There are five main types of guitar
1. Classical/Spanish (Nylon strung)
2. Acoustic (Steel strung)
Generally the style of music you wish to play has a big input into which type of guitar you choose. So let’s list a few types of music and which I think would be the standard choice for that type of music. Remember though that there are no hard and fast rules to this.
1. Classical/Flamenco – Classical/Spanish.
2. Folk/Pop – Acoustic Steel Strung or Classical/Spanish.
3. Rock/Pop – Electric.
4. Blues – Electric or Acoustic depending on the sound you want.
5. Jazz – Semi-acoustic, electric or acoustic.
Price I think the first thing is to set yourself a budget and try and stick to it. If you’re just starting out there’s a fair chance you won’t really have much of a clue where you’re going to end up. You might start with an acoustic but realise after a few months that your heart really lies with electric or vice versa.
So, what’s the budget for a first guitar. Obviously this will change over time, Classical style are generally cheaper and start around the £50 mark. You should be able to get a good, playable steel strung acoustic guitar for around £100, if you can stretch to £150 you’d have more choice and the quality of budget instruments these days is much better than it was 20 years ago.
In general electrics are more expensive, but less than £250 should get you something good enough for a beginner that will take them through to intermediate level. You can get them for less if you shop around. But be warned, it could be false economy, if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Beginner electrics often come in a guitar/amp package. Some of these are a good buy, some less so. Take the advice of the guy in the shop. Sometimes you’ll come across a guy who is just a salesman, but mostly they actually want to please you so you keep coming back.
Which manufacturer? I’ve asked this as a question because guitars are like every other product. It’s very easy to get sucked into the ‘label’ culture. There are many mass produced guitars as well as hand made specials (which come with an associated price). My advice on manufacturers really though is that you shouldn’t put yourself in the position of not trying a guitar just because you’ve never heard of the make. Yes you’ve a good chance of getting a good guitar if you pick the usual Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Takamine, Guild etc. but there is a much wider choice now of good guitars. So if you like the look of it, pick it up and give it a go. Also, don’t think that just because it’s expensive it’ll be fantastic. Sometimes you can get a really stunning guitar from the cheaper end just because things just happened to come together to make it better than average.
For your first guitar it’s a bit more tricky because the chances are you can’t actually play it. So what I’d recommend here is to listen to the advice of the salesman in the shop and then get him to actually play it for you then you can hear what it sounds like. Try not to be distracted by what he actually plays though. You need to listen to the sound the guitar is making so even if you don’t actually like the music being played listen to the noise that’s being made. If you don’t like the sound then don’t buy it. There’s such a wide range you will find something you like.
Things to look out for. On all types of guitar, look at the neck. Hold the thickest string down at the frets one and twelve. There should be a slight bow in the neck so the string has room to vibrate, if the string touches all the frets or if there’s a massive gap (3 to 4 mm etc) then the neck needs adjusting, pretty easy on an electric, bit harder on an acoustic.
Next hold the guitar so you are looking from the head end straight down towards the body with the strings facing towards the ceiling. Get the angle so that the body is slightly higher in your point of view than the head and you should see all the frets (the wires across the fingerboard) running parallel across the fretboard. If they’re not parallel and look wonky then the neck is twisted. If this is the case, choose another guitar, it’s not worth the effort trying to fix that.
If it’s an electric or an electro-acoustic, might sound obvious, but plug it in, try all the switches, turn all the knobs (playing a bit in between even if it’s one note) to make sure everything works. If it’s an electric guitar package make sure you try it through the amplifier that comes with the package (and again try all the switches etc, you might hate the sound of it, again false economy. You need to be inspired by your guitar, so the sound is very important.
Important Two things really, if you’re not sure, get someone who knows a bit about guitars to go with you. If you don’t have anyone then ask me for advice (you never know, I might even offer to go with you).
Unless you know what you’re doing I’d advise against buying from the internet. Again general quality is much better than it used to be, but you can get two examples of exactly the same guitar, love one and hate the other so always best to go to a shop. Plus after sales service is easier.
Where can I buy one. As I said earlier, the internet isn’t really the place as you need to try it before you buy. So, local shops near Chelmsford. No specific recommendations, just ones I know about, there may be more. Exact location is a mere google search away.
Allegro in the High Street
Dace in Broomfield Road
Professional Music Technology
Holiday Music (also strings direct – good internet site to get strings from) massive range from well under £100 to well over £2000 so take your pick.