You’ve decided to learn guitar and booked yourself in for some lessons, and now you’re standing in the guitar shop trying to find your axe of choice. Acoustic or electric? Steel string or nylon? Floyd Rose or fixed bridge? $100 or $1000? What about that starter pack that has that little amp? There are so many options that buying a new guitar can be a little overwhelming.
Here are five things to consider before bringing home your new instrument:
What kind of music are you into?
If you want to play like Slash, it’s probably not a good idea to buy a nylon string classical guitar. There are positives for learning on either an acoustic or an electric guitar, but it really comes down to personal preference. Stop for a second and think about what kind of music you’re into? Are you metal head? A country boy? Maybe you love jazz, or perhaps you just want to strum along to your favourite song on YouTube. What kind of guitars do your heroes play? If they use an electric guitar and you want to be like them, buying an electric guitar is probably a good idea.
We have so much going on in our lives, so make sure you pick up an instrument that you’re inspired to play. There will be days when you don’t want to practice and that requires a little discipline, but it always helps if you pick up the instrument and think to yourself, ‘man, this is a nice guitar!’
We all start at the beginning
Over the years I’ve heard people say that they ‘only want to learn acoustic guitar’ or ‘I just want to play heavy metal on electric guitar’. What these people don’t realise is that these instruments are both ‘guitars’ and all the foundational skills you learn is the same. The skills you learn are even transferable to playing the bass guitar. Essentially, you’re learning ‘music’ and using a guitar to do it.
Once you understand the basic skills and techniques of the instrument you can start to make more stylistic choices regarding how you play each instrument. This is where you can start playing heavy metal on your electric guitar, or develop a percussive fingerpicking style with an acoustic. Acoustic guitars are better for some kinds of music, and electric guitars are better for others. Both types of guitar have their strengths and weaknesses and you can play whatever you like on either. Personally, I love playing both acoustic and electric guitars, and if I had to pick one, I could honestly not tell you which I prefer.
Do you have the discipline to learn the guitar?
If you’re thinking about buying a guitar (or any other instrument) to start learning, you need to get real with yourself and realise why you actually want to play the instrument. Did you see John Mayer live in concert and get all inspired to give songwriting a go? Or maybe playing ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’ on Guitar Hero made you want to pick up something that actually has strings. Those are awesome reasons to start playing, but you’ll need some discipline to see it through. Learning an instrument is not always exciting, can sometimes be hard work, and takes a bit of time and discipline if you really want to get good. For every hour the pros spend on stage, they spend hours more carefully studying their instrument and making sure they are world-class. This may sound a little depressing, but don’t let it put you off. Playing and making music is one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do! Check out these 5 Reasons Learning Music Helps You Enjoy Life.
How much do you want to spend on your guitar?
There are positives for learning on either an acoustic or an electric guitar, but it really comes down to personal preference.
These days you can get some great guitars at really affordable prices, so you don’t have to fork out a ton of cash to get started with an instrument. However, don’t do yourself a disservice by purchasing the cheapest guitar you can find. They are often cheap for a reason and will cause you more trouble than they are worth. You don’t want to end up giving up on the instrument because the guitar never stays in tune, has horrible intonation, or feels awkward to play.
How hard is the guitar you want to buy going to be to maintain?
One thing you should consider before purchasing any guitar is how easy it will be to maintain. It might seem like a fun idea to get a super-strat style guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge, but if you’re just starting out, you are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration. Floyd Rose bridges are extremely difficult to set up and re-string, and many guitar technicians charge extra for doing this. If you’re buying a cheaper guitar, it’s often best to go for one that’s a little more simply constructed. Floyd Rose bridges and other tremolo systems on cheap guitars are often very low quality and will cause you constant tuning headaches.
If you’re going to buy a guitar, try to get your teacher, or a skilled guitarist that you know to look over the instrument. Look for any irregularities in the:
- Note clarity (there shouldn’t be any string buzz on open strings or fretted notes)
- Tremolo system (if the guitar has a whammy bar)
- General feel of the instrument
Making sure a guitar is properly set up can have a huge impact on how it feels to play. If anything in the above list needs attention, get the technician at the store to set up the instrument for you before you buy it. With some cheap instruments, no amount of set up will fix the problem. You probably want to stay away from these!
Leave us a comment if you have any questions, and let us know what you looked for when you were buying a new guitar?