First off, are you buying the guitar for yourself or someone else? What you like may be very different to someone else depending on your taste in music and style.
If you’re buying it for someone else, will they get a say in what it is, or is it a surprise? Is it for a family member, friend or child? It might be more suitable in a particular size or shape depending on the person. Establish as much information as possible before launching into the buying process.
Choose what type of guitar you want
Decide if you want an acoustic or electric guitar. Acoustics are great to learn on. No fancy bells and whistles. And if you’re going to have lessons, you’ll focus on how to sound as clear and precise as possible when you play. You can also choose between a classic nylon-stringed acoustic which is quieter and less demanding to play, or a steel-stringed acoustic that’s louder but tougher on beginner’s fingers.
Many brilliant and famous guitarists started with an electric, simply because it was what they were interested in. There’s more variety in sound, looks and playing styles. But again, like steel-stringed acoustics, they may be punishing on un-callused fingers.
There is no right or wrong way to start here. Look at guitarists from the genre of music you want to play to get an idea of what guitars they use.
Settle on the shape and style
Pick what you think stylistically looks the best. If you’re after a certain colour or shape, focus in on those. Look at some expensive guitars for inspiration. One thing to consider is that there’s less variation in looks amongst acoustics. However, there are a number of body sizes, which produce different sounds and either come with or without a body cutaway. Dreadnought style acoustics have a thick, loud tone but may be too cumbersome for smaller players because of the size. Parlour style guitars, on the other hand, have thinner bodies more suited to seated practice playing.
If you’re buying for a child, check out smaller-scale guitars. These have shorter necks and fretboards so there’s less stretching to play notes. Some electric guitar companies make 3/4-sized guitars and even smaller, built specifically for children. The Jackson Minion series is a range of small-scale rock and roll instruments perfectly suited for younger players.
Determine how much you are willing to spend
Decide your budget. Do this now because you may be tempted to pay that little bit extra for a certain shape or colour that really takes your fancy. However I would not recommend paying anything beyond £300 for a beginner guitar. Because if you find out it’s not the instrument for you, or you get bored, you don’t want to waste an excessive amount of money. Start off cheap and gradually build up in price with your progress and dedication.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of choices, If you get the chance, go to a guitar shop such as Andertons *wink wink*! Ask the staff to help you out. See what takes your interest in the flesh. See what it’s like to sit down with a guitar. Hold onto the neck and get a feeling of it.
Consider seeing it in person before you buy
All guitars will have similar specifications in this lower price bracket. So there’s no need to focus much on what the fretboard material is, or how many knobs it has, or what the hardware is made of. There are lots of variables in guitars so it’s important not to feel overwhelmed.
Even how they sound is less important than how the shape makes you feel. If it excites you to look at, you’ll be more inclined to pick it up and play.
Look for accessories
Consider buying a starter pack. The Epiphone Les Paul pack contains a strap so you can play standing up, an amplifier and cables to project the sound and plectrums to pick the strings with. There are plenty of these out there for acoustics too such as the Fender CC-60s pack. Or you could buy the guitar separately and add these accessories after.
Beyond the basics such as picks and an amp and cable for electrics, everything is optional. But I would recommend getting extra strings when you’ve worn out the ones already on the guitar. Cleaning fluid for the neck is also a worthwhile addition. If you want to get more creative after nailing the very basics of playing, a slide and capo open up even more possibilities.
Follow these steps and you’ll come out with a guitar that will inspire you to become the next big thing!
Check out our other learn articles for more guitar and music tips.