Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by AG
Choosing the right guitar is a crucial step for any aspiring musician. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out or an experienced player looking to upgrade your instrument, the guitar you choose can greatly affect your guitar-playing experience and overall enjoyment of the instrument.
So you started playing guitar or want to play guitar and are ready to buy your first guitar? When it comes to choosing your first guitar, there are a number of factors to consider, from the type of guitar to your playing style and skill level. There are many great beginner guitars out there and in this article, we will explore some of the most important factors to consider when selecting a guitar that’s right for you.
Ultimately, the key to finding your match is to try out as many different options as possible and to choose the one that feels most comfortable and inspiring to play. So, let’s dive in and explore the factors that you should consider when you head over to the guitar shop, selecting your guitar.
Which Type of Guitar Are You Looking For?
First of all: Do you want an acoustic guitar or are you looking for an electric guitar? Acoustic guitars produce sound through their hollow body and are typically played unplugged, while electric guitars use pickups to amplify the sound of the strings and require an amplifier to be heard. Once you got that one clear, let’s go on.
If you are looking for an acoustic guitar you should consider which type of guitar strings you want on your guitar. But of course, it is not just about the strings. Steel-string guitars are very popular and versatile instruments that are used in many different styles of music, while nylon strings are typical for a classical guitar or flamenco guitar.
Nylon vs. Steel Strings
When choosing an acoustic guitar you have to decide between nylon-string guitars and steel-stringed guitars. Each type offers its own unique sound and feel. Nylon strings are generally easier on the fingers and produce a softer, warmer sound, making them a good choice for classical and flamenco styles. A steel-stringed acoustic guitar, on the other hand, is louder and brighter, and commonly used in folk, country, and rock music.
Body Shape and Size – Guitar
The shape and size of the guitar’s body can also have a significant impact on its sound and playability. Different body shapes and sizes are designed to produce different tones and may also be more or less comfortable to play with, depending on your body size and playing style.
So when you are looking for beginner acoustic guitars, look at the different shapes and sizes offered in your local guitar shop to get a feeling for what you want, before choosing a guitar.
Playing Style And Guitar Sounds
Your playing style is another factor to consider when selecting a guitar. Different styles of playing require different types of guitars, and choosing the right instrument can greatly improve your playing experience.
Here are some style-specific considerations when choosing acoustic and electric guitars:
If you’re primarily interested in fingerstyle playing, you’ll want to choose a guitar with a wide neck and a flat fretboard. This will give you more room to maneuver your fingers and will therefore be more comfortable and easier to play.
If you’re more interested in strumming chords, a guitar with a narrower neck and a curved fretboard may be more comfortable and easier to play.
Blues or Jazz
If you’re interested in playing blues or jazz, you may want to choose a guitar with a hollow body and humbucker pickups. This will produce a warm, mellow tone and will be more what you are used to here on your favorite record.
Metal or hard rock
Electric guitars with high-output pickups, especially solid body guitars, on the other hand, will be what you are looking for if you are interested in playing metal or hard rock. This electric guitar will give you a more aggressive sound.
You’ll be looking for an acoustic guitar with steel strings often in a dreadnought style (like the Martin D-28 or the Gibson J-45) or if you want an electric guitar with the typical twangy sound you may be looking for something like a Fender Telecaster or Gretsch 6120.
So you see, different genres of music may require specific types of guitars to achieve the desired sound.
Choosing a guitar – Comfort
The comfort of the guitar is another important consideration when selecting musical instruments. You’ll want to select a guitar that feels comfortable and natural to play, as this will make it easier to practice and perform for longer periods of time. Here are some factors to consider:
Neck Shape and Size
The shape and size of the guitar’s neck can greatly affect its playability and comfort. Some necks may be too thick or too thin, and some may have a different curvature or profile that may feel uncomfortable to play with.
Make sure to try out guitars with different neck shapes and sizes to find one that feels comfortable and natural to you.
Weight and Balance
The weight and balance of the guitar can also affect its comfort. Some guitars may be too heavy or too light, making them difficult to hold and play for extended periods of time. Additionally, the balance of the guitar may affect how it feels in your hands, with some guitars feeling front-heavy or back-heavy depending on their design.
