Choosing your first guitar

Buying your first guitar can be a daunting prospect so I have put together some tips and advice to make that purchase easier and also thrown in a few of my favourite beginners guitars.  

Electric or Acoustic, this is the first decision you have to make.

Electric guitars are solid bodied guitars and require some form of amplification to make a noise.  There are many different shapes of electric guitar, some of the most common ones are the “Stratocaster” as used by Jimi Hendrix and the “Les Paul” as used by Slash.  They are used in metal, rock, pop, and blues styles to name a few.  Some famous electric guitarists are, Jimi Hendrix,  Slash, and Steve Vai.


Acoustic guitars come in two main types, nylon strung or steel strung, and have hollow bodies. Nylon strung guitars are used mainly in classical and flamenco music and steel strung guitars are used for popular music styles such as folk, blues, blue grass, and fingerstyle guitar.  Some well known Nylon strung guitarists are John Williams and Julian Bream.  Examples of steel strung guitarists are Joni Mitchell,  Newton Faulkner, and, Tommy Emmanuel.  Most people learning acoustic guitar for fun choose a steel strung guitar.

Have a look at the artists listed above to get an idea of how the various guitars sound.

Acoustic guitars and electric guitars are usually tuned in the same way and the basic skills from one type to another are easily transferable.  An electric guitarist can play acoustic and vice versa.

The action is the distance between the strings and the frets on the neck of the guitar.   This is important when choosing your first guitar.  If the action is too high the guitar will be difficult to play and your fingertips will hurt more than they should.  If the action is too low the strings will buzz.  Either of these problems could really put you off playing.  However if you have purchased a guitar with these issues they are easily rectified.  Music shops should check these things before selling you the guitar.

Choosing an electric guitar

We are lucky today that the quality of entry-level guitars is much higher that when I was a lad.  I would recommend getting a guitar package, these usually come with a guitar, amplifier, lead, picks, and a strap.  Pretty much everything you need to get started.  I would also recommend going to your local music shop to try/view guitars.  If you can play it is important to play your prospective guitar and find out how it feels.  Make sure the guitar is tuned to concert pitch as some music shops have been known to tune down the guitars to make them easier to play.  If you can’t play ask someone in the shop to play the guitar for you so you can see and hear the guitar being played.  Check the action and ask the shop if the guitar has been properly set up.  Ask them to show you how the controls work on the guitar, volume pots, pickup selectors etc.

Some beginner guitars that I recommend are the Fender Squier and Tanglewood electric guitars.  Encore also make a decent starter pack for a slightly lower price.

Choosing an Acoustic guitar

Once again the quality of entry-level acoustic is very high now and the advice is similar to above.  Go to your local music store and have a good look round.  Play the guitar if possible or ask someone to play it for you.  It is really important to hear your acoustic guitar being played as the tone of different styles of acoustic guitars varies greatly.  Check the guitar has been set up to a reasonable standard and is tuned to concert pitch.  It is not as important to buy a pack with an acoustic guitar but you may want to consider getting a tuner, capo and a strap.  Some acoustic guitars come with pickups built-in, these are called electro-acoustic guitars.  If you think you may want to record or amplify your acoustic guitar get one with a pickup installed, it does not add too much to the cost of the guitar.

Some acoustic guitars I recommend are Tanglewood and Crafter.

Take your time choosing your guitar.  You may have it for a long time and getting the right one first time will save time and money.

Once you have purchased your guitar why not come back here and try some of the free lessons on my website.

About smguitars

I am a professional guitarist and RGT guitar teacher. I have been playing guitar for over 30 years and teaching for nearly 20 years. I have built this blog to be a free resource for guitar players of all styles, ages, and abilities with the aim of improving your playing, knowledge, and enjoyment of the guitar. There are many free online lessons with more being added weekly. I also teach privately from my studio in Hunmanby if you are looking for one to one tuition.

Posted on May 28, 2012, in Beginners Lessons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Does your site have a contact page? I’m hqving a tough time locating it but,
    I’d like to shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some suggestion for your blog
    you might bee interested in hearing. Either way, great
    sijte and I look forwqard to seeing it develop ove time.

  2. wow awesome selection of guitars.

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