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So you're eager to learn, ready to play and willing to spend hours with your new instrument once you've found the right one.  But, if you don't know what to look for (and listen for), finding the right one might not be as easy as you think...

If like me, you've had some bad experiences with sales reps, you'll know that they do not always have your best interest at heart.  Many are commission driven and willing to sell you anything and everything at the highest price, especially when they realize you're a first time buyer.

Of course it's not that way with all music store sales reps and many (or most) may be genuinely interested in helping you get the best instrument based on your experience level and budget.

Whatever the case may be, it's good to be in the know-how on some basic fundamentals of guitar construction.  When buying a guitar, these pointers will help you know what to look for and what to avoid:

Check the Action - Action refers to the amount of pressure  you need to apply to the strings to have them resonate  clearly.  Guitars with higher action usually create painful  problems for new players.  Specifically ask for a guitar  with low action then play and strum a few chords to  determine if its right for you.
Check the neck for bends.  Hold the guitar horizontally in  front of you, with the neck pointing away from your face  and observe the line of the neck.  Is it aligned parallel  to the strings or does it have a slight bend in one area?   We're looking for a straight neck.
Look for fret buzz.  Ever played a note and have the string  vibrate against the frets?  This is called fret buzz and is  something we want to avoid.  Play notes on different frets  on all six string and look and listen for fret buzz.  On cheaper guitars you might encounter fret buzz on some  higher frets (especially on the bass strings) and while  it's not the end of the world, we're looking for an  instrument with little to no fret buzz.
If you're buying a guitar, observe the quality of the tuners.  The tuners and machine  heads will determine how long your guitar will stay in tune  once you start practicing regularly.  Manufacturers  sometimes cut costs, by investing in less than ideal tuners  for new models.  Specifically ask about the quality of the  tuners.
Look for cracks and creaks in the body.  Inspect the front  and back of the guitar body and look for cracks, scratches  or anything undesirable.
If your guitar-to-be has a pickup, insist on listening to  it plugged and unplugged.  Judge the quality of the pickup (s) by plugging the guitar into an amp and playing a bit.   Take as much time as you need and play open chords, barre  chords, scales, riffs and whatever else you can.  Make sure  you like the sound of your guitar.
Warranty.  Ensure you get a cover-it-all warranty for at  least a couple of months or a year or two.  It's usually  worth paying $10 or $20 for an extended warranty.
When buying a guitar always get Discount!  Never, and I mean never pay the retail  price. Music stores operate on the basis of discount and  haggling and if you're not initially presented a better  price than the one advertised, you should ask for one and  will likely get a couple of bucks of. 'What's your best  price?'
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