Guitar Buying Guide
Shopping online for guitars has grown in popularity quite a bit in recent
years, with more manufacturers and retailers offering a wide selection of ‘axes’
and guitar packages. If you’re interested in starting out on guitar, the
internet is a great place to shop for one; particularly because guitar and music
equipment shops can be intimidating to a newcomer.
However, there is some value in combining web shopping with in-store research to
find the best deal on the equipment that suits you best. Chances are, you’ll
find a better deal on most guitars online anyway but there’s definitely
something to be said for taking a guitar for a ‘test drive’ first. Browsing
in-store will allow you to try out various models, which you can then shop for
online when you get home. Always make sure to read customer product
reviews online for the guitars you are considering—they
will provide you with good insight as to how the guitar sounds, how it holds up,
The most important tip we can offer in buying your first guitar is to not
overspend. You’ll be tempted, for sure, to spend extra on a higher-end guitar
early on but resist the urge! The reason being, if it turns out that you decide
not to pursue the instrument over the long-term, you don’t want to be stuck with
an expensive guitar that just sits in the corner unused. The better move is to
buy for value, see how your first 6-12 months of learning the instrument goes,
and then upgrade later on. Besides, there are plenty of
budget-friendly guitars out there that are perfectly suitable for first-timers.
The first question you’ll probably ask yourself is whether you want an electric guitar or
an acoustic guitar. The answer lies in what you hope to accomplish and what
sound you’re going for.
Electric guitars, thanks to the nature of their lighter strings, are undoubtedly
easier to learn on and will take less of a toll on your fingertips. They can
also be a lot of fun in unleashing your inner rock star once you hook one up to
an amplifier and start cranking the volume. But therein lies one major
disadvantage of an electric guitar for a newbie—you will need to buy an amp as
well because electrics simply sound terrible unless they’re plugged in. That
being said, you can pick up a good electric guitar and a small amplifier
(between 5 and 20 watts) at a reasonable price and be all set to start learning.
If you’re looking to play pop or rock music and eventually incorporate special
effects via foot and ‘wah’ pedals, then we’d recommend going with an electric
However, maybe rock and roll isn’t you thing. Maybe you’re more of a folk music
lover or maybe you have nosey neighbors and thin walls which preclude you from
plugging in an electric guitar and wailing away. In that case, go with an
acoustic instead. Now, granted, it will be a bit more difficult to learn early
on with an acoustic because the strings are thicker and tougher. However, the
biggest advantage of the acoustic guitar is that you take it out of the box,
tune it up, and you’re ready to go. No amplifiers are necessary. And over time,
the more you play an acoustic, the easier it will be to switch over to an
electric if you so choose.
If you want the best of both worlds, then look into an acoustic/electric guitar.
These are simply acoustic guitars outfitted with the hardware you need if you
want plug-in but they work perfectly fine acoustically alone (aka ‘unplugged’)
as well. Two things to look for in acoustic/electrics are a built-in tuner, and
an easily-accessible port for the 9-volt battery you’ll need to plug it in.
Top-loading battery ports are the best. Just try to avoid models where you’ll
need to unstring the guitar entirely and reach through the hole inside in order
to change the battery.
When it comes to acoustics or acoustic-electrics, we recommend
choosing a “cutaway” style guitar, which looks a bit different from a
traditional acoustic—there’s literally a section ‘cut-out’ from the bottom
portion of the body that makes it easier to reach higher notes and chords.
Unless you have super long fingers, cutaways provide the most flexibility for
reaching those higher spots on the fretboard.
Finally, there are a number of accessories you’ll need in order to be fully
prepared to learn. Guitar picks, of course, are necessary unless you plan on
learning to finger-pick right off the bat (a daunting proposition, trust us!).
Picks come in varying thicknesses and while a general rule is to go thicker with
acoustics and thinner with electrics, over time you’ll find the pick size that
is the most comfortable for you. Another important component is a guitar tuner.
Strings come out of tune a lot easier than you may think so it’s good to have an
electronic tuner, and there are plenty of them out there to choose from. We’d
also recommend a guitar strap, since standing up can sometimes facilitate the
learning process particularly with trickier chord changes. Finally, look
around for an instructional book or DVD series to get you started. Look for a
guitar book that comes with an accompanying CD so you can actually hear
what’s being taught. How-to DVDs offer both audio and visual instruction along
the way and are a great resource.
If your head is swimming with all of these terms and pieces of equipment,
don’t worry! There are lots of starter and combo guitar packages available that
include everything we just listed in one package to get you started with the
guitar. Fender and Epiphone in particular have some nice beginner packages that can
include everything from the guitar itself, to an amp, strap, book, picks and
quarter-inch electrical cable. These kinds of packages are particularly fitting
for kids and they also make great gifts!