This is a guest article by Justin Miller.
If you or your kids have decided to start learning the guitar, a dozen questions immediately rise. One of the first is your major guitar purchase, the purchase that will decide what kind of instrument the student will be learning to play. After all, you want to choose a guitar that will facilitate easy learning, right? Something that is easy to hold and not to sharp on tender fingers sounds ideal, but which guitar style matches that?
You could shop for electric guitars, spend time in the acoustics section, or pick out a unique classical set, depending on your situation. And after that first decision, you may have to spend some time thinking about woods, brands, tops, sizes, and a dozen other factors. To make the decision a little more simple, there are a few facts you should know about guitar styles first.
I Should Choose Electric, Right?
In many ways, the electric guitar makes a good first-time choice. Design and shape choices are far more flexible, which means you can easily find a guitar that fits your personal grip, or is more suitable for younger children and smaller hands. The electric guitar also tends to be more forgiving for beginners. The strings are easier to manipulate and chords are easier to strum out when you are first learning how to play. Electric guitars are also easy to customize and look cool – a surprisingly powerful motivation when it comes to convincing younger students to play.
However, there are some downsides. Few electric versions are “sold separately.” You will need an amp, headphones, and a variety of software to take the best advantage of today’s electric guitars, which can raise the price tag.
What About Acoustic?
Acoustics are also a popular beginner’s option, though they skew more toward the older crowd that wants to pick up guitar practice sometime after their teen years. Acoustics have their own advantages. They invoke a more traditional, heart-warming feel and sound that electrical versions, making them more suitable for some styles of music (like folk and basic on-the-lawn melodies). They can easily be carried around and played at a whim, which could be better for your lifestyle. Many come in hybrid varieties that include ports for recording and amplification, too.
Acoustic guitars are more limited in shape than electric guitars. Most body styles will be difficult for smaller hands to learn. You can purchase half-sizes to accommodate your younger children, but as they grow they will need new guitar upgrades, which could become expensive.
Are There Other Options?
Classical guitars differ from acoustics in a couple ways. They have nylon strings, which may be gentler on fingers. Traditionally, classic versions come with a broad fret board which makes it easy to find and learn the strings, provided your hands are large enough. Compare to acoustics, many classical guitars are also easier hold or position for beginners. However, classical guitars are rarely as adaptable or cool as other versions, which could be a key deciding factor.
What About Brands?
If this is your first guitar purchase, you are likely to be more swayed by discounts and low prices than brand names. Before you shop, though, consult with your guitar instructor and ask which brand or type is best for learning lessons on. Instructors have their own opinions on these matters and receiving input is key. The cheapest guitars are often a bad deal simply because of quality issues. A suitable, inexpensive electric Yamaha, Les Paul, or Ibanez can be found for $200 to $300. An acoustic Seagull or Yamaha can stretch up to $400 to $500 for high quality version. Each brand will play a little differently, so make the selection carefully and ask around for opinions.
Justin Miller is a professional blogger that writes on a variety of topics including guitar lessons online. He writes for JamPlay.com, a leading online music educator offering 2,000+ acoustic guitar lessons for beginners in HD.