In this guide you will learn everything you need to know about buying your best-first-guitar to start your musical journey:
- 1. How to plan the your musical journey for success
- 2. Best Guitar: acoustic or electric
- 3. Guitar size and action that fits you comfortably
- 4. How to make sure you get a guitar with good sound
- 5. Best brand/guitar at an affordable price
- 6. Lessons: online, in person, or classroom.
The question is not about how expensive or how cheap the guitar is, but deciding how much you can afford, and get the best guitar for the price.
Before buying a guitar it’s important to determine where you want your musical journey to take you. Do you want to play just for fun? Are you considering a possible Professional Career? If so, you need to set some goals accordingly.
Chapter 1 - Your Musical Journey - Setting Goals
Where Is This Musical Journey Going To Take You?
Many “wanna-be” guitarists think it looks easy and they can learn on their own, and many do.
But, with good instruction, whether in person or online and help to purchase the best guitar, you can develop good “guitar techniques” and cut your learning time.
But before deciding who to take lessons from or which guitar you need to purchase, you need to know where you are going.
- Why do you want to play guitar?
- Do you want to play acoustic, electric, or bass?
- Do you want to play professionally or just for fun?
Let’s dive in!!
As with any journey, whether it’s cross-country, an international trip, or a trek into the wonderful world of music, you need to set your goals and have a plan.
I’m going to assume you have some idea of where you want to go or what you want to do, but you need to have firm goals.
You may think that planning isn’t important, but it is.
It will determine the type and characteristics of the guitar you choose to purchase and the type of lessons you take.
Let’s begin mapping out your journey so you can get the right guitar and the right lessons.
Playing For Fun
If you want to just be able to strum a few songs, to have fun on the beach around an open fire with friends, your trek will be less tedious than if you wanted to become a professional musician.
If this is your goal, get your guitar, pick a few easy songs that you can soon be playing. Find a guitar book; learn the chords, practice the chords and songs until you know them well enough to play for your friends.
A Serious Guitarist – Maybe A Professional
But if you want to be a serious guitarist, perhaps even a professional, the first thing you need to do is set your goals. Know where you are going. Write them down, preferably on a calendar or in a journal so you can know when you get there. Make your goals time-limited.
Got it??? Let’s Get Started!!!
How To Set Goals
The first step in setting goals is to create an inventory list of your skills and resources. Put them in your journal so you can check them frequently. Don’t have a journal? Start one.
If you are a complete “newbie” you probably won’t have any guitar skills yet, but you might be surprised.
- Have you taken any music classes in school?
- Have you tried playing any other instruments?
- Do you have a friend who has shown you a few chords on the guitar?
- Write them down in your journal where you can add to them later.
If your desire is to be a professional guitarist, play in a band, a studio musician, or accompanying singers, even yourself, you will need to learn some basic music theory. This is especially true if you want to be a studio musician.
No matter where you want to go, you will begin by learning some chords and rhythm patterns for your strumming hand.
As you progress you will easily be able to add different techniques to your repertoire such as:
- hammer-on pull off
- guitar bends
- sweep picking
- hybrid picking
- slide-on finger-picking
- palm muting
- two-handed tapping
- slides and bends.
You also need to consider what style of music you want to play:
- or something else?
Perhaps you are one who feels music is a form of expression and you want to form your own musical style by using a variety of guitar and musical techniques. Write it down!!
Gotta know where you’re going!!!
We recommend using a SMART Goal Planner. You can read through the instructions to become more informed on the process.
- Decide where you want to go as a guitarist.
- Write it down carefully with as much detail as you can right now.
- Tell someone you trust. Telling someone you know and trust about your goals seems to increase the likelihood that you will stick to them.
- Break your goals down. This is especially important for big goals. Put it into small steps that are workable.
- Plan your first step.
- Keep going. Don’t quit no matter how hard it is. Don’t Quit!!
- Celebrate. And Repeat.
Side Note: if the student is a smaller child, you as a parent, will need to help with the goal setting and directing his/her progress.
Chapter 2 - Acoustic vs. Electric
Do you have a guitar?
Finding your best-first-guitar is the next step to becoming the guitarist you’ve always wanted to be.
What kind of music do you want to play, hard rock, metal or do you want to play pop, country, or jazz?
The type of music you want to play is important in choosing your guitar.
But most beginning students learn toward acoustic guitars. But why?
Well, let’s dig a little deeper before you purchase a guitar.
Getting your best-first-guitar is a must. You can’t learn to play without it, air guitar doesn’t cut it.
Back to the goals, what type of music do you want to play, hard rock, metal, or maybe country, jazz, or blues. The type of music dictates what type of guitar you need to purchase.
There really isn’t a right or wrong answer regarding an acoustic or electric guitar. Actually, you can learn to play on either, but most beginning guitar students learn on acoustic guitars.
