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Motorator
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4,166 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone, I'm Starliner's son, and I need your help on what to look for in a used electric guitar. With most ads looking like this:

http://sacramento.craigslist.org/msg/1089008289.html

What basic questions/tests should I ask/perform to better assess the electrical and structural integrity of the guitar before purchasing?

Thanks in advance!
 

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Registered
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11,615 Posts
Personally for a "first" electric guitar I like the elect/accoustic jobbies.

Versatile. Gorgeous sound. Good deals to be found. Don't have to hurt the neighbors when practicing.

I gave mine away due to Carpal Tunnel type problems when playing, and still kick myself for doing so.

That's all I got.
 

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What the Hell is going on
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5,141 Posts
Like with bicycles, you should get the best guitar you can afford. You can't go wrong with established brands. Don't be afraid to buy a guitar that looks well used (it's a sign that the person liked playing it).

Make sure the neck is straight (sight the neck as if you're sighting down a rifle barrel) and the frets aren't worn (too much).

I'm not a good enough guitar player so I like the Fender Squier line of guitars. I'd stay away from the Affinity models of the Squier because their necks are crap. But get one that feels good to you.
 

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Sticky Valentine
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28,404 Posts
What kind of music do you intend to play?

I would generally advise you to stay away from an ad that doesn't even mention the type of guitar the person is selling. Not all brands are created equal, even "low end" or beginner guitars.

My advice would be to go to a Guitar Center or Sam Ash or wherever and just pick up whatever you seem to like and play it. Even if you can't play, just try to get an idea of what you like, what feels good in your hands. Make sure that the frets are not sharp on the edges, that everything is nice and tight, that the machine heads turn nicely. All that. You don't need to buy a guitar from them, just do some homework there.

Unfortunately there are a lot of things that those places don't carry. And if you buy something online there's always that chance that it'll suck and you'll be bummed. As far as CL goes... sometimes you score, sometimes you get a fair deal, sometimes you get screwed. I wouldn't buy anything from someone unless I knew exactly what they were selling. Saying that they've got a guitar and it's $100 is nowhere near enough info.

I generally point people in the direction of www.rondomusic.com for beginner instruments. I was a contributing member of a few bass forums back in the day and SX (Rondo's brand) was always generally well regarded as far as their basses went. More often than not they were pretty well praised for their build quality, on par or even above Mexican Fenders (which will run you about $400-500 for a bass) for a fraction of the price. They're excellent basses to mod. In fact, I bought an SX fretless that I later modded the hell out of (bridge, machine heads, pickups, electronics, everything other than the neck and body) and the thing sounds fantastic.

I can't speak for their guitars, but I would consider them. I bought my instrument from them a few years ago, and I've stopped keeping up on my bass forums, but unless they've had any QC issues lately, or unless they've somehow screwed up their production, IMO, for a new instrument, they're going to give you the most bang for your buck. The electronics are going to be the weakest link, but that's going to be the case in just about any budget guitar.

My 0.02.


joe
 

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Alien Musician
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4,537 Posts
If you can find someone who knows something about guitars you might get them to help
you out.

That craigslist ad could be ANYTHING, no brand name and no real information -
I'd stay away from that one.

What is your budget?
What kind of music do you want to play?

If it were me and I had to start over: mexican made Fender strat or telecaster, just for the simplicity and
ubiquity. Or a used more expensive one.

Don't mess around with cheap guitars because you won't want to reach for it and play it all the time. A
decent first instrument is something you can grow into.
 

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Gronk SMASH!
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1,973 Posts
aliensporebomb said:
If you can find someone who knows something about guitars you might get them to help
you out.

That craigslist ad could be ANYTHING, no brand name and no real information -
I'd stay away from that one.

What is your budget?
What kind of music do you want to play?

If it were me and I had to start over: mexican made Fender strat or telecaster, just for the simplicity and
ubiquity. Or a used more expensive one.

Don't mess around with cheap guitars because you won't want to reach for it and play it all the time. A
decent first instrument is something you can grow into.
ASB's advice is good. FWIW, the poster of that ad knows nothing - that could be good or bad, but a $100 guitar isn't worth picking up in my opinion. More trouble than it's worth. The last thing you want when you're learning is for it to go out of tune all the time and feel like crap.Spend a bit more than that for at least a decent Epiphone or Mexican Fender, and you'll be happier.

Hijack:
ASB, it that Ibanez Artist in your avatar your main guitar? It looks great. My electric is a '78 LP Standard, but I lust after one of those Artists. I just think they're gorgeous, even if Tommy Shaw used to play them.
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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9,416 Posts
Any known brand is a good starting point: Fender, Gibson (good luck with that!), Epiphone, Hamer, Ibanez, Squier. Other brands CAN be good, but with a known brand you can get advice about the guitar from forums, etc.

If you're buying used, or buying a budget guitar, I recommend against buying something you haven't actually held in your hands. You want to feel if there are rough frets, sight down the neck (frets should look evenly spaced and parallel, like railroad ties), plug it in, strum the strings (to get some sound coming out) and turn the knobs, wiggle the cord in the jack, etc., looking for obvious wear or short circuits.

I can second that cosmetic blemishes on the body can be ignored. They will almost never effect the sound of a solid body guitar. The exception would be anything that looks like a straight line crack that runs lengthwise on the body--that's probably very bad and best left alone. Look for dings on the back of the neck, and avoid. That's where your hand will be a lot, and a ding or nick can be really annoying.

