How to Buy A First Guitar or Bass: Part II

One of the questions we get most often at School of Rock is which guitar or bass parents should buy for their child who wants to start learning to play. Here are a couple of pointers to help you find your way. Once you've put a sweet guitar or bass into your kid's hands, come to School of Rock for a tour and free trial lesson, and we'll help them love playing it!

If you haven't read part 1 of this post, you may want to go there first.

What To Look For If You're Shopping In Person

There's no way to poke and prod anything you buy online before it's at your door, so if you're shopping in person, here are a couple of things to watch out for. Important note about new instruments: One of the ways that guitar manufacturers save cost is by putting minimal labor into the final setup of the instrument. Often the parts are quality and the assembly is fine, but the fine-tuning that makes an instrument play well and sound its best is left to the consumer.

School of Rock in Ballwin is hosting a Free Setup Day Saturday, January 3 from 2:30 - 4:30. You can also set up a tour at the School of Rock in your community and ask for help getting your guitar or bass ready for lessons.

Tuning: Have someone at the store get the instrument to standard tuning and play a few chords. There are two reasons to do this. First, if the playing sounds terrible, odds are it's not the sales person (who is likely a decent guitar player), it's a difficult instrument to play. The second reason to have the instrument tuned up is to check the action.

Action: The action of a guitar or bass is how the strings relate to the fretboard. How far are the strings from the fretboard? How curved is the neck? The action is something that can be adjusted pretty easily, but if the strings are super far from the neck at the point where the neck and body of the guitar meet or the neck is noticeably curved, it might be an instrument to pass up. That doesn't necessarily mean that brand or model are flawed, just that the individual instrument may already have some problems.

Frets: If the guitar sounds alright and the action doesn't look way out of whack, run your finger along each side of the neck to see whether you can feel any of the ends of the metal frets sticking out.

If you feel some that aren't level with the wood, it doesn't mean the instrument is garbage or that brand or model are no good, but you can probably find another guitar or bass that doesn't already have that problem. Frets that aren't level with the wood can be fixed, but there's no reason to deal with that if you're buying a new instrument.

Electronics: If you're looking at an electric guitar, get it plugged into an amp and toggle all the switches and turn all the knobs a few times. If you hear any crackling sounds, it means some of the internal electronics may be a little dirty. Again, that's a fixable problem, but not something you want to hear a few minutes after your kid plugs it in for the first time. Another of the same brand and model will probably be fine, if you're looking at what you think is a good style and price point.

How The Heck Do I Play This Thing?!

The last thing you want, once you've picked out the right guitar or bass for your kid, is to have it sit untouched for the rest of her/his childhood. At School of Rock, we focus on teaching students to enjoy playing their instrument first and build the broader concepts of music on top of that foundation, using performance as the motivation and the payoff. When students know that they're going to walk out on stage in a real rock venue and play a legit concert, the practicing tends to take care of itself.

We would love for your child to have all of the pieces in place the second they get their instrument – guitar lessons, bass lessons, a beginner or intermediate/advanced winter day camp, a concert to start rehearsing for. At School of Rock, we take total beginners and within a few short months have them performing on stage, going on tour, building confidence, and making lifelong memories and friendships with kids that love the same things they do.

-Original post by Jordan Heimburger, GM School of Rock Ballwin

Jordan is a guitarist extraordinaire and passionate music teacher who has toured locally and nationally since the early 2000s in original rock groups The Incurables, The Feed, and The Cree Rider Family Band, and lends his talents to tribute bands Celebration Day and Street Fighting Band. A St. Louis native, Jordan brings more than six years of teaching experience at local music schools and summer camp teaching groups and individuals to perform.

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