Thought i'd make a summary for both new players looking to buy their first Electric guitar, and those who already have a guitar, but still have questions :
1> ALWAYS test your guitar before buying !
It doesn't matter if you don't know how to play yet, simply run your hands over the neck, playing a few notes here and there, to see if it feels good, and sounds good.
If it doesn't feel good, like the neck being too flat, too round/thick, too wide or too thin, look at another (type of) guitar.
Also, if you have a friend or relative who is an experienced guitar player, you might want to bring them along when you're buying your first guitar, so you have someone to serve you with some less biased advice (no matter what a sales guy or gall tells you, they are ALWAYS biased !)
1B> INVEST in a quality instrument.
You CANNOT buy a sub $250 U.S./Ä250/£220 guitar and expect to have a great instrument, so invest in something decent.
Or, if you're going to be stubborn, at least don't come here and ask silly questions like "why does my [insert low price here] Squier/Epiphone/Asda/other crappy brand guitar play badly and sound like crap when compared to my friends [insert more expensive guitar name here]".
One can argue this point indefinately, but in the end, quality will cost you a bit more.
Or, as Justin himself has said many times : buy cheap, buy twice.
Also, if a store clerk tells you he/she has a 'great deal for a beginning guitarist' or some similar spiel, BEWARE !!
Often these are starterpacks by the big guitar brands, or store-assembled starterpacks which are usually crap.
DO NOT GET SUCKERED INTO BUYING ONE OF THESE !!
Now, here are some brands and models we suggest here fairly often :
Agile AL3000 Les Pauls, Epiphone Les Pauls (*personal* advice: any sub $400 dollar model will be complete xx--xx, don't even THINK about it), Fender MIM Stratocasters and Telecasters, Hagstrom guitars, Ibanez guitars (SEE 2B FIRST !!), Schecter (same advice as with Epiphone and Ibanez!), Vintage V100 Les Pauls, Vintage V6, Vintage VS6, Squier Afffinity, Yamaha Pacifica (model 112 and upwards), Godin, ESP/LTD.
A quick final note on Epiphone : like Gibson, their quality/cost ratio is isn't all that great these days, so test any guitar from this brand extensively before buying, you'll be glad you did when you realise it saved you the headache of having to mess with a bad instrument.
1C> If you are in doubt after visiting a store, ask on these forums !
We are here to help you and to try and make sure you get your money's worth when buying, so don't hesitate to ask !!
2> To stress this point again, DO NOT buy a guitar that doesn't feel right to you just because it looks awesome.
If you do this anyway, you are wasting cash, which is rather stupid.
The reasoning behind this is simple : a guitar that looks good but is unplayable to you is no use, and who needs a $400 decoration in this harsh economic downtime ?
If you buy a guitar, buy it because it feels good to play on it.
If it looks good too, consider that a nice bonus, but don't make it mandatory.
2B> GUITARS with locking tremolo's (Floyd Rose Tremolo's, and Ibanez guitars with "Edge" locking tremolo's for example) are something i would NOT recommend to the absolute beginner.
Tuning these guitars is fairly hard the first few times, and restringing them is next to impossible without the right knowledge (and the aforementioned experience).
DON'T SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU !
2C> THERE IS NO SHAME IN BUYING SECOND HAND !!!
I cannot overstress this point enough.
Ebay, Gumtree, Craigslist, Marktplaats, etc, are all good places to check, but as always, be careful of fakes, ask someone who's experienced if a deal seems too good to be true, and if you have doubts about a guitar's authenticity, ask here, or any other guitar forum, or check it with a local luthier/guitar tech.
2D> ASK the salesperson if the guitar can be setup for you if you buy it.
If the answer is no, find another shop.
3> IF you already own a guitar & amp, or just an amp, make SURE you test your prospect new guitar on an amp as similar to yours as humanly possible.
For example, if you've got a tiny roland microcube at home and then test the guitar on something with a 12 inch speaker and tubes, you will be disappointed once you get home, because it will probably sound like rubbish compared to how it sounded in the store.
3B> KEEP in mind that since guitar stores either are really big open spaces, or have testing booths, that there will ALWAYS be some differences in how a guitar and amp sound, compared to how it will sound at home.
4> ASK the store clerk what gauge strings* are on the guitar, and WRITE IT DOWN IF YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO REMEMBER IT!!
You will need to know this when you change strings, and this leads me to
5> ALWAYS buy a new set of strings with a new guitar, and either have the people in the store replace the strings for you (if you're a beginner, or lazy), or do it yourself (adventerous beginners and slightly more advanced players**).
The reason for this is simple : the strings that where put on in the store are USUALLY of the lowest possible quality, and could have been on the guitar, rusting away for god knows how long.
Suggested string brand are, in alphabetical order : D'addario, Dean Markley, Dunlop, DR, Elixir, Ernie Ball or GHS.
And get yourself a bottle of Fast Fret while you're at it, you will be glad you did.
And for those people who have Ebony or Rosewood fretboards, you could invest in a bottle of Dunlop lemon oil, Fret doctor, or Lizard spit, to keep the fretboard smooth, and to clean it up (don't overdo it, most experienced guitarists use this stuff once, maybe twice a year at most!)
5B> REPLACE your strings regularly, at least once every two to three months (more frequently is better, but that is the absolute minimum).
The cost per set of strings usually isn't that high, and it will ensure you will have good sounding strings, and a comfortable, pleasant playing experience.
Coated strings, like the ones from Elixir and DR, will need less frequent replacing, but not everyone likes
how they sound and feel, and they ARE expensive.
6> IF you feel your string are too thick or too thin, and you decide that you want to try another gauge strings, you will need to redo the setup (the string height (referred to as action), truss rod adjustments and intonation) of your guitar.
Learning this can be a bit daunting, but it is worth it in the end, because having to run to a guitar tech/luthier every time you switch string gauges can be a bit costly.
But, in the beginning, it will be best to focus on your playing, so leave learning setups for when you're more experienced.
7> IT pays to recheck your setup every year/half year, just to keep your guitar nice and playable.
ESPECIALLY IN HUMID OR EXTREMELY COLD CLIMATES !!
8> PERHAPS a bit of an unnecessary tip, but : invest in some straplocks (and a comfortable, decent strap, of course!).
They will make sure your guitar strap will stay in place, and will save you from accidentally dropping your precious new instrument.
You can buy them from all sorts of brands, but the ones from Boston and Schaller take preference with most.
This concludes this simple summary.
Got more tips ?
Remind me of them and i'll add them to the list.
*the gauging on string packaging, which can be anything from .007 to .014, represents the thickness of the thinnest string in a set.
A Friendly warning : the prices mentioned in this thread are an estimation based on current online prices, and they may change over time.
Use them as a guideline, not as the final word on pricing
The credit for this excellent piece of advice goes to dan greaves from justinguitar.com forum. Nice forum with lots of good advice.