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Beginner guitar - help needed


monkeylizard

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I've been wanting to pick up guitar for a while now, and finally made the leap. We had a fundraiser auction at work today and a new Fender American Standard Stratocaster (made in USA, not Mexico) was in the mix. It's a 60th Anniversary model in Mystic Aztec Gold with Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s on all 3 pickups (whatever that means). I think it looks super retro-cool. I managed to snag it for less than $400, which I think was a phenomenal price, especially compared to what I see them listed for online. It's this one: http://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender/Limited-Edition-American-Standard-Stratocaster-Electric-Guitar-Mystic-Aztec-Gold-Maple-Fingerboard-1409670722552.gc

So I have the axe, hard case, strap, and cable.

I need a beginner amp. Nothing too crazy loud. Probably 10-15w would do it for my purposes. No particular budget in mind. I see plenty in the $50-$100 range which would be just fine. I don't mind going a bit higher if it means I get a lot more, but I'm not looking for pro-grade gear here. Any suggestions?

I'm finding plenty of YouTube videos to get me started playing, so I'll start there, and maybe check out the Yousician app. I've already discovered the free guitar tuning apps for smartphone and tablets, so that saves me a few bucks on not needing to buy a tuner.

Any other beginner advice?

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Ummm, yeah... "steal" is a bit of an understatement on what what you paid for this guitar. Congrats on your venture into legal thievery!:rock:

 

Because I have played both acoustic and electric guitar at the semi-pro level (gig & get paid regularly, but not my primary occupation) for about 25 years now, and also because most of my friends believe that I own more guitars than I could ever possibly play (substantially more than 25, but slightly less than 50), I can offer a few suggestions.

My number one suggestion would be to get the guitar "set-up" by a luthier or tech who knows what they're doing. By that, I mean don't just take it to Guitar Center for a setup. The reason I recommend this is that no two guitars are exactly the same, and they all involve a fine balance of interactive adjustments to play as best as possible. A setup involves much more than just slapping on new strings. Setting up a guitar is akin to sighting in a new rifle-- there are measurements and tweaks, rinse and repeat until it's where you want it.

A good tech will ask you a series of questions, like what kind (genre) of music do you intend to play, what style you plan to use (fingers vs. pick, slide, etc). He may also ask you to play a bit, so that he can take note of your playing technique. Of course, if you know nothing at all, this may be difficult, so it may be best to just ask for "factory-recommended" setup specs to start with. While factory recommendations vary widely from company to company, they will generally put the instrument within a reasonably comfortable playing "feel". Keep in mind that a quality setup will cost you anywhere from $50-100, including a new set of strings. But much like paying to have a gunsmith professionally "slick" your action, the long-term reward is worth the initial cost.

Why spend this kind of money if you can't even play a note yet? Simple. Too many beginners attempt to learn on a guitar that isn't properly set-up, As a result, strings are often too high, action and response is terrible, the guitar won't stay in tune, etc. The end result is often that the beginner gets frustrated, and thinks that they will never learn... whereas a properly set-up instrument facilitates good playing habits and makes learning much easier. Some folks like myself take enough of an interest to learn to do their own setups, but if you don't have a clue, it's best to leave it to someone who understands the physics of a guitar.

Regarding beginner amps, while I am a huge proponent of tube amps in terms of superior tone, for the beginner they can be tricky, sometimes unreliable, and somewhat costly to maintain.  Therefore, for learning and "bedroom playing" purposes, I would recommend shopping for a decent SS (solid state) amp-- SS amp technology has made tremendous leaps and bounds over the last 10 years, and the stigma formerly attached to them has largely been eliminated.

Again, the type and brand of amp that you choose may be dictated by the style of music you intend to pursue.. If you are a metal kind of guy, there are tons of amps out there which are voiced specifically for this type of music. If you are a British Invasion person, there are amps that are more specialized for that type of tone.... Country, classic rock, etc same thing. There is no one "do it all" amp, but there are some amps with "modeling" features which come close, at least at bedroom volume levels. My recommendation would be to take your guitar to a shop (I'd start with Corner Music), and play it through as many different types and brands as possible. If you don't know how to play at all, there are always people at the shop (employees or other customers) who will be more than happy to demo an amp for you using your guitar. This should give you a good idea of the sound you might be chasing in your mind. And don't let a salesperson pressure you toward this amp or that amp... you will find that regardless of whether it is guitars, amps, cars or guns ("what the li'l lady needs is a sturdy pink revolver") there is always someone willing to tell YOU what YOU need... based on their own preferences, of course.

If you've made it this far, I hope that I've been somewhat helpful. I'll do my best to answer any other questions you might have.

