Many new guitarists aren’t sure of what kind of guitar they should buy when they decide to purchase one. Myself, I spent months and thousands trying to find the right guitar. Five guitars later, I found the right one and decided that nobody else should have to go through that ordeal. Here is a list of things to look at when you are trying to decide which guitar is right for you.Tone
This is probably the single most important thing to look at in a guitar. Whether you are playing electric or acoustic, country, rock, blues, or jazz, you need to have a tone that fits your musical genre. You wouldn’t want to play a guitar that is perfect for country music in a heavy metal band. Which guitars have the right tone for you?Blues
If you are playing blues, you need a guitar that has a bluesy tone. That being said, there are a few guitars that are perfect for that style: Semi-acoustic electric guitars with “soapbox” humbuckers sound great, as do Fender Stratocasters. The other important thing to achieve a blues tone is your strings. In blues, the heavier the string, the better the sound. You can’t achieve the right sound using extra light gauge strings. They won’t have the resonance, the bottom end or the mid range of the heavier strings.
Also playing electric guitar blues, your amplifier will make a difference on your tone. If you are using a vintage amplifier, preferably tube amp, you will notice a BIG difference in the tone.Country
Country music needs a brighter tone from the electric guitar. To get the brightest tones, it is best to use a guitar with single coil pickups. The two electric guitars commonly associated with country music are Fender Stratocaster and Fender Telecaster. Using a Tele, it is as easy as plugging in and playing really. On the Strat, there is a secret that a lot of guitarists don’t know that I am going to share with you.
A lot of Nashville guitarist call it the ‘Nashville Sound’. Simply put your toggle switch all the way to the bridge pickup. Then start sliding it back to the next position toward the neck. In between the bridge position and the second position, you will find a sweet spot. The switch will not be locked into place on either pickup but the sound is awesome. It takes only a minute to find it and when you do, the sound is incredible.
Again, the amplifier plays a big key on the sound of an electric guitar as well. A tube amplifier with a lot of mid range will help you get a country sound.
For jazz guitarist, a good semi-acoustic electric guitar is almost vital. The pickups on these guitars are usually humbuckers. For tone, a medium gauge set of strings is suggested.
As far amplifiers go, just about any ‘natural’ sounding amplifier will work. Rock
Last but not least, let’s look at rock and roll. Getting the right tone for rock and roll is tricky. Maybe you want a heavy sound that a standard 6 string can’t give you so you get a 7 string guitar. Since it’s conception in the late 80’s or early 90’s, manufacturers have perfected the tone from the instrument.
If you don’t want a 7 string but want that same tone, you can get the same tone from a 6 string using heavy gauge strings. The guitar should have humbucker pickups to get better tone as well.
For a more modern top 40 rock style, the sound would vary. For the retro sounds heard in a lot of today’s alternative music, Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters are used. Sometimes, the Fender Jaguar is played as well. For the heavier sounds, you would need a guitar with the humbuckers like the Gibson Les Paul.
To get the tone at the amplifier, it is important to have a good tube or solid state amplifier that can model a tube amp. If you run a tube amp you will notice that the preamp section almost always has 12AX7 tubes. This is to provide the razor sharp tone that you need. The power amp section may have EL84 or 6L6’s. That more or less is determined by the wattage of the amplifier.Playability
The way the instrument plays determines a lot on your happiness with it. You can have a guitar that makes the most beautiful sound but you hate to play it. It is said that the perfect guitar will be like an extension of your body. I have found this to be true with my number 1 axe. Whenever I pick it up and play, it feels like a natural extension of my body.
After you pick the guitar that you want for tone, play it and see if it frets right. If the strings are too high, adjust the torsion rod and intonation. This in itself could make the world of difference on your guitar. If you don’t know how to adjust them yourself, call your local guitar shop. It usually costs no more than $15 and takes about 30 minutes to do it.
Think about these things before purchasing your first or next guitar. It may save you a lot of headache and money in the long run.