Not long ago, I underwent one of the most daunting tasks a guitarist can face – buying the dreaded second guitar. You know why it’s dreaded? Because it’s the only time you’ll ever have to make crucial decisions on this level. Oh sure, you have to make crucial decisions with every guitar you buy, from the first to the three hundredth, but the second is probably the most mind bending, because the second guitar will probably say more about you than you think. What’s the point in THIS guitar? What’s new? How much are you looking to spend? You have to know exactly why you’re on the prowl for new kit. Is it a sound thing that could be resolved on your current guitar with a new effect, or – more likely – a bit of practice? Or is this a visual thing that your current guitar just can’t achieve?
These are merely SOME of the questions that come into play when buying the second guitar. Hopefully, this article will send you in well-prepared.
1. HOW MUCH?
This is the key point – how much are you looking to spend? I assume you’re looking to spend a little more than you did the first time round, which on one hand is a good thing, because you’ve got more choice, but on the other hand is a bad thing, because too much choice can be the killer.
Look at some guitars you like. How much are they? What do you like about them? What are you paying for here? If you can’t really see what you’re investing in, do you really think you should be investing in it? And are you paying for the guitar, or the brand?
I’ll be honest – when I was shopping around for my second, I had it set in my mind I was either getting a Fender or an Epiphone. Other brands? What other brands? Those were the two for me. I left the shop with a Tanglewood Memphis, with a much better sound and a fair bit of money left from what I thought I would be paying for the Telecaster or the Les Paul. Tanglewood are a small British brand, and it just so happens that the shop I bought it from owns 90% of the factory, and the owner’s a lefty. This means quality lefties. Not only has it taught me a valuable lesson about paying for brand names, but I have also discovered a whole new brand and sound.
Another vital point – Where are you planning to get it? Turns out that the shop I got my first guitar from ripped me off to the tune of at least Â£20. So I don’t go there for anything these days. Are you thinking of getting it over the internet? Because although you could be saving a fair lump of cash, what guarantee is there that the thing will arrive whole? Have you played it? How’s the action? Don’t know? Well, that’s something to consider. One thing to remember: NEVER underestimate the power of spending money locally. NEVER. If the store is anywhere near what you or I would deem “acceptable”, it will come back to you in one way or another. The manager of my favourite shop now knows me on a first name basis and most of the staff call me buddy or pal, and recognize me.
Good service, to me, is worth me spending my money there, even if the odd thing is a little more expensive. Because that investment has now provided me with a place where I know I can be frank with my concerns, and where I can have my own room to play in when I’m looking to spend. Don’t be led into thinking that the only investment you’re going to make is in your sound and your guitar. Invest in people.
This is the killer. Why are you buying this guitar? Is it because of the brand name? Is that colour really the best for you? Unless you’re unbelievably sage and experienced, you probably won’t take a guitar down to sample if it doesn’t appeal to the visual side of things. Luckily for people like me, we’re not talking about people who are incredibly sage and experienced – we’re talking about real people, who will never utter the sentence “Oh yeah, that’s the Gibson Smartwood Chanacharana Les Paul I got this week. It’s not as good as the one I ordered last week, that was Peroba wood, but you win some, you lose some.” But you should always purchase based on sound. Sure, this guitar looks fabulous, but how does it sound? Does it sound crummy when it’s run through effects and amps that are set to just how you like them? Are you looking to buy an acoustic? An electric? An electro-acoustic? A semi-acoustic? A bass? An acoustic bass? Obviously, the more you think about this, the harder it gets, which is, in the end, a good thing.
Another question of why – is it so significantly different from guitar number one to justify the money you’re investing in it? Chances are most of your sound difficulties can be resolved with a tiny bit of practice.
When you get a new guitar, you sometimes feel like you’re capable of anything. I know I felt like that. I even had a crack at Clapton’s Tears in Heaven. But don’t be tricked into thinking the confidence boosts that come with a new guitar come ONLY with a new guitar, as I once thought. They come in all shapes and sizes, like learning a new trick/technique, mastering a song you consider to be difficult, and yes, getting a new effects pedal. As much as I hate to admit it, buying new equipment is good for us – it inspires to play more, and with that comes new ideas and techniques. But there’s many, many more ways to get a confidence boost that is not only much better than getting a new pedal, but it’s completely free.
I hope that this article has been of some benefit to you. If you’re shopping for your second guitar right now, keep the questions that you think are relevant to you in mind. More importantly, go in with an open mind – forget everything you think you know.
Best of luck and happy hunting!