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Any guitarists out there?(26 posts)

Any guitarists out there?jtkirk15
Sep 4, 2002 7:20 AM
I want to purchase a guitar to play around with and try to learn how to play. Can anyone experienced in guitars tell me what I need to start and what I should look for in purchasing? Do I start with an acoustic? How much should I expect to spend for a beginner? I have no idea how much time I'll devote to it. Thanks guys!
Guitars are like bikes ...scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 7:40 AM
The sky's the limit as far as spending money, and no matter how good a guitar you have, you always develop guitar lust for a better one.

Like bikes also in that you don't want to buy a real crappy first one (it will hurt, be hard to play, and put you off playing forever) but you don't want to spend a ton of money on one when whether you'll really take it up seriously is in doubt.

Like bikes also in that there are lots of 'guitar snobs' out there who'll tell you you can't POSSIBLY get an even REMOTELY playable guitar for less than a thousand dollars. Whatever.

Go to your LGS, spend $200, get a flat-top acoustic, put silk-and-steel (sometimes called 'compound') strings on it so your uncalloused fingers don't bleed, and see if the nickle drops. Then come back and we'll talk about how much money you want to pour into THIS hobby (which will rival cycling when it comes to pissing off your spouse).
Guitars are like bikes ...jtkirk15
Sep 4, 2002 8:05 AM
I was hoping it would be possible to pick up a used guitar for less than $200. People always recommend a used bike for a beginner, so does the same hold true for guitars. If so, what are some characteristics I should look for? Thanks!
Like bikes, used can be good.scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 8:18 AM
Look for: No cracks, nice straight-grain wood on the top, A STRAIGHT NECK (you can sight down it, looking along the top where the frets are, to see if it's bowed; if it's bowed much at all, give it a pass, you'll never be able to finger it). Strings should be close to the frets for easy fingering, but not so close that they buzz. Neck should be small enough that you can get your hand around it easily, but not so small that you can't get your fingers in position without crowding them (if you have big pudgy fingers, for example).

You should be able to get a nice used one for less than $200. I'd be wary of anything less than a hundred though.
three chords and the truthmr_spin
Sep 4, 2002 8:19 AM
I would definitely start with an acoustic, which you can pick up rather cheaply. Expect to pay $150 or more for a nice sounding one. Go to a store and play a nice guitar, then play the cheap ones, so you can hear the difference. There's a lot of crap instruments out there that have all the warmth and tone of a shoe box with strings. (I guess that worked for Bo Diddley!) Anyway, if you live in a town with a Guitar Center store, you can get some really good deals (it's all about haggling there, but they are always having sales).

Now the question is steel string or nylon string (also called "gut string"). Both are distinctly different sounds and feels, but the bottom line is that nylon is going to be easier on your fingers than steel, and that is important for a beginner. On the other hand, I don't know what kind of music you intend to play, but nylon strings tend to be found more in classical and ethnic music rather than rock or country. Often they are called "classical" guitars.

Steel string guitars are great, too, but if you get a steel string, get the lightest strings you can for comfort. Strings are basically wires, and like wires, they come in different gauges. The smaller the gauge, the "lighter" the string, which basically means the easier it is to bend. Lighter strings are also easier to break! Ask for "nines" and the guy will know what you mean.

It's like bikes. You have to go down and try them out. And once you are hooked, it's all over. You'll have to have a Martin D-45, and a couple of Ovation (deep and shallow body), and a 12-string, and a real National steel guitar.

Then you get into electric guitars, which is the most slippery slope of all. Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul? Campy or Shimano? It's actually worse, because with guitars, older is better. Now you can get into the esoterica of pre-CBS strats vs. modern day strats. Even within the Fender line, strat vs. tele? And for Gibson, les paul vs. sg? Simple solution, buy a couple of each.

Ah, but with electric guitars, buying the guitar is no longer enough. Now you need amps and effects, and eventually, your own guitar tech, roadies, and truck. Because you are a star, you'll need a wall of Marshall stacks, with some vintage Mesa Boogies, Fender Bassmans and Roland Jazz Choruses for the quieter stuff. All tubes, of course, because solid state amps suck (except for the Roland)!

