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What to Look For When Buying a Second Hand Guitar  by Randy Page

Nowadays with so many guitars coming into the market, more and more high quality guitars find there way into second hand stores, cash converters or eBay. Many very fine guitars have come from these sources but even if you do not find a six hundred dollar instrument marked down to fifty bucks (or near offer) you can still, if you are lucky, stumble upon a beautiful guitar guitar at a bargain price. However, before you go off to your nearest second hand store or e-bay, you would be very well advised to read the rest of this article which deals with some of the most common faults found in second hand guitars.

We will look at each part of the guitar separately.


The strings of the guitar are tuned by way of geared pegs located in the head of the guitar. When the string is tightened, the note produced by the string rises in pitch, conversely when a string is loosened the note produced is lower. It is obvious, then, that the tuning pegs on the guitar that you are considering buying should be in good condition. If the The worm is worn or the cog cracked or distorted you will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tune your guitar with any accuracy. If the gears look quite sound, grasp the actual tuning buttons and turn them five or six times in each direction. If any show reluctance, beware!


The neck of a guitar should be straight. Any warp or twisting can produce string rattles and, in the case of serve warp, prevent the guitar playing in perfect tune. There are not many things that are more annoying than a guitar which plays slightly 'sharp' or 'flat'. Now we will check the neck for warping. Hold the guitar with the body pointing away from you, sight along the finger board as you would a rifle. This will show up any warping. If the guitar has an adjustable rod running inside the neck, a straight upward warp can usually be corrected without any difficulty. This is usually found in expensive dreadnought and cello guitars and recognised by a plate just above the neck in the head. If the neck is twisted however, do not buy it. If the guitar has no warp adjuster and there is anything at all wrong with the neck, you would be very foolish to consider buying it. Check the neck for signs of repair work. Any signs of repair would tell me not to buy the guitar. If no repair work is visible, hold the guitar tightly under one arm and pluck a string. With your other hand gently pull the neck back. If the pitch of the note rises as you exert pressure, the neck is weakened. Next play each string fret by fret, up the neck and listen for any rattles or buzzes. these could be caused by raised or loose frets.


A very common fault is the loosening of the joint where the neck meets the body. Get hold of the neck and gently try to rock it forward and back. Any sign of movement in the joint is bad. While you have got hold of the neck you should test for loose braces. These are small strips of wood which are glued underneath the table and inside the back in order to strengthen the body. Sometimes if the guitar receives a blow or if the retaining glue becomes brittle, a brace may loosen. This weakens the guitar and also hampers the tone. Testing for faulty braces is very easy. Look through the sound hole and see where the braces lie, then with one hand grasping the neck and effectively deadening the strings, tap gently along the line of each brace on the outside of the guitar. If you hear any rattles then you have most likely got brace trouble.


In the case of a classic, folk or dreadnought guitar, where the strings terminate at a fixed bridge, you should always be on the look out for signs of weakness where the bridge joins the body. In the case of a steel strung guitar, in particular, the pressure exerted by the strings at this point is quite terrifying and should the bridge pull loose while you are playing, it could inflict a very nasty injury. The place to look for signs of weakness in this joint is behind the bridge. There should be no gap what so ever between the bridge and the table. If there is so much as a hairline gap, do not buy the guitar

Randy Page is a free lance writer and guitar enthusiast He teaches guitar players around the world online guitar lessons via easy guitar songs. Visit his site to get free guitar tutorials.

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