Guide to Guitar buying: Used Instruments Part 2

Inspector Gadget (cont.)

The first thing we want to do is plug in the instrument and check the important things, because all cosmetic issues aside, if you can accept the condition or quality of the guitar, none of that matters if it doesn’t play! So we’re going to plug into an amp that we brought with us, for example using a mobile interface, or some other type of way that we can verify with our own equipment that we’re getting signal from the guitar.

The body is usually the first place people look, and while yes, the body can reveal important issues, people usually make the mistake of neglecting the neck, frets, and electronics, which are just as important and should be given just as much attention to detail.

Look closer…

Bad wiring can go in and out, so when you test a nice sounding guitar, you might bring it home and find it loses signal or sounds different, so make sure to test all pickup positions and roll the knobs all the way up and all the way down, strumming with each adjustment to make sure there’s no audible issues. While you’ve got the instrument plugged in, also give the individual pieces on the guitar a gentle tug, making sure every piece is secured properly: the knobs, the bridge, the tuners, anything that can move, try and move it, we don’t want any loose pieces surprising us later. 

Worn frets are another issue, they actually aren’t the “worst” thing to happen, as you can get new frets put in and potentially revitalize the guitar…. for a couple hundred. So if you can’t tell by now, we’re trying to find you a ready to go, playable axe, that’ll be the most bang for your buck, so we’re gonna want those frets to be leveled and not completely worn. If you haven’t seen completely worn frets you should still be able to tell when there are deep grooves and wear in the fret wire, unless you’re very new to guitar. It’s important you pick up the guitar and play each fret on each string to make sure all the notes are sounding out and not choking due to bad frets or improper setup.

This is a good time to mention, buying a guitar, or most things for that matter, can be seen as an investment. Typically, your parents or someone who looks out for you would go help you buy your first car, or first big purchase to make sure you’re getting a good deal. With guitar, and most other things, it’s no different. If you have someone that’s more experienced than you that you can take with you or get advice from, definitely use all your resources to make sure you’re making a good purchase.

Your worst nightmare

Moving on, one of the biggest issues affecting used gear is warped wood or twisted necks. What this means is that the neck and wood have adjusted to point where the instrument cannot be played, and adjusting the truss rod alone cannot fix the issue. This can happen from one thing or a mixture of things, bad climate with bad storage is very common, but it usually results from carelessness. Let’s just say a guitar neck doesn’t get twisted beyond repair from just playing it, but let’s be honest, some brand new guitars can come out of the factory bad; and the guy who doesn’t secure his investment counts it as a loss and sells it off, and just like that defective units are introduced into the market. Had the person proactively made the distributor aware of the defective unit, I really do believe most reputable manufacturers try to get those units replaced when informed of their condition.

I hope you remember all this information when inspecting your potential purchase, and I hope it helps you get a good deal! Make sure to share with your friends and thanks for reading!

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