Need help buying your first electric guitar?

We asked Nashville guitar legend and session musician Russ Pahl for guidance.

We know: Tips for Buying an Electric Guitar

Tips on Price:

Russ Pahl says that you should pay between $100 and $600 for your first guitar. Here are two tips he offers for saving money:

Base Model versus More Features:

Most manufacturers have a BASE MODEL guitar, and then more expensive models. If you're trying to save money, buy the base model. It has everything a beginner needs. With the more expensive model, you're basically paying for inlay and trim.

Made in the U.S. versus Imports:

Most domestic manufactures of electric guitars, like Fender, make models outside of the U.S., in places like Japan, Korea, China and Mexico. These models are usually cheaper, but of good quality. To save money, look for the imported model of the guitar-maker you like, or buy an imported brand.

Tips on Sound, Touch and Shape

Here, Pahl recommends that you go to a store with a large selection of guitars and find what you like.

  • Sound: Try out guitars until you find one with a sound you like. This is true when choosing whether to buy a solid or hollow body. There are no rules. Pahl says, "Let your ears be the judge."
  • Touch or Action: Play various guitars and feel the 'action' of the strings against the frets. Buy one that doesn't hurt your fingers and feels comfortable.
  • Electric guitars come in lots of different shapes. The shape of the guitar does not materially affect the sound, so it's okay to choose the one you think looks 'cool.'

How many pickups and dials should the guitar have?

Pickups are the metal or plastic bars under the strings that 'pick up' the sound of the guitar so it can be amplified. The more pickups you get (usually 1-3), the more tonal options you have.

The dials on the guitar adjust the tone and volume of the pickups, so the more pickups you have, the more dials you'll have.

Should I get a whammy bar?

The whammy bar allows you to change the pitch of the strings. Getting this feature is a matter of taste. Try it out. See if you like what a whammy bar does.

Should I buy the package deal?

If you're just starting out, Pahl thinks it's a good idea. Many packages come with guitar, amp, case, strap, picks and extra strings. That way, you've got everything you need and you may be able to save yourself some money, especially if you bargain a little.

What are some of the better brands of less expensive electric guitars?

Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Guild, Ibanez, Hamer, Yamaha, and Peavey.

What other tips does Russ have for buying an electric guitar?

"Electric guitars are, by nature, bullet proof, so don't worry about durability. Remember, all guitars are a little different. Go out and get that guitar that says, 'Play Me!'"

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