Buying A Guitar for the First Time: Everything You Need to Know

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Are you thinking of buying a guitar? Great idea! Playing a musical instrument can be a rewarding experience for children and adults alike. It not only promotes cognitive development but also encourages creativity and self-expression. For kids, the guitar is a popular instrument that many express interest in. Whether you’re a parent looking to pick out a guitar for your child or a student looking to buy your first guitar, this comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision. So, let’s get started!

Benefits of learning to play guitar

The journey of learning to play the guitar goes beyond simply mastering an instrument; it opens up a world of self-expression, creativity, and personal growth, offering many rewards.

As your child learns to play, they will create beautiful melodies and unlock cognitive and emotional benefits. These benefits can significantly impact their life positively. That said, let’s dive into the multiple great benefits of learning guitar:

Why is it great to learn music?

Learning music or playing a musical instrument like the guitar provides several cognitive, emotional, and social benefits. Music can activate different parts of the human brain responsible for various functions, like language processing, memory, and motor coordination. Studies have also revealed that music activates both the right and left parts of the brain at the same time. This helps improve memory and boost your or your child’s learning ability.

In addition, playing the guitar also improves motor skills and coordination. A guitarist needs to perform precise movements with both hands, effectively coordinating them in the process.

Music is also a powerful stress reliever and acts as a form of self-expression. It allows you to convey often difficult emotions to put into words.

The benefits of getting your child into music

Introducing children to the world of music can be a rewarding experience for parents. Musical education has been linked to improved academic performance, enhanced coordination, and the development of discipline and patience.

A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology presented exciting information. According to it, students who learned to play a musical instrument for several years were approximately one academic year ahead of their peers in subjects like English, Mathematics, and Science. Further, playing an instrument like the guitar encourages creativity, time management skills, and perseverance. Plus, it boosts self-esteem and even decreases anxiety. Check out our podcast episode with music instructor Felicia Bond to hear more about how music can boost kids’ creativity and confidence.

Parents helping their daughter learn to play the guitar

An introduction to guitars

Types of guitars

There are three common guitar types that you can choose while buying your first guitar. These include classical guitars, acoustic guitars, and electric guitars. All of them have different features, looks, and uses. Let’s have a look at each of them:

A classical guitar

1. Classical guitars

Classical guitars are known for their wide neck and nylon strings. As the name suggests, they are perfect for classical compositions and fingerstyle playing.

Notable features of classical guitars:

  • Classical guitars are strung with the help of nylon strings, producing a mellower and softer sound. These strings are more gentle on the fingers of beginners and are easier to handle than steel strings.
  • A classical guitar is usually made from cedar and rosewood to produce warm and classical tones.
  • With its fretboard design and action, this guitar is perfect for delicate fingerpicking and classical music compositions.

Classical guitar uses:

Classical guitars are primarily used for classical compositions, playing with fingerstyle techniques, and creating intricate melodies. They produce a refined and delicate sound that is perfect for solo performances. Using a classical guitar can be a good choice if your child is not planning to play in a band or group.

Acoustic guitar

2. Acoustic guitars

The natural resonance and warm sound of acoustic guitars have made them quite popular. An acoustic guitar is a stringed instrument that produces sound by vibrating the strings in a hollow chamber. Here are some top features of acoustic guitars:

Notable features of acoustic guitars:

  • Acoustic guitars generate sound naturally without the need for amplification, using the resonating body to project the sound.
  • These guitars are available in different sizes, such as dreadnought, concert, and parlor. Dreadnoughts are known for their well-balanced sound, while concert guitars provide a more focused tone. Parlor guitars, on the other hand, have a slightly smaller body size and offer a unique vintage charm.
  • The tone of a soundboard is influenced by the choice of wood used for the top. Popular tonewoods for acoustic guitars include spruce, cedar, and mahogany.

Acoustic guitar uses:

Acoustic guitars are an excellent choice for both individual and ensemble performances. They are particularly well-suited for singer-songwriters, creating a charming ambiance during campfire gatherings and intimate settings.

An acoustic guitar creates a natural, unplugged sound that is timeless and inviting. It is mainly used for folk, country, and pop genres.

Electric guitar

3. Electric guitars

Electric guitars are highly versatile musical instruments that rely on amplification and cables to produce sound. This also makes them less portable than classical or acoustic guitars. Electric guitars are well-suited for rock, blues, and jazz genres.

