If you haven’t noticed, my creativity bone is still broken. I have material to write, I just don’t feel like writing it – or I just can’t seem to get it started. But, I still try to get something out to you every day. In fact, there has been at least one article per day since May 21st.
Where to begin? I’m not even really sure where to start with this article, so I guess I’ll start somewhere around the beginning. Unlike many of my articles, this one is aimed squarely at a beginner – and you’ll see why.
You’ll probably have noticed that I don’t tend to write stuff for people just starting out. My material is almost always aimed at people who are familiar with the instrument and usually aimed at people who are pretty advanced. I try to make it interesting for everyone, but I don’t really do much for those folks who are just starting out.
There’s a reason for that.
I’m not your guitar instructor. I am not able, or even willing, to teach you how to play guitar. The Internet is covered in sites that already do this. In fact, they do it better than I can. I have no time to make videos and no bandwidth with which to upload them.
There are a few things I don’t like very much. Two of them are futility and pointless replication. I feel that trying to teach online would be futile (for me). I feel that my doing so would be pointless replication of work already done.
So, I’m very willing to help – but I feel my best method to help would be to point people to work that’s already completed and freely available. I’m then also able to help with answering questions that folks might have.
What does this mean? Well, it means that I’ve decided to add a new style of content. I’m not sure what the final format will look like, but today is an example of this content.
Please (by commenting here, if at all possible – as I’d like to keep the comments centralized for this) do let me know what you think. If it’s not something people are interested in, I’d rather write something else. If it’s something people are interested in, I have a whole lot more material to share with you.
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Your shiny new guitar has arrived!
The story begins with one PMYB2, from Poal, deciding that I’d made guitar seem like a fun thing to learn. I continued to engage them and sometimes would post about how difficult it’d be, mostly to see how he’d react and how determined he’d be.
The dialogue continued over quite some time and, eventually, I was reasonably convinced that they’d be willing to actually put the hours in and learn to play. At that point, I felt it was no longer futile and was willing to scour the ‘net and make actual recommendations.
I sent them to my favorite online music store – Musician’s Friend. What’s amusing is that, if folks recall, they are the same company that declined my application to be an affiliate. Still, I wanted to ensure they got a good, working product and that they’d get good customer service. So, I still sent ’em to Musician’s Friend – even though I didn’t get an affiliate cut.
It’s all good… I got something more rewarding. I got someone interested in playing the guitar, someone to purchase a guitar, and someone to experience what I feel is the best online music store. In fact, he was a bit surprised when they phoned him and offered his guitar choice in a different color, just so they could ship it out to him sooner. That’s just the start of the type of service you can expect from them.
You’ll also probably have noticed that I don’t recommend many specific brands or outlets. For me to do so would mean that I’m, even if just a little, putting my name on that product or service. If they’re unhappy with their purchase, some of that unhappiness will (and rightfully so) reflect on me.
I suppose you’re probably now curious about the product that I suggested they consider for their first guitar? Well, I’ll get to that! Gimme a minute!
We looked first at a Yamaha and an Ibanez model. For simplicity sake, we’re just going to say we looked at “starter kits.” Those were well and good and they did fit within their budget.
What is a starter kit? Well, you will get a playable guitar, strap, strings, picks, some (often bad) lessons on DVD or online, maybe a gig bag (which I abhor – as you know), and a horrible amplifier.
Yup… There’s no such thing as a starter kit with a decent amplifier. I’ve looked and have personally tried many of them. Such a critter doesn’t seem to exist. They’re just not good amps. The guitars may vary and some are very, very playable.
But… The amps suck… Always…
There is no exception, including this one. But, it’s an amp that’s serviceable and will do until they’re able to purchase another amp. For now, it’ll work just fine. For now, it’ll fill their needs – but they’ll not get nearly the tones they’d get with a quality amplifier.
When we reach that point, I’ll probably write an article to disclose what I suggested and what they eventually chose – assuming they give me permission to do so. (I don’t publish names and information without that sort of permission, as a general rule.)