What a mess. Think you can handle the pressure? Just get a cheap ($150-200), nice sounding instrument. If you like it, buy a better one later. Note that upgrade is not a term musicians use--you never replace, you only buy more! Learn three chords and see if you can find the truth, like Bob Dylan did. If you decided to progress beyond the three chord stage, pick up a book called "Chord Chemistry" by Ted Greene (if you can find it). It has all the chords you'll ever need to know. It's scary.
I see you've been there. Roadies andscottfree
Sep 4, 2002 8:32 AM
spouses think BIKES are a bottomless pit of money and 'stuff'. They should experience GUITARS. Shudder.

My own wife NEVER complains about bike expenses/clutter because it's nothing compared to the days when Casa Scottfree was Guitar Town.

(She about lost her mind last week when I dug out the old Harmony Sovereign flattop (circa 1967) and started mumbling about 'stripping and re-finishing this nicely aged baby.')
And groupies don't care!mr_spin
Sep 4, 2002 9:09 AM
Ha ha. I never had the funds to induldge my fantasies at the time I was trying to live them out. I only had pretty basic stuff, but I used to dream of the rooms of guitars I would own someday. I still go down to a nearby shop sometimes and wander through the vintage room. Funny thing is, I could buy a 63 Sunburst Tele right now, but what would I do with it? Pretend I'm Andy Summers is about it!

I got really serious about it for a while. I also went through all kinds of phases. Jazz fusion, remember that? I decided I was going to be a studio player at one point, but then I realized I wasn't that good! Oh well, back to real life. I played in lots of bands, but only one was actually semi-serious. Mostly it was frustrated musician friends just trying to keep their chops, playing parties for beer.

One thing is that I was always a Fender man. Gibsons were just too heavy for standing up all night. All I have now is a fairly modern Fender Strat, an old beat up 65 Fender Mustang (my first electric) which has been repainted numerous times, a beautiful Ovation Legend steel string, and finally, a generic steel string in two pieces (don't ask). I had a Yamaha nylon string for a while, but I gave it to my mom. I also have a cheap Epiphone bass for when I was forced to play bass in a band. I had a bunch of effects, but I sold them all on Ebay last year, except for a flanger that was a gift.

If I win the lottery, I will have my room of guitars, and I'll probably build a studio, too. What the hell, it's only money!
And groupies don't care!MJ
Sep 4, 2002 9:33 AM
Fender Strat, Ovation 12 string and mandolin man here

I saw the Throwing Muses on tour in 1991 - the 5'2'' lead singer was 8 months pregnant - she played a Les Paul hollow body (37 and a half pounds) for a two hour show...
And groupies don't care!scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 10:13 AM
Oh God, there was the Telecaster, then the Strat, then the Mapleglo Rickenbacker 370/12, a Flying V in there somewhere briefly, then the Ovation 12-string, then a dispersal sale of electrics and the purchase of a Martin D-28 Flat Top ... plus Gibson five-string banjo.

At one point I had five bikes and six guitars, and a marriage hanging by a thread. Then you lose the use of a left index finger, and chords are hard to make and guitars tend to drift away.
And groupies don't care!mr_spin
Sep 4, 2002 11:21 AM
I forgot about my ukelele. It's kind of fun to play but the intonation is terrible!

I also had a Takamine 12-string and a banjo at one time. Never quite got the banjo down and I got rid of it. Naturally, as a badass player, I didn't bother with the basics. The first thing I tried to learn was "foggy mountain breakdown!"
best way to teach oneself?Becky
Sep 4, 2002 10:38 AM
I have a lovely Yamaha guitar sitting around the house that I would kill to be able to play. I bought a lesson book and a book of chords and became so thoroughly bored with it that I haven't picked up the guitar in months. Any ideas on how to learn to play this puppy without the tedium of drills? FWIW, I played the clarinet for years, so I have a musical background.
Forget lessons and drills. Play SONGS.scottfree
Sep 4, 2002 10:49 AM
Find the tablature for your favorite songs and just start picking them out. It's a slow process, but you see results a lot faster than goofy lessons. Go to for an explanation. There's tablature all over the Web.
Just play alongmr_spin
Sep 4, 2002 11:15 AM
You don't even need the tablature to start. Put in your favorite CD and try to play along. If you know enough chords, you should be able to fake it pretty well. Over a fairly short period of time, you'll have a good handle on natural chord combinations, which almost all (western) music is based upon. Probably 80% of blues songs are the same chord progression (1, 4, 5) over 12 bars. That's why they call it the 12-bar blues. Grab some friends, pick a key, and go.

