Buying a new guitar is a big deal, whether it’s your first instrument, or 10th. So it’s important you make the right decision. One of the best ways to know if you’re getting the right guitar for you, is by asking the sales assistant as many questions as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s acoustic or electric, new or used, being as informed as you possibly can be is super important.
So here’s a list of the 18 most important questions that you should be asking when you’re purchasing a new guitar. It’s a pretty hefty list, so I’ve split it down into the following sections. Feel free to skip ahead to the ones most relevant to you.
- Best overall questions to ask when buying a guitar
- Questions beginners should ask when getting their first guitar
- Questions to ask when buying a used or second-hand guitar
- The most important questions that you should be asking yourself!
Best Questions to Ask
There are some really important questions you should ask no matter what guitar you’re after. Whether it’s $100 or $10,000, make sure you know the answers to these questions before making your purchase.
- Can I try the guitar with my amp?
- Where was the guitar made?
- What controls and features does the guitar have?
- Does the guitar come with anything else?
- Can I modify the guitar?
Can I Try the Guitar with My Amp?
So this questions mainly applies to electric guitar owners, but it’s also relevant to acoustic-electric guitar players too. You might also think that’s it’s only relevant to players who already own a guitar and amp, but it’s also something a complete beginner with no experience should be considering too.
Your electric guitar is only half the story when it comes to creating your ideal tone. So to make sure you’re getting the right guitar for you, you should know what it sounds like when used with the rest of your gear, and most importantly, your amplifier.
Some guitars can sound completely different when plugged into a different amplifier, so the best way to make sure you’re getting the most accurate representation of the tone you’ll get when you take it home, is to try the guitar with your amplifier.
So my first recommendation would be to ask the guitar shop if they’re happy to let you bring your own amp into the store and plug it in. However, some shops aren’t a huge fan of you doing this because it’s a piece of electrical equipment.
If this is the case, then ask the store if they have your amp in stock. Unless you’re going to a tiny store, or you own a really obscure amp, then they probably will.
But if they don’t have it in stock, then ask the sales assistant for the closest match. This way you’ll be able to hear a decent representation of what it’ll sound like with your amplifier.
Now if you’re a complete beginner, you should still be able to hear your electric guitar with the amp that you’re going to be using when you start playing. Ask the sales assistant if they’ll take you through the different tones on the amp and guitar combo you’re trying out to see if you enjoy the sound.
Where was the Guitar Made?
This question applies to both acoustic and electric guitar players, but it’s more applicable for guitarists looking for their second guitar, or a more premium instrument than an entry level guitar.
Knowing where the guitar was made is an important consideration when purchasing a guitar. The country of manufacture is not the be all and end all, but there are some countries that are best known for producing higher quality instruments than others.
Most premium guitars are produced in America, Korea and Japan. These countries are well known for their excellent craftsmanship and rigorous quality control procedures, so you can be more certain than you’re getting a higher quality instrument.
Of course, there are plenty of other countries that produce great guitar. Check out this post I’ve written to find out more about this topic.
What Controls and Features does the Guitar Have?
So this is most relevant for electric guitar players. It’s absolutely vital to know the different controls and features on your electric guitar before making your purchase. Knowing this, will allow you to a) properly test out the guitar, and b) help you compare the versatility of different guitars you are looking into.
So what features should you be looking out for? Here are some of the most important.
- Pickup type
- Pickup configuration
- Bridge type
- Neck profile
- Number of frets
- Tone woods
- Which Pickup Type Should I Choose?
- Which Pickup Configuration is Best?
- Guide to Electric Guitar Bridge Types
- 7 Factors that Affect an Electric Guitar’s Tone
- 5 Factors that Affect How Easy a Guitar is to Play
- Number of tone controls
- Number of volume controls
- Pickup selector
- Coil tap/ coil splitting function
Does the Guitar Come with Anything Else?
Next up on the list, is a question related to the accessories. Some guitars come with them, and some don’t. It’s important to know about the whole package when considering which guitar to choose, so make sure you ask this question.
It’s also a good idea to let the sales assistant know that you’re interested in the answer to this question, because sometimes it can help with bargaining. Generally I would say not to haggle when buying a guitar, but sometimes you can get a gig bag or cable thrown in to sweeten the deal if the sales assistant wants to entice the offer.
The most common accessories include a gig bag or case, plectrums and cables. Generally, the most expensive the guitar is, the more goodies you’ll get in the package.
Can I Modify the Guitar?
If you’re after the perfect tone, then often you’ll find that you just can’t get it with the stock features on a guitar. That’s why a lot of professional guitar players have their own signature modified versions that come with everything they need to create that customised sound.
