Q. I’ve heard that it’s better to start on acoustic guitar than it is on electric. Is there a reason why?
A. This is probably the most widespread of all “old guitars’ tales.” In reality, there are advantages and disadvantages to either instrument and it really comes down to personal preference. Acoustic guitars are more portable and don’t require amplification, but often have larger necks, heavier strings, and higher action (the height difference between the strings and the fingerboard). Electric guitars usually have thinner necks, lighter strings, and lower action, but need some sort of amplifier to be heard. For a beginner it’s more important to find a guitar with a comfortable neck profile that the student is able to hold comfortably.
Q. Are there any specific brands you recommend for a starter guitar or bass?
A. Squier makes several different models between $200-300 that deliver a lot of bang-for-the-buck, as does Ibanez. When to the right acoustic it might take a bit more shipping around, as the body sizes and neck profiles can be quite different; Yamaha and the Baby Taylor line is usually a good place to start looking.
Also, don’t be afraid of buying used! Guitar Center and Sam Ash both have a wide selection of used instruments, both in-store and online. You can also visit http://www.reverb.com for a look at all kinds of deals, including more expensive instruments for around what you’ll pay for a new model of a start line. A lot of people are afraid to buy sight unseen, so I’d be more than happy to answer questions about a specific instrument if you can email me pictures and the model name… about a third of my current instrument collection has been previously owned and you can get some great deals!
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing guitars is that if you play three of the same exact model, there will all be differences. Every brand can make a fantastic instrument and every brand can put out an unplayable dog… the consistency and quality control a company does can help level the playing field, as can buying from a good shop with helpful sales experts.
AM Sound does offer a limited selection of rental instruments. Please contact us directly for more information.
Q. Are there any specific brands you DON’T recommend?
A. I strongly recommend against purchasing Gibson/Epiphone branded guitars. Although considered one of the most iconic guitar companies in musical history, Gibson has spent the last two decades elevating and marketing themselves as a lifestyle brand and prices have risen sharply (largest single hike was 29% price increase in 2015), while quality control has sharply declined. Additionally, in the past several years they have knowingly imported illegally harvested and protected woods in violation of the Lacey Act, and have used cease & desist letters coupled with predatory litigation to bully small, independent luthiers in a move to retroactively assert trademark acquisition.
I’ve owned many Gibson instruments over the years, but can no longer recommend them to students, due to both financial and ethical concerns.
There are also many “no-name” brands that often populate pawn shops or budget instrument stores that I’d recommend avoiding: Mitchell, Corbin, AXL, First Act, Stagg, etc. They’re easy to identify as they’re often made with plywood bodies and pot metal hardware. When in doubt, Google the brand and look for player feedback!
Q. What about a starter drum kit?
A. This is a case where buying used is DEFINITELY the best way to go. It’s worth noting however, that with a used set of drums you’ll need to do a bit more work to get it playing it’s best; new heads are usually necessary and the whole kit will probably need a good cleaning and dusting. WIth a drum kit you need three things; drums, hardware (stands and mounts), and cymbals.
When you’re talking about kit size, you count drums apart from cymbals- Four piece kits usually consist of bass, snare, rack tom, and floor toms, while a five piece kit would add either a second rack tom or a second floor tom, depending on the individual kit. Either size is fine for a beginning drummer, with five-piece kits being slightly more commonplace due to their extra versatility.
When it comes to cymbals, three are essential: a hi-hat, a crash, and a ride. Buying used will again help you snag a better bargain, but before to inspect the cymbals carefully for chips and cracks!
I personally tend to favor Mapex, Tama, and Yamaha drums for their consistency, although other reputable brands that have a budget line include Gretsch, Pearl, and Ludwig.