Posts tagged ‘buyer’s guide’

13/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 4 – What accessories do I need?

In this last part of our series we take a look at what a beginner needs to make the most of his/her new guitar.

Fuzz 2016 – Fridget Custom Guitars

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• Amplification

An electric guitar needs some type of amplification. Yes, it’s true that you can play an electric guitar unplugged, too, but to develop a good technique you should use an amplifier regularly. Especially with solid body guitars there’s always the temptation to play them too hard, when playing unplugged.

You can either go for a headphone amp…

…or a practice amp, meaning a small, low-powered combo.

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• A cable (aka a lead)

You will need an instrument cable to connect your guitar to your amp. Most leads that come with less expensive guitars (sub 1,000 €) are very cheap and nasty – don’t use them.

A quality guitar cable is made from sturdy cable material, which is well-shielded from electromagnetic interference, and it sports two quality plugs.

If you use a Gibson SG-type guitar or any semiacoustic with an output jack mounted to its top, you should get a guitar lead that has an angled plug to use with the guitar. The angled plug will put less mechanical stress on the crucial area around the jack.

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• A bag or a case

The safest place for your instrument, when it’s not played, is a well-made gig bag or a hard case.

A well-padded gig bag is lightweight and easy to transport, especially if you travel by public transport or by bike.

More expensive guitars – especially those with set necks – should really be stored in a case. You should also opt for a case if you plan on transporting your instrument in the back of a van or in a trailer, as a case is much sturdier than a gig bag.

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• A stand

On stage – or during practice session breaks – you should put your guitar in a guitar stand, when you’re not playing it. Leaning it against the amp or leaving it lying on the floor will result in accidents sooner rather than later.

If your guitar is finished in nitrocellulose lacquer (which means all Gibsons, some upper range Fenders, many luthier-made instruments), you have to make sure to buy a stand that won’t react chemically with your guitar’s finish. Some stands have padding that can leave marks on your guitar, or even cause the finish to blister. Some guitarists even line the contact areas of their stands with linen or cotton cloth to protect their nitro-finished instrument.

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 • A tuner

A digital tuner will help you play in tune with the rest of the band. It is also an indispensable tool for setting your guitar’s intonation.

Tuners are available as clip-on units…

…table top tuners…

…or as floor ”effects”.

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• Strings

It’s a very good idea to have one or two sets of strings in your gig bag or case, in case you break a string.

If you’re unsure about the correct gauge, ask the shop assistant (or the seller) to tell you what gauge the current string set on the guitar is. You can find more information about string changes HERE.

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•  Plectrums

Most guitarists use a plectrum (aka a pick) to strum their electric guitar.

Picks are available in a plethora of different materials, thicknesses, colours and sizes. Luckily, plectrums are also quite inexpensive, so I’d suggest you try a few different picks, before deciding on your personal preference.

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06/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 3 – Assessing a guitar’s condition

How do you assess the condition of an instrument?

In my view, the condition of any guitar can be gauged by dividing up any possible issues into three groups:

Group 1 – Things that can be changed/corrected easily:

++ truss rod settings

++ dead strings/”wrong” string gauge

++ intonation

++ string height (action)

++ pickup height

++ pickup model (if no woodwork/modification is required)

++ worn-out tuners (if no woodwork is required)

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Group 2 – Small and slightly bigger issues that a qualified repairperson can solve:

++ a cracked top nut

++ string slots in nut too deep or not deep enough

++ a faulty vibrato system

++ worn frets or high/low frets

++ crackling controls

++ faulty switches

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• Group 3 – Issues that are difficult and/or expensive to repair:

++ a badly warped neck (so-called corkscrew)

++ a set neck that is out of alignment

++ a broken truss rod

++ unrepaired (or badly fixed) cracks in the wood (for example a broken-off headstock)

++ a botched DIY ”customisation”

Would you buy a guitar from Pete?

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Here’s one way of assessing the condition of a guitar systematically:

• Tune the instrument and play it for a minute or two. You’ll get an idea of the current set-up, as well as of the general condition and sound of the instrument.

• Is the neck correctly aligned to the body (especially important in set-neck instruments)?

