An electric guitar is not a normal piece of instrument. You cannot directly decide on the build and performance quality of the instrument just by looking at it. You cannot take the opinion of the Store guy or the random guy who just happens to know that other guy who played a guitar once.
What you need is professional advice. Advice from a source that has done proper research. After thorough research, we have developed a list of important factors one should be considering while buying a guitar.
1. Build Material:
First and foremost of this list is the build material. The kind of wood a guitar is made out of decides the durability of the guitar. Broadly speaking, wood type of an electric guitars does not make a big of a difference but it sure does to the quality of the guitar. You may not wish to keep on buying a new one every 6 months right? Typically, guitars are made out of the following 5 types of wood.
a) Maple: Mostly used in acoustic guitars due to its bright and decent tonal quality, this wood is generally more durable and tough. This will naturally add to the build quality of the guitar.
b) Mahogany: In acoustic guitars, it is known to produce a high resonating sounds. The popular dreadnought guitars are manufactured by this wood. This is also known for its durability.
c) Spruce wood: This is a very tough and hard wood usually used to make guitar tops (in both acoustic and electric). You can strum heavily with this material and there is no scare of it breaking as this one of the most toughest quality of wood of all times.
d) Basswood: Typically used in the manufacture of cheap guitars, it is not as heavy so it can be easily handled due to its lightweight. Non-durable for long but cheap and light in weight.
e) Ash wood: A bit soft wood when compared to the most of the other woods mentioned, it is known to produce a warm tone and has a durability level above bass and below spruce wood.
2. Body style
The next important part of an electric guitar after its wood is its type. Is it hollow? Semi hollow? Or solid? Let us delve deep into each type.
a) Solid Type:
Made out of a single slab of wood, this is the most common body type of an electric guitar. It usually ranges from a simple and single pickup model to extravagantly decorated and ornate type. It could also have multi-pickup and a range of electronic options. This wood has a great impact on the sound quality of the instrument but may not produce as much resonance as a hollow body model.
Almost like an acoustic guitar, these type of designs have a hollow chamber to create more resonance. With an archtop, these guitars are more prone to feedback. They are highly preferred by jaz guitarists for their rich and full tones with deep bass response.
These types of guitar bodies fall between solid type and hollow. They do come with resonance but are not dominated by that feature. These are specifically designed to have a solid center wood block which adds to the stability and sustaining of the guitar. It helps in cutting down the feedback and also gives the warmth for the increased attack and sustain any center block. These types are great for playing blues, jazz and punk rock too.
Electronics and Pick-ups of the guitar:
After the style and wood type, you have to focus on the type of electronics you have on the guitar. This will dictate the very essentials of an electric guitar.
Pickup is a mechanism to amplify the produced vibrations through acoustics or electrical signals. This is an important element to augment and amplify the sound of a guitar. In electric guitars piezo pickups are most commonly used as they produce more clear tone and sound. There is another type of pickguard called the humbucker which reduces noise in backgrounds and eliminates hum type sounds for more clarity.
Pickup selector switch:
This part is connected to the pickups of the guitar. These are provided to set distinctive combinations of tones a guitarist is opting to play. You would generally find these in famous guitars built according to the standards like the “less paul” and “fender Stratocaster”. In less paul you find a total of 3 position switch. One placed at the neck, second at the bridge and third which is used to activate both. On the other hand, in stratocaster you will find 5 position switch. They include neck pickup, bridge pickup, middle pickup, bridge and middle pickups combined, neck and middle pickups combined.
This is often avoided by most of the professionals. But this also has certain importance in the construction of electric guitars. They act as capacitors which are used to adjust the frequencies. So the treble settings are in control.
This is attached to the body of the guitar which holds the strings in position. The bridge on which the strings are placed generate audio waves and pass them to the sound board when you press them against the fretboard. This also helps in maintaining the exact distance between the strings and the fingerboard/fret board and also the distance among the strings. The mechanism differs in both acoustic and electric guitars.
In electric guitars, bridges are categorized into two types the vibrato and the non-vibrato. Vibratos are the ones which are used to adjust the pitch to produce a warmer sound.
There are again various kinds of vibratos and tremolos with each having a different mechanism.
The first difference we need to understand between the vibratos and tremolos is that vibrato is meant for adjusting the pitch whereas tremolos are for adjusting the sound.
Defining about vibrato, they are generally classified into the following types:
- Classical vibrato: These are found in both electric and acoustic guitars and are known to produce light sound. You can increase the pitch by moving your hand towards the neck. And for the pitch to go down, you need to move your hand towards the body of the guitar.
- Traditional vibrato: Unlike the classical vibrato, in this you need to move your hand vertically to adjust the pitch.
- Blues: This will need extra strength to put in to adjust the pitch by placing the thumb on top of the finger board.
