(Maybe a little overkill – choose the items you find useful)
Some things that don’t fit you can be easily changed (that’s why I recommended to buy in a shop, where they are able and willing to service it). Wood is (or has been) a living material that changes shape slightly due to temperature and moisture. This can change the playing comfort dramatically. However, there are ways to readjust it with little effort. For such services, the salesperson of your choice should feel responsible over a long period. In small shops, here in Germany they sometimes give lifetime guarantee on that. I don’t know how this is in the USA.
A good dealer should have taken a look at his guitars and adjusted them reasonably before offering them!
But there can be real defects too, that cannot be fixed. Hands off!
· Slightly OT: Etiquette in a guitar shop
o Avoid everything that might damage the guitars. Take off all your heavy metal weapons and rivet jewellery. Take off all clothes with knobs or metal zippers. You want a mint guitar, and all the other customers want the same! The dealer will notice your consideration and love you even more.
o Find out if you are allowed to grab the guitars by yourself and keep to the custom.
o Never plug or unplug the guitar when the other end of the cable is hooked to a switched on amp.
o If there exists a list of riffs that are not allowed to play in this shop (“smoke on the water”, “nothing else matters”, “smells like teen spirit”…): comply with this. Not doing so might cause an anaphylactic shock or unforeseen behaviour of the employees ;-).
o Don’t clamp your fag between string and head before you have paid the guitar.
COMMON TYPES OF SOLID BODY GUITARS
- rough overview -
(You might want to visit the website of an online guitar shop to see pictures of the guitars mentioned here)
The mother of all solid body electrics.
Three single coils (five pickup combinations switchable); a few models with a humbucker in bridge position
Sound: lots of treble, emphasized attack
Fender guitars are available in several low budget versions (“SQUIER”, “MEXICO STRAT”), that have basically the same features and quality and preferable if you are a beginner. There are innumerable copies in a wide range of quality (some regarded as even better than the original).
The other classic.
Two humbuckers (three constellations switchable)
Sound: warm, full, plenty of bass, but less attack and definition than a stratocaster
Low budget brand: “EPIPHONE” (recommendable imo). Also plenty of copies of varying quality.
High quality alternatives: “THE HERITAGE“, “PAUL REED SMITH”
Also a classic, but very special
Two single coils (three constellations)
Sound: veeery trebly (“twangy”)
Seldom used for hi-gain sounds
Low budget brands: “SQUIER“, “FENDER MEXICO”
Body similar to stratocaster, but more angular.
Pickups: H-S-H or H-S-S, five to seven selections possible
Often Floyd rose style vibrato (but also available with vintage vibrato or none)
Mostly very thin neck
Sound: designed for versatility, often dedicated to hi-gain use.
Best-known brand: “IBANEZ” (RG-series, JEM, SABER- series) with models for every wallet.
Innumerable producers (“YAMAHA”, “WASHBURN”, “JACKSON”…)
The influence of the wood sort on the sound is not as significant with electric as with acoustic guitars, but still important. There are a lot of different kinds of wood used (from very heavy mahogany to light basswood). I’m not an expert; so if you’re interested in details, search the web. Here’s a link to begin with:
Here is a good explanation of the sound characteristics of wood sorts (unfortunately in German):
There are a couple of new materials used for the body, which are said to have the same tonal behaviour as wood. I don’t have the experience to give a statement.
At least make sure the guitar is not made of plywood (to find out remove one of the covers on the back, where you will find unpainted patches)
Again, there is no general rule, whether to prefer a thin or thick neck. Thin necks are often described as “fast”, thick ones as fitting the old blues style player better… As for me, I found myself being more precise (=faster) when having a hefty piece of wood in my left hand. The best for you will be to compare different necks in direct succession and find out what feels best for you.
You will notice that there are also different shapes of frets on the guitars. Thicker and higher frets allow you to play with less effort, but bear the danger of unwanted tone bendings, if you cannot control the pressure of your fingers accurately. This particularly can make chords sound horrible.
There can also be varying numbers of frets: usually 20 to 24. As you will have guessed, with 24 frets you can access more (higher) notes.
But there is a drawback: The position of the pickups has an influence on the structure of the harmonic content of the tone it produces. When the neck pickup is exactly where the 24th fret would be, it has a very characteristic tone (often associated with Hendrix style for example). Therefore, if you want to go for that tone, you should prefer a guitar with only 20 frets (and a single coil pickup in bridge position).
There are basically two kinds of pickups:
Single coils and humbuckers (which mostly look like a pair of two single coils, while sometimes they have a metal cap with six screws in it). Indeed, they have two coils and their greatest advantage is (like the name tells) that noise induced to the pickup is suppressed. And they usually have a higher output than single coils. If mainly trashing (metal, hardrock, punk…) you should choose a guitar with at least one humbucker (in neck position).
Generally spoken, single coils have more individuality. Their sound is more delicate and they will transmit the dynamic range of your playing better.
Modern strats sometimes give you the option to use only one of the coils of a humbucker (“coil split”). You’ll find this feature often installed with a push-pull poti as tone control (push=humbucker, pull=single coil).
A toggle switch gives you the choice between the pickups. Basically, there are three different concepts:
Position 1 bridge pickup, 2 both, 3 neck
1 bridge, 2 bridge+middle, 3 middle, 4 middle+neck, 5 neck
Same as stratocaster; in positions 2 and 4 there is only one coil of the humbucker active.
From bridge to neck, the tonal characteristic of the pickups gets warmer and darker.
Positions 2 and 4 produce a sound with more attack, for example used for clean funk style.
A varying number of control knobs allow you to change volume and reduce the trebles:
One volume and one tone knob for each pickup
One volume (for all pickups)
Two tone knobs (one for neck and middle pickup, one for bridge pickup)
One volume, one tone knob (both controlling all pickups)
For the record: apart from the named there are several other solutions: humbucker in single coil shape, single coil in humbucker shape, out of phase switching, humbucker with parallel wiring, mute switches, direct to output option, guitars with a built in preamp (“active guitars”)…
In the old days, a vibrato system was used to slightly change the pitch of the tone, in order to have it sound more lively. For that a vintage vibrato system worked decently, but when it came to dive-bombs, horse laughter and other dramatic effects, the guitar was immediately out of tune (the strings move over the nut, when their tension is released, and don’t return to the exact position they had been before).
A Floyd rose style vibrato system prevents this, because the strings are locked behind the nut (you tune them with the fine tuners on the bridge). It is possible to bend up and down a couple of semitones with the guitar still in tune afterwards (when correctly adjusted).
My recommendation: if you think you need a vibrato system, lock the upward movement. This is absolutely no problem with a vintage vibrato. With a Floyd rose it is not as easy, but possible. Ask the dealer if he would do it for you (without extra costs). This will give you the best of both worlds (but no upward bendings). The modification is “non-destructive” and can easily be removed.
This document was provided by © klaus dibbelt (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Any feedback - questions, hints, ideas for improvement, additions, contradiction - much appreciated.
Do you want to make me happy (well, a little happier at least)? If you are a native English speaker and find it worth your time and patience – please correct the grammar as well as wrong terms and expressions in this document and send it back to me.