Look at the distance of the e-strings to the fingerboard edges at the 14th fret. If both e-strings are approximately the same distance from the edge of the fingerboard, you’re good to go.

• The truss rod setting (aka relief):

Press the bottom E-string down simultaneously at the 1st and 14th frets (you can use a capo at the first fret), and use it as a straightedge. Take a look at the string at the 8th fret; there should be a small gap between the top of this fret and the E-string – that’s what we call the relief. If the gap is around 0.5 mm, the truss rod is set as it should be. Check the treble e-string in the same way. If there’s a substantial difference between the relief at the low E and the treble e, you’re most likely looking at a warped neck.

If the truss rod setting is not ideal (too tight = no relief; too loose = relief greater than 0.5 mm) you should ask the seller to adjust the truss rod for you.

• Check the nut slots:

Each string is pressed down in turn at the 3rd fret. The string should now be resting on the second fret. Look for a small gap between the 1st fret and the string you’re pressing down. Using a regular 009- or 010-gauge set, there should be a tiny gap beneath the treble e-string and the first fret (when fretting the string at the third fret), just about large enough to fit a sheet of printer paper in there. Because the bass strings need more clearance to vibrate freely, the gap between the first fret and the bottom of each string increases slightly going from the top e-string to the bass E-string.

If the nut slots aren’t cut deep enough, the guitar will be hard to play, and sound badly out of tune in the lowest (open) positions, regardless of action settings and intonation. A luthier will be able to correct the matter for a small charge using a set of special nut files.

If the string slots are too deep (= the strings rest on the first fret, when pressed down at the third), a nut replacement will be in order (except with locking nuts that can be shimmed). Nut slots that are too deep will result in rattling open strings, even if the action and the truss rod have been adjusted correctly. Note: You should check for string rattling using clean amp settings. Playing the guitar unamplified might make you whack the strings harder than necessary.

In most cases replacing a nut is an easy procedure for a repairperson.

• The condition of the frets:

On a used guitar, slight wear marks on the frets are the result of normal use, and this light wear won’t cause any problems.

If the frets are very worn (like the ones in the picture below), you should take the cost of a fret dress (or even a complete refret) into consideration, and maybe try to get the seller to lower his/her asking price.

Refretting bound fingerboards is more complicated and time-consuming than dealing with unbound ’boards, which is usually reflected in the cost. Ask you luthier.

• Check the bridge:

Are all the screws and bridge saddles in working order? Is there ample scope for intonation adjustment?

If the guitar’s set-up is unsatisfactory – the action may be too high or too low; the intonation may be off – ask the seller to adjust the guitar for you before making a buying decision!

• Check the electronics:

Play around with all controls and switches – is everything working as it should? Do all the pickups work?

Scratchy, crackling pots and faulty switches are quite easy for a luthier to exchange. If we’re talking about a new guitar, the shop should take care of this before you buy. With a pre-owned instrument, you will have to take care of the repairs. Note: Replacing electrical components and pickups in semi-acoustic and archtop guitars is generally much more complicated, which will be reflected in the luthier’s quote.

• Check the vibrato:

Does the vibrato (aka the tremolo or the whammy bar) work as it should? Are all the parts in working condition, or are you faced with rusty screws or even broken parts? Is there ample scope for action and intonation adjustment?

If the vibrato bridge looks very worn, or if there are structural problems, like a broken off (or loose) bridge post, you might be facing a complete replacement or a costly repair.

• And finally: Plug the guitar into an amp, and play it some more. Listen to the sound of the instrument. Check its playing feel, its ergonomics, and make a final assessment of its overall condition.

• Based on this checklist (and any possible issues you might have found) you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do I like this instrument?
  2. Do I think this guitar is worth its asking price?

Gretsch Streamliner G2420T – full front

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04/10/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 2 – New or used?

What are the advantages of buying a new guitar vis-à-vis a pre-owned instrument?

ESP Eclipse II Distressed – toggle switch

• Buying a guitar in a reputable shop has the following advantages:

++ Your new guitar will be just that – brand-new and untarnished (unless you go for a relic’ed axe).

++ The shop assistant can help you finding the right guitar for your playing style.

