There are many things to consider when looking for a guitar to buy. It is easy to get blinded by excitement and overlook problems that might be right in front of your eyes! After finding what is hopefully the model you want, in the color you want, at a price you can afford, you will next want to be certain the guitar is healthy. I have put together a checklist of some things to look for.
1) Inspect the guitar for any dings, scratches or finish imperfections.
(noting cosmetic deficiencies may help you to negotiate price if you decide to buy. If there are major finish issues, keep in mind that finish repairs can be some of the most costly fixes)
2) Check the neck for straightness and make sure the truss rod works!
Even if the neck is straight now, there will come a time where it needs to be adjusted. You need to know that the rod is performing as it should. (A healthy truss rod should be capable of both back bowing and forward bowing the neck.)
3) Play every note on the fretboard to be sure it sounds cleanly.
An open string buzz may indicate a problem with the nut.
A buzzing on fretted notes could be an issue of setup, or a sign of more serious issues. Only a qualified tech can make that determination.
4) Consider the string height of the guitar. Does it feel about right? Does it look too high or two low? If it doesn’t seem right, make sure a tech looks at the guitar before buying! Do not assume that it just needs a setup, especially with an acoustic guitar.
5) Look at the frets. over time the strings can wear flat spots and grooves into the frets of the guitar or bass. If there are deep grooves present the instrument may require a fret level or possibly even a complete fret job!
6) Electronics: Be sure to turn every knob and roll through all positions on toggle switches. If possible, open up the control cavity to be certain the wiring looks clean and secure. (electrical tape is usually not a good sign) This is especially important if you think the guitar has been modified: I.E. new pickups, replaced controls, etc. If the guitar has a battery, be sure it is not expired and corroding the terminals.
7) Acoustics: Sight the top from the side in hopes of finding a gentle and smooth arch to the top. Take time to look at all the seams and glue joints on the instrument. Can you see any space where the bottom of the bridge meets the top? Does the neck join cleanly to the body? Is there any issues where the back or top joins the sides? Use your fingers to tap the top and back in several areas. Listen for any loose support braces. (tapping can sometimes reveal the sound of ill secured braces smacking against the wood of the top or back: a sign of problems lurking underneath.)
If you have any questions about an instrument, be sure to bring it to a qualified luthier, like myself, to get them answered. If at all possible, do this before you buy or during the return period, if there is one? The time spent can help you to confidently make your purchase, negotiate money off the price to pay for repairs, or possibly even save you from buying a lemon that will require costly repairs.
Remember, verbal estimates and evaluations are always free at my shop! I am here for you and I would love to help you make a purchase that you can be proud of!