Notable features of electric guitars:

  • An electric guitar requires an amplifier and a cable to produce sound effectively.
  • Electric guitars come in a wide variety of body shapes, and each one produces unique sonic qualities.
  • In an electric guitar, the distance between the bridge and nut, called the scale length, affects string tension and playability. Shorter scales are easier to bend, while longer scales offer better intonation.
  • An electric guitar has tone and volume controls, pickup selectors, and switches for easy sound customization.

Electric guitar uses:

Electric guitars are generally used in music bands and groups. They are perfect for genres that require versatility. They are essential for rock, pop, blues, and other genres that heavily rely on effects. Their amplified sound is able to stand out in a mix and create a unique and harmonious musical atmosphere.

Buying an affordable guitar: Important things to know

Typical price range

Affordable guitars can be found for as little as $100 up to approximately $500. The price may differ depending on the brand, materials used, and additional features. This price range typically offers beginner-friendly choices with good playability and sound quality.

For example, an average acoustic guitar can cost between $100 to $200. Similarly, classical guitars can also be found within this range. Depending on where you buy the guitar from, a classical guitar can even cost less than $100. On the other hand, electric guitars, being incredibly versatile and sophisticated, are slightly more expensive than the other two. You should expect to spend around $150 and above for a decent electrical guitar.

Other factors to consider

1. Age and size

Choosing the right size guitar is crucial, especially for beginners and younger players. Smaller guitars like 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 sizes are usually ideal for children, while adults typically prefer full-size guitars. It is essential to ensure that the dimensions of the guitar match your child’s body type to improve comfort and make learning more enjoyable.

To make it simpler for you, here is a detailed chart depicting what size guitar to buy for different age groups:

4 – 6 years old 3’3” – 3’9” 1/4
7 – 9 years old 3’10” – 4’5” 1/2
10 – 12 years old 4’6” – 5′ 3/4
12+ years old 5’1″ and above Full size

2. Quality and durability

Even if you are looking for affordable, entry-level guitars, ensuring that quality and durability are not sacrificed is crucial. Consider factors such as the quality of its construction, its frets’ smoothness, and its tuning mechanisms’ reliability.

The tone and durability of a guitar are influenced by the type of wood used. When selecting a guitar, consider the following wood options:

  • For the body, mahogany provides a warm sound, maple adds brightness, and rosewood contributes richness.
  • Spruce is a great choice if you’re looking for versatility in an acoustic guitar top.
  • When it comes to necks, maple offers stability and brightness, while mahogany emphasizes warmth.

3. Playability

The playability of a guitar significantly affects your child’s learning experience. Elements such as the neck’s shape, the strings’ height, and the overall setup can make a difference in how comfortable and effortless the guitar is to play. Choose a guitar that has a neck shape matching the size of your child’s hand and a setup that reduces string buzz and discomfort.

4. Accessories and extras

Most guitars come in complete packages, including essential accessories such as gig bags, tuners, spare strings, picks, and sometimes instructional materials. These extras help you save money in the long run and offer a convenient way to begin your musical journey.

Assess the package’s contents and how well it matches your child’s current requirements. If the package lacks any accessories, be sure to purchase them.

5. Budget

Creating a well-defined budget before shopping for your first guitar allows you to narrow your choices and avoid overspending. Although it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, consider increasing your budget slightly in order to have access to superior build quality and improved sound.

Hacks for buying high-quality guitars for less

If you are looking to buy a top-notch guitar for less money, here are some effective hacks you should try out:

1. Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is an excellent platform for discovering both brand-new and pre-owned guitars. Many sellers offer their instruments at competitive prices, leveraging the platform’s convenience and extensive audience reach. Browse through local listings, ask questions about the guitar’s condition, and arrange to meet in a safe location to inspect and test the guitar before making a purchase.

2. Second-hand shops

Your local second-hand shops and thrift stores are great places to find high-quality guitars at affordable prices. Make sure to visit them regularly and monitor their inventory, as new items arrive frequently. When shopping in person, you can examine the guitar’s condition, test how well it plays, and even negotiate prices for a better deal.

3. Craigslist

If you’re looking for used guitars at affordable prices, consider checking out Craigslist. This online platform offers a wide range of options and allows you to communicate with sellers directly. You can easily negotiate and gather more information about the guitar you like.

4. Music shops

Music stores often have sales events where they offer discounts on their products, including guitars. These discounts can be found during clearance sales or when older models are being replaced with newer ones. It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for these promotions and take the opportunity to visit the store in person to test and compare different guitars.

5. Renting

If you want your child to learn guitar but don’t want to spend a lot of money upfront, renting one can be a great option. Lots of music stores have rental programs where you pay a monthly fee. And if your kid ends up falling in love with the guitar, a portion of your rental fee can go toward buying it. This way, you can let your child try it out and see if it’s the right fit for them before making a big investment.

