Beginner guitarist buyer’s guide

If you want to learn guitar or have just decided to do so, this buyer’s guide will give you the basic information you need on the essential gear to get started. Missing out on some of these items can create a big hindrance to your development. Read through this post to get an overview on the basic gear you need to get started.


1. A guitar suitable for a beginner.

This may sound obvious but the truth is not all guitars are suitable for beginners. There are many guitars out there that are extremely hard for beginners to play. If you happen to buy one of these guitars without knowing it, you’re in for an extremely tough ride.

There are two basic guitars best suited for beginners. They are:

Basic nylon string acoustic, or
Basic ‘strat’ style electric.

For an indepth article on whether you should learn on an acoustic or electric guitar click here.

If you’re still unsure, the easy choice (and cheaper) is to use a nylon string acoustic guitar.


2. A guitar tuner

There are many different forms of tuners you can buy from electronic tuners to pitch pipes (don’t bother with the latter). You can even download tuner apps on your phone so there’s no excuse for not getting one. A decent electronic tuner will cost around $20 so stop by your local guitar shop (or ebay) and get yourself one.

The reason why a tuner is so important: nothing is more discouraging than hearing yourself play an out-of-tune guitar.

When you strum the strings thinking your fingers are in the right position for the chord and it sounds horrible, you’re going to feel like you’re doing it wrong. Even if your fingers are in the right position, you will still feel like you’re playing it wrong. It’s a horrible thought to think that many beginners have given up the guitar simply because they didn’t have a tuner to keep their guitar in proper tune.

As a side note: while it’s definitely worth learning to tune your guitar using only your ears, that’s not a reason not to buy a tuner. If you mention to a guitarist that you’re going to buy a tuner and they reply, ‘nah don’t bother, just use your ears’ – don’t listen to them. Remember that you’re a beginner and your ears need to develop. To develop your ears you need a guitar in tune.


3. A basic guitar instruction book

Even if you decide to learn from a guitar teacher, which is definitely a good decision if you can, buy a guitar instruction book. Even know sites like this one contain plenty of lessons and articles that would be included in the book you buy, it’s nice to have everything all in one place. Having diagrams and easy to read sheet music in a clearly printed book goes a long way. Most books include DVDs that demonstrate the techniques which is invaluable if you decide to teach yourself.

A basic guitar book doesn’t cost much so even if your guitar teacher gives you plenty of other resources it’s nice to have a book that explains things in a different way.


4. Guitar flash cards

This site wouldn’t exist if flash cards weren’t effective learning tools. We have worked very close with many guitar tutors and students when developing our guitar flash cards. They are extremely effective and we have plenty of resources available to help you use them. The best thing about guitar flash cards is that you can use them how you want – you can play memory games and choose how you want to learn the chords. You will find many chord dictionaries and charts in shops that look like a good buy, but in reality they aren’t effective. Learning from a dictionary is as boring as it sounds.

To get an idea why our guitar flash cards are so worthwhile, read this page.


5. Picks, strap, spare strings, etc.

Unfortunately, it won’t take you long until you lose a guitar pick, or break a string. If you only have one pick or don’t have spare strings, then you will find out how frustrating it can be. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to buy a heap of picks, spare sets of strings and all the other cheap accessories available. There’s nothing more frustrating then coming home looking forward to playing some guitar and you can’t find your guitar pick. Or when you strum that first chord and a string breaks.

Bottom line: if it can break or you can lose it, buy spares.


Although there are other items worth getting, these are crucial to start out with. Something like a capo can wait until later on after you learn a few chords. Start out with these basic items and you will have everything you need to take the first few steps to learning guitar.