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How to chose your first guitar

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As the cornerstone of your future learning, this is THE fundamental question of the ultimate newbie: what is the first guitar we should chose to begin?

Basics required for this lesson : None
Practice this lesson : None

As you've probably noticed, many sites dedicated to the guitar offer every kind of tricks, often with very different opinions from each other, leading mostly to a total blur when it comes to chose the first guitar. In short, you don’t often learn much after reading lines after lines of contradictory comments about this subject ...

We do not claim to have the absolute answer to this question, because obviously it is you who hold it, but we simply hope to enlighten you in the most objective way regarding your choice.

What guitar to start learning ?

A guitar for beginners

Your first guitar will be the one with which you will learn how to play, it must fulfill the specific functions of learning, no more, no less. Concretely, make it simple: no need to invest too much, if you plan to buy an expensive guitar in the medium-long term, you are completely mistaken !
Why? Firstly because your requirements concerning the sounds will evolve over time, your playing style will be characterized, you will improve your ear, etc.. And inevitably you will feel the desire to change your guitar, and rightly decide to invest in a model that suits you best, with other specificities related to your evolution. Only then you will have the experience necessary for this type of choice, not before.

External aspect

Even if the external aspect may be important for you, do not consider this criterion as a critical aspect of your choice. Instead avoid as far as possible, to think about it, it would be stupid to invest in a guitar of lesser quality to begin because of its look! Remember that you don’t know how to play and that even the worst guitar taken from the attic of your grandma could help you to progress! And that's the only important thing when you start .. progress.
In short, unless you want to hang it on the wall, avoid to rely on the look even if it’s tempting.
 

Easy to play

What is a guitar for beginners? Firstly, it’s a guitar easy to play, i.e. with:

  • A nice fretboard that helps you to ease your learning of chords and your movements on the fretboard. Basically the goal is to limit too large extensions. Concretely, even if you do not play every note, you should find it enjoyable, because you will handle it each time you will play. Also make sure that the strings are not too far away from the fretboard.
  • A balanced guitar: the body must be well balanced, not too heavy. To test it, you can ask the seller to give it a try standing with a strap.
  • A good sound, that’s all: The acoustic qualities of wood used are highly variable and have a direct impact on the sound made. But honestly we don’t mind. Anyway, logically you do not have yet the skills to judge the quality of a particular sound. As long as the latter do not have the sound of a pan, everything is OK. In short, do not waste your time to dissect the different types of wood of your guitar, if you want a sound "not too trans", "a little Smoos", "slightly chimaïque" you'll see it on your next purchase, you need a minimum to judge. Here we talk about a guitar for beginners;

But in all cases, these criteria must seem abstract, so do not hesitate to ask about the most used guitars for beginners in a price range between 100€ to 150€. For instance Cort or Washburn are good compromises.
 

Electric, folk or classical?

All depends on the style you want to play: it doesn’t make sense to buy a classical guitar if you want to play metal and vice versa. Unless being maso, remember that your guitar progress will essentially be the fruit of your motivation! And to motivate ourself, there’s nothing better than trying to play songs that we know.

Having made that clear, here are the main characteristics, advantages / disadvantages of different types of guitars to get a supplementary idea:

The electric guitar

It is a type of guitar fitted with a body mostly full (solid body) and which produces sounds via microphones capturing and converting the string vibrations into an electrical signal. This signal can then be altered by an amplifier and various accessories such as effect pedals, which significantly increases the power and richness of the instrument.

Benefits:

+ fretboard is thin, easier to play
+ very various sounds
+ Possibilities to play with a group
+ Possibilities to play at night (no natural soundbox)

Disadvantages:

- Prices
- Require additional accessories (amp, cables, jacks, etc.).
- Requires more accuracy (less spaced strings)
 

The folk guitar (also called "acoustic guitar")

Belongs to the family of acoustic guitars. They use only their soundboard to amplify the sound produced by the strings. Depending on their shape, their number of strings and the propagation system they use, we will differentiate different types of acoustic guitars.

Benefits:

+ Prices
+ Easy to carry
+ Versatility of styles (pop, rock, country, blues, unplugged, etc..)
+ fretboard does not require a milimeter accuracy,
+ Friendly (possibility to take it away during your vacation, at the beach, etc..)
+ Possibility to add a microphone for amplification

disadvantages:

- Strings rather hard (sore fingers)
 

The classical guitar

It is a light acoustic guitar with a flat and wide fretboard. The strings are in nylon for the three higher, with a core composed of multiple nylon fibers surrounded by bronze for the three lower.

Benefits:

+ Prices
+ By changing the way of attacking the strings, it is possible to produce a wide range of sounds, from very soft to very clicking sounds
+ Possibility to play many different styles (baroque and old music, classical, Spanish romantic, Latin music in South America, Brazilian, Cuban and even modern music)
+ Very light, easy to carry
+ Friendly (possibility to take it away during vacation, at the beach, etc..)

Disadvantages:

- The large fretboard facilitates the complex phrasing, but requires a more difficult position for the left hand
- Sound power reduced
- Robustness
- Impossibility to play with a group

Conclusion

Each guitar has its advantages and disadvantages, but in all cases, it’s up to you to make your own choice.
Some people would probably advise you to start with an electric guitar pretexting that if you manage to play on a fretboard of 4 cm wide you will be able to play on any fretboard, others would advise you to start with a classical guitar pretexting that if you manage to play on a fretboard of 6 cm wide you will be able to play on any fretboard, etc..

What do we recommend? The folk of course! Because if you manage to play on a fretboard of 5 cm wide you’ll be able to play on any fretboard! : P
Stop joking! I personally do not have an opinion on the matter. In my case, I started on an electric guitar but I could just have started on a folk, there's no doubt about it ...

Frequently Asked Questions

New or Used?

Your first guitar will almost inevitably be regarded as a mythical object, it’s up to you if you want to be the sole owner. Anyway, if this sentimental issue goes completely above your head, do not hesitate to buy your first used guitar, this will be money well spent.

Where to buy? In a traditional store or online?

A traditional store gives firstly the possibility to try different styles of guitar. It’s often the cave of Ali Baba of experienced guitarists who are able to test a multitude of guitars depending on their experience before buying the model of their dreams, but this test it doesn’t make sense for the newbie... Except the fact he will most of the time buy a guitar at a high price, I do not see how a beginner could really try a guitar, since he’s just a beginner and then doesn’t know how to play...
In short, the easiest solution is called Internet. The web offers to the newbie a major benefit: a much wider choice and much better rates. Do not be afraid of breakage during the transport, the sites do that very well.
 

How it goes for left-handers?

All is a matter of learning. In all cases, when we are a beginner, there is no automatism to play this instrument, so no predisposition to play one side or another.

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Without music life would be a mistake.
(Nietzsche)