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Getting the best used guitar you can afford

Often people who don’t know how seriously they will take the hobby of playing a guitar make the mistake of thinking that buying a cheap guitar is the solution. Although it can be, it isn’t always. If you buy a guitar that doesn’t give a pleasant sound or one that doesn’t stay in tune, you are asking for trouble. Far better, in a case scenario such as this, is to buy a new guitar from an established guitar company which is not top of the range. However, faced with the potential of buying a used guitar, how do you know it’s a good one worth buying?

Reading the adverts

Reading adverts both on the Internet and in your local newspaper may help you. You may see similar items and get an idea of what price to expect to pay. If you pay too much, it may turn out to be wasted money. If you pay too little, you may be disappointed with the guitar, but at least if you know what guitars cost second hand, this helps you to decide upon your price range and stick to it.

Buying online

This is a really hard purchase to make without even touching the guitar and finding out what it sounds like. When buying a second- hand guitar online, do ask the seller if they can record a simple tune or at least give an idea of the tone in MP3 format so you can listen to it. Read the advert carefully and do an online comparison of price. Remember, if you buy a guitar online, chances are you will have to pay postage, so add this to the equation.

Buying from a second-hand shop

Shops are better than individuals because if you have problems, you know where to go to complain. Often guitar stockists take second- hand instruments as part exchange for new ones and sell them on. Feel the guitar in your hands. Sit down and see if the guitar strings are easy to reach. Some guitars have a wider body than others and young players or ladies may find they need a smaller guitar.

Listen to the sound and compare it. In a shop environment, chances are that the store has tuned the guitar. Get a knowledgeable member of staff to play something and listen carefully. It helps when someone plays it because you can hear clearly if it has the required tone.

Things to look for in general

The frets are the spaces where you hold the guitar strings down with the left hand. These are spaced the same, but the neck of guitars varies in thickness. The thicker necks aren’t too bad for learners because there is more space for the fingers. However, a thinner neck is easier to use when you are a little more advanced, because you can move your hand along the neck easily. Hold the guitar and place your fingers onto the frets and see what the reach is like, as that’s important.

Buying second-hand from an individual

First, find out why they are selling it. A valid reason would usually be because they have progressed on to other newer guitars. This means the guitar was used but that they have bought a more expensive guitar that caters for their experience. That’s a good sign as chances are they will have looked after it well. Look to see if it is kept on a stand. The neck of a guitar is very delicate. One of the worst places you can store a guitar is against a wall, because this puts pressure on the neck and can eventually cause a break in the structure.

Look at the wood of the guitar. One area which gets particularly damaged is the area below the whole in the front of the guitar when a guitar has been played a lot. Look at all the seams of the guitar and make sure there is no breakage. 

The stocks that hold the strings in place are housed at the top of the neck of the guitar. Are they intact? Do they turn the strings? Ask the user to show you and if the guitar is not in tune, ask them if they can tune it for you.

Once they have, get them to play something on the guitar because the most important aspect of guitar playing is the sound that the guitar produces. If the strings don’t stay in tune, it means a lot of work to keep tuning the guitar and may mean that the guitar was badly stored in either a place which is damp or somewhere next to central heating. A guitar needs to be kept on its stand in a place away from radiators. If the owner can’t tune it, that’s a really bad sign and you should stay clear of purchasing the guitar.

Look at the rear of the guitar. Is it spotless or are there scratches? You can tell how well-cared-for a guitar is with these inspections and it’s well worth your while. If badly looked after, the guitar may not be good value for the money.

Another area to look at is where the strings attach at the bottom of the guitar. Look to see that the pins are all intact or that the system of keeping the strings correctly tensioned is actually working. Take a digital tuner with you to check the sound and the tuning of the guitar.

If you are buying electro acoustic, do listen to the guitar plugged in. This is important as the sound may be very different. Find out what amp should be used with the guitar. Don’t buy an electro acoustic guitar without listening to it, as it may be disappointing. You really do need to hear it before making a decision to buy. Does it have a built in tuner? Does it come with the chord that goes into the amplifier? Does the owner have the original receipt from their purchase of the guitar? This is useful as it gives you the price they paid and the age of the guitar.

There are some very neat guitars to be purchased second hand. The sound is vital, the build is vital and the size is every bit as vital. Each guitarist needs a guitar which they feel comfortable with and which has the right kind of tone. If you find the guitar that fits all of the above criteria, then you may just have bagged yourself a bargain.