The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your First Guitar as a Beginner

Published : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
Posted under: Guides

Welcome to the exciting world of guitar playing! If you’re just getting started, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the endless options and choices when it comes to buying your first guitar. From acoustic to electric, classical to jazz, there are so many types of guitars to choose from, and it can be tough to know where to start.

That’s where this beginner’s guide comes in. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or you’ve played a little bit before, we’ve got you covered with all the information you need to make an informed decision when it comes to buying your first guitar. We’ll cover the different types of guitars, what to consider when making a purchase, and tips on finding the best value for your money.

So let’s get started on your guitar-buying journey! Whether you’re a budding rockstar or just looking for a new hobby, we’ve got you covered with all the information you need to make the right choice for you.

Type of Guitars Available

There are many different types of guitars available, each with its own unique characteristics and features. Here is a brief overview of some of the most common types:

Acoustic Guitars

These guitars are made with a hollow body and use a soundboard to amplify the sound of the strings. They can be played unplugged or amplified using a pickup or microphone. Acoustic guitars come in a range of shapes and sizes, including dreadnought, concert, and parlor, and are popular for their versatility and rich, warm sound.

Overall, most people start on an acoustic guitar and later on move to electric if they see the need. The acoustic guitar is probably more versatile overall, especially if you’re aspiring to be a singer as well. It’s a lot easier and more natural to sing along to an acoustic guitar than it is to an electric one.

Eric Clapton playing a Martin acoustic guitar.
Eric Clapton playing a Martin acoustic guitar.

Electric Guitars

These guitars use pickups to amplify the sound of the strings and are played through an amplifier. They typically have a solid body, and therefore they are a bit heavier but also smaller than acoustic guitars. Electric guitars come in many shapes and sizes, including Stratocaster, Les Paul, and Telecaster, and are known for their bright, punchy sound.

In general, electric guitar should be your choice if you can also afford an amp. Also, it really depends on your overall interest – if you’re more into pop and singing, acoustic is a better choice. If you’re purely looking to become a guitarist and practice riffs and solos, buy an electric one.

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits holding a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits holding a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.

Single-Coils vs Humbuckers in Electric Guitars

One thing you should know is that electric guitars come with either single-coil pickups or with humbuckers.

A single-coil guitar pickup is a type of pickup that uses a single coil of wire to produce a signal. Single coil pickups are known for their bright, punchy tone and have a reputation for being more “twangy” than other types of pickups. They are also known for having a more defined and focused sound, with less bass and more presence in the midrange frequencies.

On the other hand, a humbucker is a type of pickup that uses two coils of wire instead of one. These pickups are designed to cancel out the hum and other interference that can sometimes be present in single-coil pickups, hence the name “humbucker.” Humbuckers are known for having a warmer, rounder tone than single coil pickups, with more bass and less emphasis on the higher frequencies. They are also often described as having a more “beefy” or “meaty” sound.

In general, the main difference between single coil and humbucker pickups is the way they are constructed and the types of tones they produce. Single coil pickups are known for their bright, punchy sound, while humbuckers are known for their warm, round tone.

Classical Guitars

Also known as Spanish guitars, these instruments are characterized by their nylon strings and wide, flat neck. They are commonly used to play classical, flamenco, and other styles of music and are known for their smooth, mellow tone.

People who buy classical guitars are most often those who also plan on getting some sort of formal music education. If you attend any sort of music school and opt-in to learn guitar, you’ll most likely start with a classical guitar. However, nowadays school have expanded their options, and they often offer acoustic and electric guitar courses too, but the classical guitar is still considered to be the most “serious” type of the three.

Croatian-born guitar virtuoso Ana Vidovic playing a classical guitar.
Croatian-born guitar virtuoso Ana Vidovic playing a classical guitar.

Archtop Guitars

These guitars have a distinctive arched top and are commonly used to play jazz, blues, and other styles of music. They are known for their warm, mellow tone and are popular for their unique, stylish appearance.

Out of the all types mentioned here, this one is probably the one you should avoid buying if you’re a beginner. These are sort of “niche” guitars that people with very specific tastes prefer, and until you develop that taste on your own, it’s smarter to stick to an acoustic, electric, or classical guitar.

This is an example of an archtop electric guitar. Notice that the body is arched and hollow on this guitar, and the bridge, or the piece that the strings push down on, is just sitting on the body. It’s not glued on. Photo by: Freebird/Flickr

Twelve-String Guitars

These guitars have six pairs of strings, with each pair tuned to the same pitch. So instead of pressing just one string with your finger, on a 12-string, you’re pressing two at a time. These guitars are known for their bright, sparkling sound and are commonly used in folk and rock music.

It’s important to note that almost no professional guitar player uses a twelve-string guitar as his main guitar. The twelve strings are most often used to achieve a specific sound on a song or to play a song that was originally recorded on one – like “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. So, if you’re new, avoid these guitars, but still, be aware that they do exist.

