Guitar Buying Tips For The Beginner

Today’s post is a guest post from TeachStreet, a website dedicated to providing online and local classes. Feel free to search for local guitar lessons and find a teacher near you.

Choosing a guitar is a serious decision that you should make with care. Guitars are usually expensive and to go shopping for one without proper awareness of what to look for and what expect can lead to a waste of money, not to mention the inconvenience of having to find another one. When choosing a guitar it’s important to be cognizant of these three things:

  • Don’t Skimp On Price, But Price Isn’t Everything.
  • It’s Important to Know the Sound You Want.
  • Asking an expert can be an immense help

Don’t Skimp on Price, But Price Isn’t Everything

When you choose a guitar, you get what you pay for. If you want to become the next Jimi Hendrix but you are only planning to dish out for a fifty dollar/£30 toy–think again. Fifty dollars/£30 won’t give you a good sound, and not having a good sound can be discouraging for a lot of beginners.

A solid starter guitar should cost at least 200 to 300 dollars/£130-£200.  Price, however, is not always an indicator of quality. Before you make a mistake buying that $500/£300 on sale (one day only!) for only $100/£60, realize that this could be a marketing ploy to push you into an impulse buy.  Make notes of the guitar models you’re interested in and look them up on some of the more reputable guitar review sites (like HarmonyCentral or GuitarSite ). Compare price listings on ebay and other online retailers just to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

If you aren’t sure about spending this much money, consider getting a used guitar at a garage sale and start there.  Most of those will probably be acoustics, so if you’re into electrics you can go somewhere like Guitar Center and get a combo pack (amp, electric guitar, cables, strings, strap, case, et al) for a single price.  They aren’t amazing guitars, but they’re awesome for a beginner, and you can usually get something pretty decent for a few hundred bucks.

Although quality is important, when you’re buying your first guitar, don’t break the bank.  A lot of people realize they want something different later (because they want to play a different music style, or it’s uncomfortable to play), or realize that don’t really like it/want to play anymore. If you find yourself enjoying it and plan to continue, you can then start looking around for a better guitar–your “keeper” in other words.

Determine your Sound

The second thing you should think about before buying a guitar is what kind of sound you’re going for.  The sound you want will determine the kind of guitar you should buy. Do you want to rock it out on an electric? Go a little softer with a classic guitar? Perhaps you’re looking for the kind of subtle, soulful sound that an acoustic can provide.

Even if you want an electric guitar, you may be tempted to get the acoustic for starters because it’s cheaper.  Keep in mind, however that an acoustic harder to play than an electric–not to mention that the techniques for playing an acoustic vs. an electric are very different. The difficulty, on top of the fact that you’re not getting the sound you want, can lead many beginners to quit prematurely.

Let a Teacher Help

Buying a guitar isn’t only about price and sound.  There are a lot of technical issues involved as well.  Although a salesman will be happy to help you out with all of these issues, remember that they’re in the business of selling the guitar and may not always be looking our for your best interests.

You may actually want to search the web for guitar lessons first, meet up with a teacher so that he or she can help you through all these issues, and also so you know a little bit about stringing the guitar, tuning it, storing it, and using the “whammy bar”.  A guitar teacher can be an excellent asset in helping you find a good guitar deal and determine your sound as well.  Happy hunting!

Further Reading:

Student-Teacher Q&A:

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One comment

  1. DaveSchappell · October 25, 2010

    Very informative post — I've both explored purchasing beginner guitars, and have actually bought a basic acoustic guitar in the past, so I can attest to the straightforward recommendations.



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