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Considering Buying or Renting A Guitar?

Who Will Be Playing This Instrument?
If this guitar is for a child, under 10 years of age, you should consider a smaller bodied guitar, 1/2 to 3/4 size with nylon strings. Nylon strings are easier to press down and the smaller body will fit them better.

If this instrument is for a teenager or adult you need to decide what instrument to purchase whether it be a classical guitar, an acoustic, and acoustic electric or an electric guitar. You may want to try playing guitar for a few months or a year before you commit to buying a particular type of guitar. The guitar you buy after you've been playing for a year or so may be very different from one you start out with.

Guitar rentals should be around $20-$40 a month. Find a store that will apply a portion of your "rental fees toward purchase", in case you want to buy an instrument a few months down the road. If you do decide to buy a guitar make sure you take an experienced guitar player with you when you buy a guitar. Every guitar is different. Even the same model number by the same manufacturer will play differently. This is one purchase that I don't think you ever want to make by mail order. Pay your guitar teacher to go with you or get your guitar from someone like us that only buys guitars that play well and sound good.

Some rental shops like ours fine tune the guitars or "set them up" to make them more playable. In general cheap guitars are the hardest to learn on because they are mass manufactured and no time is spent making them play well. The strings tend to be far from the frets making it hard to play hurting the young players fingers and often discouraging them before they get to far. I started renting good quality guitars because the only ones my students could get were cheap guitars that were terribly hard for them to learn on. I found that I even had a hard time playing some of the junk they brought in and I have been playing most of my life. A good guitar saves a lot of frustration, money on lessons and can change learning to play from a painful experience to a pleasant one.

classical guitar

Classical Guitars (nylon strings)

Classical guitars are for classical music. But these wonderful instruments have also enjoyed a surge in popularity in Latin, Brazilian, Folk and other ethnic music. Because they are easier on your fingers when beginning to play they are a good choice for beginning guitar students. An entry level classical will cost you between $175-$275. A good classical guitar will cost between $ 450-$650. A performance model will cost between $750-$3000

Gibson Epiphone PR100NA

Acoustic Guitars (steel strings)

Acoustic or "dreadnought" guitars are the most common guitars used today. The reason is simple, these guitars allow a player to perform a wide variety of musical styles. From rock to folk, pop to country. Unlike an electric guitar they can be played and heard anywhere without plugging them into amplification. Yamaha, Ibanez, Gibson/Epiphone, FenderĀ®, Takamine, Appause all make entry level guitars in the $250 to $500 range. Good acoustic guitars cost between $500 and $1250 and performance models on up to $6000. You should expect to pay between $300-$500 for a good quality entry level acoustic guitar. There are cheaper ones but they generally are not of good playable quality and generally won't last very long even if they are. A high end accoustic guitar can last a life time.
Epiphone Special II

Electric Guitars

Most teachers don't considered electric guitars the best choice for first time players but electric guitars have enjoyed a huge increase in popularity over the past 5 years and have become a serious contender for first time guitar players. One reason I like them is that because they can really catch the excitement of a teenager who might be bored to death by a classical guitar. The down side of course is that virtually all electric instruments require some sort of amplificatio and cords. That means added costs. However, to meet the demands for more affordable electric guitar/amp combos, most major manufacturers have put together "packages" which contain everything you need.

The down side again here is that in order to give you a guitar, amplifier, cable, gig bag, picks, instruction booklet... some even include a video and electronic guitar tuner, even a spare set of strings, as you can imagine they are made very cheaply. I've seen had students bring in amps that had the guitar plug (which gets lots of stress) broken because it was made out of cheap plastic backing instead of metal. In my opinion if you buy one of these consider them a throw away commodity rather than a serious instrument. Like most other things it's hard to learn on a cheap piece of junk whether it be a snowboard, golf clubs, or any other tool. Having said that you do what you can and sometimes that is enough to get a student started and on the road to being a musician without braking the bank. But again this is why we rent guitars so you can have a good guitar without breaking the bank. A decent entry level electric guitar cost between $275-$450. A decent quality amp between $275 and $500. Good electric guitars are in the $500 to $1500 range. Performance models go up from there. Good quality amps are from about $500 to $1200. Then there are lots and lots of outboard effects you can buy as well but that's another story for when you are really into playing.

More that I've collected and edited on buying guitars:

If you are actually interested in a "real" guitar for you or your child to learn to play on, figure on spending an absolute minimum of $250 to $300, and if you truly want a decent instrument that they can learn on easier, you are looking at a couple of hundred more and should pay someone to set it up for playablility. The good news is that the more expensive the guitar the better resale value it tends to have. There is already a lot of cheap junk for sale out there. I wouldn't advise buying a $2500 guitar for a beginner either until you are sure they will stick with it. The guitar you or your child wants will change as you learn to play and get an affinity for different styles of playing and types of music.

Spending that extra time and money now will pay off in that you or your child will get an instrument they can actually enjoy playing on, not just playing with. It can make the difference between igniting an interest and destroying one. I've seen students bring in cheap guitars that really cost them to waste the price of the guitar and the cost of the lessons. Which is why I started this guitar rental business in the first place so students could have good guitars to learn on.

Things to look for in buying a guitar:

1. Know that if you don't want to spend a lot of money, you are not going to get a lot of guitar. You are very unlikely to get an excellent instrument at a bargain price, but you may be able to find a very good instrument at a very good price if you take the time to look carefully or pay a guitar teacher to find one for you.

2. Buy a tuner or get a guitar with a built in tuner. This makes it so much more enjoyable to play music rather than always struggling and playing out of tune when you are starting out.

3. Hold the instrument so that you are looking down the neck of it from the peg-head (where the tuner keys are) to the sound hole, and be sure that the neck is straight - no twisting or 'scooped' look - you should see a flat, straight line all the way down the edge of the fingerboard. There should be no angle where the neck meets the body, it should just be a smooth flat continuation. Now try the other side.

4. Be sure that the strings are not too far up away from the neck - if they are hard to push down they will make the child's fingers sore and distort the sound. Conversely, if they are not high enough, they will rattle against the frets below.

5. The frets (the little lines of metal that go across the fingerboard (aka-fretboard) should be smooth - run your finger down the edge of the fingerboard on both sides - you should feel the bumps of the frets on top, but they should not stick out past the edge of the fingerboard, and there should be no sharp places.

6. You need to make sure that the strings will hold their tuning - that when it is tuned to standard pitch (A-440 - got that tuner yet?), that the tuning stays - if the strings are constantly slipping out of tune, your child will be exceedingly frustrated. If you do not know how to tune a guitar, or don't have a tuner and are in a music store, have them tune it for you, and then plunk around on it for a few minutes and see if the sound changes. If the strings lose their tuned pitch quickly, you may find they will not hold at all later. Find a different instrument. Don't fall for the "Oh, it just needs tightening" ploy - if it 'just needs tightening', they should make it right before they put it on the sales floor.

You can get real guitars in half or three-quarter size for you child to learn to play on from most reputable dealers, but you still need to be sure to look for those check points above. The price doesn't tell you how good it is either..., and salespeople are after a sale, not necessarily your best interests.

It may be a good idea to ask for a short term trial period of a month at rental price before purchasing, but be prepared to put down a good sized deposit. Also, be sure that you and the store are clear on what the terms and conditions are before you do this - choose a reputable store!

NOTE: Be sure that you and your young musician take very good care of the instument. A guitar that has been used a lot in a month may not be in "perfect" condition but needs to be really nice to return.