Buying your first Guitar
Buying your first guitar, Everything you need to know.
Classical, Acoustic or Electric
We are not 100% sure why; but it is very hard to find someone who has not at some point in their life had the desire or urge to own a guitar. What we are very sure of is this; owning a guitar (and it goes without saying, learning to play it) is one of life’s simple pleasures.
Be it the desire to rock hard on a stage in front of thousands of screaming fans or simply impressing that cute girl from math class with a trendy love song, whatever the motivation may be, playing the guitar is a dream for many. The nightmare however, is finding the right one to start off the exciting journey with.
This simple guide is intended to help you find your perfect first guitar. We will look at various things to consider before buying your first guitar and will give some a tip from our experience helping dozens of students and parents buy their first guitar.
When you start out playing guitar it should always be an enjoyable and fun experience. If not, the effort of practicing and hours it takes to develop the various skills needed to play the guitar will be something you dread and the fastest way for your guitar to end up collecting dust or worse, at a second-hand store or a ‘buy & sell’ page online.
Finding the right guitar is an important part of enjoying the playing and practice experience. This means finding a guitar that plays well, sounds great, looks fantastic and does not empty your bank account. These will be covered in this guide.
Types to guitars
There are three main categories of guitars, with each having various options. The three main categories are; classical guitars, acoustic guitars and electric guitars. Each of these three are unique in looks, sound, playability and price. Each has its pros and cons as an option for your first guitar and it is important to know before purchasing your first guitar.
Let’s look at these three categories in more detail
The classical guitar is the oldest type of guitar dating back to the late 1700’s. The most recognized features of a modern classical guitar are; nylon strings, wide neck and relatively smaller hollow body. Typically used for orchestral, Spanish, Latin American and folk music.
- Playability: the softer nylon strings are easier to play for beginners and are less painful on the finger tips for those first few longer practice sessions
- Size: The overall size and weight is smaller than the average acoustic and electrical guitar which makes it easier to hold (especially for children) and transport
- Price: relative to acoustic and electric guitars, classical guitars are cheaper especially for entry level instruments.
- Playability: the wide neck of the classical guitar can be difficult to play for those with smaller fingers and the size of the neck can also make playing some chords a little more difficult for beginners.
- Sound: in comparison to acoustic guitars and electric guitars (when amplified) classical guitars are relatively soft sounding instrument and not suitable for most modern styles of music. Unless a PA and microphone are used, a classical guitar is not suitable for playing within a band setup.
Recommended Classical Guitars
- Tanglewood DBT12NAT Discovery Natural 1/2 Size Classical Guitar
- Ashton SPCG34TRB Classical Starter Pack 3/4 Transparent Red Burst
- Yamaha C45 Full Size Nylon String Classical Guitar with Matte Finish
Our Buying Tip
If you are going to buy a classical guitar as your first guitar, consider that you may want to sell it in the future to get either an acoustic or electric guitar instead. With this in mind, purchase a recognised brand as well as a carry case to better your chances at getting a higher price when you sell it.
The instrument at the heart of most soft rock, country and adult contemporary music is the acoustic guitar. Its versatility, design, sound and appearance make it one of the most popular instruments available today. The stand out features of an acoustic guitar are the metal strings, narrow neck and large hollow body.
- Playability: although a little less forgiving than a classic guitar at first, an acoustic guitar offers excellent playability
- Sound: Both the volume and quality of sound of an acoustic guitar makes it a great choice as a first guitar. The sound also lends itself to play various styles of music like rock, country, folk or even pop.
- Price: while a little more expensive than a standard classical guitar, entry level acoustic guitars are well priced and usually offer better resale value.
- Design: Acoustic guitars come in many various designs and shapes and this adds to the appeal owning one and inspiration to playing it.
- Size: The overall size and weight is more than a classical guitar which makes it very difficult for children to play unless it is a half size version (which are generally higher priced in comparison to full size versions)
- Playability: the metal strings (even with a very light gauge string) of an acoustic guitar can be painful to the finger tips to learn to play on, especially if practice sessions will be sporadic and with short intervals.
Recommended Acoustic Guitars
- Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Natural
- Tanglewood DBTSFCESBL Discovery Super Folk Surf Blue Acoustic Electric Guitar
- Takamine GD11MNS Mahogany Mahogany Natural Satin
Our Buying Tip
If you are serious about wanting to play the guitar for an audience and are looking at buying an acoustic guitar, consider choosing an acoustic electric version which will help when playing in a band or on stage.
Arguable the most iconic of all the types of guitars, the electric guitar has the greatest appeal among first time guitar buyers. The electric guitar it the universal symbol of rock music and offers such incredible flexibility that you can hear it played in almost every song on the top charts today.
The recognizable features of an electric guitars are the steal strings, the thin profile of the body, the pickups and control knobs.
- Sound: When plugged into an amplifier, an electric guitar has such an iconic sound. The ability to add effects to that sound is what makes an electric guitar such a fantastic instrument.
- Size: Electric guitars come in so many size variations and relative to both classical and acoustic guitars, are much smaller thanks to the thin body profile.
- Design: Electric guitars come in hundreds of designs, colours and finishes, which lets you find one that matches your style and expresses your personality that much easier.
- Playability: the metal strings on electric guitars are usually a much lighter gauge to those of an acoustic guitar and are a little easier on the finger tips.
- Price: while lower priced entry level electric guitars are available, it is the accessories needed to fully enjoy playing an electric guitar that make it pricy, with accessories most times costing more that the guitar itself.
- Sound: When ‘plugged in’ an electrical guitar is a great instrument to play. However, when ‘unplugged’ the lack of volume, tone and sustain makes it far less enjoyable over both a classical and an acoustic guitar.
Recommended Electric Guitars
Our Buying Tip
It is best to buy an electric guitar that is best suited for the style of music you want to play. Some electric guitars are better suited for country or blues, while others are a better match for hard rock or metal styles of music.
When it comes to buying your first guitar, there is no one guitar that ‘fits all’. The best thing to do is to visit one our stores, speak to our sales staff and ask them to either give a demonstration of the three guitars (if you can’t play guitar yet) or ask them to try out a few guitars for yourself. This way, with the information provided above. You can find the right guitar that matches your needs, that feels right and sounds great to you.
In the end, which ever guitar you eventual while have as your first guitar, we hope it will bring your much satisfaction and will let you make many fond musical memories.
About Brendan Ihmig
Brendan is an accomplished studio and stage guitarist, a project studio owner and former music teacher. He is a freelance writer, branding and marketing consultant, and a professional speaker. @BrendanIhmig