Do I need to buy a guitar first?
Most people are either reluctant to buy a guitar before they know if they are likely to ‘stick with it’ or reluctant to buy a guitar that could turn out to be unsuitable.
To really make progress on your instrument you will need one to practice on, so the short answer is yes. Some teachers or studios will be able to provide you with a rental guitar that you can use for a fee while you try it out which is helpful.
Some people prefer to choose their teacher first and seek advice on what to buy that way. This is a good method provided that you’ve made a good decision when choosing your teacher. Either way it’s probably best that you take some time to learn a little bit more about guitars yourself first. The information following in this chapter should be helpful.
Should I buy second hand, online or new?
Overall this is the easiest question for me to answer of them all. Brand new guitars suitable for learning are cheaper than they have ever been straight from your local retailer!
I should say that I understand very well that people want to be cautious with their money and are looking for a saving wherever they can find it. But the money you’ll save on a second hand beginner guitar or online purchase of a beginner guitar is negligible. Let’s talk about the reasons why.
1.Do you really know what you’re looking at and what it’s worth?
For most people when they buy their first guitar they know very little about them. To buy a good second hand guitar you’d really have to know what you’re doing. To truly detect every potential problem you’d need to be accompanied by a guitar technician or luthier! Guitars are made mostly from wood which bends, swells, warps and generally tends to be deceptive to the untrained eye. Of course if you have access to great advice, go for it.
2. What’s the risks of buying online?
I’ll say it straight up, I buy some things online too! But, as a general rule of thumb I don’t buy guitars without holding them in my own hands first. Being made of wood guitars, are unpredictable. They can shrink, twist, bow, expand, swell or not even be made of the woods you though they were. I’ve worked with luthiers and spoken to them about the trend of people buying online and some of them love it – they’ve never had so much repair work in their lives! Of course there is balance to this argument, people do buy online all the time and not everyone is dissapointed. In fact some guitars are only available on order in certain areas which leaves us with no choice. All of this highlights one important consideration: if you intend to buy online be sure you will have the appropriate support should the guitar need to be returned (possibly at your own cost) or have a warranty concern.
3. What’s in it for me if I buy from a ‘bricks and mortar’ retailer?
Let’s talk about the obvious choice, going to your local retailer and asking for advice on a guitar that’s right for you. Retailers have never felt pressure like they do in today’s market, with online sales tipped as the new consumer favourite, retailers are reaching deep into their bag of good old fashioned customer service to entice customers back into their stores.
As a result retailers will most likely be able to offer you a broad range of services that you will come to rely upon during your learning. There are a lot of different things to consider when purchasing even for your first guitar. As you might expect guitars come in all shapes and sizes, and making an informed decision will can mean a significantly better learning experience.
I recommend taking the time to get to know your local music retailer. Music retailers are well aware that their business is based on forming lasting relationships with their customers and will usually be willing to spend time with you to make sure you get the right equipment.
The advantages don’t end there. To learn the guitar you’ll need more than just a guitar and a teacher, on occasions you’ll need instrument servicing, accessories, sheet music, street magazines, a social/networking connection, good old fashioned advice and so much more. A good music retailer can be your one stop shop for nearly all of these things.
Although I have affiliation with music retailers am going to give them a big promo right here! Every music retailer I’ve ever met is a musician themselves and absolutely loves seeing people come into their shop to take home their first guitar. Musicians are usually passionate, creative people most of whom like helping people. If you get unlucky, try a different salesperson or retail shop and don’t loose heart.
What guitar should I buy?
Of course the answer will come down to you, it’s your personal choice. But this website isn’t about telling you answers, it’s about giving you the information you need to make an educated decision. Choosing your first guitar is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make with the least amount of experience and information to base it upon! Let’s break the decision down to a few simple criteria that you can build upon:
Does this guitar get me excited?
How does it look, do your eyes light up when you see it, are you drawn to it, does it make you just want to pick it up and play it? Creative inspiration is a big part of learning music, so it’s important that the instrument you choose motivates you!
Does this guitar fit me?
Yes guitars come in different sizes, but they also come in different shapes, and these affect how easy it is to hold, play, as well as just being the right size! Are you comfortable when you hold it? Children are the biggest concern in this area usually needed a specialised size.
Does this guitar fit the way I intend to use it?
If you only want a guitar to play around a camp fire or at a BBQ then an electric guitar isn’t really going to fit your dream. Some guitar shapes are well suited to be being played standing up, but are uncomfortable to sit with. If you anticipate spending more time sitting down practicing before hitting the stage, choose a guitar that balances in your lap comfortably.
Of course you can build on this criteria yourself to further personalise your purchase but these are the key elements that will impact on your learning experience, and the three most common mistakes I’ve seen made.
Electric or Acoustic?
Now that you’ve got your priorities straight you need to learn a few of the basics. First up one of the biggest decisions, do you get an electric or an acoustic? If you’re looking for a quick, cheap, no fuss start to your playing then acoustic is the answer. They come in a great range of prices and sizes that suit everybody. But let’s presume for a moment that you are in the position to go either way and want to make an informed choice.
It’s important to understand that the skills you learn on either type are transferrable for the most part. Of course there are skills which are exclusive to each type but these aren’t likely to be relevant in the opening stages of your learning. So no mater which you choose, you can switch later on without having to go backwards.
Electric guitars have come a long way in recent years, the level of quality that you can buy at an entrance level price point is staggering. You can buy an instrument that will perform very well and will include all the equipment you need from the amplifier to the guitar and everything in-between for a very reasonable price. Maintaining an electric guitar can be more labour intensive as string changes are more frequent, further upgrades are more varied and expensive as well.
Electric guitars are the easiest to physically play. They are very forgiving on all the things that trouble beginners the most. From eight years of age and up you can normally buy a full adult size guitar with no problems, but get your guitar fitted to be sure this is the case for you. Electric guitars are easy to play, the neck and body are thin and easy to grip and control, and when you want to practice it quietly with no one listening, you just leave it unplugged!
Acoustic guitars are the highly accessable, you can grab one off its stand and immediately start bashing out a quick song. Choosing between acoustic and electric can tend to drive the style of your playing in a particular direction but in the early stages this shouldn’t be a concern.
If you do choose an electric guitar keep in mind that each of them have a different specialisation. As a general rule you want something simple to start out on, without too many features to confuse you from learning. I recommend taking the time to talk to a retailer about your likes and dislikes to help you find a guitar that fits your taste.
My conclusion, if you’re an adult and you like rock music, spoil yourself on a decent electric guitar, it’ll be easy to start on and make the sounds you imagined when you said ‘I want to learn guitar’. If you’re shopping for a child, grab and acoustic and see where things lead.
Where to now? Well, get yourself off to the nearest music shop and for goodness sake just be honest with your retailer! Enjoy the experience and find something you love.