Buying a Guitar - The Right Experience

I'm a guitar teacher. Recently a student's birthday was approaching and she wanted to get her first electric guitar and amp. She has been playing guitar with an acoustic for about a year, so she didn't want a beginner package. "Mary" eventually asked me to help her purchase the guitar and amp at one of the local music stores. I had no problem whatsoever with this because I spend 13 years on 48th street in NYC as a guitar salesman. I was looking forward helping Mary purchase her gear.

So we set a date to meet at the store. Mary already knew the style/body shape she wanted. She wanted SG style- 2 humbuckers, double cutaway. Mary had a budget of $400 for the guitar and amp. With that budget, I was thinking she would end up with some type of Epiphone SG (G310, G400, etc). I had some hesitation about the Epiphany because two of my other students have truss rod issues with their guitars.

On a Saturday at the store, there was only one other customer in the guitar department. I thought it might be crowded being a Saturday afternoon. We go in and introduce ourselves to the salesman, Alex. I tell him we are looking for Mary's first electric guitar, an SG style in the $200 price range. I was budgeting $200 for the amp. The only choice we had was Epiphone. Schecters or ESPs were more money.

I told Mary just get the feel of the guitars, see what you like. I told her the way to buy a guitar is to play some and see if any "knocks you out" "just feels right". I told her this is what we call "MOJO". Just something that clicks without the person and guitar. You really can't explain it.

So we started with the Epiphone SG Special for about $159. Then moved to the G310. The G310 had a better feeling neck. We also tried the G400 that has a set neck on it. The other two were bolt-ons. The 400 also has better pickups that was confirmed by the salesman. Mary wanted a black guitar. This she was really set on. The store did have the G310 and G400 in black. Mary seems to be leaning towards the G400. She was liking the feel.

Next we looked at the amps. I had in mind the Fender Mustang 2 and the Line 6 Spider IV 30 watts. Both amps have a lot to offer and sound similar but the Fender comes with a USB connection to access more sounds from the Fender website. The Line 6 amp use a proprietary foot switch. The Fender uses a two button 1/4" switch. The choice was close but Mary went with the Fender. She liked the USB idea.

While she was playing through the amps, her father suggested her to stand up and use the guitar with a strap. The last test. Here is where things turned. We were going so smoothly up to this point. When Mary strapped on the guitar, it was unbalanced, neck heavy. When she let go of the guitar the neck went towards the floor. All the SG style guitars do this. This meant when playing the guitar she would actually support the guitar with her left hand, more so that other guitars. We try tying the strap around the neck like an acoustic guitar but that didn't help and looked weird. We also discussed maybe moving the strap button to a different place not he guitar, but we thought it wouldn't help. She liked the guitar but could she live with the unbalance issue? She didn't want to deal with it.

So we started looking at other options. Was there an Ibanez like an SG. Didn't see any. I did see an Epiphone Nighthawk guitar. Now I remember that Gibson reissued this guitar this year. I also remember that this guitar is very underrated. When it was first release back in the 90's, I was working at Manny's in NYC and I like the Nighthawk because of the versatility in the sound, small body, nice inlays, binding on the body and neck. The current model is a limited edition with a flame top. This was nice guitar but it was getting over her budget. I put it her hands.

Her eyes lit up! She loved it. It had the "MOJO". I plugged it in for her and explained that it had ten pickup combinations, single coli and humbucker sounds. I also mentioned that it is a very underrated guitar and that there wasn't a lot of them "out there". The one Mary was playing was a Cherry Sunburst. Did they make it in Black?

We checked with the salesman and after checking the Epiphone website we found out Epiphone makes the guitar in translucent black and we saw a picture on the website. Did they have it in stock? No. I knew they had other stores and they do transfers between stores all the time. I asked the salesman if they had it in the other store. He checked and said they did and they could get it by Monday or Tuesday. Sold!

The case or gig bag was extra so we had to look at that. I was leaning towards a bag but then decide for a case because it was a beautiful guitar and guitars can get dinged up in a bag. Mine guitars have. So she went with the case.

I told the salesman to make should we get all the paperwork, wrenches and the right case. The Nighthawk has a dedicated case for its body shape and size.

With the help of someone with a lot of guitar sales experience, Mary ended up with a nice amp and a great guitar for herself. Would Mary have the made out the same if I weren't there? I do not know. Would the salesman have asked the right questions? Offered the right guitar or amp? Give her good service? Mary had someone on her side that knew what she was looking for and taking care of her.

Hopefully, this helps.

Brian has 18 years Music industry experience and a guitar player for over 30 years.

He can be contacted at

by Brian Murphy; Friday, November 4, 2011 @ 08:34 AM [1976]

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History of the Electric Guitar - Music Technology

History of the Electric Guitar - Music Technology

The fame of the electric guitar started in the big band era when guitarists wanted to amplify their guitars to compete with the large brass sections in jazz orchestras. Earlier, electric guitars were mainly made up of empty acoustic bodies with electromagnetic pick ups attached, to convert the sound into electrical energy for amplifiers.

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