So, you’re thinking about taking the plunge and starting to learn the fine art of playing guitar. Or maybe you have a kid that is interested and you don’t know a whole lot about it. There are so many choices out there, and you don’t really know what you are looking at. On top of that, maybe you are concerned that yourself or your child won’t really stick with this, so you don’t want to drop a whole lot of cash on something that may end up in a closet somewhere. These questions and more are why we are here with our latest article to help you figure out just what is a good guitar for beginners.
Electric or Acoustic?
While there are many types of guitars out there, taking a broad look, there is two definitive categories. Electric guitars and acoustic guitars. Now, we know there is such a thing as an electric-acoustic, but that is for a pretty special demographic. As the title suggests, we are talking about first-time just-starting-out potential guitarists here, so let’s keep it simple, shall we?
Most people probably know the major differences here. An acoustic guitar is made to resonate and be played without any need for amplification. They are bigger than electric guitars because of the way the body is designed to get that sound. You might be surprised that bigger does not necessarily equal heavier though. Most acoustics are mostly hollow in that big part, so they generally are lighter than their electric guitar counterparts.
Electric guitars are made to be plugged into an amplifier which takes the signal from the guitar and then outputs it through the speaker. While electric guitars do make audible sounds, they are very quiet. You would not want an electric guitar if you were not going to have an amplifier of some kind.
Those were the major differences that most people could tell you even if they have never picked up either one. There’s more to it than that, however. Think about portability. An acoustic is great because you can just throw it in a guitar case and go. No cables or amplifiers or a need for power plugs or batteries. Electrics require all of those things if you are going to play for real, so that is something to consider. Having said that, an acoustic can only get so quiet by its very nature. Electric guitar amps usually feature headphones, and you can keep them pretty quiet if you need to. So, if you are buying for your kid and don’t want to hear G chords being banged badly a million times, the electric might be the better option.
Like most things, it depends on exactly what your goals are. It’s also important to realize that nothing is in stone. Guitars hold their value very well, so if you decided later you wanted to trade in for one or the other, you could certainly do that. Also, most guitarists that are serious are going to end up wanting both of these at some point, so don’t sweat the decision too much.
One last thing to consider is ease of play. Electric guitar strings are easier to push down and hold down on the fret board. While you can certainly bend strings on an acoustic as well, electric guitar is usually associated with string bending and lead guitar for this reason. Acoustic guitars are going to hurt your fingers, and they may even bleed until calluses form. The positive of this is that once you conquer that part of playing acoustic, you are good and won’t have to worry about it even if you change to electric. If you learn on electric, you may be surprised how much harder it is when you switch to acoustic.
So, What Now?
You’ve got in mind which major direction you want to go in. So, where do we go from here? Well, there are plenty of great acoustic guitar brands out there. The best way to pick out something is to go to a music store that has a good selection and give them a whirl. Let us warn you up front. Whether you are shopping for yourself or your child, let it be known that the more expensive guitars are going to sound better and feel like they were made just for you to go in your hands. This is part of the game. Now, if you are willing to drop the cash, then go for the $1500 Takamine right out of the gate. No shame. If you’re pretty normal, though, you probably want to limit your options for a beginner guitar to the under $500 crowd. You can always trade up or buy something better later. Remember, this is to get your feet wet.
Before you pull the trigger on your favorite, consider other options. Guitars hold value well, so you will find them for sale all over your town or the Internet. You may be able to save considerable money by finding someone out there that needs to offload one of these bad. Every musician has that story about picking up a $1000 guitar for $250 because someone was desperate to pay the rent. Keep your eyes open for a good deal. Check your local newspaper, pawn shops, and even eBay. There’s nothing wrong with secondhand, especially when it comes to music instruments.
If you are looking to go the electric guitar route, you will have the extra challenge of shopping amps and accessories. We recommend that you get one of the cool starter packs that come with everything you need for the budding young guitarist. These starter packs usually include a practice amp, the guitar itself, a case to put it in perhaps, and the cables you need to make it all work. Every major brand is going to have their own take on this. It’s hard to go wrong with big names like Fender. Squier guitars are a lot cheaper than their Fender counterparts, but they are absolutely fine for learning too.
We are at a good point for consumers with this technology. Really, there are not really any guitars that are just out and out bad. Sure, the higher prices are going to bring more quality and durability. That is to be expected, but the bottom line is that the lowest Fender on the totem pole is still a fine musical instrument.
No matter which way you go, you are going to need a few more things to get started than just the guitar itself. Cases are not always included in the deal. A lot of guitars will give you a soft case with the guitar, but if you are planning on doing a lot of carrying it around, you may want to pony up for a hard case. These are definitely expensive, but compared to finding your neck broken in two, they aren’t really that bad. Also, a tuner and some picks is a no brainer if you are looking for some extra stocking stuffers to go with the guitar.
If you’re going electric, throw in some extra strings for sure. Acoustic strings can break too, but anyone learning on electric is going to bust a string trying to bend notes pretty soon. The sky is the limit when you are talking electric guitar accessories. There are effects pedals galore to pick from that can influence your sound, but that is probably not something to get to involved with at the beginner level. A lot of amps these days have built-in effects anyway if you just wanted to give it a whirl.
The Verdict — You Can’t Lose
Cheap guitars or expensive guitars? Electric or acoustic? The bottom line is you are making a great purchase. There really are not that many terrible guitars out there. The best bet is to pick something middle tier, see if you are going to stay committed, and then trade up or buy what you really want on down the road. It’s a great hobby, and this is the entrance to that hobby, but don’t think that you have to drop thousands just to see if you like it. Try different varieties and see what you have. If you live in a rural area, plan that road trip. It will be worth it to give your potential instrument a good test drive. Guitars are not the kind of thing you want to buy sight unseen unless you are completely sure of what you are after. Remember, this is the first step toward finding the sound that works for you, so take your time and make a good decision that you won’t regret later.