What Guitar to Pick?
Choosing A Guitar, Type of Guitar, and the Pick
Probably the most common questions among ALL guitarists are: What guitar to pick? How do I choose the right guitar for me? The right style? And what about the pick, are all picks the same and it doesn't really matter what pick to play with or choosing the right pick for my guitar and my style matters and is not less important?
All these questions and dilemmas are equally valid and it is completely normal to think about it, question it, and be picky about it, because picking your guitar and gear is not something that you can change within a week or a month (Unless you are extremely rich, of course …) because it can cost hundreds of dollars to buy a guitar, an amplifier, or both, even if you're going for an entry level beginner guitar.
In this post, I'm going to focus on the difference between each type of guitars: Classical Guitar vs Electric Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar, talk about each type individually, and then I'm going to recommend on a few guitars for beginners to buy.
But first, let's talk about choosing the right guitar and the right pick for you.
So, let us begin.
How to Choose a Guitar
Knowing how to choose a guitar means first knowing your skill level playing the guitar AND your style of music (what music you're interested in, what music you're going to play on your guitar most of the time).
Normally, for beginners, no matter what type of guitar you're buying, you want an adult small-size guitar. And that's because small-size guitars are easier to handle and play on physically. Your fingers don't have to stretch as much, it feels more comfortable to your body holding it, and look less intimidating for new players.
IMPORTANT Notice: There are small-size guitars for kids, and there are small-size guitars for ADULTS. Do NOT confuse between the two, small-size adult guitars are a little bit smaller than adult normal-size guitars in terms of weight, shape, and neck. Kids guitars are easily recognizable for their really small body shape and short neck.
Next, comes the strings. What type of strings should a beginner go for? Because a beginner guitarist would tend to have tender fingers and haven't yet started to develop calluses from playing on a stringed instrument before, it is advisable to go for light-gauge strings because they produce less tension and are more friendly on the fingers.
Heavy gauge strings create louder, fuller tone and produce more tension, a thing that a heavy strummer or a rhythm guitarist needs. If you think you belong to this category, then get yourself heavy-gauge strings instead of light-gauge strings to prevent yourself from breaking the strings or not getting the tone or the velocity that you want.
For the full guide on choosing a guitar, click here: How to Buy a Guitar for Beginners.
For recommended guitars for beginners chosen carefully by me, scroll to the bottom or click here: Entry Level Guitars.
Picking Your Guitar Pick
The guitar pick is also detrimental and not something that you should take for granted.
Trust me, if you choose the wrong picks to play with you are going to suffer, your sound is going to suffer, and your performance will substantially deteriorate.
There is one pick that I'm used to playing with and I sound and perform like I would normally do when I use it. However, if I switch it with another pick, different type, and different shape, somehow my picking technique and accuracy would be affected negatively and my playing gets much worst.
This is because the shape of the pick, and the stiffness, is related to your style of playing, style of music, and type of guitar.
For fast, alternate picking, lead guitar style of playing, you need to have a small shape, very stiff and thick pick, with a sharp end for maximum picking accuracy, speed, and efficiency. The less stiff or hard the pick is, the harder it is for you to play as fast and accurate.
It's like a pencil, really. Imagine drawing with a pencil. your pencil is as hard and stiff as it could be and you can draw with it exactly what your hand is telling it to draw. If on the other hand, your pencil is flexible, then it would create a delay or a different path than that your hand is telling it to do. Same thing with picks.
For strumming, the pick should be lighter, a bit bigger, and flexible on the edges to create a smoother, more fluid strumming patterns.
Light, flexible picks tend to be suited for most classical and acoustic guitars, but some acoustic guitar players do prefer the hard, stiff picks because most of their playing style would revolve around picking (like in Jazz and Blues) and soloing, in which a stiff and thick pick would fit better.
For the full guide on choosing the right pick, continue reading here: How to Choose a Guitar Pick.
The Different Guitar Types And Their Characteristics
(Classical Guitar vs Electric Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar)
Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar
Classical Guitar vs Acoustic Guitar. What's the difference? Which guitar should you decide to learn on as a beginner and why? We'll discover all these things right here and now.
Classical guitar and acoustic guitar are actually both the same guitar. However, the naming difference emerged because of the need to referring to different styles of music, and thus, slightly different body and shape construction.
The “acoustic guitar” normally have a big soundbox (soundbox refers to the hollow, wooden body of the guitar where the sound waves enter through the sound-hole, get amplified and exit as a recognizable pitch to the ears).
The big soundbox translates to bigger, louder sound, much louder than with a classical guitar which normally has a smaller body for a more calm, smoother sound.
The type of material comprising the body, neck, and each side of the body also play a role in the tone creation and its velocity.
There are too many types of wood that are used in building guitars, perhaps the most common types are maple and mahogany.
