One of the best sources of information on guitar gear are free guitar catalogs. This article outlines the basic types of guitar gear, provides gear buying tips, and points you to the best sources of info, including how to get free guitar catalogs.
It's Your Money!
Acquiring guitars, amps, effects, and all the accessories you need can be a big investment. More than the cost, you usually end up live with your decisions for quite a while. So how can you make the best decisions that will give you the most bang for your hard-earned dollars, and provide you with enjoyable playing?
The key is to figure out what is most important to YOU, and to use that as a guide to make informed choices. It’s easy to get lost in the information clutter of the web, or to be overwhelmed by the huge number of choices you face in a store, whether it’s the local guitar shop, or a big box music store like Guitar Center. With the info and checklists here at Guitar Players Toolbox, you’ll be able to quickly sort out your options, and make good buying decisions…whether you buy at a local retail store, or online.
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Keep it Simple. The Basic Gear Categories
Most guitar gear can be put into one of five main categories that can be found in free guitar catalogs:
Guitars- Basic choices include Electric, Acoustic (steel string), Classical (nylon string acoustic), or Acoustic Electric. The basic guiding questions here is where are you on the learning curve (beginner, intermediate, etc)., and what style of music do you want to play?
Amplifiers (Amps)- Key considerations include : how do you intend to use the amp ? Just for practice around the house? Jamming with your buddies in the basement? Or for playing gigs with your band? The intended use will guide the type, size, and power (wattage).
Effects-The first questions are why do you want an effects unit, and do you really need one? Maybe your amp will provide the sound your looking for and be appropriate for you playing skill level. Basic effects include distortion, chorus, reverb, and delay. Equipment choices range from a simple stomp boxes to elaborate units with almost unlimited choices and combination of effects.
Accessories- These are all the little doo-dads that can really make a big difference in your practice results and playing enjoyment. The same thing applies to guitar playing as to anything else: “A proper tool for a proper job”! Accessories include: picks, straps, tuners, string winders, cleaning supplies, capos, music stands, and much more. I’ve found that paying attention to getting these details right is really worthwhile.
Books, Videos, and Software- This one is a big deal for guitar players, and here is a huge number of resources available: instruction and chord books (most with audio CD or DVD), instructional videos (DVD or online), online lessons (text, audio, and video-based content), and software for tabs, chords and notation, song writing, and recording.
Combine the following tips with use of free guitar catalogs to make good buying decisions:
1. Define your needs upfront. Consider where you are as a player, and where you want to go. Keep it Simple! Buy gear based on your specific guitar-playing goals. Buying cheap guitar may end up costing you a lot more, when you have to replace it in six months.
2. Set a realistic budget. It always comes down to budget. Figure out what yours is, and stick to it. (If money grew on trees, I would have bought that Gretsch last night at the local guitar shop!).
3. Decide who you want to buy from. What kind of seller do you want to deal with? You have several choices when it comes to buying new guitar gear, and each one has its pros and cons. You can:
• Buy at a local music / guitar shop
• Buy at a big chain music store that carries guitars
• Buy online from a niche guitar site
• Buy from a large online retailer's guitar catalog
• Buy new gear on Ebay
Do you want the personal touch of dealing with a local store owner? Or maybe the selection and price of a big retailer like Guitar Center? Or maybe the shopping convenience and low prices of a online / mail order outfit?
5. Try before you buy. The only way to truly know if a guitar or other gear is right for you is to play it and use it. It has to “feel right”. Try a variety of brands and models , so that you can compare and contrast. This way you’ll be confident you found just the right match for you.
6. Take your time. Although you may be tempted to just go to the store, play a few guitar, and then buy one, don’t! You will be much more comfortable with your decision, and avoid the dreaded “buyer’s remorse” if you take a careful approach. After researching guitars in your price range, you should play a bunch of them so you can really compare them to each other. Best action? Best tone? Best feel? Best looks? Under no circumstances should you buy a guitar the same day as you take it for a test drive, unless you have already checked out
7. Don’t just go for the low price. Think value, not price. How long will you own this guitar or gear? What is the value of having the personal contact with a local shop owner to back up the product and work out any problems? It may make sense to pay a little more from a local guitar shop, but you will have access to a real human being who sold the stuff to you. This could be invaluable in the event there is a problem.
8. Consider the availability of repair and maintenance services. With four electric guitars in the family, I’ve come to realize the importance of having a reliable professional you can turn to for repairs and maintenance. I’ve taken two of them to the local guitar shop and gotten fantastic service at a reasonable price. In one case, my son’s Ibanez Artcore fell over on a wood floor and the neck broke near the body (ouch!). The local shop refered my to a guy that specialized in that type of major repair. He did a great job at a reasonable price. All this excellent service has made me very loyal to this shop. If you buy a guitar from a store, you have a better chance of getting the benefits of a good long-term relationship.
9. Consider buying used gear. Consider several sources: friends, local newspaper classifieds, local guitar stores, and eBay are all options. The basic rule for consumers applies: Buyer Beware. Unless you are an guitar technician it is hard to quickly asses the quality and condition of an guitar, and how playable it is.
If you buy used, try to get the seller to let you take it for a day or two for a trial. I had the experience of buying a used Fender Mini for my son a few years ago from a music store in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, the guitar never quite sounded right and wouldn’t hold a tune. I had a professional setup done thinking that would solve the problem, but it didn’t. Now the guitar is unused and basically worthless. On the other hand, had a great experience buying a used Epiphone SG-400 from a store for about $200. It was a little dinged up, but otherwise in great shape and I’ve been playing it for years with no problems.
10. Take advantage of free guitar catalogs. Online and printed guitar catalogs are readily available to help you identify your short list of candidates for purchase, to compare specs, and determine prices. There are several types of catalogs available:
• Big online music retailers with a comprehensive selection of products
• Sheet music and tab catalogs
• Niche guitar gear catalogs- focused on electric guitar, amps, effects gear, etc.
• Books, videos, software sellers
Ready to do your homework? If you follow these tips, you are bound to end up with the right equipment for you, based on solid research.