++ Many shops also offer to set up your new guitar to your own specifications.

++ Should there be any problem due to faulty workmanship, you’re covered by a warranty.

• Why can it make sense to buy a used guitar?

++ In many cases, you will be able to afford a slightly more expensive instrument. Depending on the age and condition of the guitar, a used guitar usually goes for about 60-80 % of its price when new.

Please note: This kind of price reduction tends not to apply to collectable (vintage) guitars, as well as many special run and/or custom shop instruments from sought-after brands. The value of some of these instruments may even rise considerably with the passing of time.

++ A pre-owned guitar is also pre-aged, so the possibility of nasty surprises due to wood shrinkage/expansion is also considerably lower. If a three- or five-year old guitar’s neck is still straight and its fingerboard hasn’t shrunk, chances are that things will remain stable in the future, too.

Shopping for a used instrument does require some experience from the buyer, though, because he/she will have to be able to correctly gauge the condition and market value of the instrument on offer. If you feel unsure take a more experienced guitarist along with you.

Hagström Pat Smear – body beauty 1

• If you want to buy a used guitar via the internet, you should make sure to apply the same amount of care, as with other shopping on the net. Don’t hand over any credit card details to a private seller, and direct payment in advance is also generally a no-no. The safest way to do business is by using well-known platforms, such as Ebay or Reverb.com, which provide for relatively secure payment options, such as Pay Pal.

Remember there are also pirate copies of popular guitar models sold on the internet. Again, if you feel unsure, as a friend for additional advice. And remember the old adage: ”If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

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29/09/2016

Buying an electric guitar, part 1 – Make a plan, make a budget

So, you want to buy an electric guitar? Let Kitarablogi.com help you find the guitar that’s ”the right one” for you.

There are a few things you should think through in advance, before setting out to your local guitar shop.

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What guitar do I really want/need?

• The way you feel about a guitar’s looks and design can be an important factor in making a buying decision, and the same goes for the guitar your favourite artist plays. There’s nothing ridiculous in choosing an instrument for its looks, as there’s always a psychological component to how you approach a guitar. If you really dig the way an instrument looks, you will want to play it, and play it more often. This goes the other way, too – if you feel your guitar is ugly, playing it won’t be as much fun.

• Nevertheless, the most important criterion for buying your guitar should be the style of music you plan to use it for. Yes, theoretically you can play any guitar in any style – as Ted Nugent proves by playing loud Rock on an all-hollow archtop (a Jazz guitar) – but if you choose the ”right” instrument for a musical style, it will make things much easier.

Here are some examples of musical genres:

++ Modern Metal: As you’re dealing with large amounts of volume and gain, the best choice would be a solidbody guitar, equipped with humbuckers. Some prefer active pickups, while others like traditional passive designs more. Lead guitarists often go for a model equipped with a locking vibrato system, like a Floyd Rose.

LTD AJ-1 – body angle 1

Halla Custom SG – Floyd Rose

As many bands in this genre use lower than standard tunings, you could consider opting for a seven-string model (which offers an additional lower string), or even go full-out for a baritone electric.

++ Jazz: Most Jazz guitarists like to stay in the traditional sonic space offered by all-hollow archtops or semi-solid ES-335-type guitars. The preferred pickup choices are humbuckers and P-90s.

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++ Blues: Blues musicians use a wide variety of different guitars, depending on their personal taste. Here the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your chosen instrument, in order to express your feelings without being hindered by your guitar. Locking vibratos and active pickups are very rarely seen in Blues music.

Tokai ES-138 – body beauty

++ Country: Traditional Country guitarists tend to drift towards guitar models with a lot of chime and bite in their tone. Very often this means Fender-style single coils or a Gretsch guitar. Over the past couple of decades there’s been quite a lot of crossover from Rock into Country music, though, which has lead to more variety in the choice of instruments in this genre.

++ Classic Rock: Traditional 1970s Classic Rock is built upon humbucker-equipped solidbody guitars, which offer enough grit and output for this genre. Think Les Paul, SG or Telecaster Deluxe.

