Guitar Upgrade.

You’ve decided it’s time for a guitar upgrade…

This blog post is about to help you decided which guitar to buy next when you’re in between the beginners and intermediate stage of your guitar playing and whether you’re  learning electric or acoustic guitar. By the end of this blog post, you’ll be feeling less intimidated with useful knowledge when you walk into a guitar shop or purchasing online. All useful links will be at the end of the post.


Upgrading my guitar Bedford Guitar Teacher

You’ve bought a guitar from eBay or Facebook…

You may have bought your first guitar for £50 – £100 from eBay or Facebook Market Place and it’s served you great for the last 6 – 8 months, but with a guitar being within this price range, there are going to be limitations of the instrument, due to the way it is built, how well it’s been looked after, and who created it in the first place.

You can come upon some lovely guitars that are cheap and cheerful, but these are hard to come by as you’ll find plenty of cheap guitars that aren’t worth having. So, you have to know what it is you’re looking for and, you may have to hunt elsewhere other than the official stores. Sometimes those that are selling, simply don’t know the value of an instrument and will sell it cheap compared to it’s market value just to get rid of it.

There are buy and sell groups on Facebook for instance, which have users selling used gear all the time. It’s quite distracting and as always, unless you’re willing to gamble on a peace of guitar gear that you know is a good bet, it’s best to check it out somehow, some other time. Honourable users quickly flag those users who aren’t true to their word but having said this, I’ve not had a bad experience myself and have infrequently bought some bargains from users that are local to the area. The group’s network and the amount of enthusiasts for the guitar means that you won’t have a problem finding somebody not to far away unless you live in the Scottish islands of the north coast.


bedford guitar teacher

Guitar buying advice

Purchasing a guitar over the internet…

If you’ve bought a guitar from somewhere on the internet, you’ll know that shipping guitars is never a trusty idea unless it’s purchased from a reputable online brand (because it will be insured and packaged appropriately), it’s always better to go and pick it up yourself, then you know it will be intact upon purchase. There isn’t a delivery company that I know dedicated to handling delicate instruments with care and the one time I decided to go by plain with my cheapish guitar, I still witnessed them throwing it even though it said ‘Fragile’ on the hard case. Hmmm… So I’d be nervous about purchasing a guitar overseas.

You should always go and try the guitar before you buy which is why going to a shop and supporting a local business is always desirable, plus you might find that you can buy your chosen model using 0% finance. PMT (Professional Music Technology) often have deals available allowing you to pay it back within a certain time frame depending on the amount you spend. They’re allowed to say it’s 0% because they’ll usually charge you a 3% fee, you might be better off putting your purchase onto a 0% credit card, which you’ve got control over. Saving you 3%.

When you’re above a certain standard with your guitar playing, it’s not usually worth spending the same amount of money on a similar instrument to one you already have unless you’re spending above a certain price range. It’s desirable to go a step up in price perhaps to the £300 plus, whether you’re talking electric or acoustic. In my experience, it’s easier to find some bargains when you’re purchasing an electric guitar around the £300 price range than it is acoustic because of the way it’s built and therefore easier to suggest guitar makes and models to have a look at.

It’s all subjective…

It’s worth mentioning that when buying a guitar, it’s all subjective, so what you like about one guitar, another guitar player will not and the same goes for reading this article, my preferences may not suit yours and yours may not suit mine. You’ll probably realise what you like and dislike about the guitar you’ve just purchased, a few months down the line and now you’re beginning to realise why guitarists have so many guitars. But for the professional guitarist, there is a practical use when you’re performing and that is you do not want to be tuning your guitar into different tunings which wastes time or ruins the guitar’s intonation.

How do I choose?

For the non professional guitarist, sometimes it’s just greed, but either way it starts out with not being quite so happy with the first £300 – £500 purchase. So you spend a little more or the same but on a different spec. It’s also worth noting, that just because it’s the same model with the same spec etc, it will not play nor feel the same. There will be something different about it.

As a professional guitar teacher, I come across several new purchases suitable to beginners / intermediates and the one that I’ve been impressed with the most within the £300 – £500 price range, for it’s build quality and forgivability, is Tanglewood.

Tanglewood guitars have a price difference ranging from £170 to £1,799. Whilst they don’t produce the most expensive guitars, they do provide the market place with a wide choice range and with a build quality that doesn’t usually feel too cheap for any of their models. You will observe that there is a noticeable the quality difference between a £169 guitar to a £300 model, typically because of the type of woods that they’re made out of.

I nearly always use PMT ‘Professional Music Technology’, to have a browse. Here are a list of Tanglewood Guitars that you can purchase starting with the most expensive.