Most importantly, if at all possible get someone who can play at least a little to come try it out. Intonation and setup problems aren't obvious unless you can play a little, and they're the hardest things for a beginner to deal with on their own.

I also see no problem whatsoever with buying a "beginner's" guitar. Just know that the electronics, setup and tuners are the key places to save money, so sound, playability and tuning stability can be issues. But if you're not 100% committed to playing for the rest of your life, spending extra on a guitar that will be more satisfying for an advanced player is the wrong way to go. Going for a cheap, serviceable guitar for low dough is reasonable. Top notch pickups will not be an issue for the beginner. The cheaper you go, though, the more important it is to have someone skilled along to help you judge the instrument.
 

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still shedding season
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8,849 Posts
aliensporebomb said:
If it were me and I had to start over: mexican made Fender strat or telecaster
If you buy a new one, you'll have a warranty and a dealer to help with questions if you have them, and these guitars hold their value really well so you wouldn't lose much (comparatively) if you decided to sell it. Or, there really isn't much of anything to go wrong with them - buy a used one and save a few bucks.

Down the road if you ever want to upgrade it, throw in new pickups and possibly change some of the hardware. You'll have a very gig-worthy instrument (and I know plenty of people playing them on gigs as-is too).
 

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Back from the dead
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20,626 Posts
The best thing is to sit down and play it. I find a lot of cheap guitars are hard to play, mainly because the strings are too high. That usually leads to intonation problems as well. So, my best advice is sit down and play the thing, regardless of what it costs.

Also, examine the guitar thoroughly. Especially check out where the neck attaches to the body. The guitar in that ad has a bolt on neck, and cracks can develop there. Make sure all the tuning keys turn smoothly.
 

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Super Moderator
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19,518 Posts
How old are you? Do you need a smaller kid sized guitar?

//And where's Starliner and what have you done with him!!!!
 

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Alien Musician
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4,537 Posts
Hi!

jptaylorsg said:
ASB's advice is good. FWIW, the poster of that ad knows nothing - that could be good or bad, but a $100 guitar isn't worth picking up in my opinion. More trouble than it's worth. The last thing you want when you're learning is for it to go out of tune all the time and feel like crap.Spend a bit more than that for at least a decent Epiphone or Mexican Fender, and you'll be happier.

Hijack:
ASB, it that Ibanez Artist in your avatar your main guitar? It looks great. My electric is a '78 LP Standard, but I lust after one of those Artists. I just think they're gorgeous, even if Tommy Shaw used to play them.
Hijack: I sometimes think of it as the main guitar but I've been very lucky to get multple
"good ones".

There's the artist:



Which I bought used but someone hot-rodded it with Duncans, expensive
Grover imperial tuners and expensive Schaller roller bridge and fine tuning
stoptail. It's very good.

This ridiculous Heartfield EX-2 is probably the main guitar since I've had it for
19 years and it's just too good for words.



It's like a stratocaster with a set neck and a flame maple top, like PRS meets strat.

Then I have a Jackson Soloist for shred duty, it's a little unusual as it was part
of a limited edition of 250 (but I didn't know that when I bought it, dumb luck really):



For sensitive moods:


Alvarez CE - plays very much like an electric guitar (which is to say easier).

For bass duty I'm running a six string Rogue, it was cheap (which is to say,
hundreds of dollars less than an equivalent name brand bass with active
electronics):



So I have a number of guitars that all do different things: the Artist has low output
passive pickups with coil taps, the Heartfield has high output low impedance
active pickups with a midrange boost, the Jackson has high output passives, the
Alvarez has a piezo pickup that can be mixed with a mic'ed sound for recording
and the bass is an interesting hybrid that has passive pickups with an active
EQ system you can switch in and out.
 

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Clear Lake, TX
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3,269 Posts
I'd suggest looking at Schecter. You can get a used Gryphon for around $250, and they play well with beginners. Most Schecters have coil tapping, which allows you to split a humbucker into a single coil pickup for a Fender like sound. Finding a guitar with plenty of tonal range, like a do-it-all, makes sense for those of us who are relatively new and have only 1 guitar.

gutfiddle said:
if you want electric get this:
http://guitars.musiciansfriend.com/product?sku=513287X
although, i love my MIM tele i bought on ebay. HTH's
That particular electric starter set has been discontinued, but there are others.

I almost bought a really sweet used wine red MiM Tele for $275 at the local shop, but my tax return got zapped due to owed child support after getting layed off last summer. Dang, I think I just came up with a country song idea! :idea:

Instead, I traded in my very cheap Behringer 15 watt practice amp for a kick-azz Peavey Vypyr 15 for just a few ten's. This is easily the best bang for the buck, cheapo amp I've tested. Blows away the cheap pods and the Line 6 Spider III.

The replacement guitar will sadly have to wait for now. I'm still with the Epi Les Paul Jr with an upgraded Lace humbucker.
 

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Alien Musician
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4,537 Posts
I just helped a friend of mine buy his first guitar. Guy is a urologist and needed a guy
hobby - ended up with a new american standard fender strat, case and a vox amp.

Must have tried about forty guitars that day.

What a killer setup for a beginner, he's got a teacher and has been learning from
the ground up.

He took this up when his oldest daughter took up piano. Kind of an interesting
father/daughter project but I think he just wants to shred.
 
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