There are no restrictions to what type of wood should be used in either the classical or the acoustic guitar, it all boils down to personal preference, budget, and kind of tone that the guitarist wants to get from his guitar.
Another very essential difference is that classical guitars use Nylon strings, while acoustic guitars use Steel strings.
The steel strings give a much sharper, brighter, and louder tone that is required for music such as folk, country, blues, and jazz, while the nylon strings give a softer, smoother tone which is desired for classical music (Bach, Villa-Lobos, etc) and Flamenco music.
The neck of a classical guitar tends to be wider and thus the distance between the strings is bigger, which makes it ideal for fingerpicking style that is heavily used in classical and flamenco music.
However, the wide neck makes it more difficult for picking and strumming, because your fingers have to stretch harder and your picking hand would need to “travel” a longer distance to pick on different strings.
On the other hand, the acoustic guitar tends to have a narrower but longer neck.
These are the main difference between the classical and the acoustic guitar. For more information on the acoustic guitar, go here:
Now that you know the difference between the two instruments and which style of music is commonly used with each type of guitars, you can at least start developing an opinion on which guitar you are more likely to pick.
Classical Guitar vs Electric Guitar
The electric guitar is a whole different instrument than the classical or the acoustic guitar.
It doesn't use its own body to amplify the sound and create a pitch like in the case of the classical and the acoustic guitar, but rather, the body is there “mainly” for practical issues and to house the electronics inside (It also plays a role in maintaining the sustain and preventing noise from intervening with the original music signals).
The heart of the electric guitar is the “Pickups“, where most of the sound comes from. The pickups convert the vibration of the strings into electrical signals which can be converted and transferred to a guitar amplifier to output the sound.
The electric guitar also uses Steel strings with magnetic alloy because of the pickups' work mechanism. You can't use Nylon strings with the electric guitar, and certainly not any kind of Steel strings as well.
For more on the electric guitar visit: What is the Electric Guitar?
Which Guitar to Start With? Classical Guitar or the Electric Guitar?
There has been a controversy over whether it is better to start learning the guitar on the classical guitar or go straight for the electric or acoustic guitar.
The short, simple answer to this question is YES it is considered a good decision to take up the classical guitar and learn how to play the guitar on it FIRST before moving on to the electric guitar.
However, this is not a mandatory step, many guitar instructors do believe that you can start learning the guitar on the electric guitar even if you have no experience playing on the instrument before, and many guitarists start on the electric guitar and succeed in achieving their guitar goals without actual experience playing on the classical or the acoustic guitar before.
So the real answer is, it's good to consider picking up the classical guitar at the beginning, but it is not a must. If your heart really is in the electric guitar, if your full focus is on the electric guitar, then by no means start your guitar journey straight up with the electric guitar.
If So, Then Why it is “Considered” a Good Decision to Learn the Classical Guitar First?
For many reasons. These reasons include the nature of the instrument, its body and neck dimensions, strings, and more.
Look at the following table for a more extensive look and comparison between the classical guitar and the electric guitar:
The Classical Guitar
The Electric Guitar
- The classical guitar is the most basic, simple form of the guitar.
This is good for beginners because you'll get to focus on playing only and the tone of your guitar.
You'll get to understand the instrument better, how it naturally behaves and sounds without the intervention of any hardware or electronics.
You might as well learn about its anatomy (refer to my other post I mentioned earlier about the acoustic guitar) and what each body part is made of and how it contributes to your guitar's tone
- The electric guitar is relatively considered more “complicated”, mainly because of all the hardware behind your sound.
80%-90% of the sound from your electric guitar comes from hardware and amplification.
Without the pickups, the embedded electronic circuitry inside the guitar, and the amplifier, no matter how hard you strum or pick on those strings, you will not be able to hear a thing because the electric guitar doesn't have a soundbox that can “acoustically” amplify and generate any sound.
So in the case of the electric guitar, you'll need to have a basic understanding of your guitar electronics, amplifier, and their settings, in addition, to actually learn how to play the guitar.
- The classical guitar has a wider neck and bigger fretboard.
These characteristics of the classical guitar make it ideal and the best choice for learning the fingerpicking style because your fingers can more easily slip under the strings and pick them due to having more space between them.
While you can still learn how to fingerpick with the electric guitar, it is extremely more difficult.
On the other hand, you can learn both fingerpicking AND plectrum-picking strings on the classical guitar much more comfortably.
Additionally, the bigger frets wider neck thing makes it harder on the fretting hand for both chords AND solo play because your fingers would have to stretch longer distances to reach for the same notes.
While fretting might be easier on the electric guitar, fretting on the classical guitar would present a much more challenge, and thus a better exercise for your fingers so when you switch to the electric guitar, you'll feel much more comfortable fretting the strings and doing exercises where you have to stretch for high notes.