For the most part, it’s a matter of convenience. All you need to play an acoustic is the guitar and a pick. And you don’t have to have a pick once you learn to fingerpick.
It’s a little more complicated with the electric guitar. It goes without saying, you need an electrical hook up for the guitar, amp, effects pedals, and all the other equipment needed to create your sound.
Some say the feel is one of the fundamental differences between the acoustic and the electric guitars and the feel is what makes the electric easier to play. For the most part it is a matter of choice and which type of music you want to play.
The first of several reasons for the differences is the string gauge and the way sound is generated.
There is more tension on the heavier string when you bring the guitar up to pitch which also makes it harder to bend a string.
The strings on an acoustic are much heavier than the strings on the electric guitar. They say the Ernie Ball Aluminium Bronze acoustic guitar strings are ideal for beginning acoustic guitarists.
The sound on the acoustic guitar is created by the string vibration being amplified through the hollow guitar body and emitted through the soundhole.
If light-weight electric strings were used on an acoustic guitar, the sound would be tinny and weak. Therefore, a heavier gauge of .011 – 0.14 is needed for a good, full sound. The heavier metal strings do create finger pain for the beginning guitarist until calluses form on the fingers.
Side Note: Your fingers will build up calluses so they won’t hurt. If they hurt take a break. Don’t play until they bled. That will slow your progress.
The strings on the electric guitar are thinner and closer to the fretboard, which makes for less finger pain in the beginning.
The neck on the electric is smaller, which does fit better with the smaller hands. But, the body is considerably heavier than the acoustic. That does need to be considered with younger students.
The electric guitar has magnetic pickups which turn the string vibrations into voltage then into sound. Therefore, you don’t need heavier strings to create a full sound.
The acoustic and electric guitars are similar in that they both have six strings and are tuned the same. Also, the notes, chords, and scales are played the same and with the same fingering on both guitars.
There are some variations in the playing technique and approaches between the two guitars, but the fundamentals are basically the same.
An average electric guitar in good condition would cost around $500. The cost for beginner guitars ranges between $100-$400 with the intermediate guitars between $400-$900.
The average acoustic guitar in good condition will range between $100-$500.
More exact prices will be revealed in the guitar guide for beginners FREE giveaway.
If you find a guitar online that is within your price on range, such as on eBay, the the name and model number and ask Google or Bing what the sound is like.
Here’s an example:
I typed into Google: what is the sound like on a Mitchel D120 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
This is the result from Amazon: They are all well built and sound great. These are intermediate quality instruments, not top quality (Martin or Taylor) but they are good guitars for beginer to intermediate players. A good value for the money in my opinion.
To this for electric or acoustic guitars.
Check out Artistworks.com for more comparisons between acoustic and electric guitars.
Chapter 3 - Best-First-Guitar For Beginners
The Old Guitar Was Good For Something, But Not Much
Ronnie’s story is a real-life story of what can happen when you don’t take the steps necessary to make sure you have a good guitar.
This information applies to new acoustic guitars, as well as, used guitars.
Many have purchased new, more expensive guitars thinking, “It’s new. It’ll be good.” But, unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Follow the guide below to determine the best guitar, the best sound, and the best fit for the student.
This Guide to Purchasing your Best-First-Guitar was designed to give you information that will assist you in getting the right instrument.
Buying your first guitar is an amazing moment that won’t be forgotten and needs to not be plagued with regrets as in Ronnie’s story, The Old Guitar Was Good For Something But Not Much. Therefore, it is critical to select the right guitar that fits with your interests, physical needs, plus good action and sound.
With the right guitar, you will find it easier to play thus creating more confidence which will generate more enjoyment.
If you love your guitar, you will be more likely to stick with it and develop the skill and technique needed to complete your musical journey.
Unless you know how to check out a guitar or know someone who can, don’t buy a used one from a thrift store, pawnshop, or an individual. If you buy a used guitar online make sure you are able to return it if there is a problem.
I have seen instruments in pawn shops that look really good and sound so..so. You think that after tuning it will be fine. But, maybe not.
Take someone with you who can check out the guitar as revealed in this guide.
Price vs. Quality
It’s not all about how expensive or how cheap the guitars are.
Decide how much you can afford. But don’t get a really cheap guitar thinking that it doesn’t matter.
It does matter.
If you get a poor-quality guitar, it will sound bad no matter how hard you work. Even advanced guitarists have difficulty in making some cheap guitars sound good.
Some manufacturers seem to focus on making flashy, shiny guitars to attract the beginning guitarist rather than making a less expensive quality guitar that is easy for beginners to play and learn on.
When people think of guitars they often think of “Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Martin, Taylor”, to name a few. Fender’s reputation was built on their high-end electric guitars, not acoustics. When you get a Fender acoustic you are paying for the famous name on the headstock, not necessarily the quality of the guitar.
