There are quite a few things to look for when examining a used acoustic guitar with a view to buying it. For starters, many used acoustic guitars for sale have either been used to learn guitar on or have been given as a an unwanted gift. Of course there are those who buy a guitar and lose interest or find it too hard to learn.
In the first example, there’s every possibility that it’s a cheap or low quality guitar and the owner has decided to upgrade. Depending on what your needs are, I always recommend staying clear of cheap low quality musical instuments of any kind. Quite often, a cheap brand will produce a cheap sound and cheaper guitars are often more difficult to learn on because they require more effort to produce the kind of sound you want.
That may seem unlikely but my own experience has proved it to be so.
Here’s a number of reasons not to buy a cheap used acoustic guitar.
- Cheaper guitars are usually less full bodied and less likely to produce rich sounding resonance.
- Poor quality manufacturing materials
- Twisted or warped guitar necks
- Low quality tuning keys
That being said, there are high quality used acoustic guitars available if you know what to look for. As already mentioned, many aspiring guitarists buy their first guitar without really knowing what they want or what sort of guitar they want to play. Some buy an electric guitar for starters but decide they’d rather play an acoustic guitar while others do the opposite.
Generally speaking, when learning to play acoustic guitar, most start by learning 2-3 basic 4 string chords which are easily learned on the first 3 frets of guitar neck. If its steel string acoustic, the regular finger pressure in the same places on the fret board when pushing the guitar strings down can produce grooves on the surface of the fret board. This has a detrimental effect in a number of ways.
- The grooves can make the strings vibrate and make a tinny and annoying sound.
- The need to push the strings down into the grooves to produce a proper note, means the strings are being stretched further than normal and so produce notes out of tune.
- The top of the metal frets also become grooved so a nice clear clean not is harder to produce.
Examining the Action on a Used Acoustic Guitar
The best and easiest way to check the action on any guitar is to play it but if you’re a beginner, that may not be the best option so follow the directions below.
- Pick up the guitar and lay it on it’s back.
- Bring it up to eye level and examine how far the strings are above the top of the frets just before the sound hole at the beginning of the neck. A good guide is that the strings should be no more that one eights of an inch or 2 mm above the top of the fret below it and should be consistant across all 6 strings. If its not, it could be an indication of a twisted neck.
How to check for a twisted or bent neck on a used acoustic guitar:
- One again, pick up the guitar and lay it on it’s back.
- Bring it up to eye level but this time examine the guitar by looking all the way along the neck with the bottom end of the guitar pressed against your cheek under one of your eyes while keeping the other eye closed.
- If the neck is twisted or bent, this is the easiest way to see it.
The above examinations should be carried out while the guitar is strung and tuned to concert pitch.
Other things to look for when buying a used acoustic guitar may include the general appearance and finish on the guitar body. While a few scratches will be natural, look for anywhere the guitar may have been repaired.
Cheaper guitars have a tendency to crack at the juncture of the nut and the tuning keys while more expensive gutars generally have a small plastic cap just above the nut covering an adjusting rod which runs down the center of the neck. This can be adjusted with a suitable tool if the neck has been bent slightly due to long periods of being strung for too long.
A guitar strung with nylon strings is not so likely to have this happen but neck twists are common among nylon strung guitars, particularly if not stored correctly or are left in damp places.