You'll want to start with relatively simple music, obviously. Hopefully you won't run into anything slightly weird, such as U2 or Van Halen, who usually tune their instruments 1/2 step down. The best play along music is old country, blues and folk. Avoid progressive rock and jazz.
Just play alongjtkirk15
Sep 4, 2002 11:28 AM
Thanks for all the great advice guys. It turns out that there is a Guitar Center roughly 5 miles from my house in Arlington, VA. I'll cruise by there and check it out. I went to see John Mayer play last night (I'm 23 yr old guy, not 13 yr old girl, free tickets) and was very impressed with his talent with the guitar. I always get goose bumps when a musician starts ripping in a solo and I would give anything to be able to do that. I guess I need to take the first step. I have no musical background (except the recorder in 4th grade) so wish me luck!
re: Any guitarists out there?jtkirk15
Sep 4, 2002 11:58 AM
Is it too simplistic to ask for some brand names and models I should consider when purchasing a guitar? If not, could someone give me a few examples of what brands to look for, at minimal initial expense? Thanks!
Pronounced tah-kah-me-nay. They make quality stuff, even at the low end. On sale, you can get a nice entry-level Takamine for less than $200. Takamine has a sibling brand called Jasmine, but I don't know anything about them. Yamaha also makes decent entry-level instruments. Ovation makes really great stuff, but it's pricey. It's also different than normal guitars in that they have distinctive rounded plastic backs. They also have built-in pickups for amplification. Ovations are very popular with musicians because they sound great. Ovation has a related brand called Adamas which is even more expensive. There is also the Applause brand, which is the poor stepchild of the Ovation family. That's what you'd be likely to buy. These are safe bets, but don't worry so much about brand. Find a guitar that sounds good and plays easy. It's very important to play it before buying it to get a feel of how hard it is to push the strings down. Keep in mind you may be able to get lighter strings, but if you can't push the strings down, you won't be able to play it very well unless you buy a slide (an advanced subject we won't discuss). This is referred to as the "action" and generally means the distance between the strings and the neck. Most players want "fast" action, which means the distance should be as small as possible without hitting any frets, which causes buzzing.mr_spin
Sep 4, 2002 12:33 PM
what the hell happened there? nmmr_spin
Sep 4, 2002 12:34 PM
Dat's funny. How you do dat? (nm)jtolleson
Sep 6, 2002 6:24 AM
Clicked EDIT, then accidentally paisted it into the subject line. Its a little known fact that subject lines aren't limited once you EDIT a post. Cheers! (nm)Kristin
Sep 6, 2002 7:04 AM
Sep 6, 2002 7:52 AM
No pasting was involved. It just freaked out on me. The day before, it replaced my subject with my IP address. I certainly didn't do it!
Really? You must have some sorta gift. (nm)Kristin
Sep 6, 2002 8:08 AM
Sep 6, 2002 8:45 AM
I did not ask for these special powers--they were granted to me by some kind of divine providence. I will try to use them only for good instead of evil. There is a greater good I can accomplish, if only I can figure out what it is!
Ovations!!???!!!?!?! Yuck!bikesforpeace
Sep 4, 2002 12:45 PM
I hate those things.
re: Any guitarists out there?empacher6seat
Sep 4, 2002 6:45 PM
Buy a cheap mexican or imitation fender strat and a practice amp. Learn on that, then upgrade after a couple of years if you're still in to it.
A friend use to play in a Dallas Blues bandcritmass
Sep 5, 2002 6:23 PM
He gave me his guitar after some trouble he got in. I'll give it to you.
A friend use to play in a Dallas Blues bandcritmass
Sep 5, 2002 6:37 PM