The guitar: Seattle music culture's iconic instrument

by Andrew Lang, Seattle Goodwill
December 23, 2016

With perhaps the exception of Sir Mix-A-Lot, and more recently Macklemore’s rise to hip-hop stardom, there’s one genre of music commonly associated with the Pacific Northwest.

Bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam created what’s widely known as grunge music, establishing Seattle’s sound during the late 1980s, early 90s.

The sound—a hybrid of heavy metal and punk featuring a sludgy guitar sound with a high level of distortion—became a nationwide sensation when coupled with talented vocalists Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Layne Staley (Alice in Chains).

Grunge music faded by the late 90s. What grunge left in its wake was a young generation that idolized Seattle musicians and who wanted to, more than anything, learn how to play guitar.

Guitars are certainly one of the instruments aspiring musicians gravitate to the most, and Seattle Goodwill’s online stores have plenty to choose from. and Goodwill’s eBay store are great places to find tremendous deals on acoustic, electric, vintage and newer guitars.

“Guitars are the number one thing we get,” said Seattle Goodwill Auction Lister Pete Williams in regard to instruments. “We get some pretty nice stuff.”

Here are some things to look for via when buying a used electric guitar:

  1. Inspect the finish: Stains and discoloration detract from the value of a guitar, so it’s important to inspect the paint. Be aware of cracks. A deep crack could illustrate a larger problem of separating seams in the body.
  2. Protect the neck: The area where the neck transitions to the headstock of the guitar is extremely vulnerable to damage. Wrinkles or ridges on or around the headstock are major signs of headstock repair.
  3. Don’t fret: You should, though, if you see dents or divots caused by string wear on the frets. Fret levels can be pricey to repair, so try to avoid a guitar with damaged frets.
  4. Examine the hardware: It is important to closely inspect the guitar bridge’s screws, nuts and washers that hold the knobs. Also look at the screws, washers and nuts that hold the tuning keys. Stripped threads, rounded nuts and missing screws should be a red flag.
  5. Sound check: Rotate the volume and tone knobs with the guitar plugged in and listen for scratchy pots. Then test the switches and jiggle the cable at the output jack. If the signal coming out is noisy or intermittent, the guitar may need some repair.

While guitars are donated to Goodwill the most, we receive a wide assortment of instruments. Some of them hold tremendous value.

Whether you’re a collector looking for a great find or a budding musician wanting to learn how to play, Goodwill’s online stores are a great resource.

“They are getting great instruments for usually less than they are worth,” said Pete, who’s played in multiple bands and has wealth of instrument knowledge. “I think people absolutely should go online and look at our instruments.”


Andrew is a Content Specialist for Seattle Goodwill and has a wealth of writing, communication and digital media experience. He loves all things sports related and owns a treasure trove of memorabilia. He also enjoys storytelling, the outdoors and sugar is his kryptonite.

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