You watch that band in concert for the hundredth time and dream of playing the guitar like their lead guitarist.
Great! Except you don't know how to play guitar — and you don't actually own one.
So you decide to start learning and feel totally capable of learning by ear instead of spending money on private acoustic guitar lessons, bass guitar lessons or online electric guitar lessons.
Your budget won't allow you to walk into the first music store you see, and buy a new Gibson 70s Flying V electric or the Gretsch Rancher Falcon acoustic.
But, what if it was possible to find a second hand guitar without breaking the bank? How do you not get ripped off by the person selling the custom or 'vintage' instrument? What about the accessories — how do you ensure that you're getting a quality fingerboard, or the headstock is in good condition? How do you know that this acoustic electric guitar will actually work when it's plugged it into amps? How do you make sure that the guitar pickups work? How do you guarantee the guitarist selling the guitar and accessories is trustworthy?
We'd like to talk about the benefits of considering second hand guitars — whether they be electric guitars, acoustic guitars or bass guitars — and we want you to be comfortable in your purchase.
Are you ready to kickstart your career as a guitarist?
Keep reading to find out how much you should be paying for a pre owned guitar and to get some advice on how to choose your ideal second hand guitar.
Who Inspires You?
Many career dreams and realities had their origins back in childhood or adolescence. They were originally the product of an obsession with a particular celebrity, a loved teacher or even a leisure time activity. Often, they stayed as an obsession for a while before petering out to be replaced with a new interest, focus or obsession.
Some hang around though, always a thought in the backs of our minds that 'One day ...'
Why shouldn't 'one day' be today?
If you're reading this now, odds are you've been inspired by a guitarist — or maybe you've always just entertained the notion of being a member in band. Either way, you want to be a guitarist but a guitar is not just a guitar — there are so many different brand names, makes and models the decision can be completely overwhelming. To clear away the clutter, ask yourself this: who was it that originally inspired my love of guitar music?
Knowing whose playing resonates with you, or the style of music that makes you feel good, will help narrow down the type of guitar you want to be looking for because, at the end of the day, you don't really want a 'Made in Japan Modern Jazz Bass' Fender if all you want to play is classic folk music on a Gibson Montana Hummingbird acoustic guitar.
Considered to be one of the world's greatest guitarists, it is hard not be be inspired by songs such as 'Angelina', 'Lewis and Clark' or the classic 'Day Tripper' — all played on a 'simple' acoustic guitar. Tommy hasn't always played acoustic — he spent much of this thirties on electric guitar with rock bands, playing throughout Europe. However, he yearned for something more pure and eventually, against everyone's advice, stripped his guitar playing back to the bare minimum and found fame.
Co-founder, lead guitarist and only constant original member of AC/DC, Angus Young is one of the most recognisable guitarists Australia has seen. Clad in his iconic schoolboy uniform outfit, and with a 'unique' dance style, Angus Young has used the Gibson SG — a solid body electric guitar — throughout his career. Every aspiring guitarist, worldwide, has at some stage tried to learn 'Thunderstruck'.
If you want a talented player who moves seamlessly between electric and acoustic guitar, you've no need to look further than founding member and mainstay guitarist with Cold Chisel (one of Australia's most enduring popular bands). Moss owns a multitude of guitars, from his Fender electric to his Maton acoustic, and can turn his hand to any style.
Hailed as one of Australia's greatest bass guitar players, John Collins is credited with being the driving bass player who elevated Powerfinger to cult status during their heyday. Collins primarily played Fender Jazz and Fender Precisions.
Born in Australia to Greek parents, Orianthi started learning acoustic guitar at the age of six, moved on to electric when she was eleven years old and started playing in bands at the age of fourteen — never looking back. She became the first female member of the Alice Cooper Band in 2011, but resigned in 2014. Orianthi has also released a number of solo albums.
Beginning his music career in a band called Vitamin, John Butler later teamed up with drummer, Jason McGann, and bass player, Gavin Shoesmith to form the enduring roots/rock band, The John Butler Trio. Butler plays amplified acoustic guitars and a custom made, 11 string Maton, as well as banjo and didgeridoo.
The Advantages of Choosing a Used Guitar
First off, why choose a second hand guitar and second hand accessories instead of buying a brand new product?
