Hippo Manchester
December 15, 2005

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Nite: A guide to reaching guitar-god status

Watch your subject closely for rock ‘n’ roll clues

By Richie Victorino   rvictorino@hippopress.com

Veteran musicians know exactly what kind of instruments and accessories they want and need. This makes them easy people to shop for. But what about novice or want-to-be musicians?

Newbie musicians are like dogs sitting at a chess table: clueless. And chances are, the people shopping for them are just as clueless. Luckily, help does exist. You just need to know where to look.

For starters, you have to know what kind of rock star the person you are shopping for wants to be.

The guitarist

“The guitar is still the most popular [instrument],” said Ryan Hastings, general manager at Guitar Center in Nashua.

People can be sensitive “artists” with a guitar, like John Mayer, or on-the-edge rock gods, like Jimi Hendrix. They can be mysterious, dark figures, or the one who steals the show.

If you notice the person you’re shopping for break out into air guitar solos on a regular basis, chances are, he’s an aspiring guitarist.

Ahh, but what kind of guitar? Electric? Acoustic? Electric/acoustic? Six-string? 12-string? The options are endless.

“It all depends on the influences,” Hastings said. “If someone’s into death metal, I’m not gonna say, ‘Hey, let’s pick up an acoustic.’”

Unless the gift recipient is a death metal addict, an acoustic guitar is a good first-guitar option.

Why acoustic?

The beauty of an acoustic guitar is you only need the guitar in order to play. Also, in the long run, acoustic guitars will be easier on your wallet.

Stores like Daddy’s Junky Music in Manchester and Nashua’s Guitar Center offer package deals for certain instruments.

Take, for example, these deals, seen at Daddy’s Junky Music in Manchester:

Yamaha Gigmaker Standard Pack: $149.99, which includes a Yamaha acoustic guitar, tuner, strap, extra strings, picks, gig bag and an instructional DVD.

Yamaha tends to be a “higher end” guitar, so perhaps you’re looking for something less expensive for a first-guitar gift.

Keep in mind you can also get a Fender acoustic guitar pack for $199.99 or an Ibanez pack for $99.99.

Why electric?

So your gift recipient really wants to rock hard, huh? So give in. Buy him an electric guitar. But beware: You need more than an electric guitar to be able to rock.

“You need an amp[lifier], cable, case ... and the will to rock,” Hastings said.

Peavey has a stage pack that includes a Peavey electric guitar, amplifier, gig bag, tuner, extra strings, guitar cable, guitar strap and picks, as well as an instructional DVD for $199.99.

Ibanez has a similar deal for $249.99, while Fender has one for $279.99.

It’s worth noting that the Ibanez package comes with headphones. Headphones allow the wanna-be guitarist to rock, and rock loud, without pissing everyone off.

The bonus of an acoustic/electric

Acoustic electrics are pricier than regular acoustics, but the beauty is you can plug your acoustic/electric into an amplifier or play it like a regular acoustic. A newbie musician would love to have one. If you don’t want to make the commitment but still want your gift recipient to be able to plug into an amplifier now and then, you can always buy a pickup for the acoustic guitar, which can run anywhere from $40 to more than $100.

Knowing your accessories

We’ve mentioned strings, straps, picks, tuners and cables in this article. You should probably know how much these things cost separately.

You can buy a strap for as little as $5, or for more than $50. Newbies don’t need a fancy strap, they just need to be encouraged to play guitar while standing up. So, make sure they have a strap!

Strings will usually run you about $10. Your newbie should restring his own guitar (it’s like giving a bath to your dog). How often you restring is based on how often you play. Here’s a helpful hint: When you see a plethora of dead skin on your strings, it’s time to change them. Also, don’t get annoyed if your new strings become out of tune quickly. That’s just something they do.

Picks are dirt cheap, like four for a dollar or so. There are big picks, small picks, hard picks and soft ones. Try for medium-sized picks. Your newbie can make changes along the way.

A tuner is a sad necessity for new musicians. Hey, we all can’t tune by ear. For $20 or so you can buy a basic tuner, which is all you need for now.

Cables are needed for guitars that want to plug into an amplifier. Those will run you about $6 to $15.

Good luck!