How to Choose Your First Guitar without Overspending

right guitar
Written by Zack Ciannello fromĀ

So you’ve decided you are gonna be the next Jimi Hendrix. Now you need the guitar that is gonna start you on your way, but where do you start? Here are some steps to take to choose the right guitar.

Be honest with yourself.

Why do you really want to play guitar? To impress a girl? Become a rockstar or this generation’s Dylan? While, you may have pie-in-the-sky ideas initially, more often than not, the initial interest in the instrument is relegated to dust collection duty in the back of a closet. Before dipping into your savings to pony up for the shiny Gibson on the wall at Guitar Center, ask yourself what you hope to get out of playing guitar. If you aren’t sure, you probably won’t want to waste good money on something you won’t use. If you believe you have a true desire to put in the time to be a lifelong guitar player/hobbyist, have the confidence to find a good ax to set you on your path.

Feel it out.

Find yourself a local guitar shop and take a visit. Before you go pulling every six-stringer off the wall, talk to the sales personnel. Don’t be shy about your lack of experience, (despite the reputation for big egos) most fellow guitarists are happy to assist a newcomer. Most shops will allow you to sit with their instruments and this is vital.

You need to try out different guitars, see how they feel on your lap, under your arm, and in your hand. Does it have sharp edges all over and feel cheap? Try pressing the strings to test how easy or resistant they feel to you. Pluck the strings and let the natural acoustics of the guitar resonate. While you may yet have an untrained ear, you can compare and take note of which styles and brands satisfy your ear best. NEVER choose your first guitar based on looks alone. Sure it looks good in the mirror, but if your first guitar doesn’t feel/sound right, or is difficult to play, this will only impede your initial growth, if not discourage you altogether. If your love of guitar sticks you can always get the Flying-V with lighting bolt fret inlays later.

Find the right guitar at the right price.

You probably really liked the pro-series Martin or the custom Stratocaster, but the truth is, these guitars are professional guitars for a reason. As a rule, you get what you pay for with guitars. That being said, the differences between the aforementioned professional guitars and a solid starter instrument will not be discernible to you until you get your chops up and gain more experience. On the other end of the spectrum, the ultra cheap-priced guitars are equally cheap in quality. You will learn shortly that these guitars will inhibit your growth and you’ll be wanting to pony up for something better.

The premium brand guitars often offer more affordable alternatives, or under different branding. Martin and Yamaha offer affordable guitars in their lower series, and Gibson manufactures affordable guitars under the Epiphone mark, while Fender uses the Squier mark. These types of guitars won’t be made with all the top end materials and features, but they will be well-made. This is the sweet-spot for the perfect starter guitar.

Where to buy?

You’ve found a guitar you really like and it isn’t gonna break the bank? Great! Before you buy that guitar at the local shop, ask about return-policies, financing, and warranties. Go home and do some due-diligence online. It might be good to support a Ma’ and Pa’ guitar shop, but you don’t want to be had either. There are plenty of online dealers that will offer full-refund 30-day return policies. DO NOT buy your first guitar (or second or third, truthfully) from eBay or any dealer that does not offer a full-refund return policy. Even if you played the same model guitar in the shop, the one you get online might just not feel the same. Once you feel comfortable with the deal online or in the store, make your purchase.

You did it!

You’ve got the guitar and you don’t have buyer’s remorse. Now you can become the guitarist you dreamed to be. Happy strumming.


2 thoughts on “How to Choose Your First Guitar without Overspending

  1. Thanks for the tips, especially about trying them out in person.

    Once you’ve done that, you might find a better price online, as you hinted at. Amazon can be a great place to shop for guitars too.

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