6 Tips on Buying Your First Guitar
The guitar, whether electric or acoustic is undoubtedly the most popular instrument after the piano to pick up. It’s versatile, handy and inexpensive to start playing with it. However, most late guitar bloomers have the fear of picking up a guitar and learning it. Usually, it’s the fear of not knowing the instrument at all. Sometimes it’s the fear of being judged when walking into the guitar store looking completely clueless.
Well, take off the negativity of your shoulders. In this article, we’ll help you get started from choosing the type of guitar you’ll most probably play to making a careful purchase at the guitar store.
Before you decide on choosing a guitar, first ask yourself how will you be learning to play the guitar. Will you be self-learning or will you be taking lessons from an instructor? Second, listen to the type of sounds guitars make from different types of guitars such as classical, electronic or acoustic. Which one would you go for?
Keeping those in mind, here are our tips on getting you started in buying your first guitar.
1 – Acoustic or Electric Guitar?
The million dollar question for many first-time guitarists.
The type of guitar that you choose to buy will greatly depend on the style of music you want to play & perform, but here are some quick things to think about before buying.
An acoustic guitar gives better learning
You learn better when you play on an acoustic guitar. Basic rhythms, scales, chords, and riffs are few of the many techniques that you’ll discover and learn while playing the guitar.
Some have claimed that it’s a little tougher to play the acoustic guitar, but it’ll be well worth. The tension on an electric guitar is lighter than the acoustic guitar, which makes it a little easier to learn and practice.
Furthermore, the necks of acoustic guitars are also thicker which makes it a bit more of a challenge to play the acoustic guitar.
It still all really depends on the type of music genre you want to play.
It’s more expensive to start with an electric guitar
While there exist lots of attractive electric guitar packages which a fairly affordable, it’s generally more expensive to start playing the electric guitar.
You’ll need an amplifier to start playing the electric guitar and this brings about more cost to your setup. Some may argue that amplifiers are also relatively cheap these days, but for something usable, expect to be spending more for an electric guitar & amplifier setup as compared to buying only an acoustic guitar.
Top choices for beginner acoustic guitars
- Epiphone Pro-1 Acoustic Guitar
- Fender Squier Acoustic Guitar
- Jasmine S35– This is really affordable. You won’t break the bank with this.
Top choices for beginner electric guitars
- Ibanez GAx30-TR
- Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul
- Fender Stratocaster – Made famous by John Mayer, you’ll never go wrong with a Strat.
2 – A Word About Budget
Budget plays a big consideration when we buy anything at all, let alone guitars.
Don’t just buy the cheapest selling guitars
You may get away with some cheap stuff you find on the internet or at your local store.
However when it comes to guitars, you’ll get what you pay for. Dirt cheap guitars often have a lousy build which makes it not adjustable or playable. I’ve seen guitars which are built so bad that you simply cannot get all your strings tuned correctly.
Avoid Packages Which Are Too Cheap
There are lots of guitar packages or pack, acoustic & electric which are made to appeal to first-time buyers. Packs are convenient for the first time guitarist as they usually come with everything included, the amp, tuner, strings, bag and the guitar itself.
Some guitar packages can be dodgy, though. Again, avoid the ones which are priced too cheaply. Take a look at the brand and make of the amp that is included with the package. Is it a guitar amp which is recommended or is it a cheap small amp which wouldn’t be much use?
Take all of this into consideration before jumping into any guitar packages you see in the store.
Recommended Guitar Amps
Marshall MG30CFX – Nothing goes wrong with a Marshall amp. Every. EVERY guitarist swears by it.
Line 6 Spider IV – Lots of great features with a small price. Line 6 amps usually comes with loads of features for you to play around with.
Don’t blow all your budget into just one guitar
Just like purchasing a car or bike, buying the guitar isn’t the end of your purchase. A little down the way, you’ll find yourself buying accessories for your guitar such as amps, effect pedals or even books & tutorials to assist you to play better and achieving a better sound.
Spending all your budget on one guitar can be tempting, but always leave a little more of your budget to get in the necessary accessories that you may need.
You don’t want to be playing a $1000 electric guitar with a $10 amp would you?
3 – Should I Consider 3/4 Size Guitars?
Generally aimed towards children and kids, it’s not necessary to buy 3/4 sized guitars if you’re an adult.
I would even advise children who are 10 years old and above to simply get a full-size guitar, play it and simply get used to it. Buying 3/4 guitars is not only a bad investment, the sound you get from a smaller guitar is also thinner due to the smaller body.
If you must, for your kids
Yamaha FG JR1 3/4 – Inexpensive and great for starters.
Oscar Schmidt OG1FYS Dreadnought– If you want the dreadnought body
Squier by Fender, Mini Strat – You won’t get the sound of a true Fender but this would do for a kid
4 – Know The Guitars You Are Buying
If you happen to go guitar shopping, don’t bring along a friend who doesn’t play the guitar. Bring someone who knows and has played the guitar for some time.
Ultimately you have to know what you’ll want a guitar for. Because there exist so many styles of playing the guitar, every guitar ‘maestro’ will advise you differently. A jazz guitarist would advise you to get a hollow body guitar for that jazz sound. A recording guitarist would tell you something else.