If you’re looking to achieve this, then it can be well worth asking if the guitar store will be willing to modify the guitar to suit your preferences. Some common modifications include different pickups, tuners, bridges and strings.
Of course, you will have to pay for this as an extra cost when you purchase your guitar. But sometimes if you do the modifications at the same store you’re buying from, you can get a really good deal.
Questions for Beginners
If you’re a beginner guitarist, then you’ll probably fall into one of the two categories: a) you’ll have a million and one questions you want the sales assistant to answer b) you know so little that you don’t know where to begin with the questions!
If you fall into the second category, then make sure you ask these 5 questions to make the right purchase.
- What type of guitar is best for me?
- Is the guitar versatile?
- Is the guitar easy to play?
- Can I hear the guitar being played?
- What’s the difference between a cheap and expensive guitar?
What Type of Guitar is Best for Me?
If you’re a complete beginner, then you may not have decided which guitar type you should go for yet. There are a few main types: acoustic, electric and classical. If you can choose between these three, then you’ve made a good start.
When you go into the guitar store, tell the sales assistant roughly what type of guitar you’re after, whether it’s acoustic, electric or classical, and then they’ll be able to narrow down the selection.
They’ll probably start asking you more questions to help choose the best guitar for you, so try and consider the answers to these if you can:
- What style of music do you enjoy?
- Who is your favourite guitarist or band?
- What guitar body shape do you like the most?
Going into a guitar store as a complete beginner can be pretty daunting, because there are so many different makes and models, so asking for the sales assistant to advise you is a really good idea.
I’ve always found sales people in guitar stores to be super helpful and knowledgeable, so if you think the sales assistant isn’t all that great, then try another store, because you’ve probably just been very unlucky!
Is the Guitar Versatile?
Something I think is super important for new guitarists to consider when they purchase their first guitar, is how versatile it is. Most new players aren’t really sure what style they’re into yet. Sure, you may know your favourite band or guitarist, but do you know if you enjoy actually playing the songs yet?
Unless you only enjoy one style of music, you should try and choose something versatile for your first guitar. This will allow you to enjoy yourself when you’re starting to learn, because you’ll be able to sound great playing loads of different things.
Is the Guitar Easy to Play?
One of the most important things a beginner should consider, is how easy the guitar is to play. Of course, when you’re learning, everything will feel difficult. Learning to play the guitar is a pretty hard thing to do, your progress will be pretty slow at first, but stick with it!
One of the best things you can do to make this process as easy as possible, is to pick a guitar that’s pretty easy to play to begin with.
There are all sorts of factors that go into this, from the string thickness, to the neck and body shape. Check out this post on the main factors that affect how easy a guitar is to play to learn more about this topic.
Of course, some guitars are easier for some players to play on than others. But if you’re a complete newbie who’s never used a guitar before, then it’s hard to know what’s best for you. The sales assistant should be able to point you in the right direction though and advise you on the easier models for most people. Try and sitting and standing with the guitar, and holding the neck to see how it feels to you as well.
Can I Hear the Guitar Being Played?
One of the most, if not the most, important factors to consider when it comes to choosing your first guitar, is how it actually sounds. But when you’re a beginner, you don’t know any songs to be able to try it out! So what should you do?
Ask the sales assistant to play the guitar for you! Basically all sales assistants will jump at the chance to try your guitar out for you. Tell them what style of music you like, and ask them to go through all the controls with you. Then try hearing some different guitars back to back. Then you’ll know which guitar you should choose, based on how good it sounds to you, without even having to play!
What’s the Difference Between a Cheap and Expensive Guitar?
Another pretty common question to ask a sales assistant in the guitar store, is what is the difference between a cheaper and expensive guitar?
A lot of guitar brands have loads of different tiers within the models they manafacture. They’re usually have an entry-level guitar, then some intermediate guitars, and professional level variants of the same guitar model.
If you’re not sure how much to spend, then asking the sales assistant for the specific differences between the cheaper and more expensive guitars can help you figure out if it’s worth it for you.
Take a look at this post to learn more about this topic.
Questions When Buying a Used Guitar
Buying a second hand guitar is a great idea if you’re looking for a premium instrument, but without the hefty price tag, but it is riskier than buying a new guitar. That’s why you need to make sure you’re all clued up and ask plenty of questions. So here are the main ones to ask.
- How old is the guitar?
- Does the guitar have any faults?
- Can you set up the guitar for me?
How Old is the Guitar?
The first thing you probably want to know when buying a used guitar, is the age of it, and also if there have been multiple owners.
Generally, the older the guitar, the worst the condition will be. However, this isn’t always the case, especially with premium instruments. If you’re looking to purchase a used guitar because you want to to appreciate in the future, then you need to know the age so you can properly consider your investment.
