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#380051 - 08/11/05 01:14 AM How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Jody Whitesides Offline
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I'm just curious, how do other guitar players actually pick out their guitars when they purchase them.


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Jody Whitesides
A Funky Audio Lap Dance For Your Ears!
#380052 - 08/11/05 01:38 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Joe Wrabek (D) Offline
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I lucked out. I was making the rounds of music stores and pawnshops, determined to spend my income tax refund on a guitar, when one music store owner let me play this ancient (1910) Gibson he had hanging on the wall. Was not for sale, he told me; he just wanted me to have played something I could compare every other guitar to.

And it helped immensely. Shortly thereafter, I did buy a guitar--picked it out purely on the basis of how it sounded and how it felt to play. It and I have been together over 33 years now. I still maintain it's the only guitar I will ever need.


#380053 - 08/11/05 06:57 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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swain Offline
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I shop for and foremost by price. Once I find a candidate, I play it, give it a hard time, lots of multi string bends, shake it hard, see if it stays in tune. I see if I like the sound and the action.

If I do, I take it home, and love it until it dies.

Iím a real fan of cheap guitars. Expensive guitars are made of the same stuff as cheap ones. Some will debate the merits of the materials, but the bottom line is, wood is rather fragile. Guitars break if you travel around with them pushing your luck.

Guitars are just tools.

#380054 - 08/14/05 09:16 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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RJC Offline
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With electrics, I go to the Fender section, and grab an American Made in my favorite color.

With acoustic's, it's a whole thing, I start by playing first position chords, listening for the tone/voicing of the instrument.

Next I play some chords that incorporate 5th fret, 7th fret and 9th fret chords that also have open strings to check for the instruments intonation.

Next I like to hit all the strings at the 12th fret harmonic,bring the sound hole up to my ear, and let it ring tell it dies out. Checking to see what the decay balance is between the bass strings and treble strings.

Lastly, I'll just play for at least an hour to try and uncover any anamolies my other tests didn't reveal.


I used to be indecisive, now I'm not sure... My Songs

I used to be indecisive, now I'm not sure... My Songs
#380055 - 08/15/05 03:28 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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ninja.a.gogo Offline
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Play the Guitar. It's the only way. If you don't know anything about guitars then bring someone who does, or look on the internet for credible reviews.

Personally, for the Money, there's nothing better then a Mexican Strat. It can hold it's own with any Fender, and the action is about as good as a Gibson SG. The electronics, pickups, and adjustability fall short in comparison though.

Jackson and Ibanez usually have really good pieces. I love the JS30DKT through a Marshall Half-Stack. That sounds so cool. But for metal-Style Guitar, the Ibanez RG-series through a Marshall full stack. Amazing.

#380056 - 08/26/05 12:59 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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VDickinson Offline
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I would also say that as a general rule with electics, I play them unplugged for a while. If it sounds good unplugged, I feel like it's going to sound good plugged in. [Linked Image] The feel is really important, though. As important as the sound, if not more so. There are a lot of factors that go into the sound (pickups, amp, etc) that you can swap out, but the feel and the wood you can't really change. Plus, I want guitars with different sounds to do different things. But if it doesn't feel right in my hands, then making good music is going to be a bit more of a struggle. Price really doesn't have much to do with it (unless, of course, I can't afford it).

[This message has been edited by VDickinson (edited 08-25-2005).]

Visit http://www.zeyerband.com or http://www.myspace.com/zeyerband for music downloads, lyrics, news, and show dates
#380057 - 08/29/05 11:36 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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justlistening Offline
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I think playing the guitar is a must and while doing so I have a a few things I like to check for.

1.Check all the notes to see if there are any that do not ring out properly
2.Make sure the neck is not bowed
3.Particularly with an acoustic, make sure the intonation is correct.
4.Play it for a while and see how well it holds a tuning.
5.If electric, make sure all the pickups, switches and knobs are working correctly.

Outside of the technical concerns, the main thing I want is that the guitar feels good to me.

Band wanted for FREE MUSIC VIDEO Click Here!

#380058 - 09/06/05 11:46 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Jason Wilber Offline
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Hi Jody,

In addition to the great advice already posted, you mind find this method helpful as well. I think of it as the "A/B" method. Maybe you've already done this, or thought of it. I don't know, but I've found it to be really helpful, especially with acoustic guitars.

It's really hard to say how "good" a given guitar sounds if you are just sitting there playing it with nothing to compare it too. I've found that most guitars can sound pretty good if you find their strength and if you're in the right mood. So you have to be careful.

Now keep in mind, I'm talking about the more subtle aspects of the sound and feel. Obviously, you may not need help deciding that a guitar rattles, or is broken, or is just way to junky, or things like that. But often, you may be choosing between several guitars that are all pretty nice instruments, or at least pretty similar instruments. Then it can be tough.

So you might find that it's easiest to decide how good a guitar sounds if you have another one right there to compare it to.

For instance: If you are buying a new guitar, alternate between 2 or more of the same model. Strum a big open G chord on one, really listen and hold that sound in your mind, then immediately set the guitar down and go to the next one and play the same chord in the same way. Repeat this with different chords or riffs, and you'll probably notice pretty quickly if one guitar sounds lots better. Or you'll notice what the difference is between them. Maybe they both sound good, but one is a little brighter, or has more low end, etc.

