Buying Your First Guitar

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If you’ve got the desire to learn to play the guitar and you’ve never played before or you have a child or other loved one that is interested in playing and you’re looking for a guitar to purchase, I got a few tips.

As far as a first guitar, I suggest starting with an acoustic guitar with steel strings. Nylon string guitars are also available for beginner guitars and typically these are called Classical or Spanish guitars. Unless you’re pursuing learning how to play classical or flamenco music, I don’t recommend a nylon string guitar. Steel string guitars are ideal for learning to play popular music.

Of course you’d want to start with a quality instrument. As with many things you buy, the more you spend on it, the better the quality. A top level guitar can go as much as $1,000 to $6,000+. But of course that wouldn’t be what’d you want to spend for your first instrument. A quality beginner instrument should be between $120 – $200+ (not including a guitar case). Anything less than $100 for a new beginner instrument would be highly suspect as to it’s quality. When I say “quality”, I’m not referring to it’s “looks”, but it’s play-ability and workmanship.

An electric guitar is also okay for a first instrument, but an acoustic is better for developing the physical skill of playing (dexterity and finger/hand strength) and it’s more convenient since it’s portable. An electric guitar requires the additional purchase of an amplifier which in playing situations will need to be used and transported as well. An acoustic guitar is much more portable and can be plopped into a guitar case and you can go anywhere with it. Some brands of electric guitars come in a starter pack and those are fine for young children learning how to play. It’s not recommended for a teenager or adult. In those cases, I would recommend spending $300 – $500 on a decent electric guitar. Good brands for electrics would be Fender, Epiphone, Ibanez and Dean. There are a few others, but these are commonly found.


What are the Best Guitar Brands for a Beginner Guitar?

There are a number of good brands that produce a good first instrument. The price points are similar but it’s worth the money if you purchase an intermediate level guitar, if you’re committed to learning. There is a difference in tone and feel of the guitar when you spend the money to get a finer acoustic instrument which can run $300 – $600. The brands below carry good beginner instruments to advanced instruments. Some of these also offer starter packs with some accessories which is ideal for a child’s first guitar. I don’t recommend the starter packs for an adult learning to play.

Good Beginner Guitar Brands:

  • Yamaha
  • Fender
  • Alvarez
  • Seagull
  • Epiphone
  • Ibanez
  • Taylor (most expensive but high quality)

Where Do You Find a “Quality” First Guitar?

The best local sources for a new guitar that is of adequate quality for a beginner would be Whole Note Music Store (Stockbridge), Attina’s Music Store (McDonough), Music & Arts (Conyers), McDonough Music (McDonough) and Guitar Center (Fayetteville & Atlanta).  Guitar Center gives you many more guitars to choose from. Most of the entry-level guitars found in music stores would be fairly close to the same quality and makes little difference. Where it makes a difference is when you’re shopping for a more expensive instrument for an advanced player.

If you’re considering purchasing a guitar other than a music store like a pawn shop or an online Ad sites like Craigslist, Amazon, Ebay, etc., they “CAN” be a decent source, ONLY if you know EXACTLY what you’re looking for and you know how to check for the quality of the instrument. But if you’re inexperienced with guitars or musical instruments in general, I would really discourage it. I’d say it’d be okay If you have the option to return it and get a full refund after you’ve had the instrument checked out by an experienced guitarist to determine if it’s up to par. A note about my personal experience: my first guitar was bought from a pawn shop and it played deplorably. It almost drew blood from my fingers and was highly discouraging to learn how to play.

Another place where I would discourage buying a guitar is from the cable shopping channel. I’ve had students who purchased their first guitars this way and everyone I’ve seen was substandard and had issues with play-ability. It doesn’t matter if it’s endorsed by some musician or legendary country artist, these are poorly-made guitars, even though they look nice. You’re much better off going to your local music store and it will be money well-spent.


Purchasing a Guitar Online

If you’re purchasing a guitar online, the best sources would be GuitarCenter.com, SweetWater.com, MusiciansFriend.com, and SamAshMusic.com. Most of these instrument outlets have favorable return policies if you’re not happy with the instrument. Sometimes in doing the doing your research for guitars at these websites, you’ll encounter the same brands and model guitars, which most outlets will carry. At that point, you can shop for the best price as those guitars will be of the same quality.


What Kind of Guitar To Get for a Younger Child

If you’re shopping for a young child from age 7-10 yrs old (or younger), the best guitar to get is a 3/4-sized guitar, which is perfect for their size. Please don’t get a guitar from Walmart – those are poorly made and are actually considered a toy rather than a musical instrument. As mentioned above, a musical instrument store or online musical dealer is the BEST place to purchase a guitar. A child from 10 years old and up should play a full-sized or adult sized guitar.