What guitar should I buy for my first guitar? This is a question I’ve been asked hundreds of times through the years from students and parents and my usual answer it depends so I decided to write this article to be used as a guide to new students and parents.
Acoustic or electric?
There is no hard fast rule for this because you can learn on either one. But I, along with many other people, recommend an acoustic for a first guitar - based on the simple fact that you can play it anywhere. It will cost you less because you don’t need to purchase an amp, and the acoustic guitar is slightly more physically challenging which can make the transition to electric guitar a little easier. The electric guitar would be a better choice for someone who is only interested in electric.
How much should a beginners guitar cost?
The good news is that beginner guitars are cheaper and better than they’ve ever been and I’ve seen some decent starter guitars starting in the $150 range. I'd recommend staying away from the really cheap guitars that are sold at the big box non music stores because they’re total junk. They may look like any other guitar but the construction is very sub par which causes an instrument to be hard to play and never play in tune.
How do I know what’s good or bad?
I'd reccomend finding a decent guitar from a local music store as opposed to a big chain store or the internet for the simple fact that the smaller stores usually give lessons and sell tried and true beginner guitars to students. I for one as a teacher would not support selling junk guitars because I’ve seen first hand how an improperly setup guitar can be very discouraging to the student. Which leads me to my next subject…
A decent setup on a guitar can make playing fun but a bad setup can make it a downright drag. What exactly is a setup? A setup includes a few things but most important are how easy it is to press down on the strings, a guitar with what we call high action can be extremely hard and sometimes impossible for a beginner to play which leads to frustration. Poor intonation is another problem some guitars suffer. Basically the guitar is not in tune with itself and will be in tune on one part of the neck but out of tune on another part. Adjustments can be made to fix or help with problem and it is not unreasonable to have a new guitar setup, even many pros buying expensive guitars set them up to their liking when they first get them.
To the untrained eye guitars all look very similar so I wrote this in the hopes it can help you decipher through the hundreds of models available and get something decent and friendly on the wallet.