Definitive Guide To Buying Your First Guitar (2023)
The concept of a perfect guitar does not exist. There isn't a guitar that suits everyone. Your first guitar should be the one you feel most comfortable with.
A guitar is the go to instrument for many who want to try their hand at music, and thus arises a very important question, “How to find the perfect first guitar?”
These queries came to me in abundance and I decided to finally write this blog post. The purpose of this post is to help anyone who requires a little guidance for the same.
Here’s the short version of this post:
The concept of a perfect guitar does not exist. There will be no, one guitar that will suit everyone. You just have to find the one you’re most comfortable with.
That being said, there are a few factors that one must consider before making the purchase. These factors include – shape, size and action of the guitar, the sound it produces, price and connection.
I’ve discussed all these factors in detail in the following blog and I’ve also added a few tips to help you further.
In today’s competitive markets, the consumer is kept at a very high pedestal, and thus, there is a huge variety to choose from. The market offers you a wide range of guitars, which does increase your options, but on the other hand it also complicates the decision making process.
What To Look For When Buying A Guitar?
Shape And Size
The shape and the size of the guitar are factors that are very person specific, different body types suit different people, making your guitar even more customized than you thought it would be.
There is no appropriate or perfect shape or size of a guitar, so the decision becomes about which size suits you the most and what shape are you most comfortable with.
A few shapes from the wide range of guitar shapes and sizes available in the market are as follows:
- Parlor Guitars: These have the smallest body size among all acoustic guitars, and are considered the most suitable for fingerpicking. The guitar gives you a nice, balanced sound.
- Concert Guitars: Also known as model “O” guitars, are a little larger than parlor guitars, and is also appropriate for fingerpicking.
- Grand Concert: Also known as Model “OO” , this guitar is more of an all-rounder guitar type. The sound is neither as balanced as the smaller sizes, nor is it as bassy as that of the larger sizes.
- Grand Auditorium: These guitars are also called Model “OM” guitars. This intimate guitar is of a mid-size. The guitar has commendable projection and balance.
- Dreadnought: This is the most common shape you’ll encounter in the market. The particular guitar shape is known well because of its adaptability. The guitar has a good bass response. It has a fuller sound, as it balances the highs and the bottoms lows very well.
- Jumbo: These are the largest guitars, and thus do give a great bass response. It’s ideal for people who want to play acoustically sitting down.
Out of all these, you’re most likely to find the Dreadnought and Jumbo size in stores.
Another point to consider is whether the guitar is cutaway or not. A cutaway on any guitar is a cavity in the upper bout near the neck of the guitar, for easier access to upper frets.
Cutaway guitars have a more treble heavy sound, they produce a brighter sound.
Non-cutaway guitars have a better bass and volume, and in totality have a fuller sound.
I specifically would always recommend a Cutaway guitar for beginners, since cutaway guitars make it very easy to access and play the upper frets of the guitar, play it higher. It would become very difficult for beginners to play the higher frets with non-cutaway guitars.
My final opinion on the shape a beginner should choose: a dreadnought cutaway guitar
Action Of The Guitar And Fret Buzz
For those unaware about the concept of Action and fret buzz: Guitar Action refers to the height of the strings above the fret board, it is probably the most important part of a guitar setup as it controls the comfort and playability of the guitar and help the guitar stay in tune and maintain intonation.
Fret buzz can be understood as the annoying sound caused by a guitar string rattling/buzzing against a fret wire when the string is being plucked or played.
As the action lowers, the fret buzz creeps into the guitar, which occurs if frets are not at level with each other or if string action is too low. It becomes very important to play the guitar before buying it to make sure that the buzzing sound, the fret buzz is not a part of the guitar you’re hoping to buy.
When you play a great acoustic guitar, you don’t want to stop playing, because it inspires you to enjoy making music. This is exactly how you figure out the perfect guitar made for you.
A great acoustic guitar sound has a nice ringing, chiming quality, a balance among the individual strings, a balance of low, midrange and high frequencies, a long sustain and nice decay.
If the sound of your guitar pleases you before it pleases others, then it is the guitar you would want to buy.
Also, don’t be scared to know the sound of your guitar.It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to play the guitar yourself, and if you can’t determine the sound of the said guitar.
The solution here is simple; while buying the guitar online, you can look online at YouTube or other platforms for reviews of the guitar to get a feel of the sound. When in a store, you can tell the salesperson to play a little for you, so that you can know the sound of the guitar.
Choose The Right Guitar For You
Till now we’ve discussed about things you should look for in a guitar. Now we’ll talk about things that are more in your own control.
You don’t need the most awesome looking guitar with the highest price tag when you’re just going to be practicing at home but also, never settle for less, even if you’re a beginner.
A cheap guitar won’t last you even 6 months. And research shows that the first six months of learning the guitar are the most crucial.
If you don’t enjoy your guitar after the six month mark, there’s a high chance you’ll never pick up a guitar again. So if you’re really interested, don’t let that cheap guitar ruin your musical dream.
You don’t want to demotivate yourself just because you’re uncomfortable.
A good price range for beginner acoustic guitars in India is between ₹4,500 – ₹12,000.
Don’t rush, buying your musical instruments is just as magical as learning them.
Give yourself enough time to connect to the guitar you’re willing to buy.
The guitar will never be yours if it doesn’t feel yours to you.
The connection between you and your musical instrument, guitar here, becomes very essential in determining the path of your musical journey.
A Few Additional Tips
Buy The Whole Package
Strap, guitar picks, lead and case. Buy it All!
There is nothing more fulfilling than having the whole set in hand, it helps you connect to your instrument, and added to that a big advantage of buying the whole package is that you get everything at a cheaper price when bought together, rather than when bought individually.
Where To Buy It?
Many people are keen on buying their guitars online, because they believe the prices online would be much lower than what they would be in those fancy music shops.
Buying a guitar online also brings along with itself many restrictions – testing the guitar you want to buy won’t be an option, your needs and questions about the guitar cannot be catered to by experts, that would otherwise happen in any musical instruments shop.
I would suggest going to a store to buy a guitar, especially if you're a first time buyer.
That being said, I understand that in some parts of the world, it is difficult to find a good musical instruments shop.
People have no option but to buy online.
One humble request - Please don’t do this: Many People often take to clearing all their doubts and questions at local guitar shops, and then going back home to now buy the same guitar online.
Buying a guitar from someone who puts in so much of hard work, knowledge and effort into knowing the guitar, and selling it, would be a much better experience.
Do Not Buy A Used Guitar
I recommend the beginners to not buy used guitars, and instead get new ones.
As beginners, you wouldn’t know what to check in a guitar and how to check it, there will be lack of experience and knowledge to understand whether a used guitar is good or not.
Let your first guitar be yours only, later when you acquire the knowledge and professionalism required to figure out the wrongs in a guitar and fix them, you may buy a used one.
When most people buy their first guitar they can be a little confused about what to do.
A guitar can be a confusing purchase also because most guitars don’t even come with a manual explaining how to use them.
That becomes a problem because most people then have to search for the information on the internet, which becomes hard to find for questions like these.
Unfortunately it’s during this critical time that a lot of people get discouraged and may even give up on playing altogether.
The first six months with your instrument, decide your inclination towards that instrument for the rest of your life.
Buying a guitar can seem like a tough, confusing and exhausting job, but it’s not that difficult of a decision to take.
All the points mentioned above, are steps that will lead to a better guitar buying experience, and once you get your own guitar, it’s all worth it. Make sure to make smart decisions and smarter choices.
Wishing for you, a great learning experience and a musical companion for life!