How to Buy Your First Guitar

What kind of guitar should you get if you’re just starting out? Should you get an acoustic or and electric guitar? How much do you need to spend and what kind of budget should you set aside? These are all good questions and the tips below will show you how to buy your first guitar.

Acoustic or electric?

I think a person can learn guitar on either an acoustic or an electric guitar and in some ways the electric will be a better choice. The benefits of learning on an acoustic guitar is that you don’t have to buy an amplifier and you develop more finger strength as it requires more strength to fret the chords.

You’ll build up callouses faster on an acoustic guitar. Because the acoustic guitar requires more strength and is harder to fret, it might make sense to consider starting with an electric guitar.

I started on an old Gibson acoustic guitar which was barely playable. Once I decided I really wanted to learn to play, my first guitar purchase was an Ibanez electric guitar. I bought a small practice amp and was off to the races. I loved learning on the Ibanez because I was into rock music at the time and I was fond of the wide variety of sounds I could get from my simple setup.

I added a couple of effects pedals and was in heaven! For me, buying an electric guitar as my first purchase was an excellent choice and I later bought an acoustic to play on road trips.

What kind of acoustic guitar should you buy?

I would look for a guitar priced at $300 or less made by a major manufacturer like Fender, Yamaha, Takamine, or Epiphone. You can get great buys by shopping online at Musician’s Friend, Sweetwater, or Zzounds.

I’ve bought gear from all of these places including a Gibson Les Paul from Sweetwater that was shipped to me. They had a phenomenal deal that I couldn’t beat anywhere online so I bought it. I had no problems and my Les Paul arrived without a scratch.

You can also shop for acoustic guitars on Amazon. Amazon has such a great refund and customer service policy that I’m always confident in my purchases.

I would go to a Guitar Center or other music store and play several guitars in your price range until you find the one you want. Go home and do your research to see what you can get it for online, then go back and bargain with the sales person at the Guitar Center. See if you can get the same deal or better than what you can get online and if you do, buy it.

What kind of electric guitar should you buy?

I would look for an electric guitar priced at $200-300 from a manufacturer like Ibanez, Epiphone, and Fender. There are plenty of other companies who made good electric guitars, but these are my favorite brands that I trust for quality and value. You can’t go wrong with a decent guitar from any of the above manufacturers but in general, I would avoid their lowest price models.

For example, Fender offers the Squier Stratocaster for about $100, but I would not buy this guitar. To me it doesn’t play well or sound good and you’re better off spending another $200 to find a used Mexican Stratocaster.

You need to decide if you prefer the Strat style body or the Les Paul style body. Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, but those are two classic styles that you can’t go wrong with. For me, I found the Fender Strat to be difficult to play at first. I eventually got used to it and I own a Mexican Strat that I’ve worn the frets out on. I’m now very comfortable with this body style and neck.

The Les Paul body style and neck was comfortable for me right from the start. My first Ibanez was a Les Paul body style and I was immediately comfortable with it. I now own a Gibson Les Paul and love the way it plays.

You should test out both body styles to see what feels most comfortable to you and go with that style. If you decide to shop for a used guitar, take someone with you who knows what to look for in examining a guitar’s neck, playability, etc. You don’t want to buy a lemon you can’t return.

What kind of guitar amp should you buy?

For my first guitar amplifier, I would look for an amp priced at $200 or less. Brands I would recommend are Roland, Fender, and Vox. There are plenty of other good amps but I’m trying to save you time by narrowing your choices. You want to play guitar, not spend weeks researching, right? You can find decent amps to start with by the companies above that will be good enough to get you started.

You can go to Guitar Center and have the sales person setup you up in a private room with the electric guitar and amp of your choice to test. If you’re not sure how to test since you can’t play yet, ask the sales person or a customer to play for you. Most are happy to help and to show off a few of their chops.

Don’t spend weeks researching–take action!

If you want to learn how to play don’t waste weeks trying to find the best deal and perfect guitar. These are starter guitars and amps which will hold most of their value. You can always resell them when you’re ready to upgrade. Don’t be foolish, but don’t waste a lot of time on research either. Take the steps above and get yourself a guitar you’re comfortable with and start playing.