Take a friend who plays with you when you shop (or you can just ask someone at the store to help you, but a friend is better). Then have your friend listen to you play the guitars, and give you his/her opinion. And then listen to your friend play each of the guitars.

For used guitars, or if the store doesn't have a comparable instrument for you to A/B with, you might bring along a guitar that you already know sounds good (one of yours, or a friend's).

This works with amps, and pretty much anything where you have to decide how good something sounds. I almost never buy anything without doing this, because of often having the experience of thinking "Wow, this guitar sounds fantastic", only to pick up the next one and have it be even better.

Somebody's going to buy the best sounding one, why shouldn't it be you?

Hope this long winded reply is of some help to you. Good luck Jody!

Best Wishes,

Jason Wilber

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featuring a special duet with John Prine at:

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#380059 - 05/30/06 08:08 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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jj Offline
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I play classical guitar.

When I picked out mine someone else one played the same thing on a bunch of different guitars and without looking at the guitar or the price, a friend who is a very accomplished guitarist and I selected the ones we thought sounded the best. Then looking at the price tags for ones I could afford (unfortunately there was a distinct correlation between the ones that sounded the best and price, darn) I played them and picked the one that felt/looked the best.


#380060 - 05/30/06 10:22 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Jody Whitesides Offline
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Jason Wilber:
Hi Jody,

** snip **

Hope this long winded reply is of some help to you. Good luck Jody!

Best Wishes,

Jason Wilber


Jason, that's a nice well thought out way. However, I wasn't actually buying a guitar. I was starting a thread to help others in their ability to purchase a decent guitar.

I'm actually very invovled with how I purchase guitars. For my electrics I work with a custom shop that builds them to my specs. As for acoustics, I'm lucky enough to have an endorsement with Taylor Guitars so I can play as many as I like until I find that one I want. It is a trial and error thing with production models. But the one I did get litterally sings without me even touching it. Its awesome.


Music That Makes Your Soul Happy!

Jody Whitesides
A Funky Audio Lap Dance For Your Ears!
#380061 - 06/10/06 09:37 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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dcterry Offline
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I am a die-hard Gibson man, so I usually go straight to the store with Gibsons.
Well after being waken from fainting at the price I play a few to see if they are what I want. Then I start shopping the used market.
I ahve gotten quite a few great buys on used equipment.
Know what you want, what the value is, and buy what you need.

#380062 - 06/15/06 12:02 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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KeithP Offline
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I am a dyed in the wool Gibson guy (most of my Gibsons have P90's - does that mean I am a closet Fender guy?), but I have been looking at Fenders and Gretschs of late. Fender is by far the best bang for your buck in electrics. Gibson's quality has fallen off dramatically in my book and they are laughable next to a comparably priced PRS.

I love Martins. Haven't found a Gibson or Taylor acoustic that I really liked better.

It's all about feel. You know right away whether it feels "right". Regardless of price (almost). I have played some big dollar guitars that I wouldn't buy for any price. And I bought a $400 Epiphone becuse it felt great. You just never know.

Think I'll go to Guitar Center tonight after work.


#380063 - 06/18/06 10:04 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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denogla Offline
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I think the number one rule is to play the instrument. After that the sound is obviously important but if it doesn't feel right I think that would be a deal breaker.

I am also a fan of cheap electric guitars but when it comes to acoustics I am usually prepared to spend a little more to get a good one.


#380064 - 06/19/06 11:52 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Joanne Lurgio Offline
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#380065 - 07/01/06 04:24 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Susan Lainey Offline
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I would say about the cheaper guitars...Don't buy a guitar that doesnt have an adjustable neck (truss rod) It may sound ok now but one seasonal change and your out of luck.......Sue

#380066 - 07/01/06 04:57 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Tom Franz Offline
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As I remember you were a real help when I purchased my last guitar. I think your advice boiled down to play a bunch and you will know it when you hear it.
That worked for me. I tried literally hundreds and finally one jumped out and I knew it.
I also don't mind asking the sales person to play them for me. They are usually pretty good guitarists and I can stand back and really listen. If I liked the sound I would then play it myself and get the true feel and sound for my personal style of playing.
Also every guitar likes to be played a certain way. That sounds funny but some sound great played hard or soft, over the hole or at the bridge, etc. If you find one that coincides with the way you play, bingo.
Bottom line, there are few things more wonderful than falling in love with a guitar.

#380067 - 07/07/06 08:39 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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bruwho Offline
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Whitesides:
I'm just curious, how do other guitar players actually pick out their guitars when they purchase them.



I stongly suggest this...if you're looking to play acoustic, then visit at least 5 music shops and just pick out all the guitars that interest you...color,tone,string thickness, etc...you wouldn't buy a car that was cheap because it was red-white-blue grren-and purple,right? The color you choose should be one that makes you feel very comfortable, and of course sound very reasonable too.


