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The Guide to Buying your First Guitar

By Kelsey, published on 07/06/2017 Blog > Music > Guitar > How to Buy Your First Guitar

Before buying your first guitar and learning how to play it, it’s necessary to keep in mind the different types of guitars.

My name is Kelsey and I am a professional guitarist and guitar teacher.

I will share my expertise to help you choose your first guitar.

The perfect guitar that suits everyone does not exist. It is necessary to make your choice according to your musical style.

Here are some recommendations and directions regarding your purchase.

First, let’s talk about guitar sizes.

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Tips and Tricks to Choosing Your First Guitar (Children/Adults)

Here are some things to consider when buying your first guitar.

A neck too large or too long, a case too imposing, or an unsuitable guitar size can be very problematic for both children and adults.

Therefore, throughout this article, I will explain the different sizes and who they are best suited for. Then I will give some recommendations of different products and where to buy them to prepare you for your guitar lessons!

Guitars for children: different sizes according to their age

How to buy a guitar for a child Buying a guitar for a child is not always easy.

How to buy a kid’s guitar?

Guitar 1/4 – 110cm | 5-6 years old

The 1/4 guitars are between the toy and the real musical instrument.

With their small size, they are particularly suited for very young children.

Guitar 1/2 – 125cm | 6-8 years old

The 1/2 guitars are meant for children.

Its sound is closer to a traditional guitar than the 1/4 guitar.

Guitar 3/4 – 140cm | 8-10 years old

3/4 guitars are the ultimate learning guitars. They are massively used for guitar lessons for children aged 8-10 years old.

Guitar 4/4 – 150cm | 10 years and older

The 4/4 guitar is the standard size guitar used by teenagers and adults. They provide more powerful and warm sounds than the smaller guitars. This information is very practical for acoustic guitars (classical or folk).

On the other hand, I advise against buying an electric guitar until your child is of age to play on a standard size.

Kelsey’s Advice For Buying Your First Classical, Folk and Electric Guitar

The classical guitar: some buying recommendations

Sizes 1/4 and 1/2 for children 5 – 8 years old

For children 5 – 10 years old, the price margin will be between $60 – $150.

YAMAHA CGS102A – 1/2 and 1/4 Guitar

($120)

The Yamaha brand is, in my eyes, the reference in terms of children’s guitars size 1/4 and 1/2. Yamaha is aimed towards children and allows them to start on a quality instrument for a little more than $100.

The rosewood fingerboard and bridge illustrate Yamaha’s desire to offer an instrument with impeccable quality at an economic price.

LYONS Classroom 1/4 Guitar

($67)

This is a good compromise to start at a low price point and an early age!

Indeed, this guitar is not on the same level as Yamaha’s standard, but it will still allow you to enjoy a good product for less than $100.

Size 3/4 for children 8 – 10 years old

For children 5 – 10 years old, the price margin will be between $60 – $150.

YAMAHA CGS103A – 3/4 Guitar

($130)

True to Yamaha’s reputation for quality, this 3/4 guitar offered at a very affordable price would be the perfect companion to a young musician of 8 – 10 years old.

FENDER MC-1 – 3/4 Guitar

($130)

Fender is a brand that I particularly like. Very famous in the middle price range, their guitars are of excellent value for their price. These instruments astutely combine playing comfort and a warm sound.

Size 4/4 for children from 10 – 11 years old to teenagers and adults

Unlike children under 10 years of age, for teenagers and adults, a guitar will cost between $150 – $200.

CORT AC200-OP

($194)

I want to talk to you about CORT because I greatly appreciate this brand. Cort manufactures guitars whose value for money is unrivaled in the market. The constant with these guitars: the sound is always clear and brilliant.

LAG OC66 Occitania

($180)

The LAG brand is also well-known in the guitar world. The Occitania range impresses with its rich and warm sounds and the comfort of playing. This is a very good first guitar. Many of my students have started with this one.

YAMAHA – C40

($140)

The Yamaha C40 classical guitar benefits from the quality and know-how of Yamaha in the manufacture of nylon string guitars. As I said before, nothing to add, Yamaha is a good product!

FENDER – CN90

($230)

In addition to being the most affordable nylon string guitar from Fender, the CN-90 resonates with fantastic classical elegance, while adding real value.

