purchase of an electric guitar
by Donald Loignon
receive several letters by e-mail where one asks me
which kind guitar to buy or which guitar I would advise
him, then, I will try to answer this question in the
best of my knowledge and by consulting experts on the
matter for certain more complex parts. If by chance
you know pages treating of stringed-instrument trade
and consultings, i would be please, to put a link towards
To help you to make your decision concerning the purchase
of an electric guitar, I will speak to you, in the following
text, of some criteria on which you can base yourselves
to check the quality of the instrument which interests
you and for better determining your needs. It will be,
wholesale, question of the keys, the handle, the body,
the vibrato, and the pick-up.
They are used to grant the instrument. If you have very
good keys your instruments will have less chance of
lossing it's tone. Here is what you need to know if
it is of quality :
1) Verify if the keys
have played or if they have been broken, if so, it is
probably how the guitar will be out of tuned.
2) Verify if they have
screws in the back of the head of the guitar,
you will be able to thus tighten them, if necessary.
The feeling of the handle depends on several factors:
The choice of wood for the touch, the handle itself,
completion, the finish, as well as the height and width
The handle of a guitar of good quality
has a stem of reinforcement inside, therefore call "
truss rod ". This one makes it possible to adjust
the curve of the handle. It is preferable to make adjustement
by the " truss rod " by a technician of experience.
This adjustment should be made twice a year or when
you change gauge of your strings. The moisture content
can also influence the curve of the handle. Here it
what you must pay attention:
1) Check the adjustment
of the " truss rod ": It should not
have be unscrewed to the maximum, or tight either to
the maximum. Thus, you should have a certain play so
that you can readjust your handle when it works. When
there is no play, the curve of the handle cannot be
adjusted any more, it is necessary for you to change
your handle or to make him sand a curve, which is rather
expensive and happens rather very seldom.
2) Check that the handle
is right as much as possible. Also check that
it is not twisted.
3) Once adjusted,
the handle must have a certain hollow so that it
" buzz " not on the freight. A handle
with a bump poses a problem. It is more difficult to
4) Check the height and
width of freight, outward with what is appropriate
to you best, according to your way of playing and the
size of your fingers. You must feel at ease with it.
- With large freight the
execution is more difficult but it gets a sound with
- less large freight make
it possible to carry out solos more easily, but the
sound resounds less longer with those. You can also
check if freight are not worn, because a refrettage
could proof to be necessary.
5) The radius (roundness
on the top of the touch) can influence the way of playing.
A guitar with a flat handle or almost, makes it possible
to carry out agreements more easily and a handle with
a more marked radius makes it possible to make stretchings
of string more easily. There are also the width and
the size of the handle which you must take into account.
6) Check if the handle
is split or broken (particularly in the case
of a wear guitar). Be carefull some people stick the
handle so that the cracks do not show.
7) For the clothes industry
of the handle, various types of wood can be used:
1) Mapple: Used in the manufacture
of the complete handle (touchs and handle).Give the
tonality more sharper, During reffrettage, it is very
difficult to keep the varnished one on the touch in
2) Rosewood : Used in the manufacture
of complete handle (touches and handle) or of the touch
only. It supports the median frequencies.
3) Ebony: Used for the clothes industry
of touch (Fretboard). Give the richest dial tone, it
is very stable, wood is however difficult to work.
" the handle is very often made mahogany tree
because it is very stable a wood and easy to workit.
The maple is used often for the handles of electric
guitars because it is easy to get and it is very robust.
The touch receives the" freight " and is stuck
on the handle. The most wood used for its clothes industry
are: Rosewood, ebony, and the maple
- an ebony key gives much rigidity to the handle and,
from this fact, increases a little the sustain.
- the wood of rose est less rigid than ebony but produces
a very soft key which gives a softer sound (mellow)..
The Councils in order to
reduce the disarrangement of your handle:
- When you change the strings of your guitar, it is
preferable to cary one by one, especially if you have
- Do not to expose your guitar to the sun or close to
a heater cold source, for long time.
Tremor (also named vibrato):.
The tremor must always return to it's initial
position. when you slacken it. If not, your
guitar will be untunned continuouly.
1) A good way of checking that is done as follows:
- Using a tuner, tune your guitar to 440 hertz, then,
use your vibrato is by lowering it or while assembling
it. If it is adjusted suitably, the guitar will remain
granted relatively well. If one or more string do not
return to the initial position an adjustment imposes.