All biases aside, here are some pointers to the many types of guitars.
Solid-Body – For Those Who Rock
If you’re aiming to play rock and alternative, you most likely want to go for a solid body guitar. This is the most common guitar you’ll find the scene.
These types of guitars are generally cleaner and have less feedback, compared to other guitar types making it ideal for playing a wider range of music styles. Most beginners prefer going with the solid body guitar.
Hollow Body Guitars – For Those Who Jazz
With a hollow body, the tone you get will be different. If you’re looking to play jazz, blues, and latin music, you might want to give the hollow body guitars a look.
Sometimes also called a semi-acoustic guitar, they give a more mellow and warm sound at the expense of having higher feedback as compared to solid body guitars.
It’s also possible to practice playing the semi-acoustic while unplugged to an amp. This would appeal to you if you live in a small place or only have a small rehearsal space.
Semi-Hollow Body – For Those Who Wants The Best of Both Worlds
The semi-hollow guitar is built with a solid wood in the center of the body, a design that gives it a reduced feedback while keeping the warm & mellow tone of the guitar.
They are great for guitar players who wants an all-purpose guitar that is able to play many different sounds and music genres.
They still appeal a lot to musicians who plays blues and jazz. Be careful not to go for the cheapest semi-hollow guitar you can find as semi-hollow guitar usually require a more refined design and is usually a tad more expensive than solid guitars.
Acoustic Folk Acoustic Guitars
Also known as the steel-string acoustic guitar, this type of guitar is mainly used for pop, country & rock music. The sound on the steel string is bright which makes it perfect for lots of strumming.
You can’t restring the folk guitar with nylon strings though as it’s designed for steel strings. Nylon strings on a steel-string guitar would just sound weak & odd as it’s not made that way.
Another type of steel string guitar body build is the Dreadnought. Dreadnought body guitars is deeper bass sounding because of their bigger waist design.
Nylon String Acoustic Guitars
Nylon string guitars normally come in two variants. The classical and the flamenco guitar.
Classical guitars are made to have better-sustained sound, giving players the ability to create mellow sounding tones. Choose the classical guitar if your aim is to play classical styled guitar pieces. A classical guitar often plays sophisticated music passages that combine the melody, harmony and rhythm thus making the classical guitar a ‘complete band’ by itself.
Flamenco guitars, on the other hand, have a stronger attack sound – more percussive with minimal sustain.
You’ll find that flamenco acoustic guitars have more buzzing because of its flat string tension. This gives the flamenco guitarists the ability to play better tapping.
5 – Test Drive A Guitar
So you decided on the type of guitar that you’ll be buying. The next thing to do is to walk into a guitar store and try them out.
Here are a few pointers, so you make a good buy.
Play your favourite song on every guitar
The best way to know & understand a guitar is to play on it. As you test drive a few guitars in the store, play your favourite song on every one. This way you can really compare guitars to guitars without being bias towards price and recommendations.
Stress the guitar a little bit
One mistake I see many first time buyers do is to decide on a guitar purchase after only a few minutes of trying out the guitar. It may feel awkward playing in the store while having onlookers looking down at you, especially if you’re a beginner and do not play very well. But you’ll have to ignore that feeling and stress the guitar out a bit.
1 – Check the switches as you play the (electric) guitar and check whether the circuits are all working. It’s often rare to find a new guitar that has circuit faulty, but it’s still worth checking. Crank the knobs and dials all the way and listen for a change of effect on the sound. If there’s a fault, an experienced guitar technician should be able to open the back of the guitar to fix it.
2 – Try finger choking or string bending. This is to check if the strings are in good condition or if they get detuned immediately.
3 – Inspect the body of the guitar for any signs of cracks and dents. Prior to many beliefs, the body wood DOES affect the tone of a guitar.
4 – Does the guitar detune after a bit of playing? This can show sign of bad build.
Newbie buyers often don’t test drive a guitar enough to understand it. Make sure you don’t do that.
6 – Learning The Guitar Properly Before You Ditch It
Okay, so you bought that guitar that you really wanted. Then comes the most important thing, though.
It’s time to learn up the guitar properly. The best way to learn the guitar effectively is to learn under a mentor or an instructor who plays it well. It’s important to get the fundamentals techniques of playing the guitar well and this is best achieved if you have someone to show you how.
I’m not a fan of learning practical skills by reading a book, so I wouldn’t rush to buy all the guitar books in the guitar store. However, learning practical skills via videos have proofed to be effective for me so I’m vouching for the same when it comes to learning the guitar as well. There are tons of tutorial videos you can watch on YouTube but if you want a concise guitar video course that takes you from the start to end, I’d recommend considering The Professional Guitar Masterclass course by Michael Palmisano.
However, the most important of all is to practice the guitar adequately. Using the same concept as you would in the gym, most learn to play the guitar well by practicing repetitions, rest and then repeating it.
I hope your guitar adventure would be an amazing one. Most music today includes a guitar track somewhere in the song, so you’ll rest assured that you’re picking up an extremely versatile and popular instrument. That skill that you’ll be acquiring soon will not go to waste.
What tips did I miss out? Let me know in the comment section below because our readers would love to discover more.