Making that very first purchase doesn’t have to be stressful! In fact, this will usually be the cheapest time you will buy a guitar (as long as you stick to it). Here is some of my advice on buying a guitar for someone who wants to learn for the very first time.
Table of Contents
Things to Check When Buying a Guitar For A Beginner
Before you run out an buy a guitar for the first time, there are few things that you should consider. I will list out some “strategies” you can use to find the perfect guitar for yourself or as a gift to someone who is interested in learning the instrument.
1. What Kind Of Guitar Are You Looking For?
This question is more geared towards parents who have a kid that wants to learn how to play the guitar. Before you make a purchase, this is most likely what to ask when buying a guitar first. Usually, the person who is interested in the instrument already knows what kind of guitar they want to play, so this is important.
Usually, the choice is between an electric guitar or a steel-string acoustic. Occasionally, some youngsters get a classical guitar as their first guitar. More power to them, especially if they dedicate themselves to that particular type of guitar.
Now, some kids can’t be too picky about this and should be grateful to get any guitar. However, choosing the right type can make them feel inspired and stay with the instrument for a long time until they’ve become more advanced. When buying a guitar for the first time, simply check if it is an electric or an acoustic that they want. Getting the right type will be beneficial for your overall investment.
2. Choose A Brand
There are so many brands to choose from, so this part can be a little bit overwhelming for some people who are buying a guitar for beginners. Once you’ve figured out whether it’s an electric or acoustic guitar that you are buying, take a look at some of the popular brands out there. This can help narrow your search.
When picking a brand, try to see if they have some kind of bundles that are geared towards beginner guitarists. For example, my very first guitar (which I have ’til this day) is a B.C. Rich Warlock. It was a complete package, which was pretty cool! It had pretty much everything I needed to get started. Obviously, it came with the guitar, but it also included a gig-bag and a little amp.
Here is a guitar beginner kit that is actually quite similar to what I got way back then. It’s a less-edgy guitar than what I got, but it has basically all of the same stuff that I got in mine, if not more. I don’t remember getting a tuner and instructional DVD in my starter pack. You have everything you need to start playing as soon as you get it.
Looking back, the little amp that came with mine was kind of a piece of junk and sounded awful, but at the time I just wanted to fiddle around with distortion. These early experiences were monumental in keeping me interested in playing the guitar. I don’t think it would have been the same without it, but it may not be as important to you.
If you decide to go with a starter set but it doesn’t come with a small practice amp or you strongly dislike the sound of the one that you have, I have an article that discusses my recommendations for great little amps that are perfect for new players. They are all around the 100 to 150 dollar range and will sound better than any amp you’d get in a starter kit.
That being said, I was a total metal-head back when I got my first guitar. The design of the B.C. Rich Warlock was perfect for my taste at the time. About 15 years later, I think the design is a little silly, but I give 100% credit to that guitar for helping me start my guitar journey. Here’s a picture of it!
Over time, my taste in guitar shapes began to broaden. These days, I’d say my favorite type of shape is a super-strat. These are common in brands like Charvel, Jackson, Kramer, etc. I think even Ibanez RG’s might be considered one. If not, they’re very similar.
Spend some time and learn about what kinds of shapes that your son or daughter wants in a guitar. Perhaps he or she already has some in mind if they’ve been watching their favorite guitar players.
Sometimes, it’s underestimated how much influence an established artist has on an individual’s guitar buying decisions. These are some factors to consider when buying a guitar.
If they are unsure, it’s probably best to get a Stratocaster model to be on the safe side. Here is a Squire beginner’s set by Fender. It’s a standard and classic look that you can’t go wrong with just like the Yamaha earlier.
3. Read Reviews
If you are inexperienced with buying guitars, you most likely don’t know how to identify certain things about guitars, such as its build quality and other features. That’s okay though! Thankfully, the internet gives us information on just about everything.
If you’ve finally got some guitar brands and models in mind, make sure to read the reviews closely. This will be the next step in helping you make a decision on buying a guitar for the first time. In my opinion, it’s better to trust the words of a consumer rather than the ones coming from an associate of a brick-and-mortar local guitar store.
Researching online gives you this opportunity to learn about your potential guitar choices without any pressure from someone looking for a sales commission.
The one thing I’ve noticed about most guitar reviews is that they are probably some of the most honest that I’ve seen. Normally, you would expect to see more negative reviews because people tend to voice their complaints and concerns more often when there is something is wrong. However, it seems that it is pretty balanced. In fact, sometimes it’s often more on the positive side.
Word of mouth from other customers like yourself is an amazing tool and it should give you the necessary information to consider when buying a guitar. People will usually tell you whether it’s junk or if it was a worthy investment.
Importantly, try to find out if the person is still playing and enjoying that guitar or if they’ve eventually moved onto a better guitar. I like to think of good beginner guitars as “gateway guitars.” They’ve got you going, but after plenty of time has passed, it’s time to move onto something nicer.