David Gilmour playing his 12-string Martin acoustic guitar - the same one he used to record the song
David Gilmour playing his 12-string Martin acoustic guitar – the same one he used to record the song “Wish You Were Here”

What to Consider When Buying a Guitar

There are many important factors to consider when buying a guitar, and the most important ones will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Here are some general factors to consider:

Size

The size of the guitar is important for both comfort and playability. If you have smaller hands, you might prefer a guitar with a shorter scale length, a narrower neck, and smaller body size. On the other hand, if you have larger hands, you might prefer a guitar with a longer scale length and a larger body size.

When browsing guitars, you’ll learn that something like a Fender Stratocaster (which is an electric guitar), has a much narrower neck than a Gibson Les Paul (also an electric). This is just something that manufacturers opted to do on their model, and people with different needs can choose whatever they prefer. To each their own, as they say.

Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster scale length and nut width comparison.
Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster scale length and nut width comparison.

Budget

Your budget is an important factor to consider when buying a guitar. Determine how much you are willing to spend before you start shopping, and look for options within your price range. Keep in mind that you can often find good deals on used guitars, which can be a good option if you’re on a tight budget.

Being on a budget means that it’s smarter to buy a Squier Stratocaster, than an original Fender Stratocaster. It means that you’ll have to “settle” with buying a copy or a knockoff. But worry not – there are a lot of knockoffs nowadays that have great quality, and are often even endorsed by the original manufacturer.

The difference in price between a Squier Stratocaster, a Fender Stratocaster that has been made in Mexico, and an American-made Fender Stratocaster.
The difference in price between a Squier Stratocaster, a Fender Stratocaster that has been made in Mexico, and an American-made Fender Stratocaster. Source: Reverb.

Style of Music

The style of music you plan to play is an important factor to consider when choosing a guitar. Different types of guitars are better suited for different styles of music, so consider the genre you’ll be playing when deciding which guitar to buy.

For example, if you want to play blues or rock, an electric guitar might be a good choice, while an acoustic guitar might be better for folk or country. Also, if you want to learn classical pieces, and focus on music theory, classical guitar should be your choice.

Quality

The quality of the guitar is also an important factor to consider. Look for a guitar that is well-made and has good craftsmanship, as it will be a better investment in the long run. Pay attention to the materials used in the construction of the guitar, as well as the overall build quality.

Overall, in the guitar world, you mostly get what you pay for – at least up to around $1,500. Above that, you’re paying either just for the brand name, or for extra craftsmanship which is mostly just visual.

Playability

The playability of the guitar is also important. Look for a guitar that is easy to play, with a smooth, comfortable neck and low action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard). If possible, try out several different guitars before making a purchase to get a feel for the playability of each one.

Please note that most guitars can be adjusted to become more playable by a professional guitar luthier. But obviously, you would first have to buy the guitar in order to be able to bring it to a professional, so it’s a little bit tricky to be smart about it.

How to Find the Best Deals on a Guitar

Here are some tips on how to find the best deal on a guitar:

Shop Around

Don’t feel like you have to buy the first guitar you see. Take the time to shop around and compare prices at different music stores, online retailers, and classified websites. This will give you a good idea of what’s available and help you find the best deal.

If you’re based in North America, try to visit smaller guitar shops, and don’t focus strictly on huge retailer chains like Guitar Center or Sweetwater. You’ll often find that the people who work there are very approachable and willing to help with anything, as they are often the actual owners and people who are really into guitars.

Look for Sales or Discounts

Keep an eye out for sales or discounts at music stores and online retailers. These can be a great opportunity to get a good deal on a new guitar.

Consider Buying Used Instruments

Used guitars can often be a good value, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Look for used guitars at music stores, online classified websites, and through private sellers. Keep in mind that used guitars may need some work or maintenance, so be prepared to spend a little extra on repairs or upgrades if necessary.

But overall, buying used guitars is something people do regularly, and it’s pretty safe. Some of the more popular guitar companies are even struggling nowadays because people are simply buying used instruments, and they rarely decide to buy brand-new guitars. In some cases, used guitars (like vintage ones) are even more expensive than brand-new ones.

Negotiate the Price

If you find a guitar you like but the price is a little steep, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Many music stores and private sellers are willing to negotiate on price, especially if you’re willing to pay in cash.

Don’t be Afraid to Haggle

Similar to negotiating, haggling can be a good way to get a better deal on a guitar. If you find a guitar you like but the price is a little high, try offering a lower price and see if the seller is willing to come down.

Recap

Here is a summary of the information I provided in the last couple of answers:

  • There are many different types of guitars available, including acoustic, electric, classical, bass, archtop, and twelve-string guitars. Each type has its own unique characteristics and is suited for different styles of music.
  • When buying a guitar, there are several important factors to consider, including size, budget, style of music, quality, and playability.
  • To find the best deal on a guitar, it’s helpful to shop around, look for sales or discounts, consider used instruments, negotiate the price, and be willing to haggle.

I hope this summary is helpful! If you’re still stuck on deciding which guitar to buy, post a comment below and I’ll try to help out – or email me directly at [email protected]

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