The folk guitar: some buying recommendations

Sizes 1/4 and 1/2 for children 5 – 8 years old

STAGG – folk blue burst

($110)

It is quite rare to find folk guitars in sizes 1/4 and 1/2.

The STAGG brand offers this product for a little more than $100.

Size 3/4 for children 8 – 10 years old

YAMAHA – FOLK 3/4 JR1

($135)

We return once more to the YAMAHA brand.

Its 540mm short neck is easy to play, even for the smallest hands, while the small dimensions of the body guarantee an excellent hold. This is perfect for beginner guitar lessons.

FENDER – MA 3/4 STEEL

($140)

This is perfectly suited for music schools, students, and beginners who feel more comfortable with a guitar of smaller dimensions. 

Size 4/4 for children from 10 – 11 years old to teenagers and adults

As far as adult folk guitars are concerned, the choices are much larger and more extensive. Here is a list of products that I recommend.

Between $100 – $200

  • CORT – AD810
  • EPIPHONE – DR100
  • YAMAHA F335
  • LAG – TRAMONTANE 66A
  • YAMAHA FG730S SUNBURST
  • TAKAMINE – GD10
  • FENDER – CF60
  • FENDER – CD140S

Between $200 – $300

  • EPIPHONE – EL-00 Pro
  • IBANEZ – AEG1211-NT
  • CORT – LUCE L100-O
  • YAMAHA – FG700S
  • EPIPHONE – Hummingbird Pro
  • FENDER CD280S

If you already have a specific brand or model of guitar that you want to buy, head on over to Guitar Center to find the guitar of your dreams!

The Fender Sonoran has an atypical look that makes it an ideal guitar for beginners

This guitar is magnificent, it has a destroyed look and finishes, and an impeccable polish.

This is an acoustic-electric folk guitar, which means it is equipped with a preamp for sound. I used this guitar when I first started and it is a real treat to begin with.

The sleek maple neck on this electric guitar and its atypical look make it an ideal guitar to start guitar lessons.

A major asset: its finishing is impeccable!

The only downside: the bass

The electric guitar: buying recommendations

Sizes 1/4 and 1/2 for children 5 – 8 years old

You will find 1/4 and 1/2 guitars between $80 – $110.

A reminder that at this age and with these dimensions, the guitars lean more towards the toy rather than the instrument.

The sound quality is not yet a priority, hence the lower price.

Size 3/4 for children 8 – 10 years old

From this age on, there is the Squier brand that offers guitar sets at very attractive prices, that is, less than $200. I do not recommend it. I have seen its shortcomings on several occasions with students. Inaccessible, unplayable, etc.

First solution: Go with the Stagg brand which offers a finishing and sound that’s much less degraded than Squier’s.

Impeccable quality should not be expected, but it works without problems and is in a reasonable price range, between $100 – $120.

If you are looking for a guitar with a better range, IBANEZ offers 2 products:

  • IBANEZ – GRGM21-BKN
  • IBANEZ – GRGM21-WH

Size 4/4 for adults

The price of electric guitars for teens and adults can vary between $150 – $2000! It all depends on the style you decide to play. Each brand has its different series and styles of sound.

The Fender guitar remains an essential reference in the field of electric guitars, in particular, the STRATOCASTER series. Adapted to many styles, this series is a real “Swiss Army knife” for guitar playing styles and all guitar lessons.

You can also find very interesting products for less than $200:

  • EPIPHONE – LES PAUL SPECIAL II
  • EPIPHONE – SG SPECIAL
  • IBANEZ GRX20Z
  • CORT G110
  • LAG – ARKANE66

Feel free to follow these recommendations.

I advise you, however, not to buy an electric guitar for your child until they are old enough to play on a standard size.

How to choose your first guitar? How to choose your first guitar?

Indeed, most of the time the models suited for younger children sound very bad. They are often unplayable and unreliable.

All the Specifics That You Need to Know Before Buying Your First Guitar

buying a folk dreadnought guitar

Folk Dreadnought Guitars are the big guitars of cowboys with metal strings. It is the most versatile and popular type of folk guitar. Perfect for rhythm, it adapts well to finger picking and accompaniment. Its size, on the other hand, is quite a handicap for those small in stature and women.

Jumbo folk guitarJumbo Folk Guitars or more “classic” forms: it sounds pretty crystalline, with less bass than in a dreadnought. But playing it is more flexible; you can brush the chords or play with a pick.