As novices, people have a tendency to only look at an inexpensive beginner product that just doesn't have the quality to back up the price. As you improve, you'll quickly be tempted to sell your guitar to buy one that has better musicality.
Finding buyers could be tricky, though.
Whether you want to purchase an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar or an electro-acoustic guitar, there's one guarantee: for the same price as a new one, you'll have a better quality instrument if you buy a second hand guitar.
Better quality means the sound will be better and the guitar will be easier to play, especially if you're just starting.
Additionally, as opposed to a new guitar, impairment loss is reduced when it comes to second hand guitars. If you would like to resell your instrument a few weeks or a few months later, you'll be able to do it at the same price you bought it.
If you're looking for a vintage gem or custom design, don't hesitate to turn to the second hand guitar market to find limited edition instruments, special colours and features — whatever you're after.
Let your imagination run wild. If you want a high-end sound — a Les Paul, a Gibson SG, a Fender, an Ibanez or a Gretsch — you'll find your dream guitar with a little extra effort.
Do you know the price of an acoustic guitar? Do you know how much an electric or bass guitar costs? Knowing the value of different guitars will help you work out if the second hand guitar you're considering is really worth the asking price.
Brand and Model
It doesn't matter which guitar model you choose — acoustic, electric, bass or electro-acoustic — you should always opt for a well-known brand.
Whether you want to play rock, jazz or folk, to start out or to perfect your skills, you should buy an electric second hand guitar from a famous brand, such as Ibanez, Yamaha, Gibson, Epiphone, ESP Ltd or Fender. If it's an acoustic guitar you're after, try Breedlove, Taylor Guitars, Alvarez, Seagull or Martin. For classical guitars, try Yamaha or Cordoba.
To verify, ask the seller what the guitar's brand, model and year of manufacture is. This is important information in order to know the price of the new guitar and better estimate its second-hand price.
On an acoustic guitar — whether it's a nylon string or steel string — the brand, model and year are usually on the tag, which is visible through the mouth of the guitar.
An electric guitar, on the other hand, doesn't have a soundhole to look through, but you'll usually find a model number on the back of the headstock.
Other things to think about are what sort of body shape you want for an acoustic guitar — a dreadnought, a parlor, a jumbo acoustic, a grand auditorium or grand concert. Do you want a cutaway or a single cutaway? Do you want your guitar made of Sitka spruce, flame maple or rosewood?
Electric guitar players will have to consider the issues of amplifiers and preamps and the inlays. Remember that amps will cost as much as the guitar itself!
The Price of a Second Hand Guitar
So, what price should we pay for a second hand guitar?
It all depends on the brand, make and model of the guitar.
The price of a guitar usually decreases with age unless it's a collector's guitar belonging to a great rock master.
A pre owned guitar generally costs from 20 to 50% of its original price, so to estimate the price of a used guitar, you need to know its original value. This information is easily available on the internet. Naturally, the price is also affected by the condition of the guitar, as well as supply and demand.
There is, however, no secret to getting a good deal — do your homework and compare!
Ebay and Gumtree are your friends! Have a look at what similar guitars have been sold for to know the real selling price of the guitar you are coveting. The price displayed is not always the real selling price.
Whatever brand or model you select, make sure to buy a guitar based on a possible resale price as well as demand.
Where Can I Buy Second Hand Guitars?
There are several possibilities:
- music shop
You will also find good offers in a music shop, sometimes even as good as those online. In addition, you will benefit from advice, adjustments and after-sales service and the guitar may also be covered with a warranty for a few months. Occasionally, accessories are thrown in (the pick, some strings, tuners, a gig bag or guitar case).
Second hand guitars sold at a music shop are pretty much guaranteed to be in a decent state. The fretboard will likely be in a good condition, a guitar pickup expert will have made sure the single-coil microphones are working and a reliable guitar player will have checked it for its playability. You should expect second hand guitars to be in good condition if they are being sold in a music shop.
- professional online sellers
Take a look at sellers' ratings and choose reputable ones. A professional seller has every interest in selling you a quality instrument because they want to gain a loyal customer. Check the return policy to ensure it suits you. To avoid ordering something that ends up not being quite right, think about trying out the guitar of your choice in a music shop before buying it online.
Be careful, though. If someone is offering you a Gibson Custom, a Les Paul Standard, or a standard Inbanez or Gretsch and the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you can, try any acoustic-electric guitar or a fully electric one before you buy it to ensure the wiring works.
