There are a few reasons why you may need a new guitar, including if it’s stopping you from being creative or progressing further in your music, or if it’s damaged and doesn’t play well. Sometimes you should buy a new one just because you want to and you know it’ll inspire you.
How often a guitarist gets a new guitar can be super subjective: some might get a new one every six months, while some hang on to their old ones for years.
There are a bunch of reasons for buying a new guitar. From needing more and more strings to expand your tonal range, to replacing an old broken guitar, or maybe you just want a guitar with active pickups or better action.
But before you get GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and hop on to the local guitar store and get a new axe, have a look through these top reasons for buying a new guitar and check whether it makes sense for you to spend your hard-earned money.
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When It’s A Good Idea To Buy A New Guitar
Buying a new guitar isn’t always a good idea; I’ve seen some people buy the latest model due to a fear of missing out. It might just end up collecting dust in the closet if you later realize you didn’t really need it.
I can relate, as I’ve done the same thing before. It’s important to think about your needs and what you will realistically use before making the purchase.
Personally, I’m a big fan of buying musical equipment and I think people should be free to get as much as they want, but if you’re strapped for cash, you may need someone to talk you out of it. So let’s look at some of the more common reasons for getting a new one.
1) If You Need More Strings
Standard guitars usually come with six strings, which is great for a lot of music styles but can sometimes limit your musical growth. If you feel like you’re not getting the full tonal range you need, you should consider getting a guitar with more strings.
Whether acoustic or electric, guitars with 7 or 8 strings tend to have a deeper bass and more resonance and work well with several genres of music. You can even go for a 12-string guitar for a bright, lively sound.
For example, if you know your favourite artist is using a 7-string and you want to cover their songs, it’s a good time to upgrade your guitar and pick up new skills in the process.
Personally, I never got into the 7 and 8-string guitars for some reason. It’s surprising because most of my favourite bands these days, including Periphery, Animals as Leaders, and a few others all use 7 and 8-string guitars.
2) If You Need A Better Sound (Electronics)
Guitars tend to have better sound quality as you go up the price ladder. At least they should anyway. With acoustics, you’ll get more exotic tonewoods with better bracings and excellent craftsmanship.
And with electrics, you often get better pickups and electronics that capture your playing more accurately.
For example, rosewood provides a warmer sound, while maple has a brighter tone. You can even go for more exotic woods like ziricote. For a new feel, you can try a different body shape, such as a jumbo or concert.
With pickups, having great models like Fishman, EMG, Bareknuckle Pickups, and Seymour Duncan will surely get you a more nuanced tone. And the electronics also matter a lot: higher-quality pots, switches, and jacks will ensure consistent sound and no interference.
Having a better sound isn’t just about the tone: it can inspire you to play more and for longer. It can help you create new musical ideas that just wouldn’t have happened with a boring sound.
So if your current guitar sounds stale, consider a new one with a richer tone. You may even find you want a new guitar because you want to get away from active pickups.
I’m currently considering getting a new Epiphone Les Paul 1959 Standard Reissue because they’ve got incredible reviews thus far and my Epiphone Les Paul Custom has active pickups which I’ve grown tired of in recent years.
It wouldn’t be a terrible thing for me to have a Les Paul guitar with passive pickups. But I digress. Additionally, I’ve grown to like single-coil pickups over the last year and a half after renting a Fender Telecaster, which brings me to my next point.
3) If You Need A Different Kind of Guitar (Acoustic, Baritone, or Single-Coil Pickups)
Having a variety of guitars always helps with musical inspiration. If you’re finding it difficult to play or create new ideas, or you’re not able to learn your favourite song, consider getting a new guitar that’s more suitable for the purpose you’re looking for.
For instance, having a single-coil Stratocaster can be very inspiring when playing blues or jazz. But a humbucker Les Paul or something similar can get you much better results when playing rock or heavier genres like Metal.
Maybe your acoustic doesn’t fit the timbre of the song you want, so a baritone can help there. They have a deep, low-tuned sound that can sound rich and full in the right context.
As I was saying a moment ago, I’ve really grown to like the way single-coil pickups sound. They sound so “spanky,” for lack of a better word. They’re fantastic for rhythm playing including scrapes and muted strumming sounds.
4) If Your Guitar Is Broken
Sometimes your guitar just breaks unexpectedly, whether while travelling or perhaps by dropping it while playing. But instead of getting disheartened, it’s good to look at it as an opportunity to buy an even better guitar.
A new guitar with better features might also be more comfortable for you, and allow you to play better than you did on your old guitar. Another advantage is that most stores offer warranties in case there are any issues with craftsmanship or hardware down the line.
This means that you don’t have to worry about potential repair costs eating up your budget should anything happen unexpectedly with your new instrument.
But in case the damage doesn’t seem too severe, you can consider sending the old one to a workshop to get it repaired. That’ll get you two guitars for practice. Spares are always handy.
The thing about a guitar though is that it’s hard to actually break it because most of the parts are replaceable. For instance, if the pickups don’t work anymore, you can just get new ones.
If there’s something wrong with the bridge, you can replace that too. The only time you’ll really have to get a new one is if there’s something terribly wrong with the neck. In some cases, they, too, are also replaceable (like if they’re bolt-on necks).