Folk acoustic electric guitarFolk Acoustic-Electric Guitar: you can also go with an acoustic-electric variant. Indeed, a classical or folk acoustic guitar is not equipped to be sounded loudly like an electric guitar. The acoustic-electric guitar is equipped with a preamp and a jack output.

With or without microphones?

Even if an acoustic guitar sounds without a microphone, it is necessary to amplify it when playing in a group of other loud instruments (electric guitar, piano, drums…)

Therefore, some acoustic guitars are equipped with a microphone allowing them to connect directly with an amp (different from the amps for electric guitars).

The microphone is different from that of the electric ones and is not seen: it is a sensor, integrated into the bridge.

It is, therefore, a useful tool in the guitarist’s toolbox.

Where to Buy Your Guitar: Store, Internet or Pre-owned?

Several options are available to you when buying your guitar.

Going to a specialized store to buy your guitar

These shops are the only places where, not only can you buy your guitar, but you can also test it before purchasing it. You can try it out and listen to the sound, etc.

In addition to that, you could possibly get useful advice from a salesperson. At the very least, they may ask you questions that you have not yet asked yourself.

For me, this is an ideal solution for making the purchase.

Buying a guitar on the Internet

The Internet is a great place to quickly purchase a guitar. Keep in mind that you lose the benefit of trying it out in the store, as previously discussed.

However, it remains a solution for those who cannot go to a store.

Finding a pre-owned guitar

Buying a used guitar allows for the possibility of paying a lower price than at the store or on the Internet and also negotiating with the seller.

Another advantage is, with a little luck, you can meet with the seller and try out the guitar. This is a very positive point for seasoned guitarists, but I do not think that it’s good for a first purchase.

More Advice For Buying Your First Guitar!

Beware of beginner sets and low prices. Oftentimes these are not very advantageous. Being a beginner is not an excuse to buy a bad quality guitar. Specialized sellers will be able to advise you on the purchase of your first guitar.

In short, to start playing the guitar, it is better to choose a classical or folk guitar. How to make the right choice? Follow the advice of your music teacher, but don’t forget to ask the right questions, whether for you or your child. You now know about different models to help guide you in your selection and you know the main characteristics of each guitar.

It is important to recall the main advantages and disadvantages of the classical guitar and the folk guitar. The right choice is a personal decision.

The Classical Guitar

In general, many teachers ask beginners, especially children, to start with this type of instrument. The reasons are simple:

  • They are available in all sizes
  • The strings are evenly spaced so that finger placement is easier. But this can also be disadvantageous for working the bars… we can’t have everything!
  • The frets are large
  • The strings are flexible, which is more suited for children’s sensitive fingers
  • The price is attractive. Children grow up fast and it is true that you will have to buy several guitars as they grow bigger…that cost must be taken into account!

On the other hand, the classical guitar cannot play all styles of music, but it still offers beautiful possibilities. Don’t you want to try flamenco?

The Folk Guitar

If you are not afraid of hurting your fingers, you will certainly be drawn to the folk guitar. Yes, with its steel or bronze strings, the tips of your fingers will get callouses!

However, once this detail is taken into consideration, the folk guitar does not lack assets:

  • With a neck that is longer and narrower than the classical guitar, you will be able to work the bars and climb the treble more easily
  • You will also be able to play various styles, including blues, folk, and even country… Yee-haw!
  • By learning on a folk guitar, you can more easily switch to the electric guitar later on.

In any case, think especially of your comfort when learning to play the guitar. Not to mention the sound, which remains a notable difference between these two types of acoustic guitars. The classical guitar will have a soft and warm sound, while the folk guitar will have a more metallic and crystalline sound. Choosing a guitar is also a matter of personal taste.

The Essential Accessories that You Cannot Forget

Guitar accessories? Yes, it’s not enough to just buy a guitar, you also have to think about the necessary accessories to help you play at your best! We do not alway think about that when we start…

You don’t want to find yourself helpless with an untuned guitar, right?

And say hello to back pain and bad posture without well-chosen accessories…

So take a trip to your favorite music store and invest in all the tools that will be useful to you. No, I don’t push you to buy. You will see that these tips prove to be very helpful!

The pick

It’s essential for strumming the strings, are you already perplexed by all of the options?