ESP USA Eclipse – body beauty

Tokai SG-75 – body angle

++ If this is going to be your first electric guitar: If you’re a beginner, we would suggest choosing a model that won’t confuse you with a large array of pickup- and switching-options. A non-vibrato bridge would also be a welcome feature, as vibrato bridges are generally harder to set up and keep in tune.

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Set yourself a budget and stick to it!

• It is important that you set yourself a budget for your guitar shopping. If you have a good idea of your target price range, you will be able to sift through all the different guitars on offer much more quickly, by leaving out any models that are too expensive (or too cheap). This will make choosing your instrument a bit easier.

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30/07/2012

Sähkökitaran osto-opas, osa 4 – Mitä tarvitsen kitaran lisäksi?

Sarjan viimeisessä osassa mennään sähkökitaran tärkeimpiä lisätarvikkeita läpi.

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• Vahvistin

Sähkökitara tarvitsee työpariksi vahvistimen. Kitaraa voi toki soittaa myös akustisesti, mutta silloin soitto muuttuu – etenkin lankkukitaralla – usein liian raskaan kätiseksi.

Hyvää soittotekniikkaa varten kannattaa mielestäni hankkia ainakin joko kuulokevahvistin…

…tai pieni harjoitusvahvistin.

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• Johto

Kitaran ja vahvistimen väliin tarvitaan vielä kitarajohdon. Edullisemman kitaran (alle 1.000 €) mukaan tulee lähes aina samassa paketissa erittäin halpa johto, joka kelpaa heikon laadun vuoksi korkeintaan hätäratkaisuksi.

Hyvässä johdossa on kelpo johdin, toimiva mekaaninen ja sähkömagneetinen suojaus, sekä laadukkaat plugit.

Jos käytät Gibson SG -tyylistä kitaraa tai sellaista puoliakustista, jossa jakki sijaitsee säätimien vieressä kitaran etupuolella (kannella), suosittelisin sellaista johtoa, jossa on kitaran puolella kulmaplugi.

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• Pussi/Laukku

Kunnon topattu pussi (engl. gig bag) tai kova laukku on paras paikka säilyttää soittimensa varastoimista tai kuljetusta varten.

Topattu pussi on kevyempi kantaa ja toimii erittäin hyvin monissa tilanteissa.

Arvosoittimelle, ja kuljetuksia bändibusissa tai lentokoneen ruumassa varten, kova laukku tarjoaa useimmiten parempi suojaa kuin topattu pussi

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• Teline

Kun pitää tauon treeneissä tai lavalla, laadukas kitarateline (ständi) on soittimelle se ainoa oikea paikka. Teline tukee kitaran ja suojelee sitä kaatumista vasten.

Jos kitarasi on viimeistelty nitrolakalla (esim. kaikki Gibson-soittimet) on syytä varmistaa, että telineen kumipinnat eivät reagoi nitrolakan kanssa. Muuten voi syntyä kitarassa rumia jälkiä tai kuplia, siellä missä kitaran pinta koskee telineeseen. Pellava- tai puuvillaliina telineen ja kitaran välillä voi toimia lisäsuojauksena, jos kitaraa on viimeistelty nitrolla.

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 • Viritysmittari

Viritysmittari on tärkeä apuväline virittämisen lisäksi myös kitaran intonaation säätämisessä.

Viritysmittareita saa klipsiversioina…

…pöytämalleina…

…tai lattiaefektin muotoisina.

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• Kielet

On hyvää hankkia kitaran mukaan heti yksi tai kaksi satsia varakieliä, joita kuljetetaan aina mukaan kitaralaukussa tai -pussissa.
Jos olet epävarma, kysy myyjältä, minkäpaksuisia kieliä kitarassa tällä hetkellä on. Lisää tietoa kielten vaihtamisesta löydät TÄSTÄ.

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•  Plektrat

Suuri enemmistö kitaristejä käyttää plektroja (engl. plectrum, pleck tai pick) – sellaisia siis kannattaa myös hankkia.

Plektroja tarjoillaan monista eri materiaaleista ja monissa eri muodoissa. Kannattaa siis kokeilla, mikä merkki, materiaali, paksuus ja muoto istuu omaan käsiin parhaiten.

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