Buying a guitar is always a challenge for anyone just starting to play guitar or who have an interest in starting. People ask me all the time about their guitar. If they don’t I know they are curious what I think. This is much better than assuming all the guitars are the same, but if you have no prior knowledge how would you know.
Beginning to learn the guitar with a poor instrument is really, really frustrating and will not help in the learning process. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to get a decent guitar that is fun to play. My hope is that this article helps you make a wise and fitting purchase so you can start learning and find great joy in expressing the music within you.
I’m going to try to give you the knowledge I believe will help you the most while not overwhelming you with details that aren’t important until later.
Electric or acoustic?
Some people will say starting on one is better than the other. I don’t think it matters. What do you want to play? If you want to play metal or rock, then get an electric. If you want to play folk then get an acoustic. If you want to play classical then get a classical acoustic guitar. If you don’t know that’s what you want to do that is OK. Acoustic is easy to manage. All you need is the guitar. For electric you will want to get a chord and an amplifier, but you could always start with just the electric guitar to save some money until you know what you want as far as the amp goes. A steel string acoustic(the most common kind) will be a little require some time to build up calluses on your fingers. Classical guitars have nylon strings and are easier on the finger tips. The guitars sound different and it is better to get what you like and not base the decision on the strings. Electrics are kind of in the middle. There will be a short time period to build up callouses like a steel string acoustic, but it will be a little easier to play. I say all this since it is usually the most obvious difference when you first try out different guitars. Think long term and base you decision on which one you like the sound of and what style you are going to play.
I know this is always a concern when beginning. You aren’t sure yet if you’ll stick with it. First I’ll say that you should find a good guitar teacher to help guide you. Click below to sign up for a free assessment with us. I will also say if you are unsure then focus more on how much you want to do it and not on whether or not you think you’ll be good. Everyone is unsure in the beginning to some extent. No one knows with out a doubt that they will be good. The less you question yourself the more you can just have fun learning and you will most likely make some great progress. The doubt isn’t very motivating, so try to push that aside.
Now back to the price question. Guitars can cost anywhere between $50 up to thousands of dollars. You can find decent beginning guitar for $150 – 350. If you go too far below that it is not likely to be very playable for very long. There are exceptions if you can find an experienced player to help you shop. The higher the price does not mean it is a better guitar. I’ve played $300 guitars that played better than $5000 guitars. I’ll explain why in the next section. It is best to go try some out at a guitar store and see what you like. Getting a decent guitar in the beginning is worth it in my opinion. It will play better and that will make learning and practicing easier. After you get a feel for it you can always upgrade to a mid-level guitar ranging from $500 – 800. There are some great guitars in this price range. Depending on what you want to do will determine your path. Some people are perfectly happy to play a cheap “beater” guitar for many years and there is nothing wrong with that. You can also find used guitars for a little less that they would be brand new.
What to look for
When you go to buy a guitar or just test some out, there will be a few things to look for or to look out for. If it is used this will be even more important. Guitars are made of wood and wood can change over time due to humidity, temperature, and improper care. Some stores may not care properly for the guitars and new ones might even be set up poorly.
You will want the strings to be close to the fretboard without making any buzzing sound when fretting properly. Have someone check this for you if possible. If they strings are too far away from the fretboard then it will be super hard to play it. The neck of the guitar is what most often effects the string height, but it could also be the bridge. If the neck is warped or not straight then there will be big problems. Hold the guitar so you are looking down the neck. There should be a very, very slight bend away from the strings.
It is almost unnoticeable. If it is too far away then it will be hard to play it. If it curves toward the strings then there will be buzzing when you play. Minor adjustments by a professional should usually fix this, but that isn’t always the case.
You will also want to make sure the frets are all even across. If the next is twisted then it will look uneven. If some frets are shorter than others it will also cause buzzing. New guitars are not likely to have these problems unless they are very low end guitars.