How to Choose Your First Guitar
If you’re trying to choose your first guitar, it’s understandable that you might be having a difficult time choosing. There are many different brands, designs, features, and even accessories to choose from! In fact, the insane number of choices might make you want to hold off on purchasing your guitar until you lose interest altogether.
It’s important to choose your first guitar correctly because it will often help you develop your skills and increase your passion in playing the instrument. This is why I’ve decided to write this easy guide on how to help you choose your first guitar properly.
Next, Figure out your Budget
After choosing the type of guitar that you want to play, the next thing that you should consider is what budget you have to spend. Guitar prices can vary widely when it comes to prices, and you’ll be able to see guitars that are affordable (under $100) all the way up to hundreds of thousands of dollars!
Generally, I categorize guitar prices into four categories.
- Budget/Amateur – these guitars range from around $80 – $300.
- Hobbyist – Guitars that range from around $300- $800
- Professional – Used by professional musicians, ranges from $800 – $2000
- Collector’s Items – Limited edition guitars that are priced at more than $2000
Of course, the higher-quality guitars will be more expensive. However, for beginners, you should focus more on budget and hobbyist guitars.
- Classic Guitars
For classic guitars, the best quality comes from either Yamaha or Cordoba. They have a wide selection of amateur and hobbyist guitars, and these guitars produce crisp notes and have well-made bodies. These brands are known to make good-quality guitars that are strong, durable, and look great.
- Acoustic Guitars
For acoustic guitars in the amateur/budget price range, my personal favorite maker is Cort Guitars. Their amateur acoustic guitars are affordable, reliable, and produce clear and crisp notes. The strings are also well-made and durable, and you’ll be able to use Cort guitars for years. In fact, my first acoustic guitar was a Cort! Other brands that make good-quality budget acoustic guitars are Epiphone and Ibanez.
If you want to get a hobbyist acoustic guitar, on the other hand, you’ll have a wider range of brands to choose from such as Fender, Yamaha, and Blueridge. However, my personal pick is Taylor. This company has been producing high-quality acoustic guitar for years and its Taylor 114ce 100 series is a gorgeous mix of professional-sounding, great style, and affordable price. I got mine at around $500 and I consider it a steal!
- Electric Guitars
You might want to jump straight to playing electric guitars for your type of music, and that’s totally fine. Personally, I prefer going straight to buying guitars in the hobbyist price range for electric guitars because they produce a fuller and deeper sound compared to amateur guitars.
For hobbyist electric guitars, I recommend Ibanez, Gibson, or Epiphone. My first hobbyist electric guitar is an Ibanez RG450DX and I would compare it to a fine wine: it only got better with age! I have been using this particular guitar for almost 14 years now, and it still produces a beautiful sound and its classic look will never go out of style.
What about Second-hand guitars?
If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or family member who will give or lend you their second-hand guitar that’s in good shape, I’d say go for it! Second-hand guitars are great to use because the strings have already been “stretched” out so you won’t have to worry about having to tune your guitar over and over again.
Of course, you can also look for second-hand guitars for sale as long as you inspect it thoroughly for flaws before purchasing it. If you do go the second-hand route, it’s best to bring along someone who knows how to look at guitars so that they can look over the quality before you buy the guitar.
Check out Different Styles
As I mentioned above, different guitars will sound better for different music genres. Thus, you need to know what kind of music you’ll be playing regularly before picking a guitar. If you’re having trouble picking a guitar style, observe the guitars used by your favorite musicians to get an idea.
Let’s take some famous guitarists. Eric Clapton was known for favoring the Gibson SG, Jimi Hendrix used a Fender Stratocaster, John Lennon used an Epiphone Riviera, and Willie Nelson has been using a Martin N-20 for over 40 years! Notice that these musicians are known for different genres of music, thus they use different types of guitars.
Eventually, you can also look at the appearance of the guitar and add it as a factor in making a decision as to which guitar you want to purchase. Lonnie Mack, for example, loved the Gibson Flying V series because of their unique and iconic appearance of looking like an arrowhead. Eddie van Halen, on the other hand, is known for using his signature “Frakenstrat”: a guitar that looked like a Fender but sounded like a Gibson. He also had it custom painted with a Jackson Pollock-esque design that featured a red body with black and white criss crossing stripes.
Inspect Potential Guitars Personally
One of the best things about buying a new guitar is being able to inspect the guitar personally. Luckily, most guitar shops have display models that allow you to hold the guitar in your hands and get a feel for the instrument.
Does it feel comfortable in your hands and against your body? Some people like to play large guitars, while others find that using smaller guitars is more comfortable. You should also consider the weight of the guitar, especially if you’re going to play standing up or moving around.
Another thing that you should consider is the length and width of the neck. Are you able to move your hands up and down the neck of the guitar without issues, or do you feel awkward and lanky while playing it? Can your hand comfortably wrap around the width of the neck, or are you having trouble properly placing your fingers on the strings?
Of course, the appearance of the guitar won’t make any difference if it doesn’t sound good! Try strumming the strings or playing a few chords so that you have an idea of how the guitar sounds. If you don’t know how to play chords yet, you can ask the shop assistants to play the guitar for you.
Look for Damage
If you’re purchasing a guitar from a stockroom, you should take the time to inspect the guitar before buying it. Guitars can easily become cracked, scratched, or damaged while in transit or in storage. Sometimes, the damage isn’t even noticeable with the naked eye and can only be heard when playing, so it’s a good idea to bring someone knowledgeable to listen to the sounds being produced by the guitar.
For classic and acoustic guitars with wooden bodies, you should also be wary of moisture damage. In storage, humidity and moisture can affect the wood and cause it to warp, bloat, or crack.
Ask for a Warranty
If you’re buying from a big-name brand such as Yamaha, Gibson, or Ibanez, you can ask if the store offers a warranty for your guitar. Some stores offer a limited warranty for their instruments so that you can get it repaired or replaced if it is damaged.