Let’s face it. With Alt77 largely covering styles like punk rock, indie, or metal, clearly, the weapon of choice in producing the kind of sounds that thrill our ears and get us to shake our bones, is the guitar. Now, even experienced guitarists were once callous-free, devoid of encyclopedic knowledge of affordable gear, and in need of asking How to choose a guitar for beginners?
It’s a tricky question for sure, but one that, using our personal experiences and the myriad of internet offers, we are about to attempt to tackle. Here’s your short, all-encompassing guide to buying your first guitar.
Start by asking the right questions
I recently convinced myself that buying beer from a store was simply too expensive when you one can just make his own. Having no prior knowledge of brew-making, I began making an extensive list of all the equipment I would be needing. The list included hundreds of dollars worth of purchases. Thankfully, before actually hitting that buy button, I came clean to myself. I was only going to make beer as an amateur for now and wouldn’t be needing all those fancy accessories.
You may be just as overexcited at the prospect of buying your first guitar. Hey, that’s absolutely natural! Your enthusiasm can serve as fuel. But, first, you have to ask yourself a few simple questions and answer them honestly.
- Do I want to play guitar as a hobby, or do I want to take this more seriously in the future?
- How much am I going to be practicing/playing?
- How much am I willing to spend?
- How likely am I going to be playing guitar in a year’s time?
Being honest will save you a lot of time. Learning a few chords, as a hobby, is a great way to get in touch with your favorite music and learn a new skill. However, you don’t need expensive guitars to do that.
Just the same, if your goal is to play in a band, or write your music, you will reach that objective in due time. However, you may want to consider buying professional-level equipment that you can use over time, as your skill increases.
Common mistakes when buying a guitar for the first time
Remember my overspending on homebrew equipment? Well, a lot of beginner guitarists have similar stories. Some of the most common mistakes when purchasing a guitar originate from over-excitement or from lack of knowledge. Here are a few of the most frequent ones:
- Choosing the wrong guitar type (acoustic, classical, electric)
- Choosing a famous guitar brand over actual quality
- Choosing the wrong guitar size
- Opting for an overly sophisticated model
- Choosing a guitar that’s either too cheap or too expensive
- Choosing a guitar with the wrong gauge size of strings
- Choosing a guitar with the wrong setup or poor accessories
- Buying a guitar based on the seller’s review alone
- Buying equipment you cannot return or exchange
- Buying a guitar that does not feature a warranty
- Not playing the instrument before purchasing it
Buying a guitar based on style you want to learn to play
Now, this may seem like a no-brainer, but choosing the right guitar for the style you want to learn to play, may be an issue that goes deeper than you think.
The more conservative guitar teachers recommend that students start out on an acoustic or classical guitar. Gradually learning styles and techniques can help you become a well-rounded musician.
Naturally, you can’t expect to shred like Yngwie Malmsteen, play riffs like Jimmy Page, or express yourself as fluently on the guitar as blues-maestro Gary Clarke Jr. in your first week of picking up the instrument.
You must find a balance between studying and keeping things fun. Some beginners may opt to buy an electric guitar and learn guitar songs belonging to their favorite artists. This is fine! Contrary to popular belief this will not make you a worse guitarist. While some techniques you would learn on acoustic guitar, may be bypassed at the start, you will still be able to pick them up along the way. And, hey, if your only goal is to learn the intro to Stairway to heaven, then that’s a perfectly reasonable demand.
Start by setting a short-term goal. This will help you keep focus. The first months of learning something new are always the hardest. If you think you’ll want to study guitar for a long time, you may want to opt for an acoustic or classic model. If you want to learn some riffs, or play in a band, treat yourself to an electric model.
Finding a style of guitar that suits your personal style
Ozzy Osbourne’s masterful fret master, Randy Rhoads, was once a guitar teacher. Rhoads focused on offering his students lessons that focused on theory and technique. But, surprisingly, he also advised beginner guitarists to choose an instrument that appeals to them visually.
The reason is simple. If you love how a guitar looks, you are most likely to pick it up and play it more.
And, while the sound of a guitar is not based entirely on its shape or style, it may inform your own way of presenting yourself. Slash is associated with playing a Gibson Les Paul. Joe Satriani nearly always plays an Ibanez. And, Jimi Hendrix will always be depicted as playing a White Fender Stratocaster.
Opting for the right instrument was a choice these guitarists made early on in their careers. Playing often is the best way to learn guitar.
Buying online vs walking into a store
Buying a guitar is more convenient than ever in most parts of the world. While some have war stories involving ordering their desired guitar model in the past, nowadays things can be much more simple.