- The electric guitar has a relatively narrow, longer neck, and a bit smaller fretboards.
While this is a good thing for beginners, learning fingerstyle picking on strings so close to each other is a very difficult thing to do.
Additionally, if at some point you decided to also learn the acoustic or classical guitar, switching to these instruments would be more difficult than the opposite situation because your fretting hand's fingers will have to train harder and stretch even more to play the same notes, and same chords, due to the wider neck on those guitars.
- Intonation and classical guitars:
Intonation is the pitch accuracy of the musical instrument.
With classical guitars, you can't hide a bad intonation. What you hit on the strings is what you get.
If your instrument is a little out of tune, it will be noticeable. If your string-bending is not accurate, it will be noticeable.
You will need to develop a great musical ear as well as a great sense of pitch and sound if you want your guitar play to be good and enjoyable.
Speaking on intonation, even if your instrument is well tuned and you're hitting the notes accurately, achieving the “right tone” for a piece of classical music on the classical guitar is a real challenge.
It's not enough that you hit the right note, but also know how to hit it, and with what force. While this is true with the electrical guitar as well, it is, however, a more sensitive issue for the classical guitar and a thing which has a direct relation to the nature of classical music.
- Intonation and electric guitars:
Intonation is a very important issue for all types of guitars, more so with classical guitars than the other guitars.
Because the electric guitar relies on electronics and the amplifier to output an audible sound, with the addition of all sorts of amp and pedal effects such as distortion, chorus, flanger, and wah-wah effects, you can much more easily hide a bad intonation instrument or a bad intonation guitar player.
On the other hand, bending and vibrato are both extremely popular techniques for the electric guitar, and a good electric guitar player will be able to perform these techniques together without missing his intonation or bending to a slightly higher or lower note than the intended one.
Bending skills is not less important than the ability to play fast and shred guitar solos. Remember that!
Classical Music is a Delicate, Sensitive, and Artistic Form of Music. Some of the Best Demonstrations of This Genre of Music Performed on the Classical Guitar Can be Seen in the Videos Below:
Julian Bream and John Williams are two legendary classical guitar players and one can learn a lot from them by only listening to them and watching them play.
Look how much focus and care they put on each and every pluck of a string, it's truly astonishing to witness such great musicians play with such joy and diligence.
- Classical guitar is played with CLEAN sound only (no distortion or other effects involved)
Playing only with “clean” sound all the time means that you have to be extra careful with your intonation and hitting the correct strings and notes all the time because you don't have distortion and other effects to cover for you.
- The electric guitar can be played with OR without distortion and other sound effects.
While you also have the option to play with a “clean” sound with the electric guitar, you also have the luxury of choosing NOT to play with a “clean” sound and insert a lot of sound effects onto your sound which can help cover up for a lot of playing mistakes for you.
- Classical guitar strings:
Nylon strings are used with the classical guitar only, a type of strings that are known to be more gentle on the fingers, less painful.
One of the toughest obstacles facing beginner guitarists is developing enough calluses on the fingertips to overcome soreness as a result of continuous pressing on the strings while playing the guitar.
- Electric guitar strings:
Steel strings with magnet alloy are used on the electric guitar.
Steel strings tend to be a little more aggressive and less friendly to beginners that have not yet managed to develop calluses.
For many people, though, this could be a deal breaker. Seriously. The soreness can be too much sometimes and it has led to many people quitting the instrument before even learning their first song.
Classical guitars tend to be less expensive than electric guitars.
The price ranges from 50$ for the simplest classical guitar (not recommended) to 250$-300$ for a really decent beginner-advance classical guitar.
This is a very affordable price for beginners to have a chance to explore and play around with a new musical instrument.
Electric guitars are generally expensive instruments, not counting in all the additional gear that you must get in order for them to work (mainly the amplifier, and guitar cables)
An electric guitar price can range from 100$ to 800$ for a decent electric guitar.
A decent amplifier can cost around 150$-200$. And the guitar cable for around 10$-20$.
Not something most beginners would be willing to pay for an instrument they haven't explored yet.
What Guitars do we Recommend for Beginners?
I would honestly recommend a classical or acoustic guitar for beginners at first, because transitioning to electric guitar from the classic or acoustic guitar is easier for all the reasons we mentioned above, learning fingerstyle picking is easier, and after all, what kind of a guitar player who can't play the classical/acoustic guitar, right?
I concentrated most of my recommended guitars in one post that includes mostly classical and acoustic guitars chosen carefully by me based on my knowledge of these guitars and feedback that I was able to collect from the internet and other sources. To check these guitars, click on the button below:
Schecter Guitars have some amazing instruments for beginners and advanced as well, with decent prices too. Check them in my other post here: What is Schecter Guitars?