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Buying a guitar: Introduction

Prepared by Alan Humm


1 Since I only created a few of them myself, most of the images on this site , as with the Jan Vermeer painting, are linked to the source. As my sources are often commercial sites, it is, after all, only fair that they should get a little advertising from me absconding with their pictures. Of course, I don't think the Vermeer is for sale (at least not the original). Neither is my grandson, on the next page.

2 I am going to direct you to steelguitar.com if that is what you are interested in, although with the caveat that I don't really know enough even to know whether that is a good resource. It looks like it is. I will talk about steel guitars, but this won't be much of a buying guide, if that is what you want.
Guitar is an instrument which is continuously evolving. This is not just an historical observation, although you are unlikely to find anything like the one in the Vermeer detail here1 at you local music
Vermeer: The guitar player
Johannes Vermeer: The guitar player
store. Among modern instruments there are a few major categories, numerous sub-categories, and hybrids. The biggest division is between guitars designed to be plugged into amplifiers (electric guitars) and those that produce their own sound on a vibrating surface (usually wood-acoustic guitars). The latter group divides into classical, steel-string, and resonator guitars. So called 'steel guitars' (not made of steel, by the way) have more in common with electrics, but less in common with standard guitars in general (they have strings and pickups, but the similarity ends there). This page on guitar buying will not be of much assistance to those of you shopping for steel guitars.2

What kind of guitar you want to buy is also dependent on several variables. What is your current level? Are you 'moving up' or just getting started? How much are willing to spend? Are you concerned about resale value? What style do you (hope to) play? Each of these questions impact the answer, and I will approach them one at a time.

Since this ended up taking a lot more space to discuss this than I expected, I suspect that only the most dedicated of you will want to struggle through the whole group of pages. That is part of why I broke it up. I do not promise, however, not to talk about things that you might be interested in sections that you prefer to skip for the most part. It wouldn't hurt you to skim even those parts, but if I refer back to something and you are thinking, "Where did he talk about that," well, I will try to do some cross-linking.

Here's an outline:

The Beginner (for folks buying their first guitar).
A little more technical stuff on intonation (you might be interested in this, even if this is not your first time out).
Truss Rods (you might be interested in this, even if this is not your first time out).
The Sound Box (shopping for the top, back, and sides on any type of acoustic).
Acoustic Varieties (specific types of acoustic guitars).
Classical Guitars (and nylon-string, and flamenco).
Steel-string Guitars (different sizes and types).
Resonator Guitars (regardless of neck type).
Steel guitars.
Electric guitar pickups.
Electric guitar varieties (specific types of electric guitars).
Hollow body (OK, semi-hollow body).
Bass guitars (specific types of electric guitars).
Electric bass guitars.
Acoustic bass guitars.
Hybrid Bass guitars.

© 2013 Alan Humm