Hi guys, today we're going to look at how to choose a guitar for beginners. If you're currently looking to buy your first guitar but aren't sure which type to purchase, then read on to the bottom for all the info you'll need. Alternatively you could always make your own guitar, but chances are you'd rather buy one. 😉
We'll be looking at whether you should get a electric or acoustic guitar, how to choose a guitar based on playability, and much more. We'll also be looking at how to get started with playing a guitar one you've got yours, so make sure you bookmark this page and refer to it as and when you need.
Before we go any further, please note that this guide is written by Jake McCormick. Jake is a retired guitarist, and writer for Sam Ash, the home of cheap guitar tuners.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
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Electric Guitar Or Acoustic Guitar For Beginners?
Spanish guitars aside (Which is what I started out playing; not ideal), before even considering a guitar brand, you should decide if you want to start with an acoustic or electric guitar. There are pros and cons to both, so make your choice based on your preferred style of music, as well as your “end game” for learning guitar (Starting a band, playing for recreation, etc).
Acoustics have bigger bodies and tend to be harder to handle if you’re not old enough to drive a car. It's because of this, that the younger guitarists of you may want to start off with an electric guitar. It'll require some extra investment in an amplifier, chords, and potentially a distortion pedal. That said, it'll be easier to hold and play, so may be worth it.
If you're older and larger however, once again your decision will depend on your ‘end game' and what kind of music you want to make, as both guitars make different sounds.
Personally, the Spanish acoustic guitar’s inherent pudginess actually made it easier for me to transition to both electric guitar and more traditional acoustic. There's no reason you can't eventually play both, so once you've mastered one, you can learn the other if you so desire.
Playability – Picking A Easy To Play Guitar
Once you have your guitar type picked out, you can move on to trying on different brands, sizes, styles, etc. As a beginner, your budget will most likely be quite low (If not, lucky you). With that in mind, there are two really important things to consider when shopping for a budget-friendly beginners guitar kit:
- Tuning, and
- High / low action.
Cheap starter guitars can be very hard to tune, and just as hard to keep in a consistent tune.
“High / low action” refers to the distance between the strings and fretboard. I suggest you go for a guitar that has low action, as the last thing you want to do is prematurely exhaust your fingers with strings that are set high above the frets. You can always choose a guitar pick that'll help minimize the finger strain.
Guitars I Recommend For Beginners
Before you learn how to play guitar via online lessons (an ideal way for most) you actually need to pick your first guitar. There are so many different guitar kits to pick from when you're starting out, it can easily take you as much time researching packages as it will learning your first chord. However, in the interest of saving you time better allocated to strumming and / or thrashing about, I recommend:
- Any of the Squier or Ibanez starter packages for electric beginners, or
- The Epiphone PR4E acoustic-electric kit for beginning acoustic guitarists.
The latter suggestion gives you the best of both worlds.
Learn About Your Guitar
Now that you’ve got the most important step out of the way, it’s time to build a foundation of understanding on how to play the guitar (You may also want to check our guide on how to play ukulele as it has some relevant tips you can also use to improve your guitar playing). So, here are the first steps you need to take when learning to play guitar:
Familiarize yourself with the guitar’s anatomy (frets, tuners, head, body, bridge, etc.), as well as the base tuning structure. From thinnest to fattest string (bottom to top), standard tuning goes as follows: e, B, G, D, A, E. If your starter pack didn’t come with a tuner, you can usually find a quality tuner for very cheap online. You can also search for each string’s proper tuning on YouTube, but that’s a very inexact science that relies on your own ear’s ability to recognize proper tuning. Don’t worry; that takes everyone some time to master.
With your guitar in tune and pick in hand (or just your fingers, if you’re a prospective finger picker), it’s time to shred. But how do you know what to play first, or where to find useful guides for songs, chords, or scale exercises? Luckily, you’re already looking at the world’s largest hub for guitar lessons!
At this point, lessons are in the eye of the guitar-holder (Get it? Editor: I do 🙂 ). Some options include lesson and songbooks (Available on Amazon or many local music stores), instructional DVDs, or the most popular route, guitar tablature. The latter technique is simply sheet music, except the fret and string positions replace traditional notes.
The first song I ever learned was Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) by Green Day, which consisted of me printing off the song’s tablature from a website and just playing the root chords over and over until I understood the progression. Most guitar tabs for popular songs can be found by searching the web.
Additional Tips For Beginner Guitarists
Ok, so here are my final tips on playing guitar when starting out:
Take it slow, and be patient.
Those are the golden rules of learning guitar. Everything else is relative to your personal goals as a guitarist. Even Jimi Hendrix had to start by learning how to coordinate his fingers on the fretboard with his strumming / picking at the bridge. It can be frustrating at times, but the more you practice, the easier it gets.
Hopefully this was a helpful primer for your venture into the exciting, customizable world of guitarists. Happy playing!
About The Author
Jake McCormick is a retired guitarist. Well, retired is a relative term; he just doesn’t play in bands anymore, but still dedicates a lot of time to learning songs, offering advice, and of course, listening to music. You can find out more about the above mentioned Epiphone PR4E acoustic-electric kit for beginners here.