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Choosing Your First Guitar: A Beginner's Guide

There's a unique thrill that comes with picking your first guitar. You’re not just buying a musical instrument; you're setting off down a new path. A path that, with practice and patience, will lead you to the joy of creating music and expressing yourself in a whole new way. There is a lot to learn along the way, and the first decision you will need to make is what type of guitar you will buy to get started. Let’s take a look at the different types of guitars to see what kind fits your needs.



1. Acoustic vs. Electric: Which Path to Take?

When starting your guitar journey, one of the first crossroads you'll encounter is the choice between an acoustic and an electric guitar. It is commonly believed that acoustic guitars are the best for starting out, however this isn’t necessarily true. Here’s an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each and how they might affect your purchasing decision.


Acoustic Guitars:

Acoustic guitars are often the go-to choice for beginners due to their simplicity. They don't require much additional equipment – or so it may seem. Although you can just pick one up and start playing, you will probably want to purchase a capo, guitar picks, and perhaps a mute for the soundhole. Since sound is produced naturally through the guitar's hollow body,  it has a warm and resonant tone. However, acoustic instruments are also loud and may not be ideal for practicing in apartments or around others. Some people feel a little embarrassed as a beginner when practicing and don’t want to be overheard while they work through the basics.


Acoustic guitars tend to be larger and have thicker necks, which might be challenging for some beginners. The strings are often made of steel and thicker than electric guitar strings, meaning that it can be a little more difficult to play at first. It is also important to note that there are 2 basic types of acoustic guitars; the nylon string classical guitar and the steel string acoustic guitar. Classical guitars are typically played without a guitar pick and have softer strings with a wider neck. The steel string acoustic guitar is often played with a pick and strummed, although it can also be played with a fingerstyle technique. 


Electric Guitars:

On the other hand, electric guitars offer a different kind of versatility. They produce sound through electronic amplification, allowing for a wide range of tones and effects. They're typically smaller with thinner necks, although they can be pretty heavy since they are made of solid wood. They need an amplifier and cable to produce sound, which is an additional cost. You can use headphones when practicing which actually allows you to play quieter than when practicing on an acoustic guitar.


However, your musical preferences should also play a role in your decision. If you're drawn to rock, blues, or jazz, an electric guitar might be more up your alley. You should aim to buy an instrument that suits the style of music that you want to learn.


Bass Guitars:

A bass guitar is a fundamental component of any band or musical ensemble, serving as the cornerstone of the rhythm section. Unlike a regular guitar, which typically has six strings, a bass guitar usually features four strings, though five and six-string versions are also common. Its primary role is to provide the low-end foundation and groove for a song, establishing the rhythmic pulse and supporting the harmony. While a bass guitar shares some similarities with a regular guitar in terms of its physical structure and playing technique, its sound and function are distinct. As a beginner, learning to play the bass guitar involves understanding basic concepts such as fretting notes, playing rhythms, and developing a strong sense of timing and groove. With dedication and practice, mastering the bass guitar can be immensely rewarding, opening up opportunities to contribute to a wide variety of musical styles and genres.


2. Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Guitar**

Selecting the perfect guitar for your musical journey involves a careful consideration of various elements beyond the broad choice between acoustic and electric. Here are some additional factors to ponder:


1. Size and Weight: Your comfort during practice sessions is paramount. Opting for a guitar that feels comfortable and balanced can significantly enhance your learning experience. For individuals with a smaller physique or younger players, lighter-weight options are often more conducive to effortless practice sessions.


2. Neck Characteristics: The design of the guitar neck plays a crucial role in how easily you can maneuver along the fretboard. Thinner and shorter necks tend to require less finger stretching, facilitating smoother transitions between chords and notes. This aspect is particularly beneficial for individuals with petite hands or those who prefer a more nimble playing style.


3. Budget: While acoustic guitars generally present a more economical option, it's essential to factor in additional expenses such as cables and practice amplifiers if you're leaning towards an electric guitar. Remember, affordability doesn't necessarily equate to subpar quality. Even budget-friendly guitars can offer decent sound and playability, provided you steer clear of toy-like instruments masquerading as genuine musical tools.


By carefully considering these factors in tandem with your personal preferences and musical aspirations, you can ensure that your first guitar becomes not just an instrument, but a trusted companion on your musical journey.


3. Top Guitar Choices for Beginners

There are countless guitars on the market, but some are more beginner-friendly than others.


Acoustic Guitar models like the Yamaha FG800 or the Fender FA-115 offer great value for money, combining affordability with quality sound and playability. Used acoustic guitars are readily available but might require a set-up from a professional. This can add an additional cost but is well worth it to make sure that the instrument is in good playing condition for learning. It might be good to install light gauge strings when starting out.


If you're leaning towards Electric Guitars, the Squier Bullet Stratocaster and the Epiphone Les Paul Special II come highly recommended for beginners. There are a huge variety of electric guitar shapes and colors, so we recommend picking something that you personally find inspiring visually.


And for those interested in Bass Guitars, you might want to check out the Ibanez GSR200 or the Squier Affinity Jazz Bass. The bass guitar is actually a different instrument than a normal electric guitar. It has a different playing technique, size, and makes lower notes of course. However, you should consider trying bass as well, especially if you like playing groovy rhythms in a supportive role in a band.




Guitar Skills are Transferable

Choosing your first guitar is a significant milestone in your musical journey, one that may eventually lead you to explore both acoustic and electric options as you progress. Remember that the "right" guitar isn't just about technical specifications; it's about finding a connection between you and the instrument that feels natural and inspiring. Take your time to explore the diverse range of options available, allowing yourself the freedom to experiment and discover what resonates with you personally. Embrace the process of finding a guitar that fits comfortably in your hands and encourages you to play with enthusiasm. So take your time, explore different options, and most importantly, enjoy the process. Happy strumming!


-Ryan

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