For one thing, almost all models are available online. The world’s biggest stores, local shops, or second-hand locations are all vying for your online purchase. This is of tremendous help, naturally, and many online businesses offer assistance such as reviews, or the possibility of returning a product.
However, as a rule of thumb, if you are a newbie, you will want to play the instrument before you buy it. At the very least, you will like to check it for faults and see what the guitar feels like in your hands. It is even advisable to ask for the help of an experienced guitarist to accompany you on your journey to the store. There is no such thing as THE best guitar for beginners. An instrument is only as good as the needs it satisfies.
While in 2020 visiting a guitar store is, for the moment, not as convenient as in the past, rely on this as your first option whenever possible.
If this is not an option for you, make your purchase from a site that includes a return policy. There should be no shame in taking as much time you need to buy the right guitar for you.
Guitars based on time you’re likely to spend playing them
Guitars are some of the prettiest objects you are ever likely to have in your house. Statistically, for some newbie students, the guitar will act more as a prop, while for others it will turn into a tool. Neither of the two approaches is intrinsically better than the other.
To get the most out of your experience, start by asking yourself how much time you are likely to spend playing the guitar. This is something we’ve brought up before. Some of the likely scenarios are as follows:
- You want to learn the basics and will play the guitar once in a long while. It’s fine if this is your choice, and may want to prioritize the look of the instrument over the long-term playability. You will need a guitar that is relatively comfortable to play, and that looks good.
- You want to learn the basics but are not convinced you will advance further. Because learning the basics of the guitar is a difficult task, you will need an instrument that can make up for your lack of skill. A well-produced, not overly expensive model will work best. Nothing fancy is needed here unless it is your desire to further invest in your hobby.
- You are likely to practice a lot and want to advance quickly. A mid-range priced guitar maybe your best option. You want it to sound good and offer you versatility. This could be an instrument you own for a long time. It can also be a guitar you will one day change. Because of this, it should have a second-hand sale value.
- You want to join a band or record music as soon as possible. Many guitar players find ways to work around their instruments’ short-comings. However, it makes more sense to buy a great instrument from the start. This could set you back a few bucks, but you will be able to use it in live and studio scenarios. If you don’t treat your guitars like Pete Townshend, and decide you want to sell it later and move on, you should be able to get back a fraction of what you spent on your instrument.
Guitars based on budget. What are some cheap guitars?
As with any hobby that one hopes to eventually turn into something more, the first investments are a delicate process. When choosing your first guitar, it’s not vital that you get the very best instrument that is on the market. Neither should you opt for a model that although cheap, has had quality sacrificed for the purpose of being sold for as little as possible.
Choosing a good, resilient guitar will allow you to play the instrument often and for a long time. Choosing a model that you quickly outgrow will only translate into frustration. The guitar is not such a complex piece of equipment. A starter guitar rarely is. A few general tips can help you in your purchase. However, if a component of the guitar is malfunctioning in any way, this will affect your capacity to learn new things on the instrument and to advance.
Also, when buying a cheap guitar it is important to think of the value that you’re getting for the price. Also, consider whether that guitar model allows you to improve it over time, or to sell it and recuperate some of the losses. Naturally, if the guitar is not a big investment, to begin with, and if it performs well, those can be aspects that should concern you less.
Most guitars can be improved. The majority of the instruments, unless they include some massive misgivings, are worth that investment. Changing the pickups, rewiring the instrument, changing the tuners, etc. are guaranteed to improve the sound of your guitar in leaps and bounds.
Acoustic vs. Electric guitar for beginners?
Choosing between acoustic vs. electric guitar, if you are a beginner student, is a touchy subject. There are various schools of thought on the matter. Personally, after years of experience with playing and teaching, I believe that the choice depends on your objectives.
Generally speaking, learning to play an acoustic guitar, for beginners can be of great aid. This will help a student learn the fundamentals. This can, theoretically, encourage someone to develop into a more well-rounded player. Those who’ve started on acoustic guitars, usually, have a better grasp of finger-picking, and other techniques, normally, associated with acoustic instruments.
However, learning guitar should not be a chore! It should be made fun! And, the best way to ensure that you’re having fun while learning brand new techniques is to interact with your favorite music. Learning complex jazz patterns doesn’t make sense unless you enjoy jazz. Learning metal solos is challenging, but will feel much more rewarding if this is your favorite genre.