Some, especially salesmen, may say, “buy a guitar that speaks to you.” As a beginner that may be the flashy, more expensive guitar. But as a beginner, you don’t know the language yet. It takes a while for your ear to adjust to the sound and tone of the guitar. As your skill and ear develop and you progress, your preference in tone may change.
Buying a cheap guitar that is not well made often ends a beginning guitarists’ motivation to continue.
Don’t set yourself up to quit because your guitar was not made to play well or sound good. Guitarists call these cheap guitars, “music killers.”
Finding the Perfect Fit
As musicians, we chose the instrument that fits and expresses our distinct style, so there’s really no one guitar that fits all. That’s why there are many different designs and tones.
Most beginning guitarists lean toward choosing a guitar that looks and sounds similar to their favorite musician’s guitar, a look, and sound they are familiar with.
Others recommend the students begin on a non-familiar guitar with nylon strings to expand their palette from the beginning. If you have a teacher, even an online teacher, ask them what they recommend.
The size of the player as compared to the guitar must also be considered, like in the pictures above. If you are buying for a young person or someone with small hands, their hands need to be able to go around the fretboard. Also, consider the weight of the guitar. Can the person handle it easily and can he/she even get their arm over and around it?
If the beginner is a small child, look at the guitars specially designed for children.
Go into a music store and test drive different guitars, especially if you are buying for a child. Allow the child to hold it comfortably and get their hands around the fretboard.
You don’t have to buy in that particular store. Get the specifics on the best guitar for your needs then check them online. Find the best guitar for the best price.
Things That Make a Guitar Easy or Hard to Play
In getting your first guitar, the playability of the instrument is extremely important. If the guitar is too hard for the student to play chances are he/she will not be motivated to practice.
The action of a guitar is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. The action plays a big part in determining how comfortable the guitar is to play.
If the strings are too high they will be very hard to press causing pain and maybe cut on your fingers. The pain will go away once calluses form, but you need to play to develop the calluses. If it is too painful it will make playing awkward and slow down your progress. They may even quit.
If they are too close to the fretboard the strings will buzz when they are played.
The action is a critical issue to consider when purchasing a guitar.
You can also learn to adjust the action. Here’s a guide to understanding and making adjustments.
The guitar’s nut is what the strings pass through before the fretboard begins. It is on the side closest to the tuning pegs with six grooves for the strings to sit in.
Guitars with wider nuts space the strings further apart. The reverse is also true for thinner nuts. The nuts must also be considered if the beginner has smaller hands.
It’s difficult to get a definitive answer as to where the guitar neck should be measured. But, usually, it is measured at the nut, which is the thin piece of bone or plastic that the string goes through before reaching the headstock. In the picture, the red arrow is pointing to a green bar that is the nut.
If you measure any place else you will get an inaccurate measurement.
here are two main types of strings for guitars: steel and nylon. The steel strings, plated with a bronze alloy, are more widely used in the majority of music styles.
Of course, the nylon strings are made from nylon and have a very different sound and feel than the steel strings.
The strings play a big part in the beginners’ motivation to play. Nylon strings are softer, easier to push down and cause less pain to the beginners’ fingers. The beginner will still experience some pain until protective callouses develop on their fingertips.
The real value of any guitar is what music it allows, encourages, and inspires you to play at whatever level you are and beyond.
More Factors To Consider
The most important factors to consider when choosing your first acoustic guitar?
- It needs to stay in tune throughout your practice sessions.
- It needs to be built to last, particularly if you plan on taking it outdoors, jamming with friends, or eventually playing live.
3. It needs to sound great.
4. It needs to be in good physical condition.
5. The Price needs to be comparable to the quality.
6. Must have a good fit size-wise.
7. Good Action.
8. Metal or nylon strings
Ticking all these boxes should not exceed your beginner’s budget. A good beginner guitar should be between $150-$300.
With the guitars listed below, you should be able to get a good acoustic guitar for as little as $149.
We’ve rounded up 8 of the best acoustic guitars and 5 electric guitars for beginners.
Remember, starting with the right guitar helps students build a good basis upon which to develop more advanced skills.
Beginners, especially children, need a guitar that fits well. It also needs to be fun to play, looks nice and, most of all sounds good.
So in summary…
The 8 key points when buying a beginner guitar are:
- Set Your Goals
- Purchase a guitar – guitars to consider
- Getting the right size
- Consider your budget and the best quality guitar for the money
- Buying a guitar with strings that are not too high and hard to play
- Steel or nylon strings
- Nut width for the hand size
- Self-taught or lessons (in person or online).
Don’t be fooled into buying a brand name thinking you’re getting a better guitar.
See our guitar guide for the best beginner guitars.
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