How to choose guitar for a gift??

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by BFcaster, Aug 4, 2021.

  1. BFcaster

    BFcaster Tele-Meister

    Mar 13, 2005
    Iowa City IA
    Hypothetical question but bears asking, IMHO.
    My 16 year old step-granddaughter has talent, vocally. We've worked together listening/playing to music. She's interested in guitar, and I've really gotten her into some female singer/guitarist. I envy her, for what she has ahead of her!
    Now my question to you all-
    I know from fact that a guitar on the rack needs action/height adjustment, and almost guarantee a nut replacement, probably pickup heights tweaked, certainly intonation fine-tuned. All of this unless you are extremely lucky of course.

    So, how do you take a budding beginner into a store and test-drive a guitar, if everything is a diamond in the rough (probably)???

    {Not too uncommon backstory- My Gretsch 5120 had foam under the bridge, so obviously not intonated/contour sanded for the floating bridge. ALL my store-bought electric and acoustic guitars had action too high/needed truss adjustment. ALL needed intonation. ALL needed new strings (of course). ALL store-bought guitars had plastic nuts. Some were okay, most needed work (radiusing/depth), all have since been replaced and for the better, I might add.

    I personally look at the neck straightness (fit to body and/or twist), the alignment of the bridge to the nut, string spacing to the edge of the fretboard, and in between, feel of the tuners, if electric the turn of the pots and switch, and basically does it feel solid or feel cheap. Would I personally want this and/or could I fix/improve any of it or does it even need any?}

  2. dented

    dented Doctor of Teleocity

    Apr 17, 2006
    Lake Lanier, Georgia
    One that I would want.
  3. Torren61

    Torren61 Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Mar 12, 2013
    Humboldt County, CA
    What’s your budget?
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  4. ahiddentableau

    ahiddentableau Tele-Meister

    Jul 8, 2018
    Middle of Nowhere
    Sounds to me like you've already thought of the important things. Namely:

    1) She is present in the store and gets to pick and try the instruments herself - it's not somebody pushing something on her or telling her what to like/not like
    2) You are present to use your experience/knowledge to ensure that whatever she likes and finds appealing/comfortable doesn't have problems and will end up in a good playable condition (I completely agree with your take that most instruments need to work after the fact to play/sound their best)

    So long as that's the way it is, I think you're good and I would recommend not overthinking it. Sounds like a great situation and I hope your step-granddaughter enjoys her journey into the land of guitar based music.
  5. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

    Jan 18, 2009
    North of Toronto
    Buying on a budget? Easy peasy. Shop for a Yamaha.
  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 22, 2018
    I would start by really trying to understand who she listens too, what kind of music, where she sees herself going. Certain guitars fit different genres of music better, she might identify a certain guitar with someone she likes.

    Next, assuming you can more or less play in the genre she likes, take her to a music store and start playing guitars. Let her listen as you play the same thing on each one, when she likes something set it aside to become a bench mark. If you don't play that genre find someone who does, possibly her music instructor.

    Narrow it down to a few guitars and next evaluate their construction and playability. It sounds like you have an understanding of that stuff - I build and set up guitars so I have a fairly rigid set of steps I go thru evaluating a guitar. If it happens to be a used guitar there are a lot more structural and geometry things that I pay attention to.

    If you are narrowing it to one guitar and you feel it needs work negotiate with the shop. I believe that each shop should have the capability of seeing up a guitar for the person the is going to play it, unfortunately many don't and of course mail order never will.

    Encourage her to get an instructor who plays the genre that she likes. Build a good foundation that she doesn't have to unlearn. Many of us who play are terrible teachers - think about how that might apply in your case.

    You are doing a great and wonderful thing, she is a lucky young lady.
    Boreas, BB, BFcaster and 3 others like this.
  7. LoudLullaby

    LoudLullaby TDPRI Member

    Aug 2, 2021
    Lots of good advice so far. Once I had an idea if she wants to strum or shred, I’d scout out a store or two to save time on shopping day.

    I’d help direct her to a few good choices that are in the budget and are appropriate style choices. Could reduce some buying anxiety. Maybe you can afford a PRS private stock for her first access! If not, it helps to set expectations.

    And this is less gear-related, but if she absolutely loves a specific guitar that isn’t up to your standards, and it’s in the budget, I’d probably get it anyway, unless there’s some dealbreaker in build quality and it’s absolutely unplayable.
  8. JL_LI

    JL_LI Poster Extraordinaire

    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    Bring her with you to shop. Look at her carefully. Is she petite? How large are her hands? How strong are her fingers? Find a guitar she can hold comfortably. Find one where she can comfortably hold the neck. No matter how much you spend, have it professionally set up. Start out with light gauge strings. She won't stay with an instrument that hurts or is difficult to play.

    Think about starting her with an acoustic guitar. She can get an electric later on but an electric at first may be discouraging because her mistakes will be loud. Get her a guitar she'll want to keep. At 16, college isn't too far down the road.

    The best encouragement is playing with others. Don't just give her a guitar. Play guitar with her and watch her grow.

    I have a granddaughter. She's a little young for guitar just yet. I hope she shows an interest, but at nine years old, her attention is focused on robotics. She can teach me a thing or two about programming already. It's amazing watching them grow up. I wish both of you the best.
  9. Deeve

    Deeve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Dec 7, 2009
    I think OP is noting the dreadful condition of guitars on the rack (fresh from the box).
    Under those circs, the gift might include
    a) heavy set-up work in shop;
    b) heavy set-up work @ OP's home workshop or
    c) same thing, but done side-by side, as a "here's what they look like before they can play right" step-by-step tutorial on DIY set up.

