Tips for buying a first guitar

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Buying tips: choosing your first guitar

Buying a first guitar is an experience youíll always remember. Learning to play is fun at any age, and it could be the beginning of a lifelong passion. Your first guitar should be a comfortable size and weight, and well constructed. While you may not know exactly what youíre looking for, with a little research you can easily find an affordable starter guitar that plays well.

Decide on electric V.S. acoustic

Do you want the first guitar you buy to be electric or acoustic? Perhaps you donít know. Electric guitars look cool and they sound good in the store, but they are significantly more expensive than acoustic guitars because you also have to purchase an amplifier. Unlike acoustic, electric guitars are not hollow so without an amplifier they donít project sound.

An electric guitar may be the best fit if you hope to play rock music, just keep in mind that they have more bells and whistles and all of the nobs and buttons can be confusing for a novice. The advantage of an electric guitar is that the strings are lighter and easier to press down so you wonít have the sore fingers that many students of the acoustic guitar have at first.

An acoustic guitar is a good choice if you want to play classical or folk music. Low action acoustic guitars are easier on the hands than models with heavier strings. Acoustics are more portable than electric, which is important to note if you plan to travel to lessons regularly.

Choosing between new VS used

Your budget will be the primary factor in choosing between a new and used guitar. While you can find a good starter guitar for $200 - $300, used guitars go for much less. The best scenario to buying a used instrument is to either purchase it from someone you know and trust or from a music repair shop that will offer a warranty in case the used instrument breaks within a year.

If youíre considering buying a used guitar, inspect the instrument and accessories thoroughly. If you donít know enough about guitars to spot damage or odd sounds, bring an experienced friend to inspect the instrument. The advantage of buying new is that you get a warranty and new instruments generally last longer.

Beware of cheap guitars both new and used. If the price sounds too good to be true, than odds are the instrument will never sound good. Any musician will tell you that a poorly made instrument is no fun to play. If youíre serious about learning music, keep in mind that youíre more likely to stick with an instrument that you enjoy practicing on.

Try different guitars on for size

Once you have your budget set, go to a guitar store. Ask to test guitars at the high end of your price range and work your way down. Note how each guitar feels when you play it or ask a friend to help you distinguish instruments with the best tone quality. If a guitar feels unnatural, big and awkward or the shape just feels Ďoffí, move on to other models.

Remember that you can always "test drive" different styles of guitars without making a purchase. Once you know what kind of guitar you want to start with, compare prices, value and selection at online music instrument stores, specialty retailers, private sellers and even pawn shops.

You should feel comfortable playing a guitar in both a sitting and standing position. Strum it and listen for unusual pops or buzzing noises that may require tuning. You can ask a sales person to re-tune an instrument if you hear funny noises.

Consider the type of wood a guitar is made of. Plywood is cheap, but it doesnít sound good or last long. Cedar and spruce are quality materials for the body of an acoustic guitar, while the back, sides and neck can come from any solid wood.

Run your hands along the edges of a guitar to ensure the wood meets properly. Hold the guitar out and see that the neck is even, not twisted or warped. If buying an electric guitar, check that the nobs ad switches turn smoothly.

Hold the guitar to make sure the neck width and body are a comfortable fit. Adults should learn on a full-sized guitar while young student may want to learn on a half or 3/4 size guitar.


When youíre ready to purchase your first guitar, ask the sales person for a warranty, new set of strings and a tuner. The strings that come on your guitar are the factory strings, which often lack brightness. New strings give your sound the right tone.

Purchase a case to protect your guitar and make it easy to transport.

Make sure your new guitar has a strap button and treat yourself to a strap. Acoustic guitars are often heavy at the neck so a strap will help you keep the guitar to your shoulder.

Once you have your guitar in hand, celebrate with your first lesson. You can try to teach yourself from a book or online program, hire a teacher or ask a friend for a few tips. Now the fun begins.

First Guitar
Guitar Player World

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