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The Beginner Guitarist’s Guide to Making the Right Choice.

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Music > Guitar > Um, So What Should I Be Choosing As My First Guitar?

With eight years of practice, I’ve often had to deal with students’ loss of motivation, simply because of an inappropriate guitar, bought too quickly or often based on an attractive design. They don’t pay an attention to the playability, the fact that it sounds great, or that its features – say its headstock, body and neck – are actually made well.

I’m Kelsey and I’m a guitar teacher.

For some, during the first purchase of a guitar, only the electric guitar matters – because it has style, it plugs into an amp, and makes noise! Acoustics or classical guitars are generally overlooked in favour of the vision of being a cool electric guitar player.

The other problem that people with a new guitar find is that they expect to be a master of their musical instrument straight away. Above all, people often believe that it is easier to play before they actually learn how to play the guitar. Which is not entirely wrong and you will understand why.

How to Avoid Ending Up With an Inappropriate Guitar?

People put a lot of value on their first guitar, so to choose well, some key features have to be kept in mind when buying. You should also be remembering the fact that, although your hands are itching to shred that fretboard, you are a beginner guitarist – and that you first and foremost need an appropriate guitar for beginners.

Of course, you will evolve and progress during your guitar lessons and, at the same time, you will refine the type of sounds you are looking for. Also, you will probably desire to try several different sounds and styles after a few lessons. Maybe you will become interested in fingerpicking, meaning you might find yourself wanting an acoustic or an electro acoustic guitar. You might find that the deeper, groovier noise of the bass guitar sounds great, and so you check out the electric bass. This is to say that you need to follow what you like, acoustically and in terms of the style of music. 

You will then start to acquire other guitars: it’s not uncommon to meet an amateur with several guitars. He will make his choice according to the style tackled.

Pay attention and don’t forget that you are a beginner. Even if it’s interesting to start with an instrument that matches your desires and musical tastes to keep the spirit up during that tough time of learning, the type of sounds coming out of the guitar should not be your first concern. Keep in mind that when you first start learning to play the guitar, you’re not sure to continue… So pay attention to the cost of this first purchase: go for the low end of price, but don’t compromise on quality.

Also, you should have a complete guide to selecting and changing your guitar strings

What are the Different Types of Existing Guitars and Their Features for Beginners?

Guitars hung against the wall. Who is your favourite guitarist? Maybe their instrument choices can help you decide.

There are three main types of guitars, not to mention more specific models like the Dobro for instance.

The first thing that someone who wants to learn how to play the guitar should do is to choose the guitar that suits them best according to its characteristics and sound.

The Classical Guitar

A classical guitar is the usual choice for beginner guitarists or parents. It is perfect for styles like bossa, classical or flamenco – as these nylon string musical instruments were developed with these styles in mind. The body shape, the size of the fingerboard, and the delicate hollow body are all designed specifically for these purposes.

A classical acoustic guitar on a white background The classical guitar is for the purists!

But is not ideal for beginners. The classical guitar, as its name indicates, is initially intended to play classical pieces.

However, it can also appear in other musical currents such as bossa nova, jazz or flamenco, but will be less present in styles like rock, pop, pop rock, or even funk.

The classical guitar has a wider neck than all the others and nylon strings. Of course, nylon strings are softer than the steel strings you find on acoustic guitars, but it does not make it easier to play, quite the contrary! Depending on the material, the price of the guitar strings may vary.

By default, beginners or parents tend to buy this model of guitar because it has the most affordable prices. However, the width of the neck and the more spacing between the strings can quickly hurt beginner guitar players’ fingers.

And the affordable price is a bit misleading: they are marketed for beginners and they are, more often than not, not great quality.  

Of course, you can support your guitar while playing by choosing the right guitar strap so that your arms don’t get overly tired…

If you wish to play bossa nova music, classical or flamenco, the classical guitar is the one you need. But if you are looking more into playing folk, pop or rock music, forget about the classical guitar and head to an acoustic guitar.

It is purely personal and taking into account my eight years of experience in teaching guitar lessons, I advise against a classical guitar to begin with. Unless, of course, you are absolutely committed to the sound produced by these musical instruments.

For others, however, after some time practiced on a guitar more adapted for you, you will refine your tastes and your pursuit for sonority. Therefore, it is not impossible that the classical guitar can correspond with you afterward. For me, I only use it occasionally when I have to record melancholy themes.

