Buying Your First Guitar
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Hey there, hope this finds you well!
I wanted to start my first article out with a few tips for those of you in the market for your first guitar~
Over the years I’ve had countless people consult with me when wanting to purchase their first guitar either for their-self or a loved one. This purchase can come with a lot of stress if you’ve never been in the market for a musical instrument. I have compiled a list of easy guidelines that will help you get the guitar you want for the best bang for your buck. In this discussion we will touch on 4 points to make the buying process as easy and painless as possible. We will cover types of guitars, price, size and new vs. used.
As always, I am happy to discuss your direct questions as these are just 4 general guidelines that I myself use often. Let’s start with the topic that is probably the first question I get- “what kind of guitar should I buy”
Type of guitar
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is whether to start with an acoustic or electric. Truth is, both types have advantages and disadvantages. First, the acoustic guitar. An acoustic does not need an amp to be heard. This is definitely an advantage for someone who doesn’t want to invest more money yet. This also makes the guitar accessible anywhere. Acoustic guitars are pretty straight forward when it comes to the “tech” side allowing you to get right to work on learning the basics. For someone learning in your household, family members might appreciate the warmer tone of an acoustic vs. a loud guitar amp. The best “extra” advantage is that once you learn on an acoustic, playing an electric will come much easier.
Now for the cons of an acoustic guitar. Size can sometimes be an issue for smaller players. We will discuss this more when we talk about size a little later on. Another con is that certain types of chords such as a bar chord can be challenging to play on an acoustic which can discourage the player early on. Finally the neck on an acoustic can sometimes have a wider fret board, making it harder to form chords/bar chord. This can also lead to early discouragement.
Next, the electric. I learned on an electric and have always thought that they are hands down easier than an acoustic to learn on. This is because the strings are thinner and lighter in gauge making an electric easier to play. Another advantages for purchasing an electric guitar for a beginner is size. Electrics can be smaller in size making it easier to hold and navigate. A smaller fret board makes for easier playability as well. Finally, if you are planning on not performing as you learn, an amp can be purchased at a later time making the electric quiet and less invasive for others living in the household.
It’s hard for me to come up with cons of an electric since I tend to favor these over acoustic but here are a few for comparison sake.
If you plan on transitioning from an electric to an acoustic, you may find it more challenging to get used to the acoustic. You’ll discover that you can do certain things on an electric that you can’t do on an acoustic making each guitar a different animal. Another con is that electric guitars will eventually need an amp, adding to your investment. We will talk about the different types of amps in another blog post but know that you will eventually want to purchase one for an electric guitar unless you plan on only playing for yourself, unplugged. Finally, electrics aren’t quite as user friendly when it comes to accessibility. It’s much easier to throw an acoustic in the back of your car and play around a camp fire vs. an electric and amp situation. Remember, electric means that it will always need electricity to be heard the way that it was meant to be heard.
Take away- Acoustics are a great instrument but not always the easiest to learn on. Electrics can be much more comfortable to play but lead to more expense when buying accessories such as amps. Either way make sure the guitar has an adjustable truss rod. This allows the neck to be adjusted. Weather has a tendency to effect your guitar because necks are made of wood and wood expands and contracts causing the strings to lift higher off the fret board making the guitar harder to play. Having an adjustable truss rod ensures that you can properly adjust the neck back to where it should be. If you have questions regarding the importance of truss rods, feel free to reach out to me.
This is a broad subject so we will try to make it short and sweet to make sure you do not over spend.
You should be able to find a good new acoustic or electric for under $600.
Do not pay more than this. If you can’t find one then contact me and I’ll help you find something. We are going to talk about new vs. used later so if you are simply here looking for pricing info you can jump to that section now.
Let me first start by saying that if you are shopping online, find the guitar that you are interested in and go to a music store and sit with the instrument to make sure it feels comfortable to hold. Every guitar is different and this can be the make it or break factor when learning. If a guitar is not the right size for the player, such as being too big, it will not be enjoyable to learn on, again becoming discouraging . If the player is small there are student/smaller makes of guitars available in both acoustic and electric. Size is an extremely important factor when purchasing your first guitar. A guitar should fit comfortably under the “picking” arm and should not be too long to reach the end of the fret board.
Most music shops will be able to help find the right fit for you if you ask. Things to keep in mind- Some electric guitars such as a Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul model will be heavier than a Fender or Squire Stratocaster. Make sure the weight of the guitar you choose is manageable to hold comfortably.
Finally we cover New/Used here
While buying your first guitar can be an exciting time it is also become pricey if you don’t have any guidelines. Much like shopping for a car there are new and used guitars on the market with pros and cons to both.
New guitars should be flawless from the factory, free of scratches and dings.
It’s also exciting to be the first player to own the guitar. New guitars come with a warranty but I can honestly say that I’ve never had to use one. The cons of owning a new guitar are the upfront cost of paying full price and even though the guitar comes directly from the factory, there can still be unseen defects.
There are many used guitars that will suite the player just fine and in many cases you can find a better quality guitar for hundreds of dollars less than a new. Do not be afraid to buy a used guitar, however are a few things to watch out for such as cracks or breaks that have been repaired. Those types of repairs are usually disclosed by the seller.
I am extremely well versed in buying used instruments and would be happy to consult with you one on one if this something that you are leaning towards.
Whether you buy a new or used guitar, I always advice consulting with whoever is selling to be sure the guitar is ready to play with out any issues when you get it in your hands ~
I hope this information helps to answer some of the questions you may have had about purchasing your first guitar.
This is an exciting time for you and with a little bit of knowledge it can make the buying process easy, less stressful and more enjoyable. I am happy to consult with you one on one to answer any questions you may have. Please e-mail me directly at email@example.com