There are all different sorts to choose from, how to decide?

There are plastic, wood, metal and even glass picks. Each has its characteristics, but to start it’s better to choose a plastic pick since it’s easier to handle.

On the other hand, for just a few cents you can have several models of different thickness (and also with a different rigidity). Let’s not forget what all guitarists will tell you: the pick is the accessory that is lost the most often. It is better to have a few on hand, to avoid spending an hour searching everywhere for it.

The capodaster

Don't forget essential accessories like the capo Don’t forget essential accessories like the capo!

If there is a necessary accessory it is the capodaster, or “capo” for the insiders. This bar that blocks the strings has two uses:

  • It changes the pitch of the instrument to continue playing with the strings you know. This allows you to play faster without changing the position of your fingers.
  • It avoids difficult positioning of fingers when bars and chords are not mastered.

How to choose?

There are two main variants. The classic capodaster that requires the use of both hands to be installed, and the spring capodaster that can be placed with one hand thanks to the spring system.

The tuner and the metronome

It’s not always easy when you begin to tune your instrument by ear. Therefore, it is very useful to invest in a tuner, especially since it’s not very expensive. You can find one starting at $10. With a tuner, you will be able to make sure that the notes you play are correct.

It’s also important to correctly follow the rhythm of the song. At first, you may not be able to keep track of the pace with your foot while playing properly. So let the metronome do this job for you and focus on the placement of your fingers. The metronome’s price is similar to the tuner: starting at $15.

If you don’t like having too many objects, there are models that combine the tuner and metronome functions, in the $20 range.

The footrest and strap

Can’t find a good position to comfortably play the guitar?

!It’s important to adopt good posture when learning how to play!

If your back is hurting from playing the guitar, it’s no wonder if you don’t have a footrest. You can always use a stack of books, a shoe box or any object that you have on hand, but the best thing to use is a footrest. In the price range of $10, it allows you to raise your foot to maintain the correct position without tiring yourself.

To play standing (and even sitting), think of the guitar strap. When standing, the strap allows you to hold the guitar. When seated, it helps you secure the instrument.

Caring For Your Guitar

You are now perfectly equipped. Before you leave, I can’t resist giving you a few last tips to take care of your new guitar. Admit that it would be a shame to ruin it…

Rest assured, it is not complicated to take care of a guitar, just adopt some simple, but essential habits.

The guitar’s enemy is the moisture in the air, otherwise known as humidity. Indeed, it should not be forgotten that guitars are made out of wood! One would tend to say that you must be wary of humidity, and while this is true, contrarily the main risk for an instrument is dryness. A guitar that retains moisture will swell, but regain its initial shape afterward. On the other hand, if it dries out too much, the wood shrinks and this is when problems appear: cracks, paint peeling off, etc…

To avoid this, store your guitar in its case or cover and never leave it in direct light (especially sunlight), too close to a radiator or excessive heat source.

Avoid leaving your guitar on the beach, in the sand and in the sun! Avoid leaving your guitar on the beach, in the sand and in the sun!

The strings tend to oxidize. I’m not talking about the classical nylon guitar string, but those of the folk guitar. Metallic strings are also sensitive and not to be neglected. They tend to oxidize with sweaty fingers. To avoid this:

  • Wash your hands before playing
  • After playing, clean the strings and under the strings with a soft cloth

When you change the strings, take this time to clean the tuning pegs, on the neck and each fret (metal bars). If the wood is not varnished, dust and deposit risk inlaying the wood. For a gentle cleaning, you will need a soft cloth that’s slightly wet with hot water and a few drops of dishwashing soap. Rub gently to remove dirt encrusted along the frets. Also, think about oiling the key to protect it.

In your favorite music store, you will find many products specifically designed for the maintenance of your guitar. Fast Fret is one of the most famous. As a cleaner and lubricant, it protects the strings and key, helping them stay clean and shiny longer. This prevents the sound quality of your guitar from deteriorating. It’s easy to apply, but you must remember to use the product regularly.

Finally, the varnish of the body can be attacked under the effect of perspiration. Also, remember to clean it regularly with a soft cloth.

Now that you have the essential information, it’s time to buy your first guitar. The first guitar also usually goes along with guitar lessons.

Find a guitar teacher here on SuperPROF

And one day you could end up playing the guitar onstage… who knows?

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