I've decided to blog my learning experience, both to chart my progress, but also to put down any tips I can as a newbie. Be warned though, these tips may be crap!
Today was spent visiting guitar shops. I played with a wide variety of acoustic guitars, having no idea what I was doing. I had actually forgotten how short a guitar is, and had to ask "is this full size?" All of the guitars I played with were full size even though there were a few with a 3/4 size available.
The first shop I visited had a nice sounding guitar for $199 with case and strap. At the third shop I had found a nice black guitar for a reasonable $119. With one more shop left, we drove across town to find another reasonably priced guitar, this time with a cut away. However the salesman didn't strike me as much of a musician. In the end I picked the black guitar, and I'll be picking it up tomorrow, along with a case, strap, and tuner, which will all (most likely) be bought separately.
So what was I looking for when I was hunting? There was a few things that were commonsense, and a few I learned online.
First (and most obvious), I made sure all the guitars I looked at were in my price range. All of the shops took care of that for me by asking first.
Second, I made sure I liked the look of it. Blue? No thank you. Natural wood? Good. Black? Not bad.
Then I considered the supposed condition of it, and the actual condition. Is it supposed to be new, but there is a dent or a nick somewhere? Or if it was used, is the price worth its condition? One used guitar I looked at was only $100, but the wooden piece where the bridge and pins are located looked like had broken off and been glued back on, along with a noticeable dent on the top.
Next, does it sound nice?
Last, how is the action? Action is the distance between the strings and the fret board. If it's too high, the strings can be too hard to press. If it's too low, the strings could vibrate and hit the fret board, making horrible buzzing. Supposedly it's best to have a guitar with a medium action: not too high, not too low. On the same idea, I made sure the strings vibrate correctly when pressing down on the ~12th fret or higher. If they are hitting the board, that's a problem.
Beyond those, I had no idea what I was doing. It was a bit awkward, but since this is all new to me I figured it was ok. The salesmen were a little pushy, but when I mentioned I was still looking they backed off a little.
I'd say today was a success. I ended up with a free guitar pick, I bought a chart with guitar tabs for common chords, and I have a guitar in mind to buy. Tomorrow, the fun begins!