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How to Find the Best Guitar for a Beginner

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

With all of the options provided by streamlined manufacturing processes, online marketing, and overseas competition, figuring out the best guitar for a beginner tends to be a daunting process. Like so many things, the important thing is just sticking with the decision to do it! This article will address the most important elements to consider to avoid making the right choice: guitar type, price, and size. Also discussed are details to look for when you finally do find that first guitar. 

 

TYPE-The first point-possibly the most important- is the type of guitar. In order to properly select which type fits you, consider where you want to go with your musical pursuits. Though there are many variations of each, here are the most popular (and thus, most readily available to consumers.)

-Acoustic guitar (aka, box guitar, steel string). There are several body styles available; but far and away the most popular is called the "dreadnaught" body. This is known for its big, full sound. The biggest factor in sound is the wood or woods from which the guitar is made. Frequently, a pickup will be installed on this type, allowing it to be plugged into an amp or sound system, in which case, it is usually referred to as an acoustic/electric guitar. As with all the guitars mentioned in this article, you don't have to look far to find this type incorporated into music.  

-Electric guitar (aka, solid body guitar). There are many, many body styles of this popular guitar. In the interest of keeping this article fairly simple, just understand that the greatest determining factor of sound are the pickups (or electronics). Bear in mind also, in order to play an electric guitar with any practical volume, you will also need an amplifier, and a 1/4 inch instrument cable to connect the guitar to the amp. 

-Classical guitar (aka, Spanish guitar, nylon string guitar). Very similar to the acoustic guitar, this type is outfitted with nylon strings instead of phosphor bronze, giving it a very smooth, mellow sound. The classical guitar's sound is also determined by the wood used in building it, but has a slighty smaller body than the dreadnought, which results in a sonically different voicing.

-Bass guitar (pronounced: "base" guitar). This special type of guitar usually plays a supporting, but integral role in a band setting. It usually will have either 4 or 5 strings (although 6 string is not uncommon). In many cases, this instrument "bridges the gap" between the rhythm (drums) and the melodic instruments (guitars, keyboards, etc). Since it is built to access very low notes that fall below the range of the guitar, it is physically longer, and is outfitted with much thicker strings. 

Again, consider what your musical ambitions are. For example, if you're interested in playing country (or blues, or folk, etc) songs out on your front porch in the evenings, your best bet is an acoustic guitar. On the other hand, if you're interested in starting a punk rock band, you may find a use for an acoustic guitar at some point, but primarily, you'd  be better off with an electric guitar. Although it's not fair to limit each type to one musical genre or another, keep in mind that some guitar types are more easily applied to others.

 

PRICE- Second, consider how much your initial investment can be. One of the great things about the 21st century is the availability of quality musical instruments for a fraction of their cost 30, 20, and even 10 years ago. You will likely come across guitars selling for several thousands of dollars, but rest assured, those are not generally considered "entry level".  Notable mentions in the

Acoustic guitars: Walden (emphasis added) Natura series, Fender CD-60

Electric guitars: Squier, Epiphone, and ESP/ltd currently offer "starter packs" which include all the necessary peripherals for getting started. This applies also to bass guitars. 

Classical guitars: La Patrie "Etude", Walden Natura series, Fender

 

AGE- If you're considering purchasing for a child, every type of guitar mentioned is available in 3/4 size, and many in 1/2 size. Although these guitars can frequently be purchased for as low as $100 new (ie, Squier "Mini" Stratocaster), they are intended to be outgrown. Generally, players should be grown into a full sized guitar by age 13. As with all generalizations, there are exceptions; and as with many things in the musical instrument industry, much of it hinges on the player's preference. Many petite adult women, for example find that a "parlor sized" acoustic guitar is  ideal, given its smaller size and shallower body.

 

Once these concerns are addressed, there are some things to look for when you have selected a guitar. These are common flaws which you may ask your salesperson about, if you're buying from a retail store, and you should ABSOLUTELY ask about if you are buying a used guitar from a pawn shop or consignment shop. If ordering online, you may take the guitar to a local guitar shop for examination once you receive your instrument.

-Warped neck (all guitars)

-Cracked, checked, scratched finish (many scratches can be buffed out, don't be alarmed if there are a few!) 

-Sharp frets

-Splits in the body or neck

-Faulty electronics (Even in new electric guitars, this sometimes happens. Very often, the components can simply be cleaned.)

Keep these things in mind as you rule out what the best guitar option is.  Many opinions exist that this or that guitar is better than this or that other guitar, and although sometimes that may be true, it's important to remember that a tremendous part, especially as a beginner, is actually playing the instrument! 

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Comments

May 10, 2012 9:37pm
Introspective
This comment has been deleted.
May 10, 2012 9:38pm
Introspective
This is excellent information for anyone thinking of purchasing a guitar. My husband and I bought an acoustic guitar for our oldest daughter when she was about 15, it's been a few years and she still enjoys playing it. Very good article!
May 11, 2012 3:22am
whitleyd84
This comment has been deleted.
May 11, 2012 3:22am
whitleyd84
Thanks Introspective, I appreciate that. Hopefully she'll keep at it. It definitely helped me pay for college. Well, at least a little bit of it.
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