Used Acoustic Guitars Rock!
Buying Guide - How to Buy Used Acoustics
When it comes to buying used acoustic guitars, many people change their minds and buy new. This is a mistake. A used guitar can be a superior instrument to a new guitar of the same model. Yet, one needs to be a savvy buyer. Below are the necessary criteria to consider in purchasing a used axe.
Benefits of Used Acoustics
1. Material Guitars are primarily made of wood. Wood ages well and can improve the sound of a guitar over time. Maturity of wood adds a seasoned tone to guitars that you cannot get in new acoustic instruments. That wood becomes accustomed to the vibrations being sent through it by the strings. The result of this is a soft, warm tone that is extremely desirable by players.
2. Price Used acoustic guitars can be purchased for less than a new one of the same make, model and material. A price tag under half the new price is not uncommon. For instance, an acoustic instrument that runs $750 may be found for $375 or less.
3. Almost New Most guitars are played infrequently, so "used" guitars may actually be quite new. Unless you're buying Slash's Double neck acoustic that has been taken on tour for 5 or 6 years, that guitar has probably been used mainly for practice or MAYBE a few local gigs.
4. Design Consistency Overall, designs do not change drastically over time. A dreadnought is a dreadnought whether it was made in 1958 or 2010. If body style is important, you can find a similar design in both a new and 40-year old guitar.
What to Look for in Used Acoustic Guitars
1. Aesthetics Examine the guitar very carefully. Look for marks and scars in the wood, as these can be indicators of how the guitar has been handled by the former ownee(s). Be especially attentive to small cracks or chips, especially on the top and around the sound hole. Look around the joining of the bridge and neck. Even a small crack can have a drastic effect on the sound produced by the guitar.
2. Sound Pick up the used acoustic guitar and play a couple of chords. Does it have good sustain, e.g. do the notes ring out full and sing forever or do they die in mid-air? When played, do the notes sound clear or muffled? Be sure to play one note on every fret all the way to the body end of the neck. Do this for EVERY SINGLE STRING!! Is there a buzzing sound when any of these notes are played? This may indicate that a string has come in contact with a fret.
3. Neck This is especially important. The neck of the guitar should be straight when viewed from the side. Make sure the neck is not twisted nor has an extreme bow to it. A little bowing is OK, but significant bowing indicates that the guitar needs a major neck repair.
4. Neck Joint The neck joint is where the neck meets the body. That union should be absolutely flush and even. Give the neck a few light pushes and see if the joint is loose. It should not move at all. At the top where the nut and headstock meet the neck, the joint should also be firm and steady.
5. Action Take a peek at the distance between the strings and the fret board at the 12th fret. If there is a large gap, number 6 (Saddle) is vital to your decision.
6. Saddle Is the saddle adjustable? If the action at the 12th fret is not what you like it to be, can it be adjusted lower? If not, that guitar is not for you. A large gap at the 12th fret and a fully adjusted saddle/bridge can indicate a neck problem that your eyes cannot see. Walk away.
7. Bracing This is the internal system that holds the top or soundboard in place. Bracing also affects the sound greatly. Press down lightly all over the top of the guitar and open your ears to any creaking that may indicate a loose brace inside. This is not necessarily a deal breaker, however, and can be repaired easily and affordably.
8. Frets Are any of the frets worn or have grooves in them? Are any of them loose or raised? This type of inspection can, again, reveal a neck problem your eyes can't see. On high-end used acoustic guitars, a fret job may not be a bad thing to consider. Say you are looking at a Seagull guitar that retails for $2500, the used price is $995, and it needs a fret job worth about $250. Do the math and you will see the value here. It is subjective to your finances and the instrument itself.
What is a reasonable price for used acoustic guitars? This requires a little homework. Shop around for prices of a new instrument of the model you desire. Then price used guitars for sale on the Internet. Knowing these two factors will give you a good idea for what the guitar is worth and what a reasonable price would be. A little comparison shopping is helpful and will earn you some negotiating leverage.
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