If you are looking for a flamenco guitar or some other acoustic hollow body guitar, ask for a comprehensive view of the instrument. Ask the seller to send detailed photos of any damage. The same applies to a ukulele or mandolin.
- B stock or factory second guitars
These are instruments that can no longer be sold at the original retail price because of a defect: damaged packaging, scratches, dents or simply because they were in-store demo instruments. There is nothing wrong with their playability just their appearance — and even that may not be noticeable. You can find B stock or factory second guitars advertised online or in your local music shop.
- individual or personal sales
Look for ads in your local area and ask to test the guitar. Two sites where individuals regularly put instruments up for online sale are Echo Tone and Riffs & Licks Music.
In all cases, check to see if the seller is offering anything with the instrument — hardshell guitar cases for instance — whether the guitar is stringed and if you will need to buy new accessories.
Don't forget music schools. You'll find ads posted on local music school boards, right near ads for musicians and tutors.
- music magazines
There are a number of dedicated music magazines, both hard copy and online mags, which offer not only a range of information but also the opportunity to buy and sell music instruments and accessories.
Check the Guitar's General Condition
You've decided on the brand and model of guitar you want, found an ad and the price is within your budget. Now, you have to meet the seller.
If you are a beginner and this is your first purchase, have someone with more experience and know-how go with you to check out the guitar.
There are three main parts to check before buying your used guitar: the head, the neck and the body.
Check the mechanics are not too worn by tuning the guitar and playing it a little. If it gets out of tune quickly, it may be the result of bad mechanics.
Also, check the nut is not cracked. That said, this piece is inexpensive if you have to change it. You can find a cheap guitar nut for less than $10.
The handle should be straight and the frets flat and in good condition. Also check the heel does not show any trace of glue.
Guitar strings cost a small fortune so remember to check that the strings do not curl. This means they should not touch the frets when you play. If they do touch the frets, either the nut is worn or the handle is damaged due to poor storage. Either way, this is a bad sign because it will affect the intonation and your ability to enjoy techniques like vibrato.
You can see when the varnish is in good condition. You can use this as a price negotiation point if, for example, there are some scratches on the guitar. Be careful there are no real cracks or dents in the wood.
There is a difference between signs of play wear around the rosette and sound hole and real problems due to unwanted falls and bangs into furniture. Hollow body guitars are delicate. If they are broken, that's the end.
The most important thing is to check that the bridge is glued well to the soundboard. This plays a vital role in the sound of the guitar.
If you choose an electric guitar or electro-acoustic guitar, remember to check the status of the microphone and buttons; there should not be any strange or unwanted sounds.
Test Out Your New Guitar
Testing the guitar is the only way to be sure you've found the one of your dreams! Aside from the fact you may find defects while playing it, this is the instrument you will spend countless hours with and you have to be sure it is the perfect one for you!
Is the feeling good? Does the sound please you? Do your fingers fit well with it? Remember to test it in all playing positions: sitting and standing. How comfortable you will be whilst you play is very important. You will spend many hours on it, and it will depend on how pleasant it is for you to use.
Also consider your build: if you have small hands, the guitar size should be half or three-quarter size.
For sound quality, ask a more experienced guitarist or teacher for advice if you are not sure.
If it's an electric guitar, does it spit?
A Quick Guide to Buying Other Used Guitar Accessories
You can often negotiate some accessories with the seller, including:
- drum machine
- pedal board (with individual reverb, resonator, tremolo, overdrive, synthesizer, mesa boogie, condenser effect pedal)
- protective film or hard case
- guitar cover
It's up to you to whether or not you ask, however, you might want to just buy some of these new. Alternatively, as with the guitar itself, you might benefit from purchasing second hand. The used market is not all about vintage guitars, like the Fender guitar, Gibson acoustic, Fender American Standard, bass or jazz guitar.
As long as you do your research, as you did with your guitar, there is no reason why you can't get a great deal on accessories as well.
All you need is to check a few important points before the guitar becomes an extension of yourself.
Armed with all the necessary information, you now just have to get started on finding the guitar of your dreams out there in the second hand market.
If you're a first time strummer, remember that Superprof offers guitar lessons with our online and face-to-face tutors throughout Australia.
The platform that connects tutors and students