying a used electric guitar, you want to find the guitar that is right for you in terms of look, sound, price, ease of play, and comfort, just as you would shopping for a new electric guitar. The main difference is that used guitars come with a past, and if you aren't careful your future might include a junk guitar.
Experienced guitar players know what to look for when buying a used guitar, but first time guitar buyers run the risk of making a bad purchase if they aren't prepared.
Used guitars for sale at a local music store tend to be far less risky than buying a used guitar from a stranger, especially if the store that has established as a fair and honest business. If a business has spent years of hard work building up trust and good reputation with its customers, it isn't likely to be selling them second-hand electric guitars that are in poor condition.
With strangers, there is no pre-existing trust. While there are many honest people out there selling used electric guitars in good condition, there are many who aren't honest. That's why power and protection come with knowledge. If you are buying a used electric guitar for the first time - 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.
3. Check the intonation. This is problematic for beginner guitar players who haven't yet learned how to play harmonics. Just play a harmonic at the 12 fret and then on the same string, play the note at the 12 fret and compare. If one sounds higher or lower than the other, the intonation is off. Do this for every string. For accuracy, it's best to use a guitar tuner to compare.
4. Check the action. A guitar's action is measured from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret. For electric guitar, standard action is 6/64 in. on the sixth string and 4/64 in. on the first string You won't be able to judge this with your eye, so just be aware the strings should not touch the frets, nor should they be so high it hurts your hand to fret the notes.
5. The strings should not rattle, buzz, or mute when played, no matter if the guitar is plugged or unplugged. Make sure none of the frets are loose.
6. Plug in the guitar to test the pick-ups and the pick-up selector switch as well as the tone and volume knobs. There shouldn't be any pops or humming, nor should the sound cut in and out.
7. Ask the seller how long he's owned the guitar and if he bought it new or used.
8. Ask if the guitar is still under warranty, and if so, is that warranty transferable.
9. Ask the seller if any work has been done on the guitar, and if so, why.
10. After you've arranged to see the guitar, research the make and model. Is it still available or has it been discontinued? Check out customer reviews. Search e-bay, Craigslist, and other classified venues to see if anyone else is selling the same make and model and for how much. This will help you determine if the seller's asking price is too much (time to negotiate), too little (it does happen) or at market value.
11. Finally, remember what I said in the first tip. Used electric guitars are going to show varying degrees of wear and tear and may require minor adjustments. If you find a used electric guitar that has no major problems and feels and plays like it belongs in your hands, buy it!
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.