Debate: Buy a new guitar on eBay, or at a local music shop?

Could we be missing bargains in our own towns?   23-Apr-12

Debate: Buy a new guitar on eBay, or at a local music shop?
Just look at the F holes on those hot ladies

eBay is undoubtedly one of the most important resources of the last 100 years when it comes to empowering the consumer and offering a wider choice of product in one place.

There are bargains to be had, and as somebody who has developed a decent knowledge of the value of certain products during my time as a guitar blogger, I can safely say I have snapped up some great deals. I got my brand new Egnater Rebel 20 for £200 cheaper than MSRP online, and my pedal collection just wouldn't be the same without my bargain eBay items.

However, when it comes to buying guitars online, are we missing out on one of the most important parts of being a guitarist... falling in love with a guitar by playing on it? The first time I played my first ever guitar in my local music shop, I fell in love with it almost instantly, and I still have it to this day. I could only play two songs, but I tried at least five different Squier Strats and Teles, I eventually fell head over heels for my British racing green Squier Stratocaster.

At the risk of being controversial, I will enrage happily married people everywhere by comparing guitar buying to the process of finding a husband or wife.

Now I'm sure there are some very happy couples in the world who met on Chat Roulette, or Match.com, or eHarmony, but those people didn't get to experience the electric moment when you are both unsure about whether the date is going well, and then you hold hands for the first time, or kiss, or do other stuff that I won't go into too much detail on (intercourse dammit).

If you met online, you already know you're going to end up rolling around naked with each other when you meet up in person for the first time... boring!

I bought a guitar online in December, my Gretsch G5120, I knew I was going to end up rolling around... I mean end up playing the hell out of it on the day that it arrived. When that day came, it didn't feel quite right and I considered sending it back, but I kept it because it sounded amazing. Now that I've altered my playing style slightly to adapt to the neck profile, I absolutely love my Gretsch, and any other guitar feels weird.

However, a few weeks ago I moved house, and discovered that I lived 30 seconds away from a guitar shop. The shop mainly sells rare and often kooky second hand guitars. There was a Gretsch, much like my own, just sitting in the shop. It was a 1963 model and was selling for only a few hundred more British quids than I bought my own beauty for, I played on it and nothing happened for me.

Then I played on a really beat up looking Hofner Senator from the late 50s, it had obviously been slightly abused along the way, and was a good amount cheaper than the other Senators at just £350. The guitar felt like it was mine as soon as I picked it up, I felt like I owed it to every man or woman who had played on it over the years to play it right. At that moment, with not much money to my name after a very expensive house move, I bought it.

I couldn't afford to eat properly for a few days (genuinely) and borrowed some money off my girlfriend for food until I got paid. If I saw that guitar on eBay I would have dismissed it for looking in bad condition, and I wouldn't have bought it on impulse because I can act fairly rationally when I'm looking at something online. But in the shop I went for it, and I'm glad I did. The truth is, that old beat up guitar sound better and played better than some of the other Hofner Senators in the store, all of which were double the price. It feels like I own a slice of history and I love it.

I've written a load of songs on it, and I've never felt closer to being able to achieve a genuine jazz or blues sound, and if I hadn't have walked into that shop, it would never have been in my life.

I have since been back (with wages in hand) and bought a few other bits and bobs, I also went to a Vintage and Rare shop that I always thought was way out of my price range and found better amps than my own amp for almost half the price.

At both of these shops, one of which is 30 seconds from my house, and another which is an hour's drive, there are guitars selling for far cheaper than they should be because they were bought by the shop as part of a larger collection of items, or sold to the shop second hand by somebody who simply didn't know what they were sitting on.

My next purchase is already lined up, a Gibson BR9 amplifier, dating back to just after World War II. I've also got my eye on few other things, all of which are cheaper in these stores than I can find online. As the interwebs pushes the guitar stores off the high street, businesses have to find new ways to survive, and it seems that second hand/vintage and rare guitar stores are doing this by offering a range of affordable and quirky guitars, alongside very expensive guitars.

When you shop online, you are entering a search term, you very often already know what you are looking for, when you go into a store, you have no idea what will feel/sound/look like a good fit. Try it, and you might just fall in love again and spend loads of money you don't have!

Amped Editor
@sonicamped

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