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Choosing a guitar

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Guitars come in many shapes, sizes, and colors
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Learn how to select the best guitar for you

Choosing a guitar is far from simple. There are so many varieties that come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and even colors. The first question you need to ask yourself is are you buying a guitar to treasure as a piece of celebrity memorabilia or are you buying a guitar that you actually intend to play?  If you are interested in buying a guitar but donít know where to start, read on to learn about some of the basics of selecting the best instrument for you.

Most people think there are only two basic types of guitars, but there are actually three. Most rock and all metal bands use electric guitars (think of the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, or Green Day), which have a distinct loud and electric sound. They all come with pickups, which are like mini microphones that pick up the string vibrations. This is what produces the instrument's sound; electric guitars have to be plugged into an amplifier in order to create a real sound.

The other types of guitars besides electric are acoustic and classical, which look very similar but use different types of strings. Unlike electric guitars, they do not need to be plugged in to an amplifier in order to produce sound. However, some do come with pick-ups so that they can be amplified if needed for something like a live concert, where there is background noise or other instruments playing). Both acoustic and classical guitars have a softer sound than electric (think of the sounds of Dave Matthews or Jason Mraz).

The strings for acoustic guitars are made of steel and produce bright and sometimes brash tones. The strings for classical guitars create a much quieter and softer sound and are made of nylon. Classical guitar is much more rare and isnít usually ever used in bands; it is actually used like a classical instrument.

Here are some important factors in choosing a guitar that is right for you:

  1. Make sure you buy a guitar that fits your body size comfortably. Not all guitars come in the same size or shape, so donít buy the first guitar you see just because it looks attractive. You will not feel comfortable if you have one that is too big or too small. Try on several different guitars so you find one that has the right size and feel for your body. Make sure the neck is a comfortable width and that you feel comfortable
  2. If you are a beginner, many experts recommend that you start on an acoustic guitar. They are simpler to use, donít require amplification or special effects pedals, and are easier to learn how to play guitar on. Don't buy a fancy electric guitar and amp if you are just starting out.
  3. Donít buy the cheapest guitar you can find. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While there is nothing wrong with buying a guitar that is affordable, if you go with a guitar that is too cheap, it will not be playable. Some experts say that for your first guitar, it is ideal to spend between $250 to $500 on the instrument; this will ensure you get something of decent quality. For children, you shouldnít have to spend more than $300, though going less than $150 will land you with a poorly-made guitar.
  4. On the other hand, donít go immediately to the brand names, like Gibson or Taylor. Sometimes big names produce great guitars, but sometimes they donít. Select the guitar that feels most comfortable and produces the best sound. Donít spend a ton of money just for a brand name.
  5. Make sure it is built well. Very cheap guitars are made of plywood, which you should avoid. Real wood is always best for both electric and acoustic guitars. For acoustic guitars, spruce or cedar wood is considered to be the best. For electric guitars, ash, walnut, and maple are all great choices. You should inspect the guitar to make sure everything is built properly; for example, you donít want an instrument with strings that are too high above the fretboard. There are many other ways to determine if it is a quality instrument, so if you donít know what subtleties to look for, have an objective guitar teacher or friend who plays guitar go with you to pick one out.
    If you're a newbie, make sure to buy a good guitar strap, case and tuner. You should also make sure to learn how to read guitar tabs!

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