Tips For Your First Guitar

Hear Them In Action

If you’re looking at purchasing your first guitar, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed at how many options and variations there are. Watch the video for a demonstration of the different types of guitar, or ready below for further tips.

Style

There are several styles of guitar.

  • Steel String Acoustic
  • Classical (often called Nylon-string).
  • Electric

You might notice that withing the “acoustic” category, there are two types – Classical and Steel String.

For a beginner, I always recommend a classical because the strings are much softer and easier to press down. I believe in setting yourself up to succeed, which means making things as easy as possible when you first start out. This is CRUCIAL for young beginners (anyone under the age of about 13). Steel strings and electrics are usually too tough (or “sharp” as many of my students have said) and end up being a barrier for learning.

Keep in mind that within these different guitar types, there are many aspects of customisation such as scratch plate, pickup combinations, double cutaways, fret numbers, scale length… the list is almost endless. A beginner is best off just focusing on the type they prefer, then worry about all of the smaller aspects later.

Left/Right Handed

Guitars are available in both left and right handed models. 

Right Handed = the player’s right hand holds the strings and the left hand strums.

Left Handed = the player’s left hand holds the strings and the right hand strums.

They are basically just mirror images of each other, but you can re-string one upside down to convert it to be the other. It’s not ideal, but it’ll do the trick and save you buying a whole new guitar.

If you’re right handed, then the choice is easy – go with a right handed guitar.

If you’re left handed, then it’s a little tougher because most left handed people play right handed guitar. It’s a matter of what hand carries the rhythm, rather than what hand a person writes with. So my advice is to try both left and right handed guitars, and see what you think is more natural. If you buy a guitar and end up changing your mind, remember that you can always restring it upside down (though it’s not ideal).

Condition

I strongly recommend considering second hand gear on eBay, gumtree, Facebook sale groups and even friends or family that might have a spare guitar they don’t want any more. Second hand gear is often very good for music – ideally you want to find someone who purchased the instrument but never really pursued it, so barely practiced or played it. Sometimes these guitars have even been played less than a brand new one in a guitar store. Of course, if you’d rather purchase a new one, that’s fine too. At very least, you should compare prices, condition and quality of new and used guitars, then make a decision.

Brand

The brand of a guitar will add some money to the price tag. In my experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, but I’ve found that it lessens the chance of them being “bad”. For example, I’ve seen plenty of unknown branded guitars that are shocking, but most brand named guitars have been good quality. I recommend avoiding big name brands and instead buy from companies that market towards entry level customers like Valencia, Ashton, Yamaha and Artist Guitars.

Size

Don’t get a young child a full size guitar, just because “they’ll grow into it”. It’s true that they will grow, but what happens along the way? Playing is too difficult and they give up. If you’re unsure what is the right size, you can ask your local shop, but I’ve found the following chart to be of use.
Age Height Guitar Size Link To Purchase
3-5yrs
95cm – 100cm
1/4 (Quarter)
5-8yrs
110-130cm
1/2 (Half)
8-12yrs
130-150cm
3/4 (Three Quarter)
12+
150cm+
Full Size
If you’re still unsure when you see your child holding the guitar, I suggest choosing the guitar that looks slightly smaller. It will make learning easier and that’s one less barrier to have for a beginner.

Setup

Guitars have to be “set up”. This means adjusting a few things on the guitar such as neck relief (how much it’s bent), string height (called action) and a few other things.

The main aspect here is for beginner guitarists to have low action that makes playing easy. If your guitar has low action, you can lower the bridge by removing it and sanding it down. If this all sounds too difficult, it may be best to ask your UGA guitar teacher, or see a guitar store.

If you’re new to guitar, don’t worry too much about this. The most important factors are really just getting the right size and correctly handed guitar.

Still Need Help?

If you are still having trouble, or have any questions, get in touch with us and we’ll happily help you out.

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