    Maybe budget some more $$ for files, gauges & other maintenance stuff, unless periodic maintenance is a way to spend time w/ the young woman, when she comes back for fresh strings, truss-rod adjustment, docking the whammy, whatever.
    @FenderGyrl might have suggestions for the "first tools" gifts .
    My unsolicited suggestion is offered gently and w/ no judgment.
    While there are step-children, for obvious reasons, when you step up to grand- fatherhood, they are all just grandies (drop the step-prefix) YMMV

    Peace - Deeve
    OmegaWoods, Maguchi and JL_LI like this.
  10. Controller

    Controller Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 11, 2010
    Make sure she likes the look of it. Then she will be drawn to it. You can check it over to make sure it meets minimum requirements.
    Ron C likes this.
  11. Hey_you

    Hey_you Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 9, 2019
    Colorado USA
    Perhaps buy a preowned guitar? From a retail outlet.
  12. adjason

    adjason Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Jan 9, 2010
    little Martin acoustic- they are short scale, easy to play etc. don't overlook a ukulele- easier to play -that is what my daughter started on
  13. OmegaWoods

    OmegaWoods Tele-Holic

    Nov 10, 2020
    East TN, USA
    This is great advice.
  14. FenderGyrl

    FenderGyrl Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 22, 2012
    Take her to a Guitar Center.
    Start off in the Fender Squire section.
    Just let her sit and hold a few models.
    Just have her balance them against her body,
    Let her grip their necks.

    When she favors a certain body / model style,
    Have her stand with it strapped on.

    Once you know the model she wants...
    Go to Sweetwaters Site... Find the guitar in the color she likes...
    Buy it.... Pay the extra money for them to set it up and consider having them plek it. Their site offers a whole range of set up options to fit your budget.

    Guarantee you... The guitar will serve her well.
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  15. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    Up North
    It has to be Cool and it has to Rock.
    Get that young lady a Telecaster.
    Easy to play, easy to tune, easy to take care of.
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  16. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 15, 2016
    I really feel there is only one correct way.....let them pick what-ever they are drawn to. It is the excitement that is important and less face it, nobody stops at just one anyway.

    I was helped out by a very talented blues player in Nashville for my first guitar. He took me to the shop and pointed out the various styles of guitars and allowed me to hold what-ever caught my eye. Too be honest, none of them really made me want it since I knew nothing about playing guitar.

    Then my friend picked up one that he wanted to play and belted out some great blues, commenting how nice that guitar played. That was the switch, I wanted that guitar. I wanted to sound like he did.

    It was a Godin Session Custom (Tele/Strat Hybrid), just released that year.

    I still have that guitar and always will....sadly, I still don't sound like him.

    I think the trick here is that the right guitar is the one that gets them excited. Everything else will risk failure.
    Old Smokey and BFcaster like this.
  17. Chipss36

    Chipss36 Tele-Holic

    Feb 20, 2020
    Like other have said a guitar that fits what music she likes.

    a guitar that motivates the student is a good thing.

    A guitar that gets dictated to the student has been a long time status quo of teaching, thou must start on an acoustic?
    That’s cool it that is what the student plays, not cool or motivating if they like metal, or electric guitar, or classical…or whatever.

    a great setup sets the student up for success!
    Blackmore Fan likes this.
  18. Blackmore Fan

    Blackmore Fan Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 22, 2013
    I think we're all getting ahead of ourselves here (with only *best* of intentions). If we "let her pick it out herself" we run the risk of springing for a Taylor or Martin when we don't even know that she has any real dedication to playing guitar. I'd skip the "let her pick it out" part, and instead buy a reasonably priced *decent* guitar (no crappy no-names, but not a Taylor or Martin either) like a Yamaha (acoustic) or Squier (electric). Then I'd pay the best tech locally available to give it a proper setup.

    IF she attacks her learning and soon shows she's really into it, we can have another discussion.
    TeleTucson and Fendereedo like this.
  19. BFcaster

    BFcaster Tele-Meister

    Mar 13, 2005
    Iowa City IA
    Great insight!!! You guys...I knew this was where to ask. Thank you all.
    I have a fleet of guitars, acoustic and electric, that should make a good starting off point. Most are thicker vintage style necks, but my Squier II Strat has a dreamy thin neck, my learner guitar from 1990, that could offer a nice pathway into playing guitar. Could really help narrow things down, exploring why this guitar over that guitar, etc.
    I do know it comes down to a proper instrument to learn on will encourage growth and excitement in pursuing guitar. A poorly setup guitar can ruin anyone's interest fast.
    Boreas and Blackmore Fan like this.
  20. BB

    BB Poster Extraordinaire

    May 17, 2003
    Great Pacific NW
    Don't overlook new/used Daisy Rock guitars. I've found several of these (used acoustics and electrics) over the years for my granddaughter and several female family friends.

    These were built and marketed to younger girls. The colors may or may not to be her liking, but the necks are slim and fast, built for smaller hands, the play very easy and intonate very well.....a used one should be very easy to tweak to her liking. The electrics actually sound very good. The acoustics (I've had anyway) are not going to put a smile on your face tone wise, but they are not going to make you groan either.

    My granddaughter still has the 'pretty pink' acoustic I got for her when she was was her favorite color. Now, at 13 she wants to paint it black!

    Good luck whatever way you go. Lots of great advice in this thread. Let us know how it tuns out. BTW....I Love seeing girls/young women (hell, even older women) take an interest in guitar.
    Flip G likes this.
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