This all-inclusive guide is all about how to buy a guitar for beginners. If you've been confused, lost, and disoriented from the MANY options available to you whether it's from the internet OR from a local guitar shop, then this guide is what you need. I wrote this guide exclusively for people like you based on my own research, knowledge, and experience playing not only guitars but also other stringed, similar instruments.
I know guitars, I understand musical instruments and how they work, and I know exactly what you need for your first guitar as a beginner.
If you've ever been stuck choosing your own guitar, then the next information are going to be very relevant to you.
Read on …
1. What Type of Guitar to Choose?
There are basically only two types of guitars (Three if you consider the classical guitar different from the acoustic guitar): The acoustic guitar, and the electric guitar.
So which one you should pick to kickstart your guitar playing?
Short answer is: Whatever you like.
That being said, the vast majority of guitar players and guitar teachers actually recommend starting with the acoustic guitar (From now on when I say acoustic guitar, by that I include also the nylon strings classical/flamenco guitar) and over time after you develop enough physical flexibility, agility, and stamina with both of your hands and fingers, as well as finger calluses, you can then switch to the electric guitar – If you choose to of course.
So if you don't care about the electric guitar, then just get an acoustic guitar and stick with it as long as you want to.
If you aim to learn the electric guitar, then you can start with that option as well, but be aware that it's not the most recommended route to go by when just starting out.
The reasons behind this lie on the differences between both type of guitars. Basically, the acoustic guitar have a wider neck and the strings are more spaced out, which make for a perfect physical exercise for both the right and left hand because you'd need to train to stretch your fingers more to reach for the right notes, and you could much more easily pluck the strings with your fingers for the fingerstyle type of picking. Whereas with the electric guitar you have the exact opposite.
Plus if you choose to go with the classical nylon strings guitar, this type of strings is known to be more friendly on the fingertips and you could develop calluses faster, and easier.
To learn more about the difference between all the guitar types, you can check our other guide on what guitar to pick – Classical vs acoustic vs electric.
2. Size of the Guitar
Size actually does matter.
Try to aim for a slim body guitar. The larger guitars (Like Dreadnaughts) tend to be:
- More intimidating
- A bit more difficult to play on since the neck comes wider also
- And that translates to a bigger spacing between the strings, which means more movement for your picking/strumming hand = More stamina and flexibility are required from the player, which a beginner still hasn't developed yet.
BUT, nevertheless, I've seen beginners managing themselves quite well with larger guitars after a small period of adapting, and they couldn't be more happy with it since it does project a louder sound and resonates better.
Classical guitars usually come in small sizes, while acoustic guitars have a wider range of sizes. So more careful when going for an acoustic guitar at the beginning.
3. Brand Awareness
There are a few well-known guitar brands that are very popular among beginners mostly because they provide decent guitars with a very convenient pricing, and I want you to know about them.
- Yamaha – A great, great musical instruments maker. Their classical and acoustic guitars are among the best in the world and their beginner acoustic guitars are number 1 top selling in the world. Check our list of recommended beginner guitars, you'll see the first one in the list a Yamaha FG800, which is the direct successor of the number 1 best-selling beginner acoustic guitar in the world.
- Cordoba – An excellent nylon strings classical guitar manufacturer and designer. Their classical guitars are known for their affordability, clean and warm sound, especially the Iberia series which includes all hand-made guitars only (Check the list we mentioned above).
- Seagull – Not many to pick from, but the Seagull S6 is a tremendous low-mid range guitar and is recommended by manny.
- Cort – They have good beginner acoustic-electric guitars with decent tone amplification hardware.
- Epiphone – They have one of the best selling beginner electric guitars in the world.
- Ibanez – Also a popular choice for beginners for electric guitars.
- Warmoth – Is a company that produces custom guitars and custom guitar parts. Good reputation, and you can have them assemble a decent guitar for you for cheap.
- Schecter – Popular between the heavy metal guitarists and they have a few excellent mid range guitars.
As much as it might be tempting for you, but I'd stay away from the elite brands like the Fender and Gibson since their prices are too high even for those looking to upgrade their instrument. The above brands provide some very decent instruments for an excellent price.
4. The Profile of the Neck
This simply means how the neck is shaped. You have “V” shape necks, “D” shape necks, “C” shape necks, and even “Soft V” shape necks.
It's said that the “V” shaped necks tend to be more comfortable for strumming open chords, which are the basic chords that every beginner learns first.
But I wouldn't pay much attention to this feature, its effect is less significant on the player and overall this is totally a personal preference matter, some players prefer the “V” neck profiles, some others prefer the “C”, regardless of the skill level and playing style.
In conclusion, choose whatever you feel comfortable holding and playing with the most, and if you're buying online, I wouldn't worry much about it since you'll get used to any neck profile over time.
Check the illustration below for some of the most popular neck profiles around:
5. The Material of the Guitar
The material composing the guitar – The wood type – be it from the inside or the outside, on the top, at the bottom or the side parts, ALL influence and affect the way your guitar sounds, performs and lasts.
