How to Buy You First Guitar

written by Jef Joslin

Buying a guitar can feel like a daunting task. If you're a beginner looking to buy a guitar online or in a local music store, the number of guitars and various types can seem overwhelming. There are acoustic guitars, electric guitars, acoustic/electric guitars, bass guitars and even many more variations of guitars for a multitude of music styles. For each of these, there are many different manufactures who make a range of guitars that contain a variety of woods and components that can overwhelm the first time guitar buyer. 

This guide can help guide you towards the guitar that is right for you, and hopefully help you feel a little less overwhelmed and a lot more informed on the guitar buying process. My hope is to make it easier on you to find the guitar of your dreams!

Decide How Much You Want to Spend

The most important thing is to decide exactly what your budget is for your new guitar. Is this something you're just trying out to see if you like it? If that's the case you probably only want to spend a couple hundred dollars. There's no sense in spending a lot of money on a guitar that will ultimately end up in the storage shed. 

With that said, there are still some GREAT guitars that will last a long time for a couple hundred dollars. Yamaha makes a wide range of great guitars for the beginner that include solid wood tops that'll give you a great sound and will last for many years as you grow as a guitar player. 

The important thing to understand about price is why certain guitars are more expensive than others. As the price of a guitar increases, it means that the wood choices, tuning components, finishes etc are high quality. In essence if you spend more, chances are you'll get a better guitar that will last a long time and get better with age.

Decide Whether You Want An Acoustic, Classical, or Electric Guitar

The next thing to decide is which guitar type is right for you.

An acoustic guitar is great for playing all types of music but specifically songwriters, folk musicians, artists in pop related genres, etc. It uses a hollow shell made out of various types of wood with a hole for the sound to be released. This type of guitar uses steel strings to create vibrations that resonate inside the guitar and are amplified by the sound hole in the center of the body.

A classical guitar can be used for the applications I mentioned above, but is better suited for latin, classical, or jazz music. These guitars are similar to acoustic guitars but use nylon strings instead of steel. This results in a more mellow sound and easier play-ability. The neck of these guitars (the piece of wood that attaches the headstock where the strings are wound and tuned, to the body of the guitar) are usually a little wider, creating more space between the strings. 

An electric guitar, like the others can be used for all the aforementioned styles, but is best suited for playing jazz, rock and roll, blues, etc. This type of guitar will also require some sort of amplification, which is something to keep in mind. If you buy an electric guitar for two hundred dollars, you're going to want to prepare to spend another two hundred or more on an amplifier and a cable to amplify the sound of the guitar. These prices for each can increase significantly depending on the quality of the guitar, cable or amplifier. This type of guitar uses pickups to "pickup" the vibrations of the strings and send a voltage level to an output jack. Here an instrument cable is used to send the voltage to an amplifier to "amplify" or "turn up" the voltage level through a speaker in order for you to hear the sound, hence the term "electric guitar."

Do Some Homework on the Various Wood Types and the Tones They Create

All guitars use various wood types in their construction. These different types of wood affect the price, sound and overall look of the guitar. When buying a guitar it is important to know which one is right for you and what it will do for the guitar that you buy.

Some common wood types are alder, ash, basswood, cedar, maple, mahogany, rosewood, ebony and walnut. There are also other exotic woods but the woods listed above are commonly used and will be encountered in any guitar store or site you visit. 

It would take an entire other blog post to explain the differences in each wood, but here is a great article that will give a general overview of the differences.

Find the Best Value for the Price

As you've probably already noticed, you can buy almost any guitar at a ton of different outlets, whether they be online or in a local store. Some prices may be lower than others, but you have to factor in shipping and tax, and while buying a guitar online may seem like a convenient idea, you don't get the chance to interact with the guitar, ask the sales expert questions that will help your buying experience, and see how a specific guitar plays and feels.

All guitars are not created equal. The very same guitar may play, sound, and feel completely different than its identical counterparts. Another thing to find out is whether the guitar is setup and intonated. This process ensures that the guitar plays comfortably and stays in tune as you play. This can make a huge difference in whether or not you want to sit down and play your guitar everyday. If the strings are hard to push down and you're constantly re-tuning it you may become frustrated and end up losing interest in a hobby that can be very satisfying. 

Although a company can give you a lower price, they may not be able to offer you the experience and quality that you deserve. Make sure to bear this in mind when buying a guitar. A local mom and pop shop may appear to be a bit more expensive than a large music chain or online retailer, but they will work hard to give you the best experience because they can provide a more intimate experience and have the time to devote to your buying experience.

Find a guitar that fits your Style

There are many different shapes, colors, and styles of guitars. Make sure you buy a guitar that fits your style and communicates the vibe that you want to give off. If you're a mellow quiet guy, you probably don't want a bright yellow or neon guitar. You'd be better suited with a standard dreadnaught guitar that has traditional look. On the other hand, if you're a hard rocker, the yellow or neon guitar may be perfect for you.

At the end of the day you want your guitar to be an extension of you and your personality. When you play, your heart and soul will shine through and you want that clearly communicated through your instrument.

Put Your Hands on the Guitar

The best thing you can do is hold the guitar in your hands. That is by far the best way to know whether this guitar is the right one for you to buy. Listen to how it sounds when strummed. Does it resonate loudly and clearly? Does is sound full or thin? If you don't know how to play yourself, ask the guitar sales associate to play it for you. If you'd like to hear it played in a certain style, ask him or her to do so. 

Ultimately you want a guitar that sounds, feels, and plays great to YOU. It doesn't matter what the brand is, what anyone else thinks of it, or what it costs. If the guitar makes you feel good inside when you hear it played, that will keep you excited everyday when it comes time to pick it up and make music.

Check Out the Condition of the Guitar

Before you buy the guitar, check every aspect of it to make sure there are no dents or dings. Great music stores will work hard to give you pristine instruments that are in wonderful shape. The last thing you want is to buy a guitar that has been mishandled either by the people who carry it in the store or the people that shipped it. This is another advantage of buying from a local trusted music store. They will take the time to make sure their instruments are cared for and inspected and are bought in great condition.

Buy the Guitar That You Love and Will Last A Long Time

When you finally decide to buy a guitar make sure its the one that you absolutely love. With your new found knowledge provided in this blog you'll be able to buy the guitar that sounds great, has the wood type you prefer and will last a long time. Playing guitar can be a very satisfying, life-long endeavor. When you buy a guitar, take the time to ensure that you have a great experience, buy the guitar that you want, and that guitar will last a long time. 

Jef Joslin is a Multi Instrumentalist, Artist, Songwriter, Producer and Composer. He is also a Sales Associate & Marketing Director at Charles Music Store in Glendale, CA. He is also a proud husband and father.