Does the Guitar have Any Faults?
This is the most important question to ask when you buy a second hand guitar. The age is less of an issue, but if the guitar has any faults, then you need to seriously consider their severity, and if you can fix them.
Of course, sometimes the person selling the guitar isn’t always honest, so make sure you do a full assessment yourself, but here are some good questions to ask to make a start.
- Has it had any major repairs?
- Have any parts of the guitar been replaced?
- Is there any cosmetic damage to the guitar?
Can you Setup The Guitar for Me?
Often, with second hand guitars, they’ll need a proper setup before you can get the most out of them. This is especially true if the guitar has been sitting in a corner gathering dust.
It may need a truss rod adjustment or bridge adjustment, and at the very least it’ll probably need the fretboard cleaning and the strings changing.
If you’re not that experienced with making adjustments to the setup of a guitar, then you should always let a professional take a look at it. The only disadvantage, is that this can often cost around $25-50, depending on how much work needs doing.
If you’re purchasing a guitar from a store, then the chances are that someone who works there, will be in charge of setups. If you enquire about the setup before making the purchase, sometimes the sales assistant can throw in a setup at a discounted rate to close the deal. So it’s definitely worth asking if the store actually does setups to put the idea in the sales assistant’s head!
Questions to Ask Yourself
So now we’ve been through all the main questions to ask at the store when you’re purchasing a new guitar, but that’s not everything. You also need to make sure you ask yourself some questions, and really think about the kind of guitar you want before making the purchase. So here are some important points to consider.
- What style of music do you want to play?
- What will you be using the guitar for?
- How much do you want to spend?
- Are you looking for a new or used guitar?
- What do you want your guitar to look like?
What Style of Music Do I Want to Play?
The first thing you need to ask yourself when purchasing a new guitar, is what style of music you want to play. This will help you really narrow down the kind of guitar you want.
If you’re looking for a guitar to play heavy rock music, then you’ll probably want something with humbucker pickups. But if you want crisp clear clean tones, then you might prefer single coils. On the other hand, if you’re into heavy metal, you’ll probably want active pickups, instead of passive ones.
There are loads of other factors that come into play too, not just the pickups. These include the body shape, neck profile, scale length, tone wood, bridge type etc. Thinking about what style of music you like can really help narrow things down.
If you want something versatile, then it’s important to know this from the off as well. You can then start looking for things like coil tapping/ splitting functions, or a mix of pickup types to give you this added versatility.
What Will I Be Using the Guitar For?
As well as the style of music you want to play, you should also be thinking about what the exact function of your guitar will be. This is less of an issue if you’re a beginner, because you’re just looking for something to learn on at this point probably, but it’s really important if it’s a second guitar.
Unless you’re just addicted to buying guitars (no judgement), then there’s probably a specific reason that you’re looking to buy a new one. Here are some of the most common ones:
- You need a backup when playing gigs
- You’re looking to upgrade
- You want a guitar that does something that your current guitar doesn’t
Each of these motives for buying a new guitar will affect the actual guitar you should be getting. So make sure you really think about this before diving into a purchase.
How Much Do I Want to Spend?
This is arguably the most important question to ask yourself when buying a guitar. Pretty much everyone has a budget in mind when they go to purchase a new guitar. It’s something I’d always recommend doing as well.
Guitars are expensive, and it’s easy to get carried away and overspend. And sometimes you just don’t need to spend all that much on a new guitar to get something that has everything you need.
So, the best thing to do, is pick a price. It doesn’t matter if it’s $100 or $10,000, but you need to stick to it. Don’t let yourself get carried away and go over your budget.
Am I Looking for a New or Used Guitar?
Now you’ve sorted out your budget, you can decide if you want a new or used guitar. If you’re looking for a premium instrument, but you can’t afford the new version, then looking into the second hand options is a great way to get what you want, and without going over budget.
However, purchasing a second hand guitar is always riskier, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. You need to be able to properly check the guitar over to make sure you don’t end up with any issues like dryness, or fret buzz.
What do I Want it to Look Like?
So, the final question on the list of things you need to ask yourself before buying a new guitar. Some guitarists reckon it’s shallow to consider the looks as a priority when choosing a guitar, but I disagree.
Guitars are expensive. So if you want to make sure you purchase one you’re completely happy with, then you need to pay attention to the looks as well. Think about the body shape, colour, finish, headstock design and control placement. Go online and choose a guitar store like Guitar Center
then take a look at all the different models and see which ones you prefer. You’ll probably start to notice similarities between the guitars you like, whether it’s the body shape, or the colour and finish. Then it’ll help you choose the style of guitar you like the most.
So there you go! Those are all the most important questions you need to ask when buying a guitar! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: