One of the most confusing parts of starting out with the guitar is trying to figure out what gear you should buy. The questions can seem endless: Should I get an acoustic or an electric guitar? What exactly should I be looking for? How can I get something adequate, without spending too much? Should I decide based on the price alone, or something else? What accessories will I need? Where should I buy this stuff? In this article, I’ll try my best to answer those questions for you and help you find the perfect guitar for this stage of your musical journey.
QUESTION #1 – What should I look for in my first guitar?
The 2 biggest things to look for in a starter guitar are:
A) Make sure it stays in tune
Many cheap guitars don’t, and that makes it close to impossible to learn correctly. Nothing you play sounds good if your guitar doesn’t stay in tune, so it’s worth paying a little bit more for a better quality guitar that does.
B) Make sure it’s easy to play
The cheapest guitars out there can be difficult to play, especially for beginners. You want the strings to be pretty low (close to the fingerboard) so you don’t have to press down too hard to make sounds. If it’s too hard to physically play your guitar, it’ll be more difficult to stay motivated and pick it up to practice often.
Other than that, just decide whether you ultimately want to play electric or acoustic guitar, and find something in your price-range that looks cool to you. The most important things to look for in a guitar to help you learn the best when starting out are tune-ability and play-ability…everything else is secondary. If the tone of the guitar isn’t the best, you can always modify it or sell it later on and upgrade to something nicer.
QUESTION #2 – Should I buy an electric or acoustic guitar?
This is a great question. The answer really depends on what kind of music you like and what kind of music you intend to play. You’ll probably eventually want to own both an acoustic and an electric guitar, but you usually need to choose one or the other when you’re just starting out.
My advice is to ask yourself the following two questions:
A) Who is my favorite guitar player?
B) What kind of guitar does he/she play?
Here are two examples of how you can use the answers to these questions to decide what guitar to purchase…
If your favorite guitar player is Slash (Guns & Roses, Velvet Revolver, etc), he plays a Gibson Les Paul…which is an electric guitar. You will probably want to eventually play music similar to Slash’s, so you should also get an electric guitar…and probably some version of a Les Paul. You will also need a decent sounding guitar amp, preferably a Marshall of some kind.
Likewise, if your favorite guitar player is Dave Matthews, he usually plays Taylor acoustic guitars. You’ll probably gravitate towards Dave’s playing style, so you should choose an acoustic guitar, too.
QUESTION #3 – What accessories will I need with the guitar?
This depends on what style of music you’ll be playing, but here’s a short list of some general accessories pretty much every guitar player will need, along with my recommendations. Click the links to get more info, see photos and buy them online.
Acoustic Guitar Accessories
Guitar Picks (I recommend Dunlop Yellow Tortex picks for new acoustic players)
Guitar Humidifier (helps keep your guitar from drying out and cracking…the Planet Waves sound hole humidifier is affordable and works well)
Electric Guitar Accessories
Guitar Picks (Dunlop Jazz III picks are small and stiff; great for lead guitar picking control…available in red and black)
Instrument Cable (These Whirlwind 20 foot instrument cables are affordable and work well)
Accessories for Both
Strap (These Dunlop black nylon guitar straps are great for the price)
Electronic Tuner (Snark SN-1 Clip-On Tuner)
Digital Metronome (The Planet Waves PW-MT-01 is good…you could also install a metronome app on your smart phone, instead)
Capo (I like the Kyser Quick Change capos)
Music Stand (The Musician’s Gear black folding stand is solid)
QUESTION #4 – Where should I buy this stuff?
You can go down to a local music store and get all these things if you want to, but I prefer shopping online. Amazon.com is a great place to get most of this stuff. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them, and they stock everything listed in this article. They have great prices, a huge selection, free 2-day shipping (for Amazon prime members) and they make buying music equipment as easy as it can possibly be.
My Personal Guitar and Amp Recommendations
Here’s the fun part. As a guitar teacher, I get the privilege of helping people find the right gear for the right price all the time. These are the items I recommend to my own students when they ask me what guitar they should buy.
The key to getting the right guitar without spending too much money is to decide what your price range is in advance. In general, you can go with a Low ($399 or less), Mid-Range ($399 – $999) or Professional ($999 and up) price range. The higher you go, the better the quality. Again, you get what you pay for…so don’t automatically go for the lowest-priced option (it will work, but you’ll have more fun with the more expensive options). To make it easy, I’ll list my specific recommendations for you in all three price ranges.
I’ll also break it down by Acoustic and Electric guitar, and by my recommendations for adults (full-size guitars) and kids (smaller-scale guitars). Just click the links below to get more information about each one:
Acoustic Guitar – Adults
Acoustic Guitar – Kids
Beginner’s Acoustic Guitar – Yamaha CGS103A Nylon-String (small and easy on the fingers)
Electric Guitar – Adults
Electric Guitar Amp – Adults
Electric Guitar – Kids
Electric Guitar/Amp Combo – Squier Stratocaster Starter Pack
P.S. – Now that you know what guitar gear is right for you, are you ready to learn how to really use it? I still have a VERY limited number of lesson openings available…hit me up to schedule a free introductory session to find out more!