Last Updated on April 2, 2020 by Klaus Crow
photo by Orin Zebest
It took years for me to find out what guitar really suited my taste. It’s a process that you go through. Your taste changes as you grow.
When I was young I mainly wanted to shred. My world was all about Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Dime Bag Darrel and all the other Shred Gods.
Obviously I bought myself a Joe Satriani Ibanez signature guitar and a Frank Gambale Ibanez signature. I also got myself an Ovation semi acoustic guitar, which sounded great plugged in.
Now 20 years further down the road I am more into singer songwriters like Ryan Adams, Damien Rice, John Mayer, Jack Johnson to name a few. My guitars have also changed. When I’m into acoustic I play my Santa Cruz OMPW Model and when I want to play blues, jazz or rock I prefer my Epiphone Dot, Vintage Sunburst, which I totally love.
It’s difficult to choose the right guitar, because there are so many. Nowadays there are a lot of great guitars for beginners, but then again there’s also a lot of crappy stuff as well. Before you go out and buy a guitar talk to fellow guitar players, your guitar teacher and people with experience. Take your time to listen and observe before you open your wallet.
To help you out on some key issues here are 12 tips on what guitar you should buy:
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1 – Style
First ask yourself the question what style of music you want to play?
(A) Do you want to play rock, blues rock or metal? (U2, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc)
(B) Do you want to play singer songwriters music? (Eagles, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, etc)
(C) Do you want to play classical music? (Andrés Segovia, John Williams, Julian Bream, etc)
If you choose (A) buy yourself an electric guitar.
If you choose (B) buy a steel string acoustic guitar.
If you choose (C) buy a classical guitar.
2 – Age
If your child wants to play guitar (age 6 to 10) I suggest you buy him or her a nylon string guitar. That would be a classical guitar. Nylon strings are easier on the fingers than steel strings, so it is much nicer for younger kids. Depending on the size of the child you can also buy a 3/4 size guitar or a 1/2 size guitar.
3 – Starting out
A lot of people have an old classical guitar somewhere up in the attic. When you are just starting out I suggest you first ask your friends, family or neighbors if they might own anything that looks like a guitar. Maybe they don’t do anything with it.
You can always go to the guitar shop later and ask if they can put some new strings on it. Take some guitar lessons for a couple of weeks or months until you are sure you want to continue. Now you can buy yourself a more expensive guitar and switch to a steel string acoustic guitar or an electric guitar if that prefers your taste.
4 – Electric guitar
Do you want to create really loud noise? Buy an electric guitar. But also for clean sounds, creamy blues and filthy crunch the electric guitar is the best choice to pick. If you want to create a lot of different sounds the possibilities with an electric guitar are endless.
If you are a beginner and want a cheap electric guitar I suggest you buy a Squier (Fender), an Epiphone (Gibson) or an Ibanez. Those are nice beginner guitars. If you are an intermediate or advanced guitar player check out the list below at #12 for quality brands.
Take into account when you are going to buy an electric guitar that you need an amp as well. Electric guitars are also expandable with a lot of different distortion and effect pedals to create more sounds. This is a hobby in itself.
5 – Steel string acoustic guitar
A steel string acoustic guitar has a rich, full bodied and clear natural sound. A cheap steel string acoustic guitar usually doesn’t sound that great, but if you are just starting out it is probably good enough.
If you are an intermediate or advanced guitar player check out the list below. If you want a real good sounding steel string acoustic guitar you are going to have to spend somewhere about 800 dollars. If you want better quality you can spend up to thousands of dollars, depending on your budget.
6 – Classical guitar
A classical guitar has a full bodied, warm and mellow sound. This is partly due to the nylon strings. A good sounding classical guitar is often cheaper than a steel string acoustic guitar. Prices range from 200 dollars up to thousands of dollars.
7 – Choose what you like
When you go out and buy a guitar listen with your own ears. What guitar sound do you like best. Which guitar feels the nicest and looks the most awesome. You can listen to what a salesman has to say, but you are the one who has to judge. Don’t rely too much on the salesman. Listen to your own heart. The sound and feeling of a guitar is about personal preference.
8 – Lower the action
Look for a guitar with a low action or ask the salesperson to lower the action if possible. The action is distance between the strings and the fret. A lower action improves the feel of your guitar so it’s easier for you the press the strings down on the fret and get a good sound out of it. It makes a huge difference.
9 – Try out
Go to different guitar shops, take your time and try as many guitars as you can. Learn to hear and feel the difference. Don’t buy immediately. Come back the next day with a fresh pair of ears and play some more. This way you’ll have a more objective view of what sounds good or bad.
10 – Pros
The electric guitar is expandable with amps and hundreds of different pedals for creating great sounds. It is fairly easy to play because of the small neck and light gauge strings. You can also play really quiet if you unplug the guitar. This way you don’t bother anyone, but you can still play.
A steel string acoustic guitar or a classical guitar doesn’t need amplification. The body of the guitar serves as an amplifier so you are all set with just the guitar. The Steel string guitar sounds great without hassle. Don’t you just love simplicity :)
A classical guitar has got nylon strings which are easier on the fingers.
A classical guitar has also got a thicker neck than a steel string acoustic or an electric guitar which is great for big hands.
11 – Cons
An electric guitar needs extras to get you all fired up. You need an amplifier, you need cables and probably some pedals to go with it.
A steel string acoustic guitar is more difficult to play than an electric guitar, but it is worth the effort.
A classical guitar has got a thicker neck than a steel string acoustic or an electric guitar which is not so great for really small hands.
12 – Famous brands
– Fender (Rock, Blues, Pop)
– Gibson (Rock, Blues, Pop)
– Ibanez (Shredding)
– Ernie ball – Music man (Rock, Pop)
– ESP (Metal)
– Gretsch (Rockabilly, Jazz, Blues)
– Washburn (Rock)
– Rickenbacker (Rock, Blues, Pop)
– Paul Reed Smith (Rock, Blues)
CHEAP AND DECENT ELECTRIC GUITARS:
STEEL STRING ACOUSTIC GUITARS:
Also check out:
The Best High Quality Affordable Acoustic Guitars