Discover how to choose a guitar strap, and check out the straps that Guitar Center has to offer.

The Acoustic Guitar: Great for Beginners because of its Versatility and Thinner Neck

An acoustic guitar on a white background The folk guitar is ideal for beginners.

Unlike the classical guitar, the acoustic guitar has steel strings and a much thinner neck.

This feature makes it a versatile guitar, adapted to play a great diversity of musical styles. It is widely used in pop, rock, blues, jazz, and pretty much every other style you can think of.

It covers a much wider range than the classical guitar. If you want to play popular pieces that you hear everywhere, play with friends, sing together, take it with you wherever you go and if your musical influences are folk, rock, pop, pop rock, variety or blues, this is the guitar you need.

Despite a slightly higher price than its little sister, the classical guitar, the acoustic guitar remains an extremely versatile instrument. It covers a much larger range of music than the classical guitar and is also much easier to play thanks to a thinner neck. It’s also more comfortable and more suited for playing current music. This is the guitar that I recommend you begin taking guitar lessons with.

You’ll find that the acoustic guitar comes in all different shapes – from the dreadnought to the parlor to jumbo and grand auditorium. And you’ll notice in the picture above that some have a cutaway and others don’t. These changes in body style become more important as you become more familiar with the instrument, but just note now that the size of the guitar body – and consequently of the sound hole – affects the sound: some are louder and more resonant, whilst others are more gentle.

If you are starting out, the best acoustic guitar might not be the dreadnought – as these are very large.

The Electric Guitar

More expensive and bulky than the others; less suited for beginners unless you only dream of playing rock.

An electric guitar is a good choice. Choosing your first guitar is hard – but don’t fret too much.

The electric guitar is a guitar without a sound box: it’s the main difference with acoustic guitars. The microphones placed under the strings produce the sound.

The electric guitar became a mythical instrument in the 20th century, thanks to legendary guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and BB King.

The electric guitar strings are quite similar to the acoustic guitar strings (steel strings), although they are generally softer. The electric guitar is used for playing a vast variety of styles, from jazz to hard rock.

The electric guitar’s very thin neck and very low tension of the strings make it one of the easiest guitars to play. Its disadvantage, however, is that it must be connected to an amp so that the volume is correct: this implies additional purchases.

The electric guitar’s price also remains affordable. While it may be easier to play, it is, however, more difficult to move and involves purchasing an amp. It is not the guitar that I recommend to begin with, unless you greatly appreciate its unique style.

Choose the Right Guitar: Buying Options.

Acoustic: Epiphone DR-100A very good acoustic from a well-regarded brand: nice design, good playability, and great sound for the price.
Acoustic: Seagull S6A new brand that makes incredibly good instruments. Pricier than other beginner instruments, but a dream to play - both for amateurs and experts.
Electric: Yamaha Pacifica PAC112VOne of the most respected brands in beginner musical instruments. Classic Stratocaster shape with great price.
Electric: Epiphone Les Paul Special II PackA good option for those looking for a stylish axe but with all of the accessories.
Classical: Cordoba Iberia C5From the best of classical guitar manufacturers, the perfect beginner guitar.
Classical: Yamaha C40A great, reliable instrument from one of the most-loved guitar brands out there.

In Conclusion

The classical guitar

Advantages: Has a very soft sound, ideal for bossa nova, jazz, and flamenco.

Disadvantages: It’s limited in terms of style and difficult to play.

The folk guitar

Advantages: A versatile guitar, adapted to playing almost any style. It has a thin neck that makes it easier and more comfortable to play. Ideal for learning to play the guitar.

Disadvantages: It has steel strings, it’s less flexible than nylon strings and hurts the fingers in the beginning, but that can be overcome quickly.

The electric guitar

Advantages: It has a very thin neck and very weak strings that make it easier to play. It’s suited for all styles (a multitude of sounds).

Disadvantages: It’s less portable than the folk guitar, and you also have to buy an amplifier to go with it.

Now that you have all this information, you just need to decide which guitar you want to play and get started learning on the guitar that best meets your expectations: how to choose the guitar of your dreams thanks to these few recommendations.

Once you’ve found your dream guitar, find a guitar class around you thanks to Superprof.

And for more guitar accessories?

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