• Who am I?

    I am Qrystal; or at least, that's my dot-name! Har har. (My name is really Crystal, but that's not as internet-searchable; hence, switching the C for the little-used letter Q.)

    I am here because I enjoy writing. I do this mostly for myself, but I also have a passion for helping others learn things from the things I write. Now that I am done my Ph.D. in Physics, I am stepping away from academic research so that I can indulge in some creative ways to share my knowledge and inspire the appreciation of scientific thinking in others. I am also working as a tutor, which is one of the jobs I've most enjoyed doing in my life so far.


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  • Buying a Used Guitar

    Posted by Qrystal on August 31, 2008 at 16:46.
    Category: Advice. Tags: guitar, shopping.

    I was honoured today by being asked my advice about buying a guitar, by a friend of mine who I only get to see once a year at Summerfolk, a folk music festival in Owen Sound.  I am quite proud of my response, so I decided I would post it here in case others can make use of it.

    My Background

    I learned a few chords on my dad’s acoustic guitar sometime in highschool, but I never persued it seriously.  When I went away to university, I must’ve missed having a guitar around, because it was pretty early into my second year that I decided I wanted to buy a guitar.

    As a broke student, the pawn shop within walking distance was my only option. Armed with only some advice from my dad, I went in and found the guitar I’m still happy with, ten years later. Ten years!  Yes, as of October of 2008, it will be ten years Me and my guitarthat my guitar and I have been together!  Woohoo!

    Anyways, the advice I can give about shopping for a guitar is partly due to my own shopping experience, partly due to my experience owning and maintaining my guitar, and partly due to watching and listening to others.  It is very rewarding to own an acoustic guitar, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested!

    My Advice

    Buying used is not only a good way to save money, but you also have a good chance of finding something truly fantastic, if you shop carefully. Some of my advice is more for used-guitar shopping, but some applies to new guitar shopping too. I know some people just don’t like the idea of buying used, but it’s how I got mine, so it’s all I have experience with.

    There’s quite a bit you can tell by looking at a guitar. If it looks really worn and well-played, it’s probably been a well-loved guitar whose owner is upgrading. It has also had the chance to vibrate with the sound of music, and supposedly that makes it more apt to sound good.

    That said, you also have to examine carefully for structural damage to the body or neck. Splits, cracks, or patched-up spots are bad news! Note, however, that the neck of a guitar is not meant to be straight, so you can’t eye it up like a pool cue.

    And of course, there’s only so much you can tell just by looking. Even without much guitar experience, you can still trust your ears to help you come up with an opinion.

    Pluck each string to make sure it doesn’t buzz. Pluck louder, and listen to how the notes resonate in the body. Try a few guitars, and listen for differences. You may not be able to pin down what you like more about one more than the other, but that’s not important. Just feel it out. :) Play it by ear, so they say. :)

    Stick to individual notes unless you or someone you know can tune the guitar. Tuning it and strumming a few chords can be a good test too, because it is worthwhile to ensure the guitar can stay in tune.

    Inquire about the store’s return policy, and be prepared to return it within that time if you find anything wrong.  Be sure to bring a used guitar into a guitar shop to get it checked out sometime within the return period. This is immensely worthwhile, firstly because they can advise you whether you should bring it back for a refund and run screaming away from it (this is most likely something they will do for free, in the hopes that you’ll come back in the future, but be wary if they try to push a new guitar on you), and secondly because they can tweak it to make it sounds its best (which should cost no more than about $40).

    Lastly, just don’t rush into anything. If you find something you think you like, ask them to hold it for you for a day or two or more (or even a couple of hours, if that’s all they’ll do for you). If you can’t keep your mind off of it in that time, it’s probably The One! :P

    Any Questions? Thoughts? Additional tips?

    Please feel free to comment on anything I’ve said above, or ask more questions, or share your own tips.  I’d love to hear what you think!

    7 Comments »

    • http://www.clintonhammond.com Clinton Hammond

      Best thing you can do when you’re looking for a guitar (new or used) is bring someone else with you who can play…

      The Guitar is actually a fairly poorly engineered instrument, because the person who most needs to hear it is sitting behind it, out of the way of 90% of the resonance coming from the sound hole… So bring someone who can play it for you while you sit out front of it (8-10 feet away) and listen to it…

      Once you have your new guitar, bring it to Open Mic on Monday night @ The Kildare House and entertain the people there!!

      ;-)

      CAH

    • http://www.clintonhammond.com Clinton Hammond

      Best thing you can do when you’re looking for a guitar (new or used) is bring someone else with you who can play…

      The Guitar is actually a fairly poorly engineered instrument, because the person who most needs to hear it is sitting behind it, out of the way of 90% of the resonance coming from the sound hole… So bring someone who can play it for you while you sit out front of it (8-10 feet away) and listen to it…

      Once you have your new guitar, bring it to Open Mic on Monday night @ The Kildare House and entertain the people there!!

      ;-)

      CAH

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      Thanks, Clinton, for an excellent reason to bring someone else along who can play.

      I should have mentioned that I was writing the advice as if the person does not have a guitar player nearby to drag along with them! That would, certainly, be very helpful. It would probably even be worth asking the salesperson if he or she can play for you.

      And haha, you couldn’t resist mentioning the ol’ Kildare House, eh? I do want to go there one of these Mondays… I’ll surely introduce myself.

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      Thanks, Clinton, for an excellent reason to bring someone else along who can play.

      I should have mentioned that I was writing the advice as if the person does not have a guitar player nearby to drag along with them! That would, certainly, be very helpful. It would probably even be worth asking the salesperson if he or she can play for you.

      And haha, you couldn’t resist mentioning the ol’ Kildare House, eh? I do want to go there one of these Mondays… I’ll surely introduce myself.

    • http://www.clintonhammond.com Clinton Hammond

      If you can find a music store where the sales people are willing AND able to play for you, you hold onto that store for dear life! I’ve certainly never found on in this town!!

      & of course I hadda mention The Kildare House… There’s no promotion like self-promotion! LOL

      CAH

    • http://www.clintonhammond.com Clinton Hammond

      If you can find a music store where the sales people are willing AND able to play for you, you hold onto that store for dear life! I’ve certainly never found on in this town!!

      & of course I hadda mention The Kildare House… There’s no promotion like self-promotion! LOL

      CAH

    • http://asabove Kenny KiloWatt the 1st.

      I agree with your points here too (as in my “I Like Xmas” comment). When I bought “Old Faithful”, and I truly do believe that it was 37 years ago, I played every new accoustic guitar available in the city where I lived, twice, and I kept on coming back to a Yamaha FG180-1. I loved that guitar and miss it too. It was stolen from me when I was doing a free sing-along gig on a local establishment’s patio, and left it for a minute to get a drink. I’m telling the world about this now because I’m still looking for it!

      The moral: “Protect your guitar like it’s family”.

      Still Love You Q, Dad.