 

Edited by tartanphantom
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Wow. For $400 you stole it. I built a guitar using one of those in a different color as a base and paid more for just the body and hardware. The Aztec gold is one of my favorite finishes too. The 'fat 50's pickups' are a nice little upgrade from the norm IMO, that means they are made to sound like vintage spec pickups from the late 50's. Honestly it's mostly marketing hype IMO, but there are better pickups than others out there and yours are very good, they are the main reason I went with the body I bought.

I would second the notion of getting the guitar checked out and setup. It's not rocket science to do it yourself, but especially on a strat with a tremolo, there are a lot of little factors involved in achieving a good setup. I would at least recommend a copy of any of Dan Erlewines books so you can learn how all the parts relate to each other and talk turkey with your tech a little easier. 

I also second the little roland amps, they are great. I used to have a little roland of my own and while I have 'nicer' stuff now, it was really great to grab and throw in a trunk and bang around town. 

 

Most important of all is to have fun and hang in there. EVERYONE has a hard time in the beginning, and the beginning lasts years. It's a life long learning process that is a total blast.

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I also recommend having a good tech walk you through set up. 

An amp is very personal. Go play a bunch and see what you like.  Don't worry so much about wattage, a volume pedal can make a full stack bedroom friendly.  

Find a decent instructor and get at least a few months worth of lessons. It's much easier to prevent bad habits than fix them later.  Get ready for your fingers to hurt. A lot. :)

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I'm not really certain what style I want to learn to play. Probably something in the blues'ier category.Maybe some 50s and 60s rock sounds too, like Chuck Berry, or some rockabilly like Carl Perkins. I'd like to learn some tunes from the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings too. Of the newer artists, I'm really digging the sound from Justin Johnson on Youtube and I like Josh Ritter's Sermon On The Rocks album, especially the guitar sound on "Getting Ready to Get Down" and "Young Moses". I'm not planning on metal or hard rock. For now, I'd be happy to play Mary had a Little Lamb.  :D 

I'm a true beginner. My musical education stopped at "Music class" in elementary school. I never even had to learn the recorder. I think I had a tambourine once in a school play and played a mean kazoo as a kid. Does that count?

Edited by monkeylizard
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52 minutes ago, monkeylizard said:

I'm not really certain what style I want to learn to play. Probably something in the blues'ier category.Maybe some 50s and 60s rock sounds too, like Chuck Berry, or some rockabilly like Carl Perkins. I'd like to learn some tunes from the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings too. Of the newer artists, I'm really digging the sound from Justin Johnson on Youtube and I like Josh Ritter's Sermon On The Rocks album, especially the guitar sound on "Getting Ready to Get Down" and "Young Moses". I'm not planning on metal or hard rock. For now, I'd be happy to play Mary had a Little Lamb.  :D 

I'm a true beginner. My musical education stopped at "Music class" in elementary school. I never even had to learn the recorder. I think I had a tambourine once in a school play and played a mean kazoo as a kid. Does that count?

From an instruction perspective, style isn't important at this point, the fundamentals are the same whether it's bluegrass or jazz. 

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I am a fan of Fender Mustang amps. I think I got mine for $50 used. Being a modeling amp it can allow you to try a lot of different sounds all in one package. It is a lot of fun, but it can be intense to play with if you don't like tweaking things.

I don't play. I make noise. I am self taught. I like Corey Hunter on YouTube. He makes it look easy and easy to understand.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G920A using Tapatalk

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Fender Mustang amp is good.  you got a great deal on the guitar.  There are some good videos on youtube on how to set up your guitar.  I am self taught, and that is very obvious, but I only have to please myself.  Dr. Groovy, on youtube, gives helpful tips, as well as many others.  Good luck.

 

 

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I have a Peavy amp, but it's pretty "old school".

I don't know what the go to brand is today. I wouldn't think you'd go wrong with Fender anything.

You already know it, but that's a $1000+ guitar!

I'm a bit jealous.

Learn three chords, and let the 16 bar blues ooze from it's pickups!!!

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Wow, Christmas DID come early for you! Great score on a beautiful guitar. I second getting some instruction . Learning to play on your own is difficult when you have no one to explain the whys and hows of things and answer your questions right away and to show you how its done properly. Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? The right hand and left hand do completely different things at different times, not easy to do when you are just beginning and a good instructor can give you exercises to develop these skills. As with the age old question, how do you get to Carnegie hall?, practice, practice, practice. Your fingers will beg for mercy if you are practicing enough. I have played since I was 14 and still can't play worth a crap . lol. Good luck with it and have fun.

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