4. Check For Used Guitars!
Used guitars are a fantastic option for those wanting to get into playing the instrument. Don’t be alarmed, most people take good care of their guitar, and they usually won’t be too beat up or broken. In fact, you will most likely find something in amazing condition, maybe with some dings here and there, if you take the time to search.
I absolutely love looking for used guitars, and you can actually probably find a very good instrument that will last a very long time, rather than getting a brand new one at a retail store. I actually bought my Ibanez Prestige used for about $500. In a store, these can be several hundred dollars to a grand.
The seller had some unfortunate circumstances and needed to sell it fast; hence, it’s very low price. Nothing was wrong with it, it was genuine, and I got a high-end guitar for the price of a mid-range one. This is one of the perks of buying a guitar on craigslist or any similar site.
However, I do not expect you to make a purchase like this one. The point was to illustrate that you can find some amazing deals on guitars if you buy used. Longevity is something to consider when buying a guitar for the first time. If you know that the guitar will be played a lot, it might be worth it to buy something nicer for a little bit more money than buying something new, but it is objectively worse.
Maybe you will get totally lucky and find a steal as I did! The thing with guitars is that the phrase “buy nice, or buy twice” applies to it very much. Not saying that it will break, but if you cheap out too much, you’re going to want something better. Buying something decent will help alleviate this problem and save you money in the long run.
5. Make Sure The Guitar Is The Right Fit
The final piece of advice is to purchase a guitar that is accommodating to the player. For example, some guitars can be very heavy. This might make it difficult to play for very young learners. Certain electric guitars can be very thick and weigh a lot, so keep this in mind when making a purchase.
Luckily, there are a lot of light-weight guitars out there, so finding at least a few options that are suitable shouldn’t be too difficult.
Another thing in this advice section and what to check when buying a guitar is to examine the playability of the guitar. This means that the strings shouldn’t be too low or too high off the fretboard. When strings are too low, it creates fret-buzz, which is annoying and doesn’t sound good. Strings that are too high are harder to play because it requires you to press harder on the note to produce a sound.
Regarding strings, they also shouldn’t be too thick either. I recommend beginners to start with 9 gauge strings like these and then gradually build up to 10s, and so on so forth as your fingers get stronger. I stuck with 10s for the longest time before transitioning to 11s. That’s just what’s comfortable for me at the moment.
Don’t worry if not everything is all perfect when you buy it though. Factory guitars aren’t always fine-tuned properly. The process of making these adjustments is known as getting a guitar set-up. Guitar setups vary in price but are usually much cheaper if there is a hard-tail bridge, or it’s strung through, as opposed to a Floyd Rose style bridge.
This brings me to my last point – when buying a guitar for the first time, don’t pay for features that you don’t really need. Floyd Rose style bridges are cool and all, but totally unnecessary for a beginner guitarist. They actually might even lead to frustration. For example, they aren’t the easiest systems to string up. Believe me, you will be snapping strings as a beginner.
That being said, sticking to a hard-tail bridge is the easier option. There are a lot of features that guitars can have, such as bridges and pick-ups; don’t get too caught up in these right now. Keep it simple.
Summary & Conclusion
Purchasing that first guitar doesn’t need to be a tedious experience and following some simple guidelines for buying a guitar should make it a little easier. In fact, this should be an exciting time for you or whomever you are purchasing a guitar for. This will be the instrument that starts a new adventure after all. Perhaps, one that can even last a lifetime.
You don’t need to shell out too much money on this first guitar, but there are some things that you should consider when making the first purchase. When buying a guitar, first, you should make sure you are getting the right kind of guitar – do you want an electric or acoustic? This makes a big difference.
Look into some brands out there. Popular manufacturers out there can be pretty reliable, and they may even provide starter sets. This is what got me going in the beginning and what to check when buying a guitar. Many guitarists are loyal to certain brands too. What you buy first might have a lasting impact.
If you also want to know what to do before buying a guitar, I suggest that you should read many different reviews. Not every well-known brand creates quality products. That’s why reviews are important. You can filter out what’s good and what isn’t before making a decision.
If you are wary of the costs of buying new gear, consider purchasing a used guitar! You can find amazing deals as I have. Most of the time the guitars are in great condition when buying a used guitar.
In fact, you may be able to find a better instrument that is used for the same price as a brand-new one in a retail store. This reduces the likelihood of having to replace the instrument later on. This is because it is good already and a major upgrade won’t be required.
Lastly, make sure the guitar feels good and plays well. This may be hard if you are buying a guitar online vs store, but if you have the chance to physically try it out and see if you like it, you should be in good hands. Don’t forget that you can get a guitar setup if you need to; a guitar doesn’t need to feel uncomfortable, and adjustments can be made.
I hope that this guide for buying a guitar for a beginner has cleared things up for you. Whether you were on the fence about buying one or you had no idea what to do before buying a guitar, these tips should lead you in the right direction. Perhaps your first purchase will be the start of something massive down the road.
Hey, I’m Mike! As a guitarist for over 15 years, I’ve decided to combine my passions for music, writing, and teaching all into one outlet – GuitarMeet. I love talking about music gear and sharing what I know with others. I appreciate all genres of music, but metal will always be #1!