General Question

PhillyCheese's avatar

What kind of things should I look out for when buying my first electric guitar?

Asked by PhillyCheese (655points) February 7th, 2010

(I do have a musical background in knowing how to play the piano)
I’ve been self-teaching myself guitar for the past few months, I’ve always wanted to play electric but could only practice on my acoustic.
I’m finally ready to purchase my first electric guitar. Do you have any advice on what I need to look for? I don’t want to spend too much but I’m willing to spend decent cash on something that wont junk out on me.
Playing that ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ riff on an acoustic just doesn’t sound the same lol

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28 Answers

rockstargrrrlie's avatar

Don’t buy anything from Costco. Stick to purchasing from a small music store where the staff is knowledable and can answer your questions. Be prepared to spend over $200 to get a good product- you get what you pay for.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Projectiles,if you aren’t any good ;)))

odali's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille hahaha

Good action, pickups, sound.. my first electric that I bought was an Ibanez RG 140, which has gotten me through a lot, and still sounds fantastic. either that or the RG 120 are highly reccomended by me.. neither are that expencive, although i do not recall how much i spent on it, as it was some years ago now

Steve_A's avatar

I recommend an Ibanez 200–300 bucks if your willing and serious I recommend spend a little more.

I would be careful with cheaper low end, whammy bars as they won’t hold tune well and can be more of hassle in my opinion.Tune-o-matic and tremolo bridges basically ones that don’t move are easier to tune and set up later on.

It’s very easy to play has very nice action on it, .9s, .10s work well with it.(I had this guitar a short while before trading it in for a Gibson SG)

A very important thing before I continue,what style/genre are you trying to play?
and so on….now theres no right or wrong choice, but its important to find the BEST guitar AND amp set up that will come close as possible to get the tone and sound YOU WANT , screw everyone else.

Better yet what me and other people have said go in, like a day off and just play guitars and amps like all day if you can seriously pick one up try it, move to another try it.

Get a feel for the different amps and guitars. Because the guitar is important but for an electric your amp is equally as important in my opinion.

Also I think you may find tube amps better, just my personal taste but real 100% tube amps sound great with a good electric guitar.

This is an amp I want just because its so little, tube and sounds freakin awesome to me atleast.

check it out at shop they should have it.

I think maybe the best thing for now is start small and cheap, unless you know already your serious about playing or don’t mind blowing the cash haha.

ucme's avatar

The shocking prices of those suckers.

Cruiser's avatar

It will all depend on what feels good to you. I have always liked the Fender sound and the feel of the Stratocaster neck it is nice and narrow and relatively flat. Gibsons tend to have thick fat round necks. Fender has their Squire line of guitars that are entry level but still of very good quality. The type of finger boards also vary (maple or rosewood) and can have an influence on your sound and play. Best bet is to go somewhere and just try them out. You amplifier can have a big influence on the sound you are looking for too! Many stores and even pawn shops sell used gear where you can usually find a good ax for ½ the cost of new.

Jam on!

Steve_A's avatar

@Cruiser Thats a great idea, pawn shops have good deals, used guitars can be great deals, I got my SG for about half off but it was used, but plays great.

Check out craigslist too man, good deals on there, and always test drive it!

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I think they’re low balling you here – yes, expect to pay $300 for the guitar… at least $100 for a decent practice amp… another $20 for cables, and you should do yourself a favor and get a distortion pedal ($50–100) at the same time – adds some fun to the initial playing. Seems like a lot, but it’s well worth it. Play the guitar at the store – get the sales person to leave you alone with it for a bit so you can play without feeling either the pressure to play well or to buy. What kind of music are you playing? I recommend for almost everyone a stratocaster/clone for versatility, although I picked one with a humbuckler instead of the strat – little different sound and still has “regular” pickups. If I were buying today I’d get a hollow body jazz guitar, but decent ones will set you back several thousand… so… not at all necessary. My Peavey strat-bodied humbuckler has lasted over 10 years of heavy use and hasn’t needed a major repair.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

You get what you pay for with most entry-level guitars. If it’s for a child, make sure that the neck isn’t too big for their hands and that the body isn’t too big for your child to reach around. If it is for an adult, you’re somewhat better off with a slightly more expensive model, simply because of playability. Also make sure that the strings are not too far away from the frets. Starting with the High E at the 12th fret and working your way across the fret board to the Low E measure the distance between the bottom of each string. For most players a string height of 3/64” of an inch is considered normal. The easier a guitar is to play, the less put off you’ll be towards practicing and playing it regularly. In the end, the more you play, the better you’ll get. The other reason to buy a slightly more expensive guitar is because of resale value. If you buy a more expensive model and later decide that the guitar is just not your thing, you’ll get a little more out of reselling or trading the expensive model than you would out of a cheaper one.
I used to sell musical instruments, so I tend to agree with @JeanPaulSartre advice on pricing. Most guitars priced under $300–400 are nothing more than overpriced boat anchors, Historically and from my own point of view, the cheaper the guitar, the harder it will be to keep in tune and the harder it will be to play and properly maintain. You may have friends who have been playing guitar for a while, and anyone who has been playing the guitar for sometime should be able to show you where in your area to find the best guitar for the best price.