Guitar buying tips from experts

  • Play before you pay: Try playing the guitar before making a purchase whenever you have the opportunity. This will allow you to understand how it feels to play, determine its comfort level, and experience its sound firsthand. If you are a beginner and lack confidence in your playing skills, consider bringing along an experienced guitarist to provide their opinion.
  • Focus on the warranty and return policy: It is essential to fully understand the warranty and return policy of the guitar you are buying. This protects you in case of any hidden issues with the guitar or if you change your mind after purchasing.
  • Research and compare different brands: Take your time and do some research before making a decision. Look into various brands, models, and reviews online. Make sure to compare specifications, materials, and prices to find the best option that meets your preferences and fits your budget.
  • Look for defects: Thoroughly inspect the guitar for any defects, cracks, or damage. Pay close attention to the frets, tuners, and overall construction.

Common mistakes to avoid when buying a guitar

  • Immediately buying the cheapest option: Instead of solely focusing on the cheapest option, consider the importance of quality. Guitars with slightly higher prices often provide superior playability, durability, and sound quality.
  • Not focusing on the setup: A poorly configured guitar can negatively impact your playing experience. If the strings are either too high (high action) or too low (low action) on the fretboard, it will affect how easy it is to play. Make sure the guitar’s setup is tailored to match your preferred playing style.
  • Impulsive buying: To prevent any potential regrets, it is advisable to refrain from making impulsive purchases. Take your time to thoroughly research and consider various options before buying a guitar.
  • Ignoring comfort: Make comfort a priority when choosing a guitar. If a guitar is difficult or uncomfortable to play, it can discourage your child from practicing and slow down their progress. Make sure that the guitar’s neck shape, body size, and weight align with your preferences.

Getting started

Now that you know everything about guitars, it’s time to actually start playing. Here are a few essentials to know before you embark on this excellent musical adventure.

Choosing an instructor

One of the first steps to learning guitar is selecting the right and most qualified guitar instructor. Finding someone who fits well with your or your kid’s preferred learning style and aspirations is important. Take the time to research their background, teaching techniques, and feedback from previous students.

Student learning after buying a guitar
Image by Freepik

Lessonpal has a wide range of highly qualified and experienced instructors who offer top-notch guitar lessons at affordable prices. Whether you want to learn acoustic, electric guitar, classical, or more, you can find the right instructor on Lessonpal.

Songs to Learn

Beginners should begin by practicing simple songs that utilize basic chords. Some excellent options include:

  • These 10 easy Taylor Swift songs that don’t need a capo
  • “Dead Flowers” by the Rolling Stones (Chords – D, A, G)
  • “Used to Love Her” by Guns N’ Roses (Chords – D, A, G)
  • “Let It Be” by The Beatles ( Chords – C, G, Am, F)

Chords to start with

As a beginner, it is advisable to start with the easier chords, including A major, A minor, C major, D major, D minor, E major, E minor, E minor 7, and G major. Once you have mastered these, your instructor will guide you with the next chords.

The big picture

As you embark on the journey of buying your first guitar, remember that this decision is more than just a transaction. It’s a step towards self-expression, creativity, and personal growth. So, analyze all the information mentioned above, make your choice, and let the music flow!

And remember, the magic of the guitar doesn’t lie in the instrument alone. It lies in the melodies and memories you will create along the way. So, embrace the power of music and start with some guitar lessons; you will love it! In case you need guidance, Lessonpal is always here to help.

Frequently asked questions

1. What are some guitar-buying tips for advanced learners?

As an advanced player, you should consider guitars that suit your specific playing style and personal preferences. Search for high-end models that have features like high-quality tonewoods, adaptable electronics, and outstanding craftsmanship. Experiment with different types of guitars to discover the perfect match for your advanced skills, musical style, and genre.

2. What are some guitar-buying tips for intermediate learners?

For players at an intermediate level, it is essential to find guitars that promote improvement and development. Choose instruments that fall within the mid-price range, providing excellent quality without being overly expensive. Consider guitars with comfortable playability, durable tonewoods, and the ability to produce a wide range of tones.

3. What age is best to start learning guitar?

There’s no fixed age for learning guitar, but many find success starting around 6 to 9 years old. However, you can buy your first guitar and start learning it at any age.

4. What is easier, guitar or ukulele?

The ukulele is often considered easier because of its compact size, fewer strings, and simpler chords. However, mastering either instrument requires commitment and practice. Your decision between the two depends on your music aspirations, personal preferences, and the style of music that brings you joy.

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