Acoustic Guitars Guide
Most beginners start with an acoustic when they first tackle the world of guitars. Whether you're just learning to strum or can already pick like a professional, there are countless choices out there. Start your search prepared.
1. Guitar Use
Who will be playing the guitar and where narrows the focus of a search immediately. Consider these quick questions to help you find a guitar that has all the features and characteristics you need. What type of music? What sound do you want? Playing in public or on your own? Smaller hands or big ones? What is your budget? Does it need to be portable?
Strings are the most defining feature of an acoustic, and there are two types. Nylon strings offer a sound that's round and smooth, also described as warm and mellow - best suited for classical, Latin or folk. Nylon has more sound control, but they're not as loud as steel. And since the strings are softer, there's less sustain. Steel strings carry a bold, strong, rich tone best for jazz, blues, rock and county. Steel strings are strummed more, while nylon strings are picked. And although steel hurts your fingers more initially, it's easily overcome once calluses develop.
The wood of an acoustic guitar very much determines its sound, as different types of woods produce different tones. Spruce is most common for tops; mahogany, rosewoods and maple for backs and sides. Cedar is a popular choice for classic acoustic guitars. Other woods used are ebony, koa, ovangkol, sapele and walnut.
The soundboard (or top) is a vital part of any guitar as it vibrates to dictate the guitar's tone and sound. The material it's made of is very important. Solid tops are made from a single piece of wood. They are generally more expensive, but offer greater resonance and projection, making the notes the guitar produces louder and clearer. And the tone gets better with use - it breaks in. Laminated veneer tops are made from several thin plies of wood pressed together, so they resonate less than solid wood and don't break in. However, they are more affordable and durable and less affected by temperature and humidity, making them a good choice for children or outdoor use.
5. Body Style
A number of body styles and sizes exist for acoustic guitars, from the smaller classic to the jumbo and the dreadnought and variations on these. Many of the styles are manufacturer specific, but a general rule to follow is the bigger the soundboard, the more low-end tone and volume the guitar will generate.
You only need to consider electronics if you plan to play in front of an audience or want to amplify your sound. Putting a microphone in front as you play is always an option, but so is a pickup (a special microphone inside the sound hole), a piezo pickup (a pickup that mounts under the guitar's bridge) or an acoustic-electronic (the guitar comes with a built-in pickup and plugs into an amplifier).
Necks vary in size and shape according to the make of guitar. While the material used to make a neck is key, the most important factor is the fit and feel of it in your hand. The best necks are tight, rigid and straight to ensure the action remains consistent. Most acoustic guitars use a set (glued) neck; few have bolt-on necks like electric guitars.
Cutaways are something to consider if buying a steel-string guitar especially. A cutaway lets you reach the higher frets (near the sound hole) more easily. Your guitar will then produce those extra high notes, but at a loss of volume and bass.
Research the manufacturers of the guitars you're interested in, and educate yourself on the details of the various models so you can make an informed choice. Check out review sites, read about the pros and cons, and consider others' opinions. Research is important, especially when you're buying online.
10. Cost and Quality
When buying an acoustic guitar, quality matters because the tone of a high-quality guitar actually improves - it produces a richer, fuller tone over time. Plus, a good acoustic will not only retain its value, it could even appreciate. Quality doesn't necessarily mean more expensive.
Electric Guitars Guide
Before you start searching for your first guitar consider the following:
1. Price range.
Set an appropriate price range. You can sort your search results by price (Low to High or High to Low) in order to make your search easier.
2. Size/age of the player.
Electric guitars are available in numerous shapes, sizes and weights so it's important to find one that will be the best physical fit for you. Consider your age, height and the size of your hands. If youare younger or smaller in size you will do best with guitars that have thinner necks, shorter scales and are lighter in weight. If you are tall or have large hands you will probably be more comfortable with heavier guitars with wider necks and longer scales. Inorder to properly play your instrument you have to be able to handle it comfortably.
3. Style of music you want to play.
Rock, blues, metal, punk or jazz; the style of music you play will require the right tool for the job. Some guitars are known fortheir versatility and are used across several genres of music and some guitars are favored by specific genres. Identify your favorite bands and guitar players and research the gear they use, the guy in the jazz trio most likely isn't using the same gear as the guy in the metal band.
4. Starter Packages
AMS offers several Electric Guitar Packages for new Guitar players. These packages are a one-stop-shopping experience for the essentials needed to get started.
Bass Guitars Guide
Don't get blinded by that lovely finish!
