Buying Guitar Guide

Buying a New, Vintage or Pre-owned Guitar?

Here are some guides to help make the decision of buying a new, vintage or pre-owned guitar.

Buying Your First Guitar

Choosing your first guitar is an important part of the first stages of learning to play. Choosing the right guitar can seriously help you advance in those early stages, as using a poorly constructed or damaged guitar can hinder your improvement due to the pain or discomfort of playing it. You could also trying to be playing a style of music on the wrong style of guitar.

Here are some common errors people make when choosing their first guitar:

Choosing a guitar because you like the colour or Design
As pretty as guitars can be, choosing a guitar simply because you like the colour or the design is a mistake. Many cheap, poorly made guitars have been painted with bright colours to make them more saleable. Colour is not relevant to the learning of the guitar and isn't it that impressive if you have a nice coloured guitar but cannot play it, the same goes for design.

Buying it because it's cheap
With guitars you get what you pay for. Unless you get know what you are looking for or get lucky with a second-hand guitar on a website such as Gumtree, it is unlikely that a cheap guitar you find will be suitable for learning. Cheap guitars usually hard to play, hurt your fingers, sometimes hurt your ears, leading to blistered or bleeding fingers and broken dreams.

When making the choice what of guitar to buy you should consider the following:

Try buying a guitar from a reputable guitar maker
Good brands including Fender, Gibson (epiphone), Yamaha, Crafter, Vintage, Simon & Patrick all make entry level guitars that will last you a lifetime (if you look after it properly).

Ask a friend or ask me
Ask a friend that plays guitar or email me and I will send you some recomendations specifically for you. Also see my guitar recommendations here.

Buying a Vintage or Pre-owned Guitars

Providing guitars have been well looked after, it is fine to buy vintage and pre-owned instruments. Like a fine wine, stringed instruments get/sound better with age as the wood becomes more resonant and improves in tone (High quality instrument manufacturers only used aged wood). Buying a pre-owned can prove beneficial as you can buy a better quality and higher valued instrument for a lower price.

Important Factors When Buying a Used Guitar

String Action:

To maximise the playability of the guitar (especially for beginners), the strings on the guitar should have a low to mid height action (the distance from the string to the fret).

If the strings are too high, the guitar will be hard to play and will hurt the players fingers when starting out.

If the action is too low the strings will vibrate on the frets causing a buzzing sound which will be immediately apparent. A guitar that has been well set up or hasn’t been damaged will have a low to mid action for good playability.


Good intonation means that the guitar has good tuning on all frets of the guitar, i.e. the strings length lines up with the frets on the neck.

Poor quality guitars do not have good intonation and so the guitar will only be in tune when played in certain ranges. The intonation cannot be fixed completely if the guitar has bad intonation, as this requires altering the bridge (intonation on electric guitars can be fixed to a greater extent if done professionally).


Older guitars may have some surface damage such as cracks and scratches, but as long as the damage has not penetrated through the body or there aren’t any deep cracks in the neck then this will not affect the sound or playability of the guitar.

The tuning pegs/machine heads must be fixed securely and move freely, otherwise this will affect the tuning off the strings.

The bridge on the guitar must have no serious damage as the strings will not fix in place and the action and intonation will be affected.

All these elements and others in combination can affect the overall playability and sound of the guitar, so used guitars need to be carefully selected and tested.

Contact me regarding any guitar queries.