So, what was I able to find for them? Well, their budget was pretty limited and they initially gave me a price of $150. They also started scouring on CraigsList (which I don’t really recommend new guitarists do). Thankfully, they didn’t purchase a CraigsList guitar and they saved up enough to expand their price to $200.
I’ll take a moment to add that it’s possible to get a great deal on those used/classified sites. But, it really helps if you already know what you’re doing, what you’re looking for, and how to assess the quality of the instruments. It can be done and you can get some awesome bargains there. You can also get ripped off and end up spending money on something that doesn’t make you happy.
If you’re not happy, you won’t want to practice. If you’re not practicing, you won’t learn to play. I want folks to learn to play, so I want them to be happy. If your first experience is buying a shitty guitar and paying too much for it, you’re not going to be all that excited about buying more gear and practicing.
So, with $200 in hand, and needing to get a starter kit, my choices were now a bit better. It was then, when their spending money increased, that I was able to look at new guitars from reputable dealers. It was then that I felt comfortable actually investing the time to look for a bargain and something that they’d be happy with.
I am still me and I’m very open about my biases and my adoration for the Gibson Les Paul. However, even a used GLP was very much out of their price range and certainly doesn’t come in some sort of kit that they’re looking for. But, Epiphone does!
Now, an Epiphone Les Paul is perfectly playable. They’re built with similar materials as the Gibson variant and are built to the same standards. Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson, after all.
It has an okoume (density very much like the traditional mahogany and is in the mahogany family) body – though I don’t believe they top them with maple. The finish is a urethane instead of a cellulose. The tuners aren’t the same, but are perfectly serviceable. The pickups aren’t quite the same, but use much of the same tech as you’ll find on a GLP Junior. The list pretty much goes on like that.
What it boils down to is that the guitar is very, very playable. It’s a fantastic guitar at a good price. You don’t have to be as obsessive as I am and you don’t have to spend nearly the amounts I spend. You can get a playable guitar for not a whole lot of money. The great thing about the specific guitar chosen is that people often get concerned that the price is actually too low, they couldn’t possibly make a good guitar at that price. They did. You’ll see…
Eventually, they will want to upgrade to a better amplifier. I suspect that’ll be their next purchase and I’ve made them aware that they’re just not gonna sound like Slash with that amplifier. No… They’re not going to want to put on a rock concert with that amplifier. Even if they mic it up and push it through a real amp, they’re not going to get the tones they’d get from a better amp.
But, for now, it’s something and it’s better than nothing. It’s also not a terrible amp – which was what they’d have gotten if they’d picked an Ibanez starter kit. (The amps that come with Ibanez starter kits are pretty terrible. The amps that come with the Yamaha starter kits are better and have approximate parity with the amps that come with Epiphone starter kits.)
And now it’s time for the big reveal!
This is the guitar that they ended up purchasing. (It was slightly over budget, at $209.00 USD.)
You can read more about that guitar on the Epiphone site.
Now, we must ask ourselves – what if a bad one makes it through QC and PMYB2 gets a bad one? The odds are very low but, fortunately, they have a (limited) lifetime warranty. I also know that Musician’s Friend will take good care of them. I know that Musician’s Friend will bend over backwards to make them happy – even if they did deny my application to be an affiliate.
So, then, what the hell is this article actually about?
It’s about this!
Here’s some videos to get you started. If you’re new to guitar, or just want to relearn some basics, this is a pretty solid and short series of lessons. They’re made well enough, though the volume is a bit low. I don’t spot any obvious flaws in these lessons and they’ll help get people started.
And, there you have it… My current thinking is that I’ll start including some video content and offering commentary on it, as well as sharing some resources for people who wish to learn to play guitar. I’m not sure what the format will look like, but that’s the idea. I have ample resources to share but I currently lack creativity and vision about what the end result will be.
So, do feel free to toss ideas and opinions into a comment. I’ll mull them over and see where it goes from here. If it’s something that folks like, I’ll go ahead and start doing it. Like always, you can also use the “contact me” link in the upper right. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!