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Buying a Guitar: In the Music Store

How to try out guitars in the music store

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For novice guitarists, music stores can be intimidating. At any one time, a music store will invariably have several guitarists with amps cranked, intent on showing off their most impressive licks. Understandably, this can be scary for beginner guitarists. Do your best to ignore everyone else, and keep your focus on finding the best guitar possible, for the least money.

How to Handle Yourself in a Music Store

  • Get set up properly. Find a guitar that appeals to you, then ask an employee for a stool and a pick (although I'd highly suggest you bring a pick you're comfortable with). If you're playing an electric guitar, plug into an amp similar to the one you plan to use at home - if you're going to be playing through a small practice amp, don't plug into a Marshall half-stack. And, it may go without saying, but avoid using effects.
  • Play the guitar the same way you would at home. To hear the tonal qualities of a guitar, it needs to be played at a reasonable volume. Strum the open strings hard - listen to the sustain, and note problems like buzzing strings. If you're having a hard time hearing, ask to play the guitar in a separate room, or in a quieter part of the store. (I've been in music stores where owners glared at me for turning up the guitar a little, or for strumming an acoustic firmly. My solution was to hand them the guitar, say thanks, and take my business elsewhere. I urge you to do the same... these people are obviously not very familiar with the way guitars work, thus not the best stores to deal with anyway.
  • Play something you're comfortable with. Now isn't the time to show off - concentrate on the guitar, not on who is listening to you. Play each fret on each string on the neck slowly, making sure there are no buzzes. If you know how, check the guitar's intonation. If playing an electric guitar, try all of the different pick-up combinations, and listen for unwanted noise. There are many more issues to consider when examining a guitar - you'll want to study how to buy an acoustic guitaror how to buy an electric guitar.
  • Take your time. Try many different guitars in the store. Ask questions, and make notes on every guitar you play. Write down the manufacturer of the guitar, the model number, and the price. Ask what type of wood the guitar is made of. Note any special likes or dislikes you have about each guitar. When you feel like you can't stand to be in the store another minute, thank the salesperson, and head home.
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