Buying Your First Guitar? What you Need to Know

Here we are, you may have made the choice that will change your life or perhaps in a less optimistic version, the choice that will have cost you a year and money. But it is better to be too careful than not enough and try!

For this, you will first need courage (learning an instrument and music, in general, is far from easy) and also, of course, a guitar!

For the purchase of your first guitar, there is no need to buy high-end or medium-high-end right away since you don’t know if you will hang on or drop out after six months.

For those who hang on, their first guitar does not generally accompany them for more than 1 or 2 years, hence they don’t need to buy an expensive guitar like a custom Les paul signature Jimmy Page. Choose a mid-priced guitar on which you can still progress without feeling any regrets after 6 months.

For this, here are some tips for making the decision when buying your first guitar:

1. Electric, Folk, or Classical?

Try already even if it is difficult before you even start playing to orient yourself towards a style. Of course, at this stage, the choice of style is very wide since it will just be a matter of common sense if you want to play death-thrash industrial metal from the hell of darkness, it will be stupid to buy a classical guitar and vice versa.

The Electric Guitar

electric guitar buying guide

It is the most expensive choice but nevertheless the most versatile. Indeed with the multitude of effects at your disposal, you can easily switch from metal to pop when you are just starting out.

It is therefore rather intended for a rock style. Of course later, especially for the purchase of your second guitar, try to see if you prefer crystalline sounds too heavy saturation and vice versa, but we are not there yet.

To summarize: An electric guitar is made up of a wooden body (most often solid) as well as pickups. You will therefore need an amplification (to be added to the budget). It is nevertheless the most suitable for the purchase of a first guitar for the reasons of versatility mentioned above.

It will also allow you to play with other instruments without major problems due to its electric amplification and has a thin neck for ease of play.

Folk Guitar

folk guitar buying guide

With these guitars, you will suffer! Yes, the metal strings have an unfortunate tendency to hurt your fingers very badly at first. But it can be a strength in the sense that you will very quickly have the magic horn at your fingertips which will shorten the torture you will necessarily go through!

It can be played without amplification since it has a soundbox and can therefore be transported everywhere (beach, evenings, etc.) for convivial moments!

It can also be amplified (electro-acoustic) for group play. But do not imagine having the sound of AC/DC with these guitars since they are only made for “clean” sounds. Listen to albums like Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” to get a better idea of ​​these kinds of sounds.

The Classical Guitar

classical guitar buying guide

A great friend of the beginner because of its nylon strings which are a little kinder to the fingers than the metal strings of folk or electric guitars, you will however quickly be limited if you tend towards our good old friend that is rock!

There is no amplification here (except for a few techniques reserved for Mc Gyver) and its sounds are more suited to classical music (logical, no?), ancient and baroque music, Spanish romantic music, Latin music in South America, Brazilian, Cuban and even modern and so on and the best.

Another advantage: is its price: you can easily find it for less than 100$. And it is also easily transportable and user-friendly because of its soundbox.

In short, you are spoiled for choice although I advise our friends the rockers to choose the electricity fairy.

2. The Look

We must not neglect this important asset that is the look! Why take an ugly guitar when you can take a beautiful one! Of course, on this aspect, there will also be an impact on the price, but if you have the means, enjoy yourself!

On the other hand, this asset should not be put before the technical characteristics of the guitar. You’ll tend to play your guitar more often if you’ve fallen in love with it than an ugly one.

There must be something between you and your guitar that draws you to the point that when you come home at night you hear a voice in your head saying, “come over here, I’m in your bag… homework can wait, I can’t take it anymore: I want to play you!”.

Gibson Tribal V Style comes at a price.

3. New or Used?

Since this will be your first guitar, the opportunity is better because if you pick it up used, you can resell it for almost the same price as you bought it (if you take care of your guitar).

As soon as you have bought a new guitar, it automatically loses much of its original price. This means that you can easily find good equipment much cheaper than if you bought it new!

But there is also something to be said about getting that sweet new toy.