Bass guitars (like guitars) in many ways are like cars. Their appearance is a major factor in your buying decision. But also like cars, especially for the first-time buyer, there are far more important factors to know about in order to ensure you buy a bass guitar that is both properly playable and that stays in tune, enabling you to make progress with it. The unfortunate reality is that a lot of entry-level (and some not so entry-level!) basses are so poorly set up that they will make you feel that learning to play is just too difficult. The problem is, without experience, how do you know whether you are buying a playable instrument or just something that looks nice hanging up in the music shop? An experienced player can make a poor bass guitar seem reasonably playable, but the same bass could end up defeating the beginner's attempts to learn. So here are some basic pointers about what qualities a viable bass guitar should have.
Make sure the bass guitar has been properly "set-up"
For a bass to play at its best and to be as easy as possible to play it needs to be properly "set-up". This can be split into two key areas, "intonation" and "action". Correct intonation means the bass plays in tune both with itself and with other tuned instruments all the way up the neck, i.e. although the open strings might be properely tuned, you may find that when you play higher up the neck it is no longer in tune either with itself or other instruments. Good action means that the strings are set close enough above the frets to make them easy to hold down, but without causing unwanted buzzing of the strings against the frets under the vibrating portion of the strings. Some budget instruments have a nice finish but in reality are so poorly put together that they can never be properly set-up, check before buying.
To check intonation, play an open string and listen to the note carefully, then play the same string again, fretted at the 12th fret (this usually has a double dot marker on the fingerboard just before it). This note should be exactly the same but an octave higher than the open string note. You can also then play the "harmonic" note at the 12th fret (to do this place your finger lightly on the string directly above the 12th fret without pushing it down to the fret, play the string and it should ring), it should have the same pitch as the fretted note at the 12th fret. If you can hear a difference in pitch then the intonation is out and needs correcting.
The action is affected by three key factors: neck-curvature, bridge/string saddle-height and nut-height.
Firstly, a bass guitar's neck should have a very slight curvature in it in such a way that when you hold the low "E" string down both at the first fret (F) and at the highest fret on the same string with your other hand, the middle of that stretch of string should be about half a millimetre above the frets. This curvature can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the guitar's "truss rod" - best left to a guitar tech as over tightening can result in a broken truss rod and/or a ruined neck. On budget basses you may find that half a millimetre causes too much fret buzz and may it need to be a little more, a top quality bass could be less as the alignment of the frets will have greater precision.
String saddle-height can offset this buzzing to a certain extent. Adjusting this will provide the best string to fret angle, with the same aim of to keeping the string-height as low as possible whilst being just high enough to eliminate fret buzz. To get the best possible action from a bass you need to have the optimum combination of neck curvature and bridge/saddle height.
Nut-height is the third factor affecting the action. The nut is the piece of (usually) plastic or brass that holds the strings in place at the head end of the neck. If the string channels are the right depth the strings should be less than half a millimetre above the first fret, on a quality instrument they could be almost touching the first fret. It should be quite easy to hold a string down on the first fret. If you have to push the strings down a long way here then the string height all the way along the neck will be higher than it needs to be, making the bass more difficult to play and making learning seem that bit more challenging.
Guitar Amps Guide
Buying a guitar amp isn't just a matter of walking into a guitar store and handing over some money. Like any piece of music equipment, you need to put thought and research into choosing an amp. Know how you want your amp to perform, understand your needs and research the guitar amplifier market as thoroughly as you can. Don't buy an amp until you know you've found one that suits you perfectly.
Make a budget -- and remember you get what you pay for. Some small combo amplifiers are available for under $100, while an amp head used in combination with a speaker cabinet can cost thousands of dollars. Combo amps include both speaker and amplifier in one unit, while amp heads and speaker cabinets are separate.
Have a clear idea of the features you want your amp to have, such as separate channels for clean and distorted tone, built-in reverb and presence. Buy an amp with separate channels and built-in reverb if you don't want to purchase a separate distortion or reverb effects pedal.
Read user reviews of guitar amplifiers. Learn from other guitarists how well different brands and models of amps perform. Make an educated purchase by consulting fellow guitarists, not just manufacturers and retailers.
Choose an amplifier that suits your needs in terms of volume. If you want a practice amp for home, buy a small five- to 50-watt amplifier. If you perform in a loud band, buy an amp between 50 and 200 watts. Powerful amp heads with speaker cabinets are common choices for rock guitarists, but running combo amps through a large PA system can also be satisfactorily loud.
Find a guitar store in your town by searching online or in the Yellow Pages. Bring in CDs of songs with guitar sounds you like and ask the guitar experts to identify the amplifier used, or an amplifier capable of producing a similar sound. Ask for recommendations based on your budget and the features you are looking for in an amplifier.
Play your guitar through a variety of amplifiers in a guitar store. Make an educated purchase by experimenting with different brands and models of amplifiers. Adjust the amplifier settings, including volume, gain, equalization and reverb to become familiar with the dynamic and tonal range of the amplifier.