New Guitar Day is the best! In this blog post we'll attempt the nearly-impossible task of trying to help you save your money for another day...or help you decide if it might be time to get another guitar! Yay!!
One of the biggest reasons to get a new guitar is because it can be a new tool for your tool chest, whether for creating new sounds, or just to have as a backup in case you break a string at a gig. There are so many different styles of guitars, and new styles are coming out every year. Different guitars, and styles, can give you the ability to create sounds or effects that you can't (at least as easily) achieve on guitars you already own.
First Things First:
Regardless of your skill level, it's important to have at least one guitar that's properly set up. This means it should have good intonation, and good string action, and the tuning pegs and bridge are all secure (among other things!). You can absolutely play an older and/or beat-up guitar, but make sure you have one that is properly set up in good working condition. If you're not sure if your guitar is set up in good condition, consider going down to your local music shop to see if they can do a setup for you, or recommend someone that can. And if you're not sure if/when, your guitar was last set up, there's a good chance it will be worth the money to have this done. Changes in the humidity levels between a couple of seasons is enough to degrade the capabilities of almost any guitar, if not stored with proper care.
If you only have one guitar, and you still consider yourself a beginner, you're probably good to go with just the one for a little while, as long as it's properly set up and has good action. Once you're playing regularly, and you've got some of the basics down (and you're having fun!), even if you still consider yourself a beginner, you might be ready to get a second guitar. Consider getting an electric guitar if you only have an acoustic, or vice versa. Now that you're a little experienced you might know what other styles of guitars are out there that you'd like to try. Do some research! That's half the fun!
Acoustic Guitar Players:
If you mostly play acoustic guitars, you might want a new one that has a cutaway in the body to allow you to play higher up the scale on your fretboard. Or you might want one that has a built-in pickup. Keep in mind that if your acoustic doesn't already have a built-in pickup, you can get one to add to it with little to no alterations needing to be made to your guitar, depending on the pickup. You may also want a new acoustic that can be louder, or one that's quieter, or one that just has a different tone than your current guitar. Larger-bodied acoustics will often be louder and have a warmer/deeper tone, while smaller-bodied guitars will often be quieter and give you more treble in your tone.
Are you playing unplugged with an acoustic, but when you're singing your guitar is much louder than your vocals? You may think you want a smaller-bodied acoustic, but spend a little time practicing to not play quite so hard, and also practice projecting your voice and singing louder. These are both skills that we should all work to improve.
If you're doing some recording, it's fun to record songs using two different guitars, and you might want to play most of your chords and rhythms on a bigger-bodied acoustic, and play lead parts, or other accompanying parts, with a smaller-bodied guitar. Do some experimenting, and also try different ways of miking your guitars. Sometimes you might want two microphones pointed at your guitar; one near the soundhole, and one near the middle of the neck. There are so many different ways to record guitar parts, and not a single method is incorrect; recording is all about finding what you like. You may find a variety of ways to play and/or record with one guitar, and not need to get another.
Sometimes it's handy to have a second guitar if you like to experiment with different tuning styles, and you'd like to keep one guitar that always stays in standard tuning, and one guitar that you keep in a different tuning. This is especially convenient when playing gigs, so you can swap between guitars rather than having to change tunings in between songs.
Electric Guitar Players:
If you mostly play electric guitars you might want a new one that comes with a tremolo/whammy bar, or one that has more options for switching between (and blending) individual pickups. You may just want a second electric that gives you a different tone, even if just to use for one song in a set.
Before you go guitar shopping, here are some things to try so that you might save your money for another day: if you're planning to do some recording, and you'd like to have a variety of guitar tones in your songs or guitar parts, or if you're writing songs with other musicians and are wanting a different tone to help cut through the mix and stand out a little more: try experimenting with the EQ settings on your amplifier AND on your guitar. Switch between the different pickups on your electric and see how each one sounds with different EQ settings. Some guitarists like to crank the distortion on their amp, then dial back the volume knob on their guitar for the majority of a song, but then crank the volume knob up for solos to get a great distortion and break-up sound from their amp. You can also look into getting a guitar pedal or two for a huge variety in tonal changes. We'll take a deeper dive into guitar pedals another day, but you might do a little research on them if a change of tone is what you're chasing. You can get great deals on used pedals, and there are tons of great pedals you can get on a small budget.
Consider modifications you could make to one of your current guitars: you might be able to add a new bridge/attachment that allows you to add a tremolo. You might just want to change out your pickups; lots of guitarists have learned to love certain tones produced by certain sets (or combinations) of pickups, and when they get a new guitar they'll replace the stock pickups with one of their favorite sets of pickups.
And If You've Read This Far...Mod Your Guitars!
You might be starting to realize there are many guitars you want, or think that you need. We guitarists often dream, and drool, over gorgeous and expensive guitars we'd love to have. However, don't be afraid to make modifications and upgrades to an old, lesser-played guitar that you already own! Or consider an inexpensive and/or used guitar to upgrade/modify. The first time you modify a guitar, you open a whole new world of possibilities...okay, that's if you like the mod (sometimes they don't go so well and you have to make adjustments)...but there is so much to explore with modding guitars. I highly-recommend everyone try it.
Finally, while you may not need one, getting a new guitar is almost always inspiring, and might get you into a new, creative mood, or just make playing guitar every day even more fun, which is what it's all about.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about all of these suggestions, or if there's something you think we missed!
If this article helped you decide to spend the money on another guitar, I'm sorry, and you're welcome!