By a guitar, one usually refers to the right handed guitar. If you are a left handed person, you may look around the shops for a custom made left handed guitar. It may be easier for you to play.
How To Check The Turn Keys / Keys:
Take a person along who knows a bit about guitars. Ask the seller or your friend to tune the guitar and play it. Check if the guitar loses tune over a short period of time. This may mean that the turn keys on the headstock are damaged or badly made. Putting it simply - the guitar can't hold a tune for a long time and will be a bad purchase.
Also turn them around and check if they turn too quickly or turn "too easily" as this will again make your guitar loose tune.
How To Check The Fretboard:
The best test would be to play it.
It should not make any additional buzzing sounds besides the note. This occurs if the metal inlays that make up the frets get worn out or sink into the wood. Compare with other guitars in that shop.
It should be absolutely straight (look from the sides). A fretboard usually curves in front over time due to the constant tension of the strings. This is especially true for 12 string guitars.
There should not be such that the metal dividing pieces are set too deep - if it takes too much strength to hold on to a bar chord, the fretboard is probably old or badly made
The wood should not feel too light as any light wood here will bend in a few years.
Make sure that everything is smooth and there aren't any jagged projections. This is obviously more important for the safety of your hands.
The "truss rod" is a metal strip that runs along the inside of the guitar's neck. It is used to compensate for the tension of the strings that changes to the curvature of the neck over time.
The junction of the head and the neck has a metal structure called the nut through which the strings are threaded. Check if it is alright. You may miss a crack on the plastic material there. Look particularly at the edges. These edges are the first ones to break off and cause a hell of a trouble for both playing and tuning the guitar.
How To Check The Guitar Strings:
Your guitar strings have the least longevity of all your guitar parts. The 6th and 5th (heaviest) strings are, for all practical purposes, never affected structurally. Early learners tend to have a problem keeping the 1st (and 2nd) string(s) intact for long as they tend to play more in these parts. But, over all, the 3rd, and sometimes, the 4th strings are the most affected. Buy spares and replace them as and when they break. You do not need to replace the entire set, if you aren't going to be playing on stage.
Once a new string is fitted, it begins to stretch under the tension and "gives way" for a first few days losing its tune frequently. There's nothing wrong with your keys in that case. Just retune and keep playing. It will get better in a day or two.
Moving the guitar in and out of hot and cold environments (AC rooms) will alter its tune as the guitar strings will either expand or contract according to the change in temperature. This is especially bothersome in the winter months when a tune you set in the morning is ruined in the evening and vice versa. Again, it's not a problem of the keys. Just retune and it'll be fine
A guitar string needs to be replaced, even when it is not broken, if the spun coils on the core string get broken separately. This will make a bad buzzing sound and wreck your guitars sound.
How To Check Guitar The Body:
Look for any obvious defects. Make sure you see inside to see whether the guitar you're being sold as a wood guitar is actually made up of fiber, rather than plywood.
Keep your guitar away from water. Playing your guitar in the rain looks great on film but will damage the guitar for sure if it is acoustic and will probably electrocute you in the process as well, if it is an electric. (Mentioning this for kids.)
How To Check Guitar The Bridge:
This fixed guitar bridge not only raises the strings above the sound board allowing one to play them, but also is another point another attachment (for most) to the instrument other than the keys. The bridge should be symmetrical in height. Some bridges have white bits just below the strings that allow one to adjust the length (the pitch) of the particular string. Its best left untouched at this point.
Choosing The Plectrum / Pick:
These are either hard or soft and small or large. I would recommend a hard large plectrum for an acoustic guitar and a soft large one for electric guitars.
Make sure you know what you are buying. Research it on the net a bit and then go for the purchase. Start with a basic amplifier and effects kit and as you learn more add more gadgets to your inventory.
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