There Are Different Guitar Body Shapes
You might have noticed that guitars come in many different shapes and forms. So think about what size guitar you are looking for.
The size of a guitar influences its tone range and loudness. So generally speaking guitars with a bigger body size have more bass notes and are louder than smaller guitars.
And when I speak of smaller guitars I still mean full-size guitars and not the scaled versions you would be looking for if you want a travel guitar or one that could be a very good option for small adults or children.
A full-sized guitar with a smaller body such as parlor guitars, and the 0, 00, and 000 or OM models are good choices for beginners because they are less bulky and therefore comfortable to play.
If you’re looking for a guitar with a bigger body size and a louder sound something like a dreadnought, super jumbo (sJ), jumbo, or auditorium model could be what you are looking for.
Styles of Electric Guitars
If you are looking for electric guitars you have to consider what you want from them and what sound you’re looking for. So let’s start by going through the three main categories of electric guitars out there.
The Solid Body Guitar – A Distortion Queen
As the name already tells us this electric guitar has a solid wood body, making it the simplest building style to construct. Because of the solid wood, it is possible to change the form of the body without many problems in stability, so you find it in quite a variety of shapes.
In comparison to semi-hollow or hollow-body guitars, solid-body electric guitars have a thicker, direct tone, more sustain, and are more resistant to feedback. Because they are missing an inner chamber they are more rigid and durable. They are a good fit for genres with more distortion, like rock and metal.
The Stratocaster and Telecaster of Fender guitars would be classic examples of the solid-body electric guitar.
The Semi-Hollow Body Guitar – The Allrounder
A semi-hollow guitar is an electric guitar, that has a divided inner chamber and a block of wood that runs through the body. It usually features two openings, in the form of f-holes on the top of the body.
The Gibson ES-335 is the perfect representation of a semi-hollow guitar and a good example of a versatile instrument. They are similar to solid body guitars in their tonal qualities but have a bit more open, airy, and dynamic sound. They have less sustain and tend to generate feedback if played at a high gain or louder volume. They can be used in a wide range of genres such as rock, jazz, or blues.
The Hollow-Body Guitar
Hollow-body guitars look often just like Semi-Hollow guitars, featuring the same body style. But they don’t have a wood block running down the middle, so there is one inner chamber, just like with an acoustic guitar. That’s why they are also called semi-acoustic guitars (this term also includes semi-hollow models).
The hollow-body guitar has in general a gentler, more mellow sound than the semi-hollow and a higher tendency to generate feedback. So they aren’t what you are looking for if you are into genres that need high levels of gain.
They are often seen in Jazz music and blues and even in rock music (Liked the Epiphone Casino played by John Lennon). But because of the feedback many stick with semi-hollow instruments for those genres, even if some have used the feedback as a musical tool (i.e. Ted Nugent).
So before you go guitar-buying, think about the tonal quality you are looking for and what genre of music you want to play. Also, there is quite a weight difference between a solid and a hollow-body guitar, so think about if that is an issue for you.
Budgeting – Buying Your First guitar
Your budget is another important consideration when selecting a guitar. Guitars can vary widely in price, from a few hundred dollars for a beginner guitar to several thousand dollars for models for professional musicians.
Guitars at different price points may have different materials (like Sitka vs. Adirondack Spruce), construction, and features, which can affect their sound, playability, and durability.
While quality does lead to a better-sounding guitar, remember that the most expensive guitar is not necessarily the best guitar for you. Consider what features and qualities are most important to you and try to find the best guitar you can afford within your budget.
Look for a guitar that offers good value for money, with a balance of quality and affordability that fits your needs.
Quality and Brand Reputation
Guitar players should also consider the quality of a guitar and therefore the reputation of the brand when selecting an instrument.
Like mentioned before quality does make a difference. A well-made guitar from a reputable brand will typically offer better sound quality, playability, and durability than a poorly made guitar from an unknown brand.
