Buying Your First Guitar

Before you decide which guitar to buy have a wee read of this:

This is it… buying your first guitar is one of the most memorable purchases you’ll ever make.  Like your first car, your first kiss or your first crib, even if you decide to go for the cheapest, crummiest one around, you’ll never forget your first guitar.  For example, my first guitar was an Ibanez acoustic guitar, one of the entry level Performance series (P100, I think).  And I still have it in a cupboard. I bring it out from time to time to give it some TLC, clean the fretboard, replace the strings and have a wee strum. Anyway, enough reminiscing about my first guitar…   what about yours?

Here are some tips for buying your first guitar. 


First the basic guitar buying decisions you need to make:

1) Acoustic, semi-acoustic or electric guitar?  An acoustic guitar can be played without the need for external amplification, as can a semi-acoustic guitar (which may also benefit from some amplification).  An electric guitar requires some form of amplification to be heard properly.  Amplification will be covered later.  Often you can purchase an electric guitar package with ampls and leads to connect your electric guitar to your amp included in the price


  • What kind of acoustic guitar?  This will depend on the style of guitar you want to learn.  A good all round guitar would be a decent sized steel stringed acoustic.  For classical or Spanish guitar, you’re after a classical guitar.  You may want to be able to record your playing on computer, in which case, an electro-acoustic guitar (one that can be connected to an amplifier or via some kind of interface to a computer) is what you need. 



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  • What kind of electric guitar?  Electric guitars come in all shapes and sizes with different types of pickups, which give each type of guitar a unique sound (more on pickups later). 




2) What is your guitar price range? This will have a major impact on which guitar you choose.  Acoustic guitars range in price from under 50 pounds up to several thousands of pounds.  An entry level Ibanez acoustic guitar will be around the 85-130 pound mark and this to my mind anyway, is a reasonable price to pay for your first acoustic guitar.  An entry level electric guitar will set you back between 100 and 200 pounds.  Some packages, such as the Squier by Fender Affinity series stratocasters or telecasters will cost between 160 and 200 pounds but you get a practice amps and leads thrown in for that price.  One particular guitar that has had very favourable reviews in the guitar press is the Yamaha Pacifica range the entry level being the 012 range but the Yamaha Pacifica 112V is also quite affordable.  These retail for around 200 pounds for the guitar itself or a bit more for the guitar and amp package.


Now some more specific guitar buying advice:


3) Should I buy new or second hand guitar?

Now not everyone will agree with me (there are loads of rock songs that sing about buying a beat up old 6 string – Foreigner and Bryan Adams (was the Five and Dime a second hand store?  I don’t know)) but I firmly believe that your first guitar purchase should be a new guitar.  My reasons for this are simple: as a newbie guitarist, how do you know Beat Up 6 Stringthe second hand guitar you’re buying is not defective? Someone who has been playing a while will know to look along the length of the guitar neck for signs of bending or warping, that the fret wires are all in place and none are loose or needing replaced?  Does the guitar hold its tuning?  Is the nut intact and smooth (a damaged nut will cause strings to break regularly), are the tuning pegs solid and in good working order?  The tremolo springs?  The pickups?  The knobs and switches?    If you have your heart set on a higher-spec guitar but can’t afford to buy it new, then buying second hand is your only option.  Just take care and make sure you see before you buy (the photos posted on eBay may not reflect what you’re buying).  For me, there are so many risk factors associated with buying a second hand guitar that I wouldn’t recommend it unless you know someone who knows what to look for whom you can bring along.


4) Should I buy Online or in a music shop?

In my experience online is fine provided you buy from a reputable dealer such as, or Gear 4 Music.  Another excellent online retailer that has a vast guitar section as well as other music equipment is Thomann Cyberstore.  The obvious benefit to buying from a shop is that you get to actually pick up and try it before you decide to buy.  However buying online gives you a far wider choice as well as a much better chance of getting the guitar you want at the best possible price.  If you are buying a really inexpensive entry level guitar, you may want to be sure that the “guitar action” is not too high (the distance between the strings and the fretboard when you view the guitar neck side on) – the higher the strings are the more quickly your fingers will tire as they have to press harder – this can be painful for the newbie guitarist and will often put people off playing altogether – eek!  This is particularly true of cheap acoustic guitars.  Entry level models from reputable companies such as Yamaha, Ibanez, Epiphone, Washburn, Takamine and Fender should be a safe bet and you can be confident you’re getting a good first guitar.




Next:  Other Guitar Related Gear You Should Consider Purchasing