Many guitarists have begun by playing an electric model. While some techniques might get overlooked in the beginning in favor of loud riffs and power chords, this doesn’t mean guitarists will not eventually learn them. There are even some who know they want to learn to play bass guitar from the very beginning. Others will be interested exclusively in classical guitar playing.
Furthermore, the majority of guitar players tend to play a single style during their careers. Being able to play with your friends, reinterpret songs you like, or start a band is all highly rewarding things. Although they do require some study time, there’s no point in putting these activities off. If an electric guitar helps you reach your objectives faster, by all means, buy one. The best beginner electric guitar is one where price and appeal are balanced.
To recap: buying an acoustic guitar is, often, accepted as the best option for beginner guitarists. Choosing an electric guitar is mostly for those low on time, wishing to learn specific styles that are performed nearly exclusively on electric guitars. None of the styles of purchase are right or wrong and they may often lead down a similar path.
Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly) tells a funny story regarding his first guitar purchase. According to the Brazilian musician, he saved money for a long time in order to buy an electric guitar. He owned a few albums that he loved but knew little else about the instrument.
Once he purchased the instrument and got home with it, he decided to try and learn the basics. He was astounded that the instrument did not make the same sounds he heard on the albums he owned. It was only later that someone clued him to the fact that he also required an amp, a cable, and some distortion pedals to get that sound.
We’ve all been there. The process seems daunting. You may be considering buying a guitar, but not know how long you will stick with it. You merely want to try this hobby out, but learn that you need all this extra stuff besides the actual guitar.
Here’s good news! In this day and age, there are plenty of solutions to get you playing the style you want without busting the bank. Great equipment often costs a bit of money, but more than decent alternatives are available immediately.
For example, you can travel on several routes when choosing your amp. First of all, a practice amp should be fine when starting to play an electric guitar. You can buy a smaller model. Many quality models are built for a good price. There are also many offers tailored to beginners that sell the guitar along with a small amp and a few other accessories.
You may also choose to play the guitar, in the beginning, through a speaker. There is also the option of a pocket-sized amp, or of the rockplug models that connect directly to your guitar and that mimic classic amp tones.
You may also need a guitar strap. It‘s helpful to learn to play guitar without being restricted to standing on a chair. Numerous fancy models are out there, certainly. However, a fully functional guitar strap that you may be able to use for a long time should not set you back too much.
Even if you start your studies by learning fingerpicking techniques, you will, most likely, one day use a guitar pick. Purchasing a few picks is a good idea, and should not involve too much of a cost. Guitar players are particular about the picks that they use. For a beginner, it may be advisable to choose a thicker pick made from plastic.
Getting the right guitar tone will be one of the greatest challenges that you will face as a guitarist. Every component matters in this regard. Still, none of them make as much of an instant impact as the guitar pedals. It’s tempting to look into buying a whole rack of effects.
However, newbie guitar players active on an electric model can focus, initially, on their clean and harsh tones alone. A reverb pedal and a distortion pedal should be enough. Sometimes, novice players may even be satisfied by the tone they get from their amp alone. Furthermore, there are several electronic alternatives available forthwith, that will mimic guitar pedal tones quite accurately.
The bottom line is that besides the instrument and some kind of amplification, none of these things are vital when buying a beginner guitar. All of them can be bought later on. If you are determined to begin by playing an acoustic guitar, as is often recommended, you’ll likely only need the guitar itself. Easy guitar learning, often starts charting basic priorities.
The idea is to get the things that help you in your development as a musician. While we don’t recommend jumping into large investments, we don’t suggest skimping on the essentials either. You’re the only one that knows how to balance these things for your journey to be a seamless one.
Now that you have a clearer idea of what you want to play and on the guitar, you’re going to buy, you’re all set. Learning any new instrument takes time. But, have fun learning it. Sure, you won’t be able to make the sounds you hear on your favorite records just yet. And, certainly, your fingers are going to ache for a while. But, consider these to be mere learning curves.
Think about getting some guitar lessons for beginners, or to sharpen your knowledge. Even famous guitarists like Dave Mustaine get lessons, once in a while, in order to get their playing up to an optimal point.
Also, consider making time to comb through the myriad of online tools. Yes, now you can learn guitar online. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton may have learned guitar from their favorite records. However, nowadays, almost any technique is explained in great detail through videos or blog posts. There are many communities of online guitar players ready to share some of their tips.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t give up. Remember that your guitar is a tool to help you express your creative vision. It exists in order to help you create the sounds you hear in your imagination. And, best of all, millions of people may be waiting to hear those sounds in order to inspire them across their journeys.