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A Simple Guide to Buying Your First Guitar

From The Beatles to Ed Sheeran, Queen and AC/DC to Polyphia and Make Them Suffer, the guitar is a hugely influential instrument in the modern and classical music scene. The repertoire for the instrument is truly vast.

When starting out, you may have a lot of questions about what to buy. Here are some questions to consider before investing in a guitar.

  • Should I buy an acoustic or electric guitar? 
  • What brand of guitar do I want/need? 
  • Do the pickups on an electric guitar matter? 
  • Do I need an amplifier?
  • What pedals should I buy?
  • How many strings are ideal? 

Getting the Right Guitar to Start With

Initial decisions revolve around deciding the type of music you are looking to play most. For softer styles, an acoustic guitar is a good fit. Acoustic guitars don’t require amplification to be heard and produce a lovely resonant sound. Some reputable companies we recommend are Takamine, Tanglewood, Martin, Taylor, Washburn, Crafter, Aria and Gibson. They sell a wide variety of differently shaped and sized acoustic guitars that suit a majority of musicians. 

If you edge toward the heavier sides of music, an electric guitar is a natural choice. These solid-bodied guitars plug into an amplifier with audio manipulation possibilities. Electric guitars also come in a wide variety of styles and shapes, which means you can express yourself with the instrument alone.

Electric guitars are also more flexible tonally due to the wide range of effects and sounds you can get from an electric guitar and amplifier.

Next, decide the budget for your guitar. We recommend you don’t overspend on your beginner guitar, just in case it’s not the right instrument or model for you. On the other hand, we recommend you not purchase a cheap guitar either. These models tend to cut corners, which in turn impacts sound, feel, difficulty to play, and of course, looks.

The Nitty Gritty

Now that you’ve decided the budget and type of guitar you want, you can get into the finer details of picking a guitar. A quick browse through our classifications will show you the range of differences available now.

Body Shape

A guitar’s body shape plays a huge role for several reasons. The bigger the guitar, the less comfortable it is to hold them, but the more significant the sound that is produced. In acoustic guitars, this ranges from Parlour and Folkstyle guitars, through to Auditorium sized, further up to the dreadnought sized guitars. For a beginner, a dreadnought sized guitar might be a little much, as it is difficult to hold on to them while maintaining good posture. 

The body shapes and styles on the electric guitars are a little more ergonomic, as electric guitars tend to have their bodies carved in a way to accommodate the curves of the human body. Les Paul shaped guitars are the least accommodating, with no carving, whereas most other brands have some type of ergonomic carving built-in. Consider the Fender or Paul Reed Smith.

Wood Choice

A guitar’s material makes a significant difference to the overall sound of the guitar. Certain companies sell the same guitar in many different configurations, such as Fender with the Stratocaster model, and it is well worth trying to different woods to see which you prefer the sound and feel of. 

Most beginner guitars will have a neck and fingerboard made of either Rosewood, a dark colored wood or Maple, a lighter colored, more open sounding wood. The different woods all feel different, and some people prefer one over the other, so it is well worth trying the different woods. You can also use Ebony, Koa and Pau Ferro woods for the fretboards, but these tend to be reserved for the higher-end guitars. 

The wood that the body of the guitar is made with makes a big difference to the weight and sound/tone of the guitar. There’s a wide range of wood-types used for guitar bodies, which all exhibit different tonal properties. The most popular of these woods are Maple, Alder, Mahogany and Basswood.

Maple bodied guitars exhibit a hard and bright tone. If you want a sound that will cut through in a band situation, a maple guitar is perfect. Maple exhibits excellent bass and treble response but does not give a prominent warm sound that is preferred by many.

Alder bodied guitars tend to be very balanced sounding, with an equal distribution of frequencies. This makes it a great starting guitar wood. It’s quite an abundant material too, which means alder bodied guitars are quite inexpensive. 

Mahogany bodied guitars are basically the opposite of Maple guitars. They have a dark, warm sound that is great for rock and metal music. The main problem with Mahogany is it’s fairly expensive and also very heavy.

Basswood bodied guitars are more affordable than most other woods, and a lightweight, tight grain wood. The warm-sounding wood is great for heavier styles of music. 


Pickups

Both electric and acoustic guitar can have pickups - which gives them the capability to use in conjunction with an external audio amplifier.

There are two main types of pickup and a few special use case versions that are variants of the Single Coil and Humbucker Designs. Single coils are a thinner, less warm-sounding pickup while Humbuckers sound more aggressive, deep and balanced. Try both out and see which you prefer the sound of before you buy your guitar.


Picking a guitar is a very personal and important process. Hopefully, you now understand in-depth what you are looking for, and you can browse our selection of instruments with confidence.

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