4. Technical Characteristics

Even if it’s your first guitar, don’t buy the first dung you come across! This could very quickly put you off the guitar. For this, it is necessary to know the few technical characteristics that will make up your future instrument.

The Neck and Fretboard

Of course, if you’ve never made a guitar in your life, it will be difficult to compare a neck to others by simply trying a guitar. Be aware, however, that this is one of the most important parts of a guitar since it is where your hand will be in contact all the time.

In terms of the neck profile, you can therefore opt for comfort with rather wide necks (Gibson style for example) or for speed of play (for a more technical game) with rather thin necks (Ibanez style).

These are tastes that you will develop throughout your “guitaristic” life and which are specific to each one, so I can hardly direct you towards this or that handle.

At the level of the fixing of the neck, there are some glued and others screwed. In the entry-level, you will find rather screwed necks that are much more solid. Glued necks will better transmit the vibrations caused by the strings into the body of the guitar, but are more fragile.

This difference between the fixing methods from a practical point of view is minimal, moreover with the multitude of effects available to us today, you can easily obtain an honorable sustain with a bolt-on neck. The only thing I can tell you is to be very careful when you buy your guitar that the neck is straight!

The Pickups

There are mainly two types of pickups: single-coil pickups (single coil) and double-coil pickups (humbuckers). Remember that in general (very general) that single pickups = clean sounds (crystalline) and slight distortions, and double pickups = warm and round sounds suitable for heavy distortion.

So if you’re a fan of heavy metal, blues and hard rock (AC DC, Metallica..) choose humbuckers and if you’re more into pop, rock, funk, reggae (Babyshambles, Hendrix, Red hots..), prefer simple pickups instead. Again, I can’t advise you on a particular type of microphone since it all depends on your tastes!

Note: Acoustic guitars obviously don’t have this and it’s the shape of the soundbox that will shape your sound.


Sincerely for your first, we don’t give a damn! Just try not to take a wooden toothpick scraper…

The Bridge

There are different price ranges on bridges. Standard bridges and those with vibrato or Floyd rose. A vibrato can sometimes be fun to use, but you’ll quickly find that it clutters you up and throws your guitar out of tune more than it’s useful! As for the Floyds, in this price range avoid at all costs because the original system alone costs more than 200$!

You will therefore suspect that this is a pretty sausage placed here to sell more than anything else. In addition, the adjustment of the latter is very delicate.

Tune-O-Matic bridge. A simple but effective bridge. It equips, among other things, most Gibsons. IMAGE *

The Mechanics

As long as you can tune your guitar, it’s good! No need to start worrying about mechanics from the first guitar.

The Frets

Often 22 or 24 on electric guitars, they allow you to play the last note on the neck one tone higher. Suffice to say that we do not care and that this should not be a selection criterion for your first guitar. You can still check when buying if they are all the same height and well polished. If you realize it too late, you can still grab your file and polish this work as you wish.

5. Purchase

Now that we’ve seen everything you need to know, you’re ready for the final step, the purchase! You can do it either online or in-store. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each method:


The Advantages:

  • You will have visual and sensory contact with the guitars.
  • You can try them (even if it will be difficult for you to compare).
  • The seller will be able to advise you and you can ask him questions.
  • More convenient after-sales service (no need to ship the guitar back, and wait for it to come back again)
  • Commercial gestures from good sellers who may offer you the cover that goes with it or at least a few picks.

The Disadvantages:

  • The price (often more expensive than on the internet).
  • The choice will be restricted to a limited choice of guitars depending on the size of the store.

On the Internet

The Advantages:

  • The choice: thousands of guitars!
  • The price: often cheaper than in stores

The Disadvantages:

  • No advice from a connoisseur (but you can consult forums that will be happy to enlighten you)
  • Delays between the order and the reception of the instrument can take a few days to reach you.
  • Constraining after-sales service since the guitar has to be sent back.

With this multitude of information, it is now up to you to make your choice according to your priorities and your tastes. The main thing is of course that you like your instrument and that it brings you many hours of pleasure!

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