Sometimes, the dial tone of all the strings change.
The problem can thus to reside in the poor quality of
the vibrato or the tension of the springs badly adjusted.
With regard to the springs, certain guitarists use
of it only two to have a greater play of vibrato and
to give each other a more flexible action. The vibratos
" floys Floyd " are very famous. Several large
guitarists use them. But, it is necessary to go also
there according to its budget, some vibrato can be less
expensive and do about the same work. The important
thing is to check its quality as described Ci-high.
2) Certain guitars have a lock on the level
of the head to stabilize the cords during the
intensive use of the tremor. This part replaces the
usual sillet in bone or graphite. The cords being barred,
they have less tendency to untuned. To note that this
accessory is optional.
1) The type of wood used for the body of the
guitar is important. It changes all the dynamics
of the sound. You can check by testing guitars made
up of various materials: maple, mahogany tree, ash,
lime and the rolled-iron product of different drink
(not to be confused with the " plywood ").
" the alder has been a very popular wood for several
years because it is not expensive, and that it produces
a its rich person. I'ts also often used because of it's
a very light weight. Fender uses this wood for several
years in the clothes industry of Stratocaster, inter
alia. This wood, generally, is used for the finished
opaque ones and " sunburst "
the Ash-tree,for this wood, it very
dense, it is a hard wood. It gives to the guitar a brilliant
tonality and a good sustain.
The lime, therefore named basswood,
is very popular because it is with very cheap and light.
It has a its rich sound, shining and soft. It is a wood
which has a hardly visible veining.
The cherry tree is one exellent hard
wood being able to be used in the manufacture of body.
It is usually easy to get some.
The mahogany tree, is to him a hard
wood with a its heat centered on the median frequencies
and a full tonality. Gibson uses this wood to make to
the guitars Pauls as well as maple for the top of the
body. There are several varieties of mahogany tree.
It come from Africa and and tropical areas. These wood
are very popular, but expensive. A natural finition
of this wood gives a very beautiful presentation.
The maple is probably the wood generally
used for the handle, but is more rarely used for the
body of the guitar.
The oak is a very hard and very heavy
wood. It is also difficult to work.
The walnut tree, as for him, melt like chocolate. It
is a wood of high quality.
2) Other general consultings
concerning the body:
- Look at if the guitar is not worked or if glares of
painting are not separated. Certain salesmen try to
fake these defects with painting or other products.
It is important to check these details to haggle over
3) " Also, vérifiy
the quality of the joint of handle with the body.
There are three types: screwed, tenons stuck and integral
(neck through or one piece neck). It does not matter
which type of joint is used, if this one is well done,
one will have a good transfer of vibrations of the handle
towards the body and vice versa. That influences a lot
on the final sonority of the instrument "
On an electric guitar, the most important point is the
quality of the transducers pick-up. There is on the
market myriade of transducers of various sonorities
and variable quality. Inform yourself near a violin
maker to choose this.
1) For the guitars of collection, it is preferable
not to change the pick-up, because they lose value with
the least modification
2) There are various types of pick-ups:
The humbucking (double coils ) gives an acuter sound
with more sustain and of distortion.
The single coil gives a softer sound and cleaner, it
releases from the clearer harmonics and a its General
more brilliance that the humbuker when it is used without
See my chronicle on the use of the record players.
3) Pay attention with the connection of the pick-up,
because the sound changes according to the type of connection:
in series or parallel.
4) You can check if the pick-up of a guitar functions
well by typing carefully on the magnets using a hexagonal
key or with your pick.
The volume and controls tonality:
Vérify if they function well and if they do
not scrape. Certain potentiometers do not have dynamics
(the volume of the instrument will not increase gradually).
It is preferable to use those which increase gradually.
It is proper to use a potentiometer of 500k for the
humbukers and 250k for the simple reels.
To finish, I wish you a good time shopping for your
guitar and I strongly advise you to test a lot of them
before making your final choice. Ask around violin makers
and experienced guitarists.
Also, don't forget to have your instrument checked
regularly by a qualified person (violin maker) in order
to keep it in good condition. It is important to find
a person who takes time to answer your questions and
will explains you the modifications and maintenance
that it needed for your instrument.