PhillyCheese's avatar

Thanks for the pointers, these will really help! I’ll browse around with all the advice you all gave me.

What would you say about a Fender squier?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@PhillyCheese It’s their “low end” guitar; I wouldn’t recommend it in terms of long-term durability. If you’re just looking to “try out” electric guitar it’s fine, but I don’t trust the pickups to hold their tone for many years. It might be one you’d “Frankenstein” up with upgrades later on, which can be fun, but I like to think that my guitar doesn’t need to be meddled with when I buy it.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

Personally, I’ve never been a real big fan of Fender’s Squire series guitars, but they might be a very good fit for someone such as a young child or an adult who isn’t completely sure if they’ll stick with it or not. Obviously, with regard to Fender’s product line, the American Strat-O-Casters would be the way to go for craftsmanship, sound, playability and value, but they ARE very expensive. The Mexican Strat-O-Casters used to be positively horrible, but in their defense, they have been greatly improved since they were first released. My son swears by Ibanez and over the years he has bought several pro models made by them. Their beginner guitars are a fairly reliable and playability seems to be very similar throughout their lower-priced product lines. As for me, I play a Parker Fly Deluxe, but you definitely don’t want and certainly don’t need to start with high-end guitars such as a Parker or a Gibson.

Cruiser's avatar

I love my Squire Strat I can play the heck out of that thing and if it fits your budget you will have a great ax with a great sound…plus like Jean Paul said you can always tweak the guitar. I put some EMG pickups in mine and it wails!

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

That is true. Any middle-of-the-road guitar can be beefed up. I’ve done it myself, dozens and dozens of times, for myself and for many of my customers. One of my favorite beefed-up guitars of all time was an 1969 Teisco Del Rey EV-2T. It looked just like the five-sided one played by Fang of Paul Revere and the Raiders in the late sixties. After some electronic (ahem) ‘adjustments’ and some new DiMarzio double-humbucker pickups, That old guitar sounded and played almost as good as my Parker. The truth of the matter is this, you really don’t need to go broke buying your first guitar. You just need to make sure it feels good in your hands. You can always upgrade later. Pawn shops and want ads are a good place to get started in your search. Good luck.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

By the way, yeah, I realize that there won’t be very many who remember Fang… or Paul Revere and the Raiders, for that matter. It was what it was.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly That was obscure enough that I even had to look them up. Rad. On Parker guitars – I was never a big fan until recently then it was like “ooo!” And Oh my I want a Dragonfly and I don’t even know why.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre – I know exactly why. The new Parkers rule. Their pricing is also quite regal, however.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly So true… too rich for my blood.

odali's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Actually, interesting question, I havn’t played for a couple years, but I went to an open mic night a couple months ago and jammed out with a few people and everyone was yelling at me because I havn’t played guitar in so long, and I was singing really well, so I just picked it up again. I think I’ll stick with it this time.

Steve_A's avatar

@PhillyCheese Any choices yet on the amp or guitar curious to see what you pick.

Steve_A's avatar

@odali How are open mic nights where you go? I’ve been wanting to do a cover song with my acoustic and sing for the first time (OH MAN) but I think I am getting good enough to pull it off least do one song to get the nerves out or the experience.

odali's avatar

@Steve_A There’s one bar I go to, and had never gone there on an open mic night, but it was miraculous.. people bring all sorts of instruments in and everyone just jams together.. last time someone brought one of those things that makes different sounds based on feedback/RF waves (you kinda move your hands around like youre casting a spell, to play it, lol), im not sure what it was but it was very cool, another had a ukulele, and another person had a guitar and drumbox.. and a violin.. sadly all i could do was sing because i havnt played in so long, but we sounded awesome.

Steve_A's avatar

@odali Thats cool man! what area you live in?

odali's avatar

New England, USA.. Have to go to a show now, but will probably be back on later!

PhillyCheese's avatar

I was looking at kijiji and found a used strat for 250 (including a basic amp) and a squire for 150. I need to bring my friends brother with me to test it out

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@odali – The device you mentioned above is called a Theremin. It’s the same instrument used by Jimmy Page in the break in Whole Lotta Love.

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