- Locking vibrato: Generally they are known to produce high intonation and also allow you to adjust the height of the strings. It produces a rocking sound.
- Non-locking vibrato: These are found in the old guitars which are manufactured in late 1950’s. These are popularly used in the electric guitars as they are easy to handle. They are also known to produce many tunes producing the greatest quality of sound. Here again the type of non-locking vibratos are broadly classified. The two famous non-locking vibratos used are:
- Synchronized: The tailpiece and bridge can move simultaneously to produce a greater pitch range.
- Bigsby: Here only the tail part moves unlike the synchronized to produce a high tone.
Now let’s talk about the tremolos in the guitars.
The two types of tremolos are
- Rapid reiteration which should be moved rapidly back and forth to adjust the sound
- In the second type i.e. the tremulants which show difference in the amplitude. These are basically found in electric guitars which should be rapidly adjusted by moving the signal volume up and down.
Output jack in electric guitars vary in their types but the functionality is same. Its job is to send the signal from the guitar body to the cable wire. There are again wide varieties of output jacks like the:
Mono having two lugs which is popularly found in both electric and acoustic guitars. These lugs are generally connected to the guitar cable.
Stereo having three lugs which is again seen in acoustic and electric guitars. The third lug acts as a power switch for adjusting the frequencies of the tone.
Tip ring sleeve which is seen in the acoustic-electric, electric and acoustic guitars. These have four lugs. For picking up the magnetic tones, these are used in the electric guitars whereas in the acoustic guitars as a microphone.
Power jacks either have a configuration of stereo or tip ring sleeve. These are attached to the circuit that is inbuilt in the guitar unit. But if any fault arises in it, the jack cannot be replaced. So we need to change the entire instrument.
Necessary Precautions to be Taken While Handling a Guitar (Both Acoustic and Electric):
1. Storing your guitar in the right place:
As the materials used in the guitars are made from quality wood, steel, nylon etc it is very important to take care when you are exposing this guitar at different places.
Do not expose it to sunlight for prolonged period of time as this may fade out the color of the guitar.
Also, take care not to expose to high humid conditions. This precaution is necessary to avoid wear and tear of the materials used in the guitar. You will also get a capsule from the local musical instruments stores in and around you. This will save your instrument from extreme humid conditions
2. Cleaning your fretboard:
There is a special care required while cleaning the fingerboard. As the materials are of quality wood, it is always recommended to use the fretboard conditioner to clean it. Please note that while purchasing, check which conditioner is suitable to the wood material used in your guitar.
3. Polishing is necessary:
To retain the look of the guitar you need to polish it with the polishes available in the market.
4. Handling the strings:
Strings generally wear out after a prolonged usage. It is always a good idea to replace the strings over some period of time as this will keep up the tone quality intact.
5. Handling the hardware components:
Hardware components like nickel, chromium etc are prone to corrosion. So to ensure long lasting durability it is very important to clean the components with
6. Always use a guitar cover and a stand:
This is the most important accessory every guitarist should possess. It is worth purchasing a quality material cover to store the guitar. This saves the instrument always even if you are carrying that instrument along in the rain. Purchase a guitar stand without directly resting the instrument to the wall. This prevents the guitar from slipping and hitting the floor.
7. Get your guitar checked:
It is important to give your instrument for servicing as they will check the overall condition of the instrument and will let you know if any repairs or replacements are to be made.
8. Tips should be cleaned properly:
For cleaning the parts like neck, back, sides and other tips of the instrument, we recommend you to use guitar cleaners which you will easily get in the local stores
9. Play your guitar often:
Last but not the least, it is important to play your instrument almost regularly to keep it in proper condition. This will also aware you of whether all the parts are in perfect condition or not.
Frequently Asked Questions
Electric guitars have softer strings than acoustic guitars and this makes it easier to play on them. You can learn to play barre chords on electric as this one has the lighter strings. For learning the basics of a guitar, it is always suggested that you try out an acoustic guitar. An electric guitar gives you the flexibility to even plug your earphones into an amplifier and play. Only you hear the sounds while your rest of the family sleeps in peace.
The amplifier, jack ports, wood type, string quality and most importantly, the brand’s reputation. These are the must and sure checklists before you buy a guitar. For more check points, read on the buying guide section which contains further details.
This noise may be due to the picking up of hum by the guitars. This is very common and is usually due to the grounding of the components, their shielding and their grounding. In order to solve this issue, you need to check the individual noises of the guitar lead and amp, solder joints solidity, grounding of all the components, check for short connections (if any), grounding shield. Now slowly move the selector switch and see if the noise vanishes in any of the position.
To clean any wooden part of a guitar, it is best that you use oil and woolen cloth. Cotton works fine too. Pour in a drop or two of oil (preferably olive oil or lemon oil) on the cloth. Rub it on the strings AND fretboard carefully to clean it.