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If you’re thinking about learning how to play the guitar but aren’t quite ready to commit to the price tag of new gear, finding a previously loved set of strings might be your best option. But when selecting a used piece of equipment, there are a few things that you should consider.

How Does It Look?

Her Body

Take a close look over the entire body of the guitar. Check for any chips or crack, especially larger-sized cracks. Smaller cracks may not have as much of an effect on the acoustics as you might think, but larger cracks can exaggerate the natural vibrations while you play, leaving an uncomfortable buzz in your audience’s ear.

Her Neck

Glance over the entire length of the neck, from the base attached to the body to the tuners on the head, front and back. You’re looking for any major breaks or uncomfortable dents that may disturb you’re playing. Ensure that the neck is firmly attached to the body, that it doesn’t move or pivot when a bit of pressure is applied. Also, examine the straightness of the neck, making sure that there is now bowing; the neck should be completely straight, as far as your eyes can tell.

Her Frets and Fretboard

On the front side of the neck, you’ll want to carefully examine the fretboard (usually a darker, stained wood), as well as each individual fret (commonly a white plastic or bone). The fretboard should not appear extremely dry or cracked in any way. A properly maintained fretboard retains a slight shimmer and smoothness all over. The individual frets should be securely attached to the fretboard, whole and unchipped.

How Does She Sound?

Don’t be afraid to play her. After all, this is the entire purpose of owning an acoustic guitar. Play a song, or perhaps just a few chords that you know well. Take your time, and listen for clarity of sound. Consider these points while you play:

– Are the strings buzzing as you strum?
– Does the sound resonate in your chest, or stop dead too soon?
– Do the tuners hold while you play, or are the stings gradually getting out of tune?
– Does it feel comfortable in your arms and on your lap?

Most of the time, choosing an acoustic guitar that’s right for you boils down to personal choice, but hopefully these general guidelines will help you find an instrument worth your investment.