Buying your first guitar, or buying the first guitar for your child can be intimidating. But with an organized approach it’s much easier. One of the first things to consider is the type of music that will be played. If it is country music, folk music, or unplugged classic rock an acoustic guitar is going to serve you well. If you are into rock, hard rock, death metal, or just enjoy electronic devices then you will want an electric guitar and amplifier.
Set a realistic budget, avoid the cheapest guitar
One mistake that is made frequently is to decide to buy the cheapest nastiest guitar you can find for the first guitar, and then see if “it takes”. The problem with this is that if the guitar is poorly constructed it will be hard on the fingers, and won’t stay in tune. So it will sound bad, and be physically more difficult to play. This situation sets the stage for discouragement. You want to plan on paying at least $300 for a decent guitar, and if its an electric, there will be an additional need for an amplifier. Practice amps are easy to find for around $50 and are very suitable for the learning stage of the game.
Many places will offer package deals that are not advertised. It is common for salespeople to have the ability to make a deal in order to get the sale. Don’t be afraid to try to negotiate a lower price, especially if you are buying several items.
Buying an acoustic
Acoustic guitars should be made of solid quality wood on the front, not plywood. Many of the cheaper brands use plywood, so that’s an important factor in getting a quality guitar. Another thing to consider is the tone and size you want. Acoustics come in many different sizes and shapes, some of them are concert, parlor, dreadnought, and jumbo. If you are buying for a child you want to purchase according to what they can manage physically. If you are an adult you want to consider that the smaller guitars have a brighter tone, while the larger guitars have a deeper tone.
One example of an excellent beginner guitar is the Yamaha FG800. This guitar comes in either Concert body shape or the Dreadnought shape and costs $219 on Amazon. Another good option would be the Fender CD 60S, which costs $229 on Amazon. They’re both loud enough to sound good without any amplification, but well suited for practicing levels. And these guitars have the quality that will make them a keeper even after your skills are sharp enough for performing.
Buying an electric guitar
If you are shopping for an electric guitar you also want to pay attention to the quality of wood in the construction. Another area that you may find compromised in cheaper electric guitars is the quality of the pickups and hardware. The good news is, these are all replaceable down the road.
An example of a good-quality beginner electric guitar is the Yamaha Pacifica 112V. It features quality construction and fewer difficulties with the hardware than most other guitars in this class. And at around $300 it is in an appropriate price range for a beginner guitar. You can choose from 2 pickup configurations: 2 Humbuckers or HSS, which is also a cool thing to have. Just note that buying an electric guitar will require an additional cost for an amplifier.
Things to consider when buying a guitar
But whether you decide to go with an acoustic or an electric, you need to pay special attention to the “action” on any guitar. The “action” is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. If the action is too low, there will be buzzing. If the action is too high, it will be more difficult to play, and it could even bow the neck of the guitar. On a good guitar the action can be adjusted, so if you are not happy with it, ask the salesperson to adjust it for you. After adjustment, you should not hear any buzzing. If you do, don’t buy the guitar.
Another issue is whether the guitar will hold its tune. If you don’t know how to play or tune a guitar, don’t worry about it. Ask the salesperson to tune the guitar for you, and to play it a bit. Listen to the intonation of the guitar to get a feel for the tone. Pay attention after they have played a few songs to see if they are going back and constantly re-tuning. If they are, it may be a good indicator that the guitar is having difficulty holding its tune.
Even though picks are fairly cheap compared to your first guitar, they are a crucial part of your rig. Buying the pick that will fit your guitar and style of playing is simple, but important.
The most important thing that you can do is research. Do your homework. Use all your resources.
Start with the internet. Reddit, for example, is a great place to start on. Do the bulk of your factual research on the internet for a quick informative overview. But remember you cannot substitute the experience of being able to hold the guitar, see it, and hear it in person. It’s the only way to find what is going to appeal to you. So do your internet homework, and then go out to some guitar shops and get some hands-on action.
Once you understand what you want and why, you can start your quest for the best price. You may find it online, but if you let the local shop owner know the competitive offer, you may be able to get a lower price at the store.