Another best advice – buying a guitar

The other day I wrote about a student from Berklee College of Music, who asked for my “best advice” – and I wrote about how you could optimize your practicing time. Here’s my best advice if you are thinking about buying a guitar or know someone who wants to start playing guitar, and therefore are about to invest in an instrument.

This is written either to advice beginners, or to inspire you if you are a serious guitar player with years experience, and therefore is someone your friends or students would ask for help in buying guitar related stuff 🙂

My best advice on buying a guitar

Don’t bother about the brand or model, don’t give it a lot of thought if its made of certain kind of wood, or has fancy features, looks extraordinary cool, has the latest invention of a tremolo system or anything like that. What’s important is that it should be easy to play and stay in tune!! Oh maybe one thing more – if you want to have an electric guitar – guess what: … buy an electric guitar.

My interest in guitars started from envy. I became SO jealous on my big brother who got an electric guitar when I was 4 years old. During the following years my interest for guitars grew because my brother started playing in bands. When he bought a “real” guitar – a Gretsch, I started to envy him again. Therefore I was allowed to use some of my child savings for a “real” guitar as well.

My brother found a second hand Hopf SG type electric guitar. He recommended that because it was easy to play and stayed in tune.

Jesper Reiff playing livewith Soren Reiff (10 years old) @ Smogen, Holbæk
Jesper Reiff playing livewith Soren Reiff (10 years old) @ Smogen, Holbæk

My best advice on buying a guitar

And I’ll pass that advice on to you: easy to play and stay in tune. Let me go a little in details on that 🙂

Considering if it should be an electric or acoustic guitar – I’ve seen so many parents who wants to support their child’s interest in guitar. They go to a music store along with them to buy the first guitar. The kid’s interest maybe started because she or he just saw a cool video with Slash or maybe was introduced to guitars by a sample of Jimi Hendrix. Guess what … if the salesman in the store recommends a nice acoustic 3/4 size nylon string guitar – that won’t motivate the interest in guitars. A nylon string guitar is cool if the child want to be the next Segovia, but if the turn on is Slash forget it. When I was six years old and fooling around pretending to be a rockstar. My blue teddybear had my little acoustic guitar as the rhythm player in my band –  I used a cool looking beater as a guitar. And I played that beater with my teeth and shouted “Wild thing”.

When I got the Hopf it was cool, and I felt cool. Of cause it was a bit disappointing when I 10 years old saw an Eric Clapton concert, and he played a Strat. But I found pictures of him with a Gibson SG, and survived that … and continued practicing because my guitar was easy and fun to play – and it stayed in tune.

Soren Reiff with his brothers Gretsch CA Tennessean and Ampeg amp
Here I am with my brothers Gretsch CA Tennessean and Ampeg amp

People who aren’t caught in “the acoustic guitar trap” – but stick to their dream and buy an electric guitar, unfortunately sometimes get so much carried away, that they buy a (cheap) copy of “the real thing”. That’s cool – if it’s playable and stay in tune.

Unfortunately I’ve seen kids with a super cool looking guitar, that they never play because it hurts to play that guitar. And this is not because it isn’t a nylon string 3/4 guitar … it’s because it’s a poor guitar. When I try their guitar I agree – it hurts … the strings is like two kilometers away from the fretboard, and maybe the frets is a little longer than the width of the fretboard. The guitar looks cool, but isn’t easy to play, sometimes not even playable at all. And that’s so demotivating.

Therefore find a friend or hire a guitar teacher for an hour – a guy who understands and respect the child’s wish of a cool looking guitar. But also a guy who can decide if it’s a poor guitar, or if it’s a great guitar that only needs new strings and some adjustment. Maybe it’s a secondhand guitar, maybe it isn’t the coolest looking or the exact model of the kid’s dreams – but if it’s easy to play and stay in tune, the kid will probably stay interested, and then this guitar will only be the first of many 🙂

If it doesn’t stay in tune the 15 minuttes you test it in the shop – believe me in won’t stay in tune the 15 days you play it a home before you dump it and move forward to “guitar hero” or start collecting stamps.

And all this is also ruling when you later on are buying the next guitar … maybe it’s time to consider something about woods and pickups, plus the type of guitar depending on the style it should be used for … but if you have doubt in choosing between the cool looking, super funky guitar and a little more boring secondhand guitar with some scratches – think of which one is easiest to play and stay in tune.

Hope you’ll share these thoughts with people you know who are considering buying a guitar – life is to short for bad guitars.

Have a wonderful day


3 Replies to “Another best advice – buying a guitar”

  1. Hey Søren!
    Funny coincidence, I just bought a new guitar, and got to think of when you helped me choose an acoustic, many moons ago! I must admit I haven’t been practising that eagerly over the years, but every once in a while the bug bites and I dig out my rock star ambitions (if only the abilities would match)! Nice blog, I have enjoyed browsing around here. My best to you and your family, Thomas

    1. Yeah that funny Thomas – did you buy an electric this time?
      And thanks a lotttttttt for you sweet comment on my blog – it’s very nice to hear!!
      All my very best to you and yours too

  2. No, what happened was that I walked into a guitar shop with my good old axe because it needed a bit of professional TLC – and suddenly the sales guy has offered me a very decent trade-in price if I buy a new and more up-market model. My first reaction was no-no-no, I am not even remotely in the market for something like this right now, but then I sat down with this Simon & Patrick (cedar top, mini-jumbo, short(-ish) scale, high gloss and cutaway for you nerds out there) that just felt right in my hands and played nice and smooth, so … well, you see where this is going, right? When I left the shop with a brand new guitar I was wondering if I had acted a little too rash, but on the other hand, I have played and played it since I got it – I guess that must mean it was worth it then 🙂 Next step: Find my old copy of “Reiff’s Riffs” and get to it!

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