FOR BEGINNERS – This should be irrelevant information because a typical beginner guitarist would care LESS about the tonality and sound quality of the first guitar, and rather focus more on comfort, size, and even looks.
This topic is a very big topic and I cannot talk about and discuss all the materials used in making all the different types of guitars, but if you're insisting on getting that kind of knowledge, I might write a series of articles on the subject in the future, and if you're interested to get notified about when these articles are finished, just subscribe to our newsletter.
For now, all I can tell you is that there are a few books that talk about guitars in general, how they are made, how the parts are picked and chosen, etc.
One of these books is called: The Guitar Handbook by Ralph Denyer. Check it out in Amazon.
Some of the typical material used to build the body parts of most guitars are: Cedar, Spruce, and Mahogany. Just an FYI.
6. What Your Budget Should Be?
Now unless you are someone loaded with an awful lot of money, proper budgeting will always be the key factor before you are buying a guitar for yourself.
As a beginner who just wants something to strum on in the bedroom or at some beach, you should at least spend a minimum of $120-150 for a well-made, appropriate looking guitar.
A crafty salesman will persuade you that he has got “exactly what you’re looking for, and you should not worry about a couple of bucks”, you need to make a smart decision at that time and stick to your budget.
Let me refer you again to the article with the list of recommended guitars mentioned above. They all have good pricing and good quality.
At least take notice of the guitar brands and names, and learn more about them. These are top guitar brands and they've been around for decades. They know their craft.
Getting a very cheap guitar, on the other hand, will not do good either for you or your listeners. Guitars that are cheaper than 50$ tend to have very poor sound quality, go out of tuning relatively quickly, would feel like a toy in your hands, and you simply won't enjoy playing on it as much as a guitar in the 150$-300$ range. So why take a chance here? It's your passion, your own instrument, don't be very cheap on yourself, it's understandable that budget is important but for the love of music have a minimum limit of 120-150$ budget unless you want to buy a toy.
7. Ask and Research
Another thing you can do is, talk to someone who knows about such stuff or has played guitar, take them with you on your first purchase. It can be a friend, sibling, elder or someone you trust in decision making. They will guide what guitar brands are good and what should be avoided. Remember, “experience is better than instinct.”
Always remember, what others find appealing may not be right for you every time. Sometimes you’ve got to trust your instincts.
Don’t follow the hype and this is a very foolish mantra to follow, that “the bigger it is, the better it will be”. All you need is something that fits your posture, looks elegant, gives clean sound and makes an impression.
All in all, pick a guitar and give it a nice strum, then pick another and repeat the process, hold them the correct way and see which seems more comfortable to you and fits better in your hands.
8. Don't Buy Damaged Goods!
It’s your very first guitar and you’re probably gonna be so excited that you might forget that you should at least give a close look to what kind of guitar you’re about to buy, and it’s a common mistake that all beginner guitar players make.
Look for scratches, damage, molds and cracks before you make a purchase because once you have bought it and then noticed the imperfection, you won’t be able to justify that it was never done by you.
Check the frets, check the neck and the keys and strings, play it as long as you are not completely satisfied. It’s your money, better not spend it bluntly.
Now most people don’t care much about this very small part of guitar playing, but ask a professional and they’ll tell you how important it is. As a beginner guitar player, it should be slim and flexible. Always check the width written on it.
Ask the person in charge if you are in a local store, or if you are buying from Amazon you can search for a pick that suits exactly the type of guitar that you have (classical, acoustic, electric etc.)
9. The Setup
As a beginner or even as a pro, no matter what guitar you pick, you should be at ease playing it. If the size doesn’t suit you for e.g. the fretboard is too far, the action is higher than your usual and other issues as such will result in your fingers paying the price.
Go for low, action up to and down the fret board. Check for the buzz while you’re playing the strings and chords, the buzz can ruin your sound and will not make a good impression.
10. Always Keep Your Guitar Tuned
You might have heard of something as a good and bad intonation, haven't you?
No issues, it basically refers to how good or bad your guitar is tuned. In other words, your sound will not give you the exact sound of the song. So always make sure it is properly tuned.
11. Repairing your Guitar & Maintainance
If you already have a guitar that you were gifted or even borrowed from someone and it needs little tweaks, NEVER, and I mean NEVER fix it yourself.
As a beginner guitar player, you may not have all the right tools and understanding for it. So give it to a professional and take my word you will love playing the guitar when it looks and sounds as good as new.
You might also need to do a few adjustments to some parts of the guitar every now and then, such as the truss rod and the action. For me, I don't really bother myself with this stuff, I just give my guitar to a professional that I trust every 5 – 6 months, and he'll fix it up for me.
So there you go guys, a very detailed guide on how to buy a guitar for beginners. Hope you guys find it helpful.
If you have any questions that need answering regarding buying your first guitar or renewing your guitar, you can leave a comment below and I or other experienced members of the community will answer you as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading and, good luck!