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New Guitar Basics for Beginner Students: How to Purchase a Guitar, what to look out for, and how to get the most out of your first experience.

So. You want to buy a guitar. 

For months (or maybe even years) you’ve seen it in your head, clear as day: this beautifully sculpted, visually stunning creation of resonant wood and shiny metal that fits perfectly in your hands…and though you haven’t the slightest idea how to finger a chord, one strum of its six strings and its voice brings a tear to your eye. 

Or maybe you just need a hobby. 

Regardless of the reason, you want to buy a guitar. Congratulations! Now you need to decide which one, and with such a wealth of options at your fingertips, it can be an understandably overwhelming decision. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you on your way to becoming the rockstar you were meant to be. 

What am I even doing with this? 

Before you even start perusing your buying options, you should ask yourself: why do I even want a guitar in the first place? What am I going to be using it for? The last thing you want is to make a purchase that you regret because it doesn’t actually suit your wants/needs. Looking to simply strum a couple chords in your spare time? You probably want an acoustic guitar: no wires required, just pick it up and play!


Gibson acoustic guitar


Trying to take the stage with a four-piece band? You might want to look into an electric guitar (or at least an acoustic electric): tons of options for sonic exploration and amplification! Having a clear idea of what you’ll be using your guitar for will make the buying process much easier. 


Look, Playing Feel, Tone

Once you’ve decided on what kind of guitar you’ll purchase - acoustic, or electric - you should have three things in mind when searching for your guitar: how it looks, how it feels, and how it sounds. Each of these qualities is important, but we feel that for a beginner, the first two will be more relevant to the buying process. Why? In our experience, people tend to know what they like visually and physically - much quicker than they do sonically. That is to say: it takes a lot of time to develop an ear for tone, so don’t stress too much about how your first guitar sounds. You want an instrument that makes you say “damn, that’s pretty” and feels good to hold. 

Where do I buy it?

You’ve decided on an instrument to purchase; now, where do you go to pull the trigger? Luckily, this is a relatively easy decision to make, as you really have only two options: online, and in-store. Typically, we recommend an in-person buying experience, especially for your first purchase: much like buying a car, buying a guitar is made much easier when it is a hands-on experience. Let’s be honest; you can’t really know the difference between a “C”-shape and a “soft V”-shape neck unless you have your hand wrapped around it! 

Wall of acoustic guitars at Walt Grace Vintage

However, we do recognize that in the middle of a pandemic, there may be some hesitation around coming in to test out guitars. In that case, the internet is your best friend. Read descriptions, watch videos, compare and contrast reviews, and when you’ve made your decision: hit that “add to cart” button! 

Final Thoughts

Buying your first guitar can be an overwhelming experience, but never hesitate to reach out and ask questions—no question is stupid, and knowledge is power! Whichever guitar you decide to purchase as your first, remember: it doesn’t have a life partner (although, if you’re a sentimental sap, like most of us here, you’ll want to keep your first “baby” as a keepsake!) Your taste in look, playing feel, and tone will change as you continue to play and explore the guitar. There’s only one thing that’s truly required of you once you make your decision—play the damn thing!

October 28, 2020 — Bill Goldstein
Tags: Beginner