The materials and construction of the guitar can greatly affect its sound quality and durability. Look for guitars made from high-quality materials such as solid wood, and pay attention to the construction quality of the guitar, including the joinery and finish.
The reputation of a brand is a good marker if you are guitar-buying. Big guitar manufacturers and established brands with a history of producing high-quality instruments are more likely to offer guitars that meet your needs and expectations.
That doesn’t mean that other guitar makers that are less known don’t produce high-quality instruments. But ask around or check online about guitar manufacturers you haven’t heard of before, before buying a new guitar.
Consider Buying a Guitar from a Luthier
Another option to consider when selecting a guitar is to buy one from a luthier, who is a skilled craftsman and builds and repairs guitars by hand.
While guitars from established brands can offer high quality, guitars made by luthiers can provide a unique and personalized playing experience.
Customized for Your Needs
A luthier can work with you to create a guitar that is tailored to your specific needs and preferences. This can include selecting the types of wood and other materials used in the guitar’s construction, as well as customizing the shape, size, and other features to match your playing style.
A Guitar Offering Sound Perfection
Because luthiers build guitars by hand, they are able to pay close attention to every detail of the instrument’s construction. This can result in a guitar that has superior sound quality and playability compared to mass-produced guitars.
Unique Design – Making Your Guitar Special
When you buy a guitar from a luthier, you are getting an instrument that is truly one-of-a-kind. Luthiers often incorporate unique design elements and decorative touches into their guitars, making each one a work of art as well as a functional instrument. Many of them are also willing to incorporate your wishes as best possible, making this guitar truly special.
Price and Value of a Hand-Made Guitar
While guitars from luthiers can be more expensive than mass-produced guitars from established brands, they can offer a unique and personalized playing experience that is well worth the investment for serious musicians.
When you buy a guitar from a luthier, you are not only getting an instrument that is tailored to your specific needs and preferences, but also a high-quality, hand-crafted work of art that is built to last.
Ultimately, the price and value of a guitar from a luthier will depend on a variety of factors, including the materials used, the level of customization, and the reputation and skill of the luthier.
However, for those who are serious about their music and want an instrument that is truly one-of-a-kind, a guitar from a luthier can be an excellent investment.
If you are considering buying a guitar from a luthier, make sure to do your research and choose a reputable and skilled craftsman with a history of producing high-quality instruments in the line of the guitar style you are looking for.
Advantages of Buying a Used Guitar
Next to buying new guitars, there is also the possibility to look for second-hand instruments. If you are a beginner guitarist we would still recommend looking at the guitars at your local guitar shop to find the best beginner guitar model for you. Some guitar shops even offer second-hand instruments, too.
And if you are sure what you want, what you are looking for, and how your acoustic or electric guitar should feel like, you can start searching the internet to find your guitar. Be sure to read our guide on how to buy secondhand to avoid any pitfalls on the way. If possible take a seasoned guitarist with you.
Recap of the 5 Key Points
If you keep the following things in mind, you surely will find your dream guitar.
1. Make a list of your background and decision criteria: Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, the type of guitar, your playing style, your budget, and comfort are all important factors to consider when selecting a guitar.
2. How important is quality for you? Is buying second-hand an option? Are you looking for a unique and personalized playing experience? Buying a guitar from a luthier (either first- or secondhand) can be an excellent option.
3. Don’t choose what is sensible but what inspires you: Ultimately, the most important thing when selecting a guitar is to choose one that feels comfortable and natural to play, and that inspires you to make music. A guitar is no use if you don’t pick it up. We have an article on acoustic vs. electric if you need some help making a decision.
4. Be open to experimenting: By trying out different guitars and experimenting with different brands, styles, and features, you will find the perfect guitar for you.
5. Always try the one you chose: Keep in mind that while research and reviews can provide valuable information about guitars, there is no substitute for actually trying out a guitar in person.
It’s important to approach the process with an open mind and a willingness to experiment. Don’t be afraid to try out different guitars and ask for advice from other musicians and guitar experts.
So go ahead, explore the world of guitars, and find the one that’s right for you!