This article will help out anybody thinking about starting guitar. It will provide you with basic information on the tools and gear you will need to get starte. Starting out with the wrong equipment is an easy way to get frustrated and many people give up guitar simply because they don’t realize they bought the wrong gear. So it’s pretty important that you spend a bit of time to make sure you start on the right track. Read through this article before you go into any guitar shop so you know what to get.
Your first guitar
This is obviously the most important piece of gear you will buy. Buying the wrong guitar will make everything harder for you than it needs to be. It’s not as straight forward as looking at all the guitars in the shop and picking one you like the look of. There are a few points to consider when purchasing your first guitar. Here is a short summary on the main points to consider:
1. Acoustic or electric
Have a think about what type of music you want to be able to play. Do you enjoy listening to guitar players who play soft acoustic ballads or do you listen to heavy metal with loud guitar solos and riffs? Obviously if you listen to heavy metal, buy an electric guitar and if you listen to acoustic ballads, buy an acoustic. Most styles of music you will be able to tell which type of guitar will be the better choice. If you don’t know what type of guitar is needed for that style you can ask one of the guitar store staff and they will have a good idea which one is better. If in doubt, start on a nylon string acoustic (explained why below).
If you are thinking about buying an acoustic guitar, it is preferable that you buy a nylon string acoustic instead of a steel string acoustic. Even if the style of music you want to learn uses steel string guitars, it is better to start out on a nylon string guitar. The reason is that nylon strings are very gentle on your fingers while the steel strings can be absolute agony for beginners. The number one complaint with beginners is sore fingers. If you intend to start learning on a steel string acoustic you can expect a lot of pain in your fingers.
When comparing acoustic guitars to electric guitars, the strain on the fingers isn’t a problem with electrics. This is because the tension in the strings is different between the two types of guitars. This is good and bad if you choose to start learning on an electric guitar. Good because you won’t have too much pain in your fingers in the beginning. Bad because you won’t develop the finger strength you would have if you started on a steel string acoustic. It’s always easier for a person who started on a steel string acoustic to pick up and play an electric guitar than the other way around. If you start learning on an electric guitar, you will probably find it very challenging to play the same songs and riffs on an acoustic. This doesn’t mean don’t start on an electric, it’s just a word of caution.
2. Cost and brand
Today there are so many good quality brands it’s hard to choose which are the best to start on. Without going into too much detail the bottom line is that you should spend whatever you can comfortably afford. The idea that a $1,000 guitar is five times better than a $200 guitar is crazy – especially for a beginner. Yes, the expensive guitars are better quality, but part of the price tag has to do with the brand name. The reality is that a beginner doesn’t need to and shouldn’t start learning guitar on a $3,000 fender or Gibson. A beginner won’t even hear the difference between the $3,000 fender and a $200 generic guitar so don’t get sucked into buying something just because of the sticker on it. Later on when you build up your skills you may benefit from a more expensive (and hopefully higher quality) guitar. For now, keep it basic.
There are so many different settings and features guitars come with that it can be very confusing for a beginner. So keep with the absolute basics. If the store salesperson starts explaining why you should buy this guitar with the latest Floyd Rose locking tremolo or they start going on about the type of wood – back away. A beginner needs a basic guitar. If you’re buying an electric guitar – look for one with a basic bridge (fixed or basic tremolo) without anything fancy like active pickups. If you’re buying an acoustic guitar just be sure that it’s the right size for your body and it feels easy to reach around the neck.
There’s obviously a lot more things to consider when buying a guitar, but keep these main points in mind and you will be fine.
Over time you will start to buy different accessories that will help you do certain things. Here is a short list of basic accessories you should buy at the very start.
- Guitar tuner (essential)
- Capo (not essential at first but very handy later on)
- Spare strings (unfortunately you will break one at some point)
- Cleaning spray (or a cloth)
- Amplifier (if you buy an electric guitar)
- Picks (buy heaps – you will no doubt lose countless picks)
- Guitar stand (nothing worse than cracking your new guitar because it fell over)
Don’t get too tempted to buy too many accessories because in the beginning you really won’t need them.
Note: the cleaning spray or cloth is overlooked by almost everybody but is pretty important. You need to get into the habit of wiping down your guitar strings after every practice session. Basically the sweat from your fingers will start to build up filth under the strings and cause them to wear out faster. It’s amazing how much corrosion and filth wipes away from the strings after a couple days of playing. Make sure you slide the cloth underneath the strings to remove all traces of grease and filth.
If you will be learning with a tutor then they will provide you with everything you will need (if they are a good tutor). On the other hand if you are planning on learning on your own (from websites like this one) then you will need to buy at least a couple different resources to help you along the way. Yes, you can pretty much learn everything from the internet, but learning from a range of materials is more effective.
If you are completely unsure on how to search the internet to find lessons or even what to search for, it may be a good idea to buy a book to guide you through the first few steps on guitar. Then after you get a feel for the absolute basics you will have a rough idea on what to search for. Not everyone will need to buy a book so the choice is yours. Books have limitations so make sure if you get one that you continue using other resources to assist you.
2. Flash cards
This site was created because of the effectiveness of flash cards. So many people have found flash cards a blessing when starting guitar but unfortunately most people have never tried using them. There’s plenty information on this site to explain why flash cards are so effective so do yourself a favor and get one. They’re cheaper than a book and more effective in teaching chords because you have more control on how you use them. You can order Tempo Music Cards’ 50 Essential Open Chords Pack online here and have it sent to your door anywhere around the world. We wouldn’t have built this site if we didn’t believe they were effective.
Yes, YouTube is a fantastic resource filled with countless guitar lessons. Unfortunately they aren’t all good. Many lessons teach the wrong techniques and many are poorly done and poorly explained. There are many good quality ones out there but it seems to be hit and miss. Buying an instructional DVD is expensive but you will be sure that the quality (in terms of picture and content) of the videos is high. Watching other people play and explain techniques is essential to your development so make sure watching videos is a part of your practice sessions.
The tools and gear described above are the basic equipment you should have to get yourself started. Over time you will find more and more gadgets, accessories and tools to help you out but it’s important you only start with the minimum. Starting with too many gadgets can be distracting. Here’s a short list of the above gear and tools:
- Guitar (nylon string acoustic the best for beginners) & amplifier (only for electric guitars)
- Guitar tuner, Guitar stand & Picks
- Capo & cleaning spray or cloth
- Spare strings (unfortunately you will break one at some point)
- Beginner’s books, Flash Cards, DVDs
Check out more articles here.