#380068 - 07/07/06 10:29 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Joy Boy Offline
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Figure out what you can spend, add 15 percent, and go play all the guitars you can in that price range.
Eventually, you'll find one you're afraid someone else will buy if you leave. That's the one.

#380069 - 07/18/06 04:24 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Primarily, feel (if your gonna play it all night its gotta feel good under your arm and in your chording hand). Secondary, sound (electronics can always make up deficiencies). Thirdly, price.

#380070 - 07/20/06 06:46 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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ric4music Offline
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I only play acoustic guitars but sound and playability is first and formost. As well, it must be an acoustic/electric set up so I want it to sound equally good when it's "plugged in". Currently I am playing a Simon & Patrick Mahogany Pro (Canadian Built) I picked up 6 years ago. This guitar is phenominal. It has great volumn un-plugged and similar in sound to a D-28. Plugged in she is crisp and clean and does well through a sound system or amplifier.

"Have Guitar, Will Travel"

[This message has been edited by ric4music (edited 07-20-2006).]

"Have Guitar, Will Travel"
#380071 - 10/11/06 04:48 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar?  
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Jack Swain Offline
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I am going to answer this as it applies to an acoustic guitar because that is what I currently want to get if I can ever save the money for what I want.

The things that are important to me are tone and playability. I fingerpick most of the time so I like the wider spacing, at least 1 3/4 inches or 1 7/8 inches at the nut. Some people have problems with the wider spacing of a 1 7/8 inch width, but it is only a matter of getting used to it.

I love the full sounding mid-range of Martin guitars, but I am not as big a fan of the boominess of the D series Martins. The D-28s sound great for some players, but for my style I find them way too boomy for what I want. I like smaller bodies. Most people equate the larger body with bigger sound, but I have a friend who recently purchased a Collings 12-fret that is the equivalent of the Martin 000-28 12 fret model and it simply is louder and cuts through better than all the D28s that I know, including his D28 which the one of the finest sounding D28s I have ever played. We play in a large bluegrass gathering weekly and there are a slew of guitars that are competing to be heard. His cuts through over all of them.

I love the longer body of the Martin 000 series 12-fret models because it pushes the bridge down further into the sweet spot of the soundboard. The best part about these 12-fret models is that they open up the tone of the fretted notes in the middle of the neck more than any other guitars I have played. Once in awhile I pick up a 14-fret model that has a decent tone on these notes, but it is the exceptional guitar, while with the 12-fret models it is consistently better in that range of notes, particularly the lower 4 strings which I use a whole lot.
When I try a guitar out, the first thing I do beyond check the tuning is try some notes up around the seventh to tenth frets on the bottom four strings and if I can get them to sing out, then I am attracted to the guitar. There are lots of really beautiful guitars that do not ring out in this part of the neck so I put them down quickly in search of something that is more satisfying to my touch and ear.

#380072 - 10/13/06 01:37 PM B *DELETED* *DELETED*  
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#526985 - 07/30/07 10:49 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar? [Re: Greg Pospiel]  
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 150
Raymond de Leur Jr Offline
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Raymond de Leur Jr  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 150
Seminole, Oklahoma USA
I realize this is an old thread but felt I had something to offer.

I can't describe the sound but I remember my mom playing guitar when I was a child...the sound of that guitar always put a smile on my face regardless of mood. That is one of the biggest things I look for when I shop for an acoustic...

My first guitar was a Samick......I have yet to find anything regardless of price that has matched the feel, sound and playability I had with that guitar.

The other thing I do when I buy a guitar is buy from a place that has a great return policy. There have been times when i purchased a guitar and it sounded great in the store but then once I got home it sounded like a chicken choking on a donkey..ROFL..

Some places will let you take the guitar into a practice/lesson room which is great so you can really hear the guitar without the constant flood of electrics, keyboards, drums, basses, etc.

Grover tuners as an absolute must. If you sing as well as play/write then finding one that compliments your vocal/writing style is essential as well.

But all in all it is truly a matter of feel. You will know it when you hold and hear it.


Life is too short to wait for things to happen. If you want it bad enough you make it happen.
#529656 - 08/08/07 03:04 PM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar? [Re: Raymond de Leur Jr]  
Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 277
Kaika Kale Offline
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Kaika Kale  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 277
New Hampshire, USA
In addition to what others have said already, I like to listen to somebody else play it. I like to hear it from a distance and watch how another player manipulates it.

"My Music, My Band, My Gear"

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#529982 - 08/09/07 05:28 AM Re: How do you actually pick out a guitar? [Re: Kaika Kale]  
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,384
mattbanx Offline
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mattbanx  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,384
Northern Minnesota
Tone, pickups, and the construction.
I like the woodgrain and rosewood strats.
I only purchased one elctric guitar myself, but from friends guitars I have played on, the less effects on the guitar the better the guitar feels to me.
Better vibe.
I like the old models to where I dig into the strings.
It makes playing the new guitars much easier if I ever gig.

I also have a Martin Sigma Acoustic.
Some look upon that as playing catgut with the teflon strings, but I like the sound it offers.
Classical guitars are not as abrasive when miced.
But I would also like to get a steel string in the Martin line.


Last edited by mattbanx; 08/09/07 05:37 AM.

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