OK, so you’ve made the Big Decision: one-too many Blink182 and P.O.D. videos have convinced you that you must acquire the ability to wield an axe (known to the common man as “playing the guitar”). What do you do now? While the middle-aged, longhaired ex-rocker at Billy’s Custom Guitar Shop recommends the tattered, 1967 Fender Stratocaster hanging on the wall (at a measly $1298.00, not including case—yikes!), you prefer something, well, a little more modern—and a little less pricey. Immediately do yourself a favor and steer clear of anything shaped like a letter of the alphabet.
 Know your musical preference
There is no accounting for tastes – except when it comes to choosing the right guitar. What you prefer to listen to is often going to dictate what you prefer to play. Choosing the right instrument for that particular genre will aid you in your quest for the golden chalice of rock-stardom. That tattered 1967 Fender Stratocaster hanging on the wall isn’t going to lend itself to the proper sonic nuances of, say, industrial metal rock. No, if the churning sound of 10,000 bees buzzing is what you desire of your instrument, you’ll need different equipment here.
Nearly any music store worth going in to will have someone available to help you find the right instrument for your style. Now, we’re not saying you can’t make the Stratocaster sound like a horde of stinging insects – we’re just saying it wasn’t particularly meant to. Just as that monstrous, polka-dotted “Flying V” guitar over in the corner rack wasn’t meant to provide the gentle ambience needed in some forms of jazz and easy-listening rock. Picking the right instrument for the right genre will greatly amplify your musical experience.
 Know Your Music Store
That monstrous, warehouse-like music outlet you’ve seen sprawled out over 2.4 square miles of land is, believe it or not, going to be your best bet for purchasing your first instrument. Why? They have the largest selection in town, for one. Volume is the other advantage to these leviathans – and we don’t mean the little dial on the amp, either; these guys deal strictly in bulk. They carry nearly every major brand of instrument, as well as some you’ve probably never heard of, and they can offer something the smaller guys can’t: a low price for a decent first instrument. While the corner guitar shop is more than likely going to carry classic instruments in mint condition, they’re also going to ask for heavy amounts of cash to put the metal in your hands.
 Know the Brands
That little red Samick copy of a well-known guitar brand in the Sears & Roebuck catalog may be tempting at a mere $99.99, but think about the investment you’re about to make. Chances are, you’ll end up keeping your first instrument for a long time, so quality is important. Sure, it isn’t necessary to break the bank on the first instrument, but you do get what you pay for. Be careful; avoid the urge to go the cheapest route when purchasing an instrument – even if you’re not certain you’ll even like playing the instrument. Just like automobiles, certain brands and models appreciate (or vice-versa) more so than others. Purchasing an instrument of decent quality and price will afford you the opportunity to part with it on friendly financial terms, should you decide to do so.
 Know Your Habits
Are you an immaculately clean person? Or are you more prone to tossing everything you own into the back of your vehicle for convenience, only to leave it for days? To admit and know your habits is to save yourself much grief – and likely dollars – when purchasing your guitar.
The warehouse music outlets previously mentioned offer almost limitless varieties of incentives when purchasing an instrument. They offer “gig bags” (satchel-like containers for various guitar equipment you may acquire) as well as picks and the all-important case for your instrument. If you are more the cleanly type of person, a guitar can last for many years, given the proper care, in a simple, soft guitar case (usually made of thick vinyl or other stiff cloth.) However, if your tendency is to treat everything you own with the same care as an old shoe, you will definitely want to purchase for yourself a hard-shell case. While dropping a guitar, leaving it in the heat or haphazardly tossing it into the trunk of your vehicle are things which would be rigorously warned against by any conscientious sales associate, a hard-shell case will at least help your guitar to remain in one piece. They cost a bit more than the soft cases, but the extra protection is more than worth the monetary sacrifice.
 Know Your Price
You walked into the music outlet carrying a thousand bucks in your pocket with the intent of only letting $500 of that go. You walked out with an instrument that is a lot more than you needed – only now you’re penniless and you owe the store an extra $300 to be paid off in six months at 28% interest.
Don’t let this happen. Know exactly what you will and will not pay for an instrument. Most of the folks behind the counter at the music outlets really do want to help you find your instrument in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Keep in mind, however, that they still have to pay the rent, and that money you walked in with is going to facilitate those rent payments. There’s no need to be rude here, but always be certain you only bend on your price as much as you wish to bend. Do your homework and be certain not to buy more instrument than you need. Just like automobiles, guitars are made and shipped daily feature-packed right down to the Duracell-powered neon strap. You may not need that neon strap – heck, you might not need anything but the base-model instrument to get you started. Make certain the sales associate knows up front that you have no intentions of walking out of the store with that signature-model instrument that costs more than your mother’s wedding ring. Be polite, be firm and above all be smart.
You’ll be driving the neighbors out of their minds in no time!
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