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  • Bennett Hughes

Buying Your First (or Fiftieth) #Guitar

I can still remember the first guitar I ever bought (and I’m using the “I” lightly here as my pops was in tow.) I was 13; torn between buying a dirt bike like my older brother or branching out to do my own thing on the electric guitar. My budget was modest (a couple hundred bucks made from picking strawberries) and I also needed an amp to complete the package. We stepped into the vast unknown of the towns music store. In hindsight the selection was minimal, but to me seemed impossible. So many guitars on the wall and I really had no clue what to look for!!

I had dug my moms acoustic out of the closet when I was 12 and knew a thing or two, but this was foreign soil… this was electric. As luck would have it, there was a fella in the store at that same time trying to pawn his guitar. I gave it the once over. It was a Samick, (a Fender Strat copy) but let’s be honest; at the time, I had no idea what Leo and his wonderful workmanship had produced. All I knew was this thing was cool, looked faster than any dirt bike my brother had ever driven and somehow, just somehow, I knew if I just plugged it in, it (or rather "I") would instantly rock! A deal was struck and that guitar, the case, a patch cable and a little amp came home with me that day. My life long journey of buying guitars had begun.


Looking back, I owe a lot to my dad. He wasn’t a player but has always been very supportive of any of the kids playing. Likewise with my mom, (by example, she once turned my high school bedroom into a makeshift recording studio.) They were supportive, and when I had saved what I hoped to be enough money we took the 45 minute drive into town and found something special.


This post is for the mom’s and dad’s, the friends, the family seeing potential in a young (or older) player and wanting to help them along. I now own enough guitars to doll out a little advice on the subject. What I’d like to see accomplished here is my take on when, what, where and how to make the purchase.


#WHEN

There’s no better time than today to get started playing guitar. If you have a willing participant the goal will be to purchase with the confidence that he/she is going to practice. That’s a combination of having (beforehand) some type of mentorship in place. Wether it’s a cool uncle, yourself, a kid from church, a professional from your local music store, whatever. Someone needs to be the guiding hand in this process. Because guitar is frustrating in the beginning (and during those first recording sessions when you realize that despite eons of practice you’re still not hot stuff). Your fingers hurt, the frets buzz, the guitar is constantly out of tune… and let’s face it; we all stink during day 1. But there needs to be someone there encouraging us to get to day 2, day 3, and especially those first couple of months when you STILL stink but now think you’ll NEVER get any better, and the guitar must not be for me, and maybe it’s not too late to give it back, but I didn’t buy it from the store, I bought it from that stranger fella and I’ll never get my money back!!!!! I’ve been there! But I had smart parents, who got me lessons from a wonderful teacher, who was excited about guitar and that wore off on me (thanks Dion)

#WHAT PT I

Acoustic vs Electric. This is a familiar debate. If you can get your player started on acoustic I find you get a little more bang for your buck. The acoustic causes you to work just a little bit harder, and your muscles (although in the beginning may prove to be rebellious) tend to get stronger a little quicker. I always find the transition from acoustic to electric is smoother than vice versa.


#WHAT PT II

It’s super important that the player is actually excited by what she/he is playing! In the beginning there should be some excitement, some “wow” factor present (I mean it's called "playing" for a reason!) I’m telling you, some physical contact with the instrument goes a long way; does it feel right, is it too big, too small, is the player even smiling? You’re not purchasing dish pods or a shaving razor here, the online gamble is just a little to risky. For reals; I have only ever purchased 1 guitar online. It’s an amazing Fender Stratocaster with Eric Clapton noiseless pickups (which I love, but haters gonna hate) but I would NEVER do that again. Honestly. Like. Never. Which brings me to my next point.


#WHERE

Buy it in person. If you’re into craigslist and know a healthy dose of Karate than go for it. I’ve had some good buys there. But these days, I’m shopping local. No matter what. The shop in my area is Creter Guitars. They sell em, service em, do lessons, fx pedals, cases, cables, strings. You name it! I can go in there every day for a month, play the guitar and he’s not gonna be disturbed one bit. He gets it, his staff gets it. He’s there because he loves it, and when I can support that kinda business I’m gonna do it.


#HOW as in “HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND BEN”

See WHAT PT II. If the player is pumped about a $50 acoustic. Awesome, you’ve dodged a bullet and can proceed with smiles. However, if things go right (I said RIGHT) that $50 is probably going to get you through 1 year of playing. $50 guitars usually don’t last. In my experience, at about $500 guitars usually begin to see some longevity (with proper care and maintenance.) Here’s some of my guitars and the price tags “ish” attached: Head over to the Creter Guitar link, he has some of these but "used" and his used guitars are legit.


#ACOUSTIC:

Gibson J-45 (standard) $3,000 — this is my go to session guitar (It's featured heavily on this track: Who Are You Who Am I

Takamine G series: $350 - this is strung up in a Nashville (high 6) tuning

Godin Nylon String: $700 — (picked this up used for 1/2 that price)

Rectifier Guitar - $200 - no idea what the brand is, but it’s fun to play! In fact the day I bought this I was turning 30 and my wife took me to a guitar store (30th street guitars in nyc) and she said pick out ANY guitar. I was taking full advantage of this playing some dream guitars worth about $5,000!!! However, I kept coming back to this one. This is the one that made me excited. They are a unique sounding guitar and super fun to play.


#ELECTRIC:

Gibson 335 - $3,000 - this is my go to session guitar for anything electric (It's featured heavily on this track: Home

Fender Strat MIM (noiseless pickups) - $500

Fender MIM (found in basement, put new American hardware in it, had a buddy paint it, SUPER COOL) - $100

G&L Asat Classic Tele - (That same Leo dude co-founded another company later in his life.. G&L) Traded my Gibson SG for this one, has become one of my go to session guitars - $600


Quick Closing Thoughts and Some MAINTENANCE Advice:

Ok. So happy #shopping!! Message me to talk shop if you’re looking for an opinion! One final thought is that once you buy a guitar, try your best to keep it out so you’ll play it! Sure, the guitar will last longer in its case but you WILL NOT play as much. That said, make plans to take your guitar in to the shop to get “setup” about once a year (will run you between $50-$85 bucks depending on the shop.)


All the best and happy picking/plucking/strummin'!


Ben

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