Buying Your First Guitar

Before you can take guitar lessons, you need a guitar. But which one to buy and how much to spend on it? Here are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

It’s going to get thrashed, so don’t buy something expensive

This isn’t about you being irresponsible, it happens to everyone. Your first guitar will show the bruises that come with first relationships. If you move on & up, it’s an instrument you will remember fondly. But no matter how gentle you think you are, dings and scratches and overall wear & tear are going to happen. If you’re afraid to touch it, you probably won’t spend any time playing it.

Set a budget and stick to it

Every salesman in the universe will try to up-sell you. Be firm. By the same token, be aware that you’re going to get what you pay for. A $50 guitar isn’t going to play like a $5,000 guitar, and right now you probably wouldn’t know the difference. Keep reading for more on this.

Quality can be had at a reasonable price

For either electric or acoustic guitars, you should be able to get a good starter instrument for around $200. Be wary of things for less than $100-125 new, they usually will cause you problems that will keep you from improving. For the choice between new or used, it’s likely that you don’t know anything about guitars so I would suggest looking at new ones in general. However there can be some great deals on the net if you are careful, but be sure you know what you are buying. If you’re not sure, find someone to help you with the purchase (I am available to help with this). Avoid pawn shops, they usually know what they have and tend to over-price. Thanks to the net, the days of ignorant sellers are fading away and people are more likely to think what they have is more valuable than it really is, not less.

Decide what you want and stick to that, too

In general, if you want an electric guitar, look at electric guitars. If you want an acoustic, look at acoustics. Think about the kind of music you’d like to play, that will influence what kind of guitar you start with. BUT, this is a creative thing you’re doing and emotions come into play. If you fall in love with the “other” kind of guitar than what you thought you’d want, don’t ignore that. Ask 10 people which is better for a beginner (acoustic or electric), you’ll get 10 answers. Be aware that if you buy an electric, you’ll also need to buy an amp.

Don’t buy it without trying it

Even though you don’t know anything yet, how an instrument feels in your hands is important. If two guitars cost the same and one feels clunky and one feels like a cat snuggling in your arms, buy the cat one. As a newbie, you may want to have someone play the guitar for you so you can hear how it sounds, even if that person is the one selling it to you. Each guitar sounds different and you should pick one that sounds good to your ears. But don’t let their playing make the decision by itself–get the thing in your hands and feel how it sits there.

Remember this is just the first of many

If you decide to pursue guitar seriously, you are going to upgrade your instrument and you may do so many times during your musical career, or like many players you may get GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) and end up collecting multiple instruments. As your skills improve, you will be able to tell the difference between how a $200 guitar plays and how a $20,000 guitar plays. But right now, you probably wouldn’t have a clue. That’s okay, it’s part of learning. The point here is that you don’t need to search for the perfect guitar because you don’t know what that is yet. So get something you like, but don’t let the search get in the way of the music. There’ll be time for that later. When I bought my first high-end guitar, I spent weeks on the search and played over 150 instruments before I picked the one I have, Miguel. You should look forward to trying 10-20.

It’s not just the guitar

You will need a few other things to go with your guitar…

  • Picks – It’s best to have a few around as they can get lost. Try a variety of shapes and thicknesses until you find what feels and sounds best to you.
  • Tuner – You will need to tune your instrument. There are several online tuners like this one, various tuner apps for tablets and smartphones, and all manner of stand-alone tuners. Find what works for you.
  • Strap – This is a personal choice, but it can help keep your guitar in the same position every time you play it, which is helpful.
  • Case – Protect your instrument. Even a gigbag (soft case) is better than nothing. This prevents damage and helps it stay in tune. If you are planning to go to lots of other places with your guitar (jam sessions, church, campouts, etc.) then buy a hard case. You will be amazed at how roughly instruments get handled, even by people who are being careful with them.
  • Amplifier – If you buy an electric guitar, you will need a way to hear it. Amps come in all shapes and sizes from headphone amps that fit in your pocket to stadium-filling multi-column stacks. As a beginner, you probably want something small and easy to use. For the sake of others in your home, be sure to find an amp with a headphone output.
  • Stand – This is optional, but helpful. If you have a place to store your guitar where it won’t get knocked over, get a stand and keep it visible. Seeing your guitar will help you pick it up more often. If the floor won’t work, there are also many options for hanging a guitar on a wall. Besides helping you play more, it makes a great decoration and conversation piece.

If you have more questions or would like to arrange for purchase assistance, contact me.

If you found this item useful, please consider making a donation to support further development.