You’ve finally decided that this year is the year; you are finally going to accomplish that New Year’s goal of learning to play the guitar. But, now you’re faced with the tricky part–purchasing your first guitar. Just as proper and safe equipment is crucial to the avid athlete, finding a guitar that is sturdy, comfortable and produces beautiful sounds within your price range should be important to you. The following are some guidelines that can help direct you toward finding your match, a guitar that will last through many years of practice and performance.
Before choosing your guitar, determine what style of music you most likely will want to learn to play–this will facilitate your decision concerning what type of guitar to purchase. The electric guitar is connected to an amplifier, which can magnify and distort the sounds your guitar produces. If you envision yourself as a member of the next up and coming garage band, an electric guitar may be a good pick for you. Modern acoustic guitars produce a clear, distinct sound. The acoustic guitar is the most versatile of the guitar types in that you can strum chords to rock and pop songs, or play picking patterns for jazz, folk and blues music. Classical guitars produce more mellow sounds and are used more frequently in music that requires picking patterns in addition to strumming such as folk music.
Beginners will quickly discover that the tips of their fingers are tender after practicing the guitar. Many beginning guitarists choose to use nylon strings because they are easier on the fingertips. Eventually calluses will develop on your finger tips, which will help you to produce clearer sounds with less effort as you press on the strings. Medium-light gauge Monel light strings are recommended for beginners on an acoustic guitar. Keep in mind that the type of strings you use will vary depending on the type of guitar you play, the type of music you play, and most importantly, user preference.
The width of the neck is an important factor when choosing a guitar. The classical guitar has a thick neck and may be challenging for the beginner with smaller hands, whereas the neck of a modern acoustic guitar is more narrow, making it easier to grip and to play the chords. The “action,” or the height of the strings above the metal frets on the neck, is also important to preview. The farther the strings are from the neck of the guitar, the more difficult it is to press the strings down and produce a clean sound. Measure the height of the strings where the neck and body of the guitar meet; a height of 1/8” to 3/16” is ideal for beginners.
Size of the Guitar
If you are purchasing a beginner guitar for a child, the size and fit of the guitar will play a huge factor in the child’s comfort and confidence in playing. Modern instrument stores now offer guitars that are designed and shaped specifically for children. Suggestions for height-guitar size ratios include: 30” size guitar for children up to 3’9” tall; 34” size guitar for children 3’10” to 4’5” tall; 36” guitar for children 4’6”-4’11” tall; and 7/8 to a full-sized guitar for children 5′ or taller. Your best option is to take your child to a music store and allow him to play a variety of guitars to see what type of guitar will be the best fit for him.
The guitar case will make transporting your guitar much easier and should be able to provide protection to your guitar when in storage or being moved from place to place. There are essentially two types of cases–hard covers and soft covers. A soft cover is made of a layer of padding covered by fabric, and opens and closes with a zipper. It is much lighter and usually cheaper than a hard case but does not provide exceptional protection to the guitar. A hard cover is heavier, but will secure your guitar in place and protect your guitar from outside forces. If you intend on traveling frequently with your guitar for lessons or performances, consider purchasing a hard cover.
Other accessories to keep in mind when purchasing your guitar include the strap, extra strings, and guitar picks. If you are purchasing an electric guitar, you will also need to consider the type of amplifier and cord that you would like to purchase.
When purchasing your guitar, consider your purchase an investment. Embark with a budget in mind, but be willing to be flexible with the price you are willing to pay as you test and play different types of guitars. Spending too little on a guitar may give you a poor quality guitar that is challenging and frustrating to play. Purchasing a used instrument is also an option, but be sure that you play the instrument and examine it for any damage, cracks, warping or other defects that may affect the sound of the guitar. Purchasing a used guitar directly from another musician will also save you money as opposed to purchasing a used guitar through a music store.