5) If You Know You’ll Feel More Inspired
Ever walk by a guitar shop and see a brand-new, shiny axe that you just can’t keep your eyes off? If you come across a guitar that oozes brilliance and you’re sure it’ll inspire you to play more or create new music, have faith in yourself and buy it.
New guitars tend to inspire just by exciting you to play more and more, and before you know it, you’ll end up with a killer riff and start writing more songs. The best way to unlock the potential of your new guitar is to practice as much as possible.
Use that ‘new guitar excitement’ to experiment with different chords, come up with catchy melodies, or simply learn your favourite songs. The more you play, the better you’ll get at hearing what works and what doesn’t work in terms of tone, timing, or technique.
I find this same thing to be the case for buying other gear like guitar pedals which tend to be a lot cheaper than a new guitar by the way (at least in most cases).
There’s a funny video online of Jony Mayer saying how he has a guitar pedal addiction, but his addiction to new pedals has inspired him to create all kinds of popular tunes which, in turn, pay for more guitar pedals.
6) If The Action, Intonation, Or Ability to Stay In Tune Is Poor
If your old guitar’s action is too high, the intonation isn’t accurate, or it just can’t stay in tune properly, you should consider replacing it.
Even if the cost of repairs isn’t too high, having a new guitar that stays in tune and has perfect intonation is really useful for playing better.
Sometimes repairs still don’t fix core issues with the guitar’s design, while a new guitar is likely to have a better factory setup and will play better for longer. Well-reputed brands like Fender and PRS tend to go through several quality checks that ensure no issues.
Plus, you can look for guitars that have better hardware, like a new bridge or stainless steel frets, for better performance. A high-quality bridge and nut combo, along with some locking tuners, is sure to get you improved tuning stability.
Some people report that certain guitars have issues with intonation and others don’t. Personally, I’ve owned about 6-7 guitars from different brands and I’ve never encountered too many issues like that. I currently own a PRS, Epiphone, Squier, and ESP.
7) If You Want To Experiment With Playing In Different Tunings
If you’re looking to experiment with different tunings like Drop D, Drop C, half-step or full-step down, DADGAD, or even some unique ones, then having some extra guitars is very handy.
You can keep one main guitar in your preferred tuning, and use another one to experiment. That way, you always have your regular axe ready to jam to your favourite songs. And if you plan on regularly using multiple tunings, it’s a huge time-saver.
Having a guitar dedicated to specific tunings or genres can make it much easier for you to transition between them without having to constantly adjust the tuning of your old guitar.
You might also be able to find a model with better fret access and neck shape, or one that has wider/taller frets to make playing easier in certain styles.
For example, my ESP Eclipse II is always tuned to D standard, which is one full step down. My PRS, on the other hand, is tuned to one half-step down, and my Epiphone is in standard tuning.
8) If You’re Joining A Band Or Performing Live
If you’re looking to join a band or start performing live, it’s always a good idea to have the right gear for the job. That means investing in professional-grade and reliable guitars. And you’ll also need backups in case anything gets damaged while on tour.
For this, you should look for guitars that are durable enough to withstand regular use and will stay in tune during long sets. You should also consider the type of music you’ll be playing and invest in proper electronics and gear appropriate for live sound.
Plus, make sure to have extra strings, picks, and spare accessories for playing live gigs. Don’t forget a proper hardshell case either – it’ll help protect your brand-new axe.
On the other hand, it may be wise to do the exact opposite and have your super expensive guitar at home, and your cheap one on stage. If you have to travel or play in seedy bars, you probably don’t want your $3,000 Gibson to get stolen.
Expensive guitars can definitely be a burden, so keep that in mind. I also find that I tend to baby my guitars a bit too much when I spend a lot on them. This means I don’t play them quite as much because I’m always trying to keep them in “perfect condition.”
9) If You Want A Custom-Made Instrument Tailored To You
Maybe you’ve already tried a bunch of guitars at the local store, and nothing really stands out to you or inspires you to go further. If you’re looking for something truly special, consider getting a custom-made or semi-custom guitar.
There are several great custom manufacturers across the globe that develop fully customized guitars (from body shapes to electronics and everything in between) to semi-custom guitars that make use of established designs but modify them to suit your taste.
This is especially useful if you have your own ideas on what you’d like to incorporate into your guitar. You can combine multiple features from your favourite models and create an instrument that fits your playing style perfectly.
Custom guitars are usually more expensive than off-the-shelf models, but they offer a unique feel and sound that you just can’t get with a production model.
If you have the budget and the need for an extraordinary guitar, it’s a worthwhile opportunity. Bring your wallet though because it’s going to get expensive.
10) If You Simply Want To Buy A New One
You can always buy a new guitar just because you want to. Whether it’s for the thrill of owning something fresh or if you feel like playing a different kind of guitar, it’s always a good feeling knowing you have something new and shiny to show off.
As long as it fits your budget and preferences, buying a new instrument can be an exciting experience. Consider it a form of self-care: buying new guitars can help improve your mood and make you look forward to playing music.
Simply put, just buy one if you feel like it. Who cares? Life is too short to worry about people judging you for your unnecessary guitar collection. If you find it helps you as a player, go for it.