How to buy a guitar without knowing how to play

It’s a common story – you want to learn how to play guitar but when you think about going into the store to try out anything it fills you with dread. What will people think of you if you go into a guitar shop and don’t know how to play at all? I am making the assumption that you don’t have access to playing others’ guitars and that you are new to music playing.

Here is our rough guide on how to approach a very common scenario.

  1. Have an idea of what you want – That is, know what you are looking for, whether it be acoustic or electric. What are the brands that you would like to consider and who sells them locally? What type of music are you wanting to play or learn? It is important though not to be too stuck on what you like. I walked in to a shop wanting a Telecaster once and when it was in my hands it felt all types of wrong.
  2. Speak to the staff – yeah, they may seem a little intimidating to start with, but with a bit of conversation you will feel a lot better. Be honest about your ability. No one cares if you are a beginner wanting a entry level Squier or a Gibson Les Paul. Good stores will sell you what works for you and not try to upsell. Return business comes with a happy customer who uses their guitar, not for someone whose guitar sits on a stand.
  3. Ask for what you want – sure the wallflower in teen romances may take her glasses off and let her hair down and get the guy. That’s not going to happen for you in a guitar shop if you don’t ask for what you want. Get the guitar off the wall, hold it, ask questions about it. There is a lot of ‘fit’ to a guitar and whether it feels right for you is very important. Does it sit well when you are seated? Is the neck comfortable or at least workable for you?
  4. If you can’t play get someone else to – whether this is a friend or family member or a staff member. Ask them to run through the different tone and volume knobs as well as selecting different pickups. Do you like what it sounds like? If not, tell the staff member why not and they will be able to tell you how to get a certain tone, or what can make that tone. Also, when testing this, make sure that the amp that it is plugged into is similar to the one that you have, or are going to buy as the amplifier is a big part of your tone.
  5. Research and don’t settle – Don’t buy the first thing that you like, leave the shop and think about it. This is a big purchase and a guitar you are not happy with will not get played. After running through what you like, research a bit more about brands, Youtube videos of the guitar in use, and read reviews.

Hopefully this helps a little with your first purchase of a guitar, if you have any questions or further suggestions, please leave them below.

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