I’ve been teaching and in music sales for nearly 20 years. One of the biggest questions I’ve gotten is “What kind of guitar should I start on out. Acoustic? Electric? Brand? Style?” etc.
My answer is always that you need to start on the instrument you want to end up playing. The instrument you imagine yourself playing. If you aspire to play electric start on an electric. If you aspire to play acoustic choose that.
Choose a brand and model that fits the style you want to learn. It may be a Strat built for blues. Perhaps a Tele for country. Acoustic for folk, souped-up for rock or seven stringed for death metal.
Whatever you choose make sure it is a guitar that your style is meant to be played on. Every type of a guitar has a different sound. For example, you can make a seven string sound like a telecaster. You can’t make a Les Paul sound like a Strat.
There is this terrible myth out there that most people should start on an acoustic guitar.
I don’t know who started the myth but it they make no sense and it seems they just perpetuate with time. Imagine a parent who believes this stuff and goes out and buys a gift for their kids. Those poor kids, having an image of what they want to do in thier mind and ending up with something else.
So whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else begin with the end in mind and choose the appropriate instrument based on that. You’ll be happy that you did.
Of course choosing how much you want to spend is always a concern. After all, you never know if you’re going to stick with it until you’ve tried it for a while. Some people take to it immediately and be great in a short period of time. Others might not be naturals but with practice become very good. Maybe you won’t have the time, dedication or passion to play that you thought you had. Either way the outcome for everyone is different.
Those are the most common reasons why most first time buyers don’t want to invest too much. This presents the dilemma of choosing a budget for your purchase. Make your budget reasonable. You’re going to have to spend a little more money than “bottom dollar” for the cheapest guitar out there. But be relieved that you won’t need to spend lavishly on a new instrument either. Lets call about $200.00 a good ballpark estimate. If you can’t spend that, don’t go shopping.
It just makes sense that the cheapest guitar you find out there will not be of suitable quality. Not even to learn on the most basic level. Take it from me, that guitar you see at the toy store or discount warehouse will not get you very far. In fact, those instruments are often times barely playable and make learning nearly impossible. This is the reason many beginners find it very difficult to play and end up quitting.
I don’t know how many times a new student has come to me with one of those instruments. Then when they have a really hard time learning I need to break the news to them that it is the instrument not their lack of skill. Then they have the revelation that they should have spent an extra 50 bucks and have something playable but are stuck with something that is worthless…not even as a trade up towards a new instrument at most stores.
In summary, consider these three things before purchasing your instrument.
1. Style you want to play.
2. Price suitable to your budget.
3. Your motivation and skill to play.
(Not necessarily in any order.)
Buy a guitar that inspires you to play and is playable. Looks matter but are not the only factor to consider. Anyone who improves will want a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th etc guitar so don’t obsess about not buying your guitar as your first guitar. Have fun with whatever you buy.
Great points Kim! Thanks for the comment
Good thoughts about a first guitar. With the availability of the internet, Amazon, Guitar Stores everywhere; The search can be narrowed done so much easier. Nowadays, prospective guitar buyers and parents can do a little research both on-line and in brick and mortar guitar sales stores. All the factors of budget, age of the person, goals of that person with a guitar, what is and is not available come into play. Guidance from a local or on-line Guitar Instructor should help bring the potential buyer more into reality.
My first one was a Sears & Roebuck Acoustic Silvertone Guitar, Blue and White, that my mother got for me for Christmas 1958. Looked wonderful, but the action was too high and I didn’t know it could be lowered. Got a couple books on Chords C, D, G, F later A & E, and thought I was making progress-then life took over and the guitar was not a priority. My first good dream guitar was a 1992 Gretsch G7594T White Falcon I got myself for my 50th birthday present – Still play it today, along with several others. Can’t say that any one type of guitar will satisfy anyone’s musical goals: The first one and the playability of that one is a starting point. Most reputable stores, including on-line places like Amazon and Sweetwater will take the guitar back within 30 days if you’re not happy with it. Shop around for what’s the most comfortable to start learning on. Your first guitar will not be your last guitar as your playing evolves.
Great points Len.. thanks for sharing!
I think for the value on the dollar, would be any Square electric, or Epiphone on the flat top, I also teach and I find the flat top works best for my students Guitar Center has a lot of used guitars for a little of money
Thanks for the comment Johnny… There are so many great options nowadays for entry level guitars.
I strongly disagree; I have been a serious student of Guitar for over 54 years. I’ve found when parents start the student with an electric guitar: the guitar is usually too heavy for them to hold, or too long; that is: the body of the guitar is in their lap, while where they need to put their fingers, is too far away. After the student goes home from the lesson, and it’s time to practice, Now the student has to did his guitar and amp out of the closet find the patch cord and then begin. Might not sound like much, but for a 12 or 13 year old it’s a hassle. The most important things are: if the instrument is in tune with itself and holds it; play ability action not too difficult to play, and a pleasing sound. 90% of the time you are playing / practicing by yourself and have no need for amplification, unless you are totally rely on distortion and volume to cover up your lack of musical knowledge. Students need: Guitar strap; Music Stand; Comfortable chair; Lots of Light; Guitar Tuner; Guitar stand; & a designated area to practice without disturbing others or inhibiting the student’s playing. A student has no idea of what kind of guitar he needs only what he wants. The First Guitar is simply a STARTING POINT; as the student’s music education continues, he can better decide the type of guitar that will fit his needs. In the beginning, his needs should be building strength and developing playing skills.
Thanks for your comment. This topic certainly does not have one clear answer and has a lot to do with preference. Since we are not stating how old the student is when they start, we don’t want to assume that an electric guitar will be too heavy. After years and years of teaching, what I’ve found to be the most successful in getting a student to stick with their instrument is to make sure they feel inspired and want to play it. If the guitar does not do this for them, them it’s one more reason for them to stop practicing when the normal frustrations of learning to play set in.
All of the points you brought up are great points and should also be considered when buying a new or first instrument.
Thanks again for your thoughts!