If you’re thinking of buying someone a guitar for Christmas – you MUST read this!
A woman called me yesterday, asking if I had any acoustic guitars for sale in the $300 range. She was shopping for a Christmas gift for her son, a wounded veteran recently flown home from Afghanistan without his beloved guitar.
There are at least two reasons why this was an absolute terrible idea.
- She doesn’t have a clue about guitars. Didn’t know a dreadnaught from a parlor from a classical. It’s nearly impossible to buy a used guitars that doesn’t have problems. Many, whether electric or acoustic guitar, have serious problems. Acoustic guitars in this price range commonly have structural issues that can make them not worth repairing. Even good players aren’t trained to spot these issues.
2. Guitar is a very personal instrument. I’ve had customers drive nearly two hours, all excited to be buying a guitar they’ve drooled over online, only to pass on the guitar after playing it because the neck “didn’t have the right feel” or “the balance doesn’t feel right”, etc.
If you’re buying for a young child, say under twelve, it’s perfectly ok to buy a guitar without them being present. But for teens and older, I strongly recommend letting them choose their own guitar. And if they’ve played guitar before – no matter their age – they need to choose their own guitar!
For info on buying your first guitar or for how to buy a used guitar – these are two “must reads”..
Buying a Christmas guitar for someone out of town
Now imagine, this woman, who clearly was pushing her budget to the max to spend three hundred dollars for her son’s Christmas gift, buying a used guitar and spending close to one hundred dollars to ship the guitar from Florida to Oklahoma, where her son lives.
So, it’s Christmas day. He opens the box containing his guitar Christmas gift from his well-meaning, loving mother. He may or may not like the look and style of the guitar, but he tunes the strings..
He tries playing the guitar but there’s buzzing on the open strings because it needs a new nut and there’s buzzing on higher frets because of the excessive neck bow that the truss rod may or may not be able to take out once he pays a hundred dollars or so for a nut and setup – money he may not have.
Of course, he’ll thank his mother and say the guitar “is great”. He’ll put it in a closet and it will sit there for many years.
I explained all this and suggested that she purchase a gift card from Guitar Center (they sell new and used guitars) as her Christmas guitar gift, and send it with a nice card. This way, her son is free to buy a $200 guitar and have good strings installed and a professional setup.
Or maybe he’ll want a $500 guitar and add money from his pocket to make the difference.
Either way, her son will be in the driver’s seat and choose a guitar he’ll actually love and play.
Buying a Christmas guitar for someone local
Another option, if your lucky Christmas guitar gift recipient is local, is to bring them with you to go Christmas guitar shopping. You’ll likely get bored, but it’s sorta like boats – shopping for a guitar is half the fun! They will have as much fun guitar-shopping as actually playing the guitar!