So you’re ready to buy your first guitar, but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry – I’ve put together some essential tips on how to make sure this exciting time doesn’t give you a headache!
1) Do you know someone that already plays guitar?
This is the best option. Ask them to go to the guitar shop with you and give you a few pointers on what to look for. As well as offering first-hand experience, they’ll make you feel less nervous as well.
2) Electric, acoustic or classical?
Now’s the time to decide whether you want to play an electric or acoustic guitar – even a classical/spanish guitar is fine to use when you are starting out. However, there are good and bad points to each.
They’re considered easier to play but you’ll need to buy an amp and lead at some point. However, if that’s too expensive, you can play without plugging it in – and that’s what I’d recommend. It is far better to have a well-made electric guitar and no amp, than a cheap guitar and cheap amp. Electric guitar necks are smaller than the other guitars so this makes it easier to learn on and not as challenging to begin with. Electric guitars tend to be the best for a beginner to start off on.
Acoustics are harder to learn on, but are a lot less complicated – and they are ready to play. However, cheap acoustics can be poorly set up and as a result end up sounding bad; a terrible situation for a beginner to find themselves in. I’ve met students who have given up playing as they thought they weren’t able to learn, however, it turned out the guitar was badly made and the ‘action’ was too high.
The action is the distance in between the strings and the neck/frets. They can be too far away from the neck of the guitar, making it harder for beginners to hold down chords smoothly as there is too much of a gap. Just as the action can be too high, you also want to make sure the action isn’t too low, otherwise the strings will ‘buzz’ when you play them.
If you already have a guitar and the action is high, take it in to your local music shop and have it adjusted. This can have amazing results on your playing ability and make learning guitar much more fun.
Classical guitars are fine to begin with – however, you will want to purchase an electric or acoustic when you’re up and running. Classical guitars have a wider neck so they are more suitable for people with bigger hands. These guitars are not made for pop and rock and they have their own unique sound due to the nylon strings. They are also softer on the fingers so often times they are more suitable for children, however don’t forget most children will be inspired by the pop and rock world and an acoustic will probably be more inspiring to play.
3) Take a few trips to the music shop
Try out a few guitars and don’t feel intimidated by staff or other guitarists in the shop. Remember: they all started at the same point you are at, plus you don’t have to buy the guitar that day; you are just working out which type of guitar would be the best for you. Don’t take too much advice from the staff in the shop; remember they are ‘SALES’ people!
4) I DON’T recommend ‘starter pack guitars’
Although they appear to be a good bargain at first, most of them are poorly made and not set up well for beginners. Most of my students have gone on to buy another guitar a few months down the line.
5) NEVER pay FULL price for a guitar
Just like car prices, the list price of a guitar is usually greatly inflated. Whichever guitar you chose to learn on will be fine, but I recommend an electric to start off on due to the ease of playing and low cost. Good acoustics will cost more. Whatever guitar you choose, just make sure you like it and want to pick it up, practise and play with it. m/
Article by Debbie Driver
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