Shopping for a New Guitar
So, you've been considering purchasing a new guitar and the one you want isn't available in local music stores, but you have been able to find it online at various outlets. Should you pull the trigger and just go for it and submit your payment and have the guitar sent by an online dealer to your door? The short answer to whether you should buy a guitar online is – maybe? I know, that probably isn't the answer you're looking for and that almost anyone could have come up with that answer for themselves. Before you decide to click the back arrow and go to another website, let me explain. After all, there are some considerations that one must weigh before buying any item online.
Personally Testing an Instrument
There are many, me included, who believe that you should actually try the guitar or any musical instrument you are considering purchasing before actually handing your money over. After all, how will you know if the guitar or instrument is one that you will be able to use or that it has the features you are looking for? When it comes to guitars, there are many who believe that every guitar has its own tone and character and I certainly hold this statement true when it comes to acoustic guitars. I'll admit that when I first started learning guitar a couple of years ago, that electric guitars all sounded very similar to me and acoustic guitars were the ones that sounded much different from each other. With an electric guitar, much of the tone can be dialled in with the amplifier you are using or the way you are playing the guitar. There are many players who believe that the tone is all in the fingers and I have seen some players who seem to sound very similar despite the guitar they are using. It took a few months after I started learning to play guitar for me to begin to hear the differences in tone with different guitars. After awhile, the more you play, the better attuned your ears seem to get when it comes to guitar tone. Now I tell by the tone if the guitar is using single coil pickups or if it's using humbuckers or P90 pickups. And after playing for a couple of years, you can tell how hot the pickups being used are and whether they are high, medium, or low output. So, you probably will want to have the guitar in your hands to try before laying down money for it to ensure it fits your needs.
What if the Guitar You Want Isn't Available to Try?
There are going to times when you come across a guitar that read about or hear in a recording that you are sure is going to fit the need you're trying to fill. Perhaps you're starting to practice a new genre like metal and want something that is going to fit that playing style and tone. Using a Fender Stratocaster isn't going to work well when you're trying to play some Metallica riffs or songs because it just will not provide the aggression and tone to fit that style. The metal genre just isn't one where you see single coil pickup guitars like the Stratocaster being used. Most often you will see a SuperStrat or a modified Les Paul or other guitar that has a flatter fretboard and high output pickups. So how do you decide on a guitar you have no access to that you can test out? Fortunately, we live in a world now where there are others who purchased the model you are interested in and have shot videos of themselves putting the guitar through its paces. There are numerous online reviews on just about any product you can think of nowadays. There are also numerous websites that are devoted to testing products and educating consumers on whether they are worth purchasing. When it comes to guitars, these reviews are often what I rely on when I want to purchase a product, but I'm unable to get one for myself to try.
My Online Guitar Purchase Story
It may appear that I'm trying to dissuade others from buying guitars online, but that simply isn't the case. What I am saying, is that you need to do your research before making such a purchase. After all, many guitars can cost over $1000 for a mid-range instrument. To date, I have purchased three guitars online and for the exception of the last one, I've had absolutely no problems. The first two guitars were about $1000 each, with the last one being less than $500. However, the last one was one I had been thinking about for over a year and was one I had first learned about in a written review by the magazine, Guitar World. In the magazine review, the guitar was given a gold award and the many other reviews I had seen online about the guitar were all extremely positive. The only drawback to purchasing the guitar, was that it was only available through Guitar Center, which isn't a store we have here in Canada. I had read some of the reviews of the guitar on the Guitar Center website itself and was somewhat leery about making the purchase. On the actual website, the reviews were hit and miss with there being some positive ones and some negative. I decided to buy the guitar and hope for the best.
So, the day finally arrived where my guitar had been delivered to the UPS Store in Hogansburg, NY. Since I often drive down to Cornwall, it just made more sense to have it delivered across the border in
New York. I picked the guitar up and brought it back through customs where I had to pay some duty, which was expected to bring the guitar price up a bit. This wasn't exactly a huge purchase, but still amounted to a few hundred dollars with some other items I had ordered. I brought the guitar home and took it out of the box and I have to say the guitar looked and felt great. As for the packaging, it was a box inside of another box and the headstock and guitar were well protected, which is a very good thing. No bad fretwork and the body had no marks whatsoever. The guitar looked extremely good and you could tell by looking at it that it was well constructed. I put the guitar up in my home office and decided I would give it a go later that evening when I had some extra time. When I did get around to plugging the guitar into my Yamaha THR10 practice amp, the noise it made was horrible. It was obvious there was a short somewhere with all the electrical hum and static noise it was producing. I turned the guitar over and tapped on the plates to see if I could find where the short in the guitar was without getting out tools and opening it up. I tapped on the cover plate for the input jack, and sure enough, it started to make even more noise. I then proceeded to give the guitar an even closer look and then noticed that the Floyd Rose bridge was leaning forward considerably, which isn't a good thing. Since I have zero experience with the Floyd Rose bridge system, this was something that I was going to have to research further.
When I got around to opening the back covers off the guitar, I found that there was a wire that was barely soldered on the input jack. I tried to tune the guitar, but it just wouldn't balance out on the Floyd Rose. I soldered the wire to the input jack and plugged the guitar in and the buzzing was gone. There was still some noise, but with the high output pickups on the guitar and with one of the pickups being a single coil, some noise was to be expected, but at least it wasn't the ominous sound of a shorted wire. I went onto some websites and then onto YouTube to check out the correct method of adjusting a Floyd Rose bridge. I followed the directions on three of the websites with no success and a Floyd Rose that wasn't sitting correctly and a guitar I couldn't to hold its tuning. I decided the hell with it and that I was going to setup the Floyd Rose the same way I do the floating bridge on a Fender Stratocaster. My method worked, and the guitar was not staying in tune and the Floyd Rose was working properly and going back into the correct tuning when pitching up or down on it. The action, or the height of the strings above the fretboard was also at a point it was close to unplayable, so I had to adjust that as well. After a couple hours of working on the guitar, it was now setup to my preferences and time to try out.
I really like this new guitar and it sounds and plays great. Most guitars will require some tweaking to suit your playing style when you first buy them, and many stores do offer the services of a guitar setup should you want to pay the extra $75 or so to have it done. In my opinion, if they are selling you a guitar, they should offer to set it up for free to your preferences and this would also the guitar tech to ensure the guitar is defect-free. For the money, this is an excellent guitar, but I was disappointed that it was not at least given a check over before it was shipped from California. The time it would have taken to pull the guitar out of the box and plug it in would have been a few minutes. A guitar tech accustomed to setting up a Floyd Rose could have also done that in a few minutes. I give high points for the actual guitar, but I can't give a good satisfaction rating to Guitar Center. I have ordered a couple other guitars online and they came in perfect condition and were good to play right out of the box. One of those guitars was also ordered from a vendor in the United States, and that one required nothing done to it and it is still my favorite guitar. Of course, it's a more expensive Les Paul 1960 reissue, but it required no work or setup when I received it. So, should you order a guitar online? Only if you do the research. I had seen some of the negative reviews on the Guitar Center website regarding others who had purchased this guitar and had seen many other videos of others who had bought this guitar and praised how good it was, which I will agree it is. I took a chance that my order would be one of the good ones and I would get a guitar like others had that was ready to play out of the box with no issues. Unfortunately, there may be times when you are not able to actually try the instrument out and have no choice but to order it sight unseen. Do your homework on the vendor and how reputable they are. I had expected better from a large retailer like Guitar Center, obviously, I was wrong.