Buying Your First Guitar

Buying Your First Guitar

What Do You Want to Play?

The first thing you must consider is what style of music are you most interested in playing and what do you most enjoy listening to. If the answer is rock, we suggest buying an electric guitar and amplifier. If you are interested in Classical, we suggest a nylon- string Classical guitar. If you are interested in folk, country or fingerstyle guitar, get a steel-string acoustic guitar. If you want to be able to amplify your acoustic guitar, be sure to get an electric-acoustic guitar.

Shouldn't Everyone Begin on an Acoustic Guitar?

There is a big misconception that you need to begin on an acoustic guitar first. Parents and new students ask us about this all the time and you will hear it from some teachers and music store salespeople. The reason people say this is because acoustic guitars are a little more physically demanding than electric guitars. The reasoning is that the student will develop more hand strength from playing on an only slightly more demanding instrument. Then, it is supposed, switching to electric is a breeze. The truth is, it is fine to start on any type of guitar. Let us explain.

What makes a student develop into a good guitarist is not hand strength, but practice. Lots of practice! Practice on any type of guitar. In our years of experience we have seen many students begin playing the guitar. The ones that develop into good guitarists are very motivated to practice. Most students are motivated by music they hear and want to emulate or by an image they want to portray. If what the student looks and sounds like while playing the guitar doesn't match what they love, what they want to be, then they quickly lose interest, stop practicing and quit. If a student wants to sound like Led Zeppelin, but sounds like John Denver when they practice, they aren't going to stay motivated.

Following the acoustic-guitar-must-be-played-first mentality more often results in potentially good guitarists quitting and parents throwing away a lot of money. Let the student choose their own path. You can be assured we will teach them all the proper technique and guitar-playing concepts so that they can play both acoustic and electric guitar well.

Comparisons of Different Guitar Types

Nylon-String Acoustic Guitar

Most often used for Classical and Spanish style guitar playing. Beginner models are fairly inexpensive. Good for young beginners. Soft strings which are easy on the fingertips. Wide necks with wider string spacing require more stretching of the fingers.

Steel-string Acoustic Guitar

Used in most styles of music. Beginner models are relatively inexpensive. Steel-strings are a little harder on the fingertips and harder to press down. Not as good for young students with weaker hands. You may associate this guitar sound with Bob Dylan or Dave Mathews.

Electric Guitar

Also used in most styles of music. A little more expensive because you need to purchase an amplifier along with it. Also has metal strings, but they are a bit easier to press down. There are many ways to alter the sound of an electric guitar with guitar pedals and effects. Can be played quietly with headphones. You may associate this guitar sound with Jimi Hendrix or Nirvana.

You can always switch to a lighter string gauge when starting out and switch to heavier strings once you get the hang of things. This is a good option if you are just getting started. Lighter gauge strings are easier to play but they don't have as much volume as a heavier gauge strings. You can buy a set of light gauge strings at the music store and have them put them on for you. It shouldn't cost you more than $8 to $10 to do this.

How Much Can You Afford?

The next thing to consider is your budget. If you are looking for the most inexpensive way to get started, I suggest some kind of introductory guitar combo pack. Most of the name brand guitar makers have these beginner kits. The electric guitar combo packs usually include an electric guitar, amplifier, soft case (called a gig bag), picks, extra strings and maybe even a tuner. The acoustic and classical kits usually have the same things minus the amplifier. I recommend buying some type of name brand such as Gibson, Epiphone, Ibanez, Yamaha or Fender. Starter packs usually start at around $200 for the acoustic guitar pack and around $300 for an electric guitar pack with an amplifier. Beware of purchasing anything cheaper. Be thankful that, in the scheme of things, guitar is much cheaper to begin on than most other instruments.

What to Look for in a Guitar

The main things to keep in mind when purchasing a guitar are:

  1. Does it play well? Ask the salesman to play the instrument or bring someone who can. You may even find another customer in the store who would give you an opinion.
  2. Does it sound good? This is pretty objective, but go with what pleases your ears.
  3. Does it have a good warranty? Most guitars have a one-year warranty. (Don't forget to check the store's return policy, too! If we notice something wrong with it, we may tell you to take it back.)
  4. Do you like the way it looks? Looks aren't that important, but something to consider.

If you have done any looking around, you realize that the sky is the limit as far as how much guitars and amplifiers can cost. If you think you want something more expensive, do your research and read the articles on our website on where to buy a guitar. Remember guitars and amplifiers are like cars -- everyone has their own ideas of what they like.

We hope this information is helpful to you.

Thanks,
Alan Darby and Andrew Pouska
Tempo Teachers

Tempo School of Music, LLC
13505 Westheimer Rd Ste 5A, Houston, TX 77077
281-293-8880

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