Electro Acoustics – Tanglewood


Tanglewood TSR2C – Sanden Design Grande Auditorium


Tanglewood Sundance TW47-E


Tanglewood Sundance TW45-NS-E,


Tanglewood TW400ANE


Tanglewood Java TWJSFC


Tanglewood Java TWJP-E Series


Tanglewood Java TWJFE


Tanglewood Premier TW130 SMCE


Tanglewood Evolution TSF-CE-R


Tanglewood Winterleaf TW4 Kaa


Tanglewood TW Mini Kaa Winterleaf


Tanglewood winterlef TW10


Tanglewood Evolution Exotic TVC X MP Electro Acoustic


Tanglewood Premier TW130-SM Solid Mahogany Orchestra Acoustic


Things to Consider when purchasing a guitar

This brings me to the point in the blog post, where I can now list what it is you might want to look out for when purchasing an acoustic guitar.

To start with, it’s worth noting that just because the acoustic you’re looking at, looks nice, doesn’t necessarily mean it is nice. With acoustic guitars, make sure the wood on the body of the guitar, is solid wood. Cheaper guitars below a certain price range, often have laminated wood, which means that the wood is thinly layered / glued together. You can tell by looking at the sound hole’s edges whether there are thin lines or not.

The Cut Aways.

An acoustic guitar that has a cut away, is the part of the body which has been cut out creating space past the 12th fret, allowing you to reach the frets that are closer to the sound hole, a lot easier. Whilst it has a practical use, it also effects the appearance of a guitar, so you need to consider whether you like the look of a cut away, or the practicality of having this spec. For me I like both, and it depends on what you’re playing. If you’re a good enough guitar player, you’ll be able to reach if you have a cut away or not, it just isn’t as comfortable.

Fretboard decoration

When you’re considering purchasing a high end model – whether acoustic or electric, the decoration on the fret board is an important part of the craftsmanship to consider. It can look nice and it can look ugly. My Martin DCX1E, originally came with out and decoration and so I asked my guitar luthier to install some circular dots which is useful for when you’re teaching guitar. So it’s worth remembering that you can add basic decorations after purchase. But it will probably be your usual dots rather than anything particularly fancy due to it being so time consuming to produce a tree of life inlay, for example, that you will find on the Ibenez Jem models used by Steve Vai or the Bird inlays used on PRS (Paul Reed Smith) SE models and above.


Microphones / pickups.

In some higher spec acoustic models, it’s worth considering purchasing a model with a microphone installed in the body of the guitar. It will pick up all the generic sounds that your guitar makes and is much more sensitive than your standard pick up which you use via the 3/4 Jack input which works well if you’re using the acoustic guitar percussively. This type of microphone is controlled by the onboard controls on the body of the acoustic guitar and depending on how much you spend, you’ll be able to remove the pickup’s control system more smoothly to insert the battery than on other systems. On some models if there isn’t a battery inserted, when you’re trying the acoustic out for the first time, might rattle/vibrate – which isn’t obvious when you don’t know the solution. So if it is vibrating a bit, ask the shop to insert a battery – there should be one in there anyway!

If you’re not sure about the internal microphone or there isn’t one available within your price range, you can also attach external pickups to the sound hole, underneath the guitar’s strings at a later stage. They start from about £50 onwards and of course the more you spend usually means better quality.  The pick up which comes with the acoustic guitar as standard is located under the bridge/saddle of the guitar where your strings are inserted. So it’s going to sound a bit tinny hence having a pick up under the strings is going to sound a lot more middle toned.

With electric guitars, there are generally two types of pickups that have different sound qualities depending on what you purchase and these are single coiled and humbuckers pickups. Single coiled pickups are what you will find on all Fender models and humbuckers are what you’ll find on Gibson models. There are also models out there which allow you to have a combination such as the Ibanez Jem. Single coils will sound (depending on how the electric guitar is built), generally a lot brighter than humbucker pickups.

The main difference between it’s usage, is humbuckers on Gibsons and PRS models, will allow you to play a clean tone on one set of pickups and distorted on the other, should your amp be loud enough. To achieve this you’ll need to adjust the sound volume to about 3 and the other to 11… Single coiled pickups can’t do this as it’s design,  means that the pickups are all controlled by one volume control. 


The finishing of a guitar is also something to pay attention to. Naming all colours available is a bit like choosing the colour for your living room and going to B&Q and asking I’d like to buy some yellow paint. Different manufacturers will have different names for a very specific tone of colour and it’s often hard to see why they’ve even bothered to call it that in the first place – there probably is some reason please let me know if you find out. There are however, more obvious names for colour choices such as the Gibson’s Tiger Stripe Sunburst.


I hope you found this article useful, if you’d like to know more about something that i’ve written above, please feel free to comment below and share

Please watch the rig rundown from one of my acoustic guitar heroes Tommy Emmanuel.