As with acoustic guitars you still want to determine what size and shape of guitar you like. Some electric guitars can be quite heavy. Looking at pictures is a start, but there is no substitute for testing them out at your local guitar store. For one they have many amplifiers you can test them on and secondly, you can’t get the feel of the instrument from a picture. You want to get a style that feels comfortable. You may want to consider semi-hollow or hollow bodied guitars if you don’t want to have a guitar that weighs on your shoulder too much.
Pickups come in many shapes and sizes I’ll keep this list short to only the most common since the majority of the guitars in the store will have one of these.
- Humbucker – Tends to have a fatter or thinker sound
- Single Coil – clearer, not as distorted sounding under high output
- P-90 – Gibson’s version of a single coil
A word about the pickups…. In general the higher end (more expensive) have better pickups in them. That being said for a beginner you can hide the many of the short comings of your less expensive pickup with pedals/boosters or an amplifier that models particular sounds you are looking for via effects. Just know that when you see “Designed by Seymour Duncan” it’s not the same as having a Seymour Duncan pickup and the price should reflect this.
- Is it straight? Look along both edges of the neck to make sure its straight.
- Look down the middle of the neck checking to see how severe the bow in the neck is, If any.
- Run your handle along the edge checking for sharp edges on the frets. A quality instrument will feel fairly smooth.
- Check for lose frets or frets that are seated higher than the other frets.
- Look at the size and thickness of the frets, Jumbo frets can be easier to play on.
- Check the intonation of the guitar by playing the harmonics on the 12th fret and then playing the note on the 12th fret. They should sound the same. If you want to be really accurate use an electric tuner to verify.
- If you’re not new to playing guitar play some of the chords in the 7th-10th area it should still sound good and ring. It will likely be a little less than the open chords but the better the guitar the less discrepancy between the open or barred chords.
- If your new to playing guitar and have a friend that plays, take them with you they will be more than happy to share their knowledge with you, and who can refuse an afternoon of playing guitar?
- Sometimes it’s good to listen to other play the guitar just to hear all the subtleties of the guitar.
- If you don’t have a friend that plays see if the guitar shop has a tech person on site. They can be really helpful in inspecting the guitar.