Recently, we’ve been getting a number of questions from students about how to choose a guitar when they first begin lessons. With all the choices out there–acoustic, electric, nylon string, steel string–the decision can be daunting! In order to make the choice easier for you, we’ve collaborated with one of our favorite guitar teachers, Sarah, to put together a brief guide that will help you choose your first guitar.
Acoustic or Electric?
Electric guitar strings are lighter and easier to play, so if you want to quickly learn to play music before waiting for your fingers to callus, this might be a good option. On the other hand, if you want to immediately jump into strengthening your hands, you may want to go with an acoustic guitar.
This is, of course, also a stylistic choice. Do you enjoy singer-songwriter music and hope to accompany yourself that way? If so, the acoustic might be the one for you. But if you prefer the amplified sound of an electric, this might be the way to go.
Acoustic-electric guitars are acoustic guitars that have a plug and can be played electronically through a sound system. They’re great if you like the acoustic sound but for some reason (larger, louder venue, for example), need amplification. They tend to be on the pricier side, so you may want to wait on this investment until you’re more certain that this is the guitar you’re looking for!
Nylon of Steel String?
If you decided to go with an acoustic guitar, should you choose nylon string or steel string? Nylon strings are softer and easier to play than steel strings are, so again, you have a choice between starting out with strings that will immediately help strengthen your hands and help your fingers callus or one that will ease you into playing the instrument.
This is again largely a stylistic question. Are you more interested in learning classical guitar? If so, nylon strings are the way to go, because of the mellow tone and ease they offer to a guitarist doing note-by-note melody playing. Or are you more interested in playing rock and other more contemporary genres? If so, you might consider steel strings, because of the crispness and energy they allow for in rhythm playing.
Full size, 3/4-size, or 1/2-size guitars?
Sometimes 1/2-size guitars sacrifice quality, but they tend to be less expensive and aren’t a bad choice when you aren’t sure what your child’s commitment level is. Be careful with that mentality though. If you buy a guitar that’s too low in quality, it’ll be harder to make it sound good, and your child may lose interest faster than he or she would with one of slightly higher quality.
3/4-size guitars generally tend to be higher quality than 1/2-size ones and are often great for anyone under around 5’ tall.
Sarah’s final guitar shopping tip:
Check out Costco guitars! You can generally find inexpensive starter kits.