What to Look for When Buying Your First Guitar

August 16, 2018 6 min read

Buying your first guitar

Buying your first guitar is thrilling, but many rookies often make the mistake of picking guitars that are too difficult for novices to play. To avoid that, check out this guide to make sure you buy the best guitar for beginners.

Everyone can remember the first guitar solo that made them stop in their tracks. It could've been Van Halen's guest spot on Michael Jackson's Beat It, the classic and lengthy Lynnrd Skynnrd Free Bird, or Slash's generation-defining moment in Sweet Child O' Mine.

Have you been haunted ever since by that split-second moment in time when a guitar solo intensified your love of music?

It's time to buy your first guitar.

How do you know you're buying the best guitar for beginners that'll make you a music sensation in no time? You follow these tips, that's how.

Tips to Choose the Best Guitar for Beginners

Buying your first guitar is really exciting, but there are so many things to consider it can be overwhelming.

Have a good think about these choices you'll need to make before you buy your first guitar, and as a result, you'll be eager to play your instrument at every opportunity.

Think About Your Heroes

Consider the playing style you're drawn towards as this will influence the type of guitar you'll buy. Look at what your heroes are playing and learn about the different guitar brands and styles that are most popular in your favorite genres of music.

A Hendrix-lover might not get the sound they want out of a Les Paul-style guitar compared to a Stratocaster, for example, so could be put off learning due to this frustration. Someone with a love of shredding won't do well by starting off with an acoustic guitar either.

Your heroes and the music you love the most will influence the brand and style of guitar you're likely to enjoy the most. If your goal is to dominate Master of Puppets note-for-note, a Schecter Guitars may be the right guitar for you. If you admire acoustic singer-songwriters, look at a Martin Guitars to start a lifelong love affair with your guitar.

Lesser-known brands don't necessarily mean lower quality, either. They may be new brands, vintage, or simply more bespoke, but can offer a more unique sound than popular brands. Take a look around your local guitar store and try everything out to find 'the one'.

Electric Versus Acoustic for Beginners

The principles of playing an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar are the same, but the sounds are very different.

How you want your playing to sound will affect your choice of guitar. An acoustic guitar for beginners is ideal for someone wanting to learn classical guitar, while electric is best for those with rock-star ambitions.

You'll also need to consider your practice conditions. Do you live in an apartment with thin walls? An electric guitar with headphones is more neighbor-friendly than a resonant acoustic. Also, blasting the windows of your out of your apartment with an overly powerful amp may have you playing in front of an audience of law enforcement.

Are You a Righty or Lefty?

Most people on our site know that a majority of guitars are made right-handed, but there are plenty of options for southpaw guitars too. Specialist guitar suppliers can help left-handers find the best guitar for beginners that is the correct way around for them - making it easier to hold and learn. For beginners, it helps to ask for recommendations from stores (calling us is a great option 518.746.9500) or else forums like reddits leftyguitarist page are incredibly helpful.

Pick Your Budget

The cheapest option isn't always the best place to start when you're looking for the best guitar for beginners. The quality of a guitar, the wood it's made from, and the hardware specifications are all factors that affect the sound.

Pick a budget for your first guitar and stick to it. It's easy to walk into a guitar store and be tempted by all of the pretty instruments on the walls, but stay within your price!

If you buy a really expensive guitar straight away, you might be scared to play it /drop it/ scratch it. Realistically, most beginners won't know the difference between a good starter and a $3500 master-made guitar. An old coach once used to say, "it's not the wand, it's the wizard", and for beginners we can't emphasize the value in that statement enough. Go for something you'll be proud to play and you won't be able to put it down.

Opt for Simple Hardware

While you're fiddling with your knobs, you're not playing. Opt for a simple guitar for your first instrument so that your focus is on learning to play rather than tweaking an array of buttons and switches.

A minimalist model such as a Les Paul Junior or a Telecaster will be simple enough that you can direct your attention to learning how to play.

You can always upgrade the hardware and pickups if you love your first guitar. Concentrate on six strings first before adding more complex things.

Choose Your Bridge Style

A fixed bridge is low-fuss and easy to tune compared to a vibrato or tremolo system. Floating bridges found on some superstrat style models can go out of tune when you rest your picking hand on the bridge.

Many players find tune-o-matic style, or wraparound, bridges to be more comfortable for palm-muting and offer vastly increased tuning stability.

What's Your Playing Stance?

Will you be standing or sitting to play the majority of the time? Your chosen stance will affect the type of beginner guitar you choose.

If you like to stand to play, the balance of a guitar is really important. Choosing a model that's too neck-heavy will make it uncomfortable to play for long periods of time.

Take a guitar strap with you when you pick out guitars. Set it to the length that feels comfortable for you and test it out with your potential new purchase. Does the neck dive? Is it comfortable to hold? Does it tilt away from you?

Accessories to Consider for Your New Guitar

Once you've picked your first guitar it's time to look at the accessories you need to make the learning experience even more enjoyable.


A very cheap accessory, start off with a range of different pick weights to find one that you like. Fast metal players often prefer more sturdy and pointed picks for speed and accuracy. On the other hand, acoustic strummers may find they prefer a more flexible pick for chording.

A Strap and Strap Locks

A strap that makes your guitar comfortable to play is essential to a positive learning experience. Find one that will take the weight of your guitar and that is long enough to put into a standing playing stance too.

Strap locks are vital if you want to avoid any accidents!

An Amp and Headphones

If you've gone for an electric guitar then you'll need a practice amp to get the most out of the sound. However, you'll want some headphones to plug in too, so that you can really pay attention to your playing late into the night.

You only need a small amp to start with; when you get proficient enough to start playing in a band then it's time to upgrade. Amps are very personal and you can sink a lot of money into them, so it's good to smart small and then learn what you like. Choosing between tube amps vs solid state, new vs vintage, and we won't even get into brand comparisons. Oh yeah, don't forget your cable, too!

An Electric Tuner

Staying in tune is vital if you want to sound good. A simple clip-on tuner will only set you back a few dollars and means you can continue to re-tune throughout your practice session with ease. One of our go-to tuners, the Snark SN1X, will save you time and headaches without burning a hole in your wallet.

A Guitar Stand

If your guitar is always in its case then you'll never think to play it. Put it on a stand in a visible place and you'll not be able to put it down!


Your guitar will come with a set of strings - but they might not be the right ones for you. A heavier or lighter gauge will affect your sound and your playing style, so it's worth investing in a different set to experiment with.

Get It Set Up

Now you know how to find the best guitar for beginners, it's time to learn how to get the best out of your instrument, too.

Ask a guitar technician to set up your first guitar properly. It'll cost about $65 to have a professional make sure your new instrument is perfectly playable from the first chord you strum. You can also see if this is something that's included when buying a guitar.

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