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How to Choose Your First Guitar

Jul 9, 2008
When you are choosing your first guitar, it can be an exciting, heady time. But you want to "keep your head", for choosing your first guitar seems very easy, since it's probably the most popular instrument in the Western world and there are very affordable models to be found all over the place; but this is something to be done with great care.

One mistake you absolutely do not want to make as a beginner guitar player is to get a "beginner guitar". These acoustic guitars exist and they are designed to be a little smaller than a standard acoustic guitar on the theory that this makes them easier to handle (especially for the very young). But they aren't worth the price you pay--they're cheap in price because cheap is precisely what they are in quality. Their action is quite high (making them harder to fret--a very bad thing for a beginner), their sound is dull, and worst of all they very, very easily go out of tune.

Spend the money on a quality inexpensive acoustic guitar (do not spend less than $250 new, and do not get your first guitar from a pawn shop or an auction unless you are with an experienced player). And, yes, another common beginner mistake when buying one's first guitar is the beginner is convinced that he wants to play electric guitar and thus should go out looking for one of those and an amp, cords, foot pedals...But this doesn't matter and it's not what you want for a first guitar, regardless of what you think you want to play (and you're likely to change your mind at least somewhat as you gain experience).

ALWAYS begin on an acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitar practicing is significantly more difficult than electric guitar practice because the acoustic is much more demanding on the player's hand strength and technique, and any needs for improvement here cannot be disguised by a loud amp, distortion, or the extremely easy action of the electric. Even if you do want to play the electric guitar, anyone who can play good acoustic guitar can quickly and easily come to sound like a wizard on electric.

If your heart is really set on an electric guitar as a beginner, you can buy an acoustic-electric guitar, simply an acoustic that comes with amplification technology within its body. Keep in mind that you'll need an amplifier (just a 25 to 50 watt amp) and a cord to use its "electric" mode.

If you have relatively small hands or you would feel more comfortable with a smaller instrument at least at first, you can buy a travel guitar for your first guitar. Travel guitars are designed, as their name implies, for people who are on the road a lot but don't have a tour bus in which to store their instruments. They're a little smaller and lighter and some of them can be taken apart and easily re-assembled.

Ideally, you should start off learning fingerstyle guitar or (even better) classical guitar. If the latter, you'll need to buy a nylon-string acoustic guitar. This has a smaller body but a wider neck than the standard acoustic (usually called a "steel string").

Top names to look for in first guitars are: Martin; Fender; Carvin; Guild; Washburn; and Takamine.
About the Author
Instrument Junction specializes in Acoustic Guitars, Acoustic Electric Guitars and Amplifiers.
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