If ever there was a question about guitar that is plagued by myth and misunderstanding it would have to be “Which Guitar Should I Buy?”  These five words have led to money and time being needlessly wasted, friendships strained and hearts broken. There are 8 simple and commonsense steps to buying your first guitar that I would like to cover with you so you don’t make those mistakes and you end up with the right instrument for you and your future playing prospects. So here we go:

#1 – You absolutely MUST have a budget. You need to decide well in advance what you are prepared to spend on your first guitar and then to all intensive purposes – stick to it! Sometimes the most expensive instrument is not always the best for your needs at this point even if you have the money to buy! How you set your budget should probably not be arbitrary, it needs to be based on some grounds of fact and knowledge. If you go into buy your guitar without knowing at least a little about what your purchasing – you will probably end up spending more than you need to and certainly more than you want to. So set a budget and stick to it. You should do some research and see what’s out there to give you a ‘feel’ for the market and that brings us to point 2….

#2 – Do your homework! The internet is an amazing tool when you are looking to purchase something – it is just loaded with helpful info and pretty pictures to inspire you but beware! Buying instruments from the internet can be fraught with danger from many fronts and while the price may seem cheap today, it can cost you far much more in both time, effort, money and heartache if it all goes Pearshape – but more on that later! Look at the types of guitars available. Do you want acoustic (they make their own sound) or do you want to go for electric and have an amplifier? Do you want steel strings or nylon? Do you want a guitar you can use now and into the future or something just to tide you over until you can get something better? These are all questions you must ask yourself and you really can find most of the answers online. Doing your homework is also extremely important if you are contemplating buying a second-hand instrument – you really need to do extra homework here and make sure you have a fairly good idea of what you’re after and re-sale prices, condition etc. remember there is no warranty on a second-hand instrument and once you’ve bought it – it’s yours so be careful. It is often best to get a professional to assist you or even go with you to look a second-hand guitars there can be many pitfalls. Best advice here is – buy new if you can, it may just be worth it in the long run.

#3 – Looks really do matter! Let’s say you are a 13 year old boy and you see a beaten up, worn out guitar. Your first impression would most likely be – yuck! On the other hand, if you were offered a shiny new black guitar with flames on it you may be enticed to respond with a oo yeah! Sparkles appeal to a lot of young girls and more and more guitar manufactures now are going for bright, sparkly colours to meet that demand. Older players tend to choose more traditional or natural colours like a sunburst (more than one colour bled together) or a clear finish so they can see the texture of the wood. The colour of your guitar is very important! If you like the look of your guitar, you are going to want to play it more. Pretty simple really. Don’t buy a white guitar if you love black! Buy the guitar that appeals to you after all – it’s YOUR guitar!! But beware of buying a guitar based solely on colour alone – consider all other aspects when making the final decision.

#4 – Buy a guitar that suits your style. If you play Death Metal you will not want a Classical guitar! Now I know this sounds really obvious – but the number of times I have seen a student arrive with a guitar that will not work for his musical style is amazing! Even as a beginner you have some idea of the style of music you would like to play! If you want to sit around a campfire and play you will need an acoustic guitar. If you want to play in a band you will probably need an electric instrument and if Classical is your thing – well there’s a guitar for that too. It’s something that you need to consider because your first guitar is quite important and the decision can have an effect on your future playing.

#5 – Try to buy local! I know, I know what you’re going to say….” But I can buy it cheaper on the net!” and I suppose you can but here are some points to consider. You can never “try out” a guitar online. You should hold your guitar in your arms and feel it and/or play it before you buy it and you will need a music store for that. Your new “on line” guitar will have warranty but it will most likely be mostly worthless especially if your purchase is from a foreign country. If you buy from a music store they will honour all warranties and organize the drop off/pick up etc. You may like what you “see” on line but it’s never the same as how it “feels” and the feel of your new guitar is very important. Even if you cannot play yet – get the shop assistant to play something on your instrument and step back and listen to the way it sounds, this is crucial! If it sounds thin, rattly, boxy or just plain nasty – avoid it! I’m not saying that every guitar online is not worthy of purchase – I’m just saying that supporting music stores is an important part of our industry. If everyone bought online and all music stores closed – where would you buy strings if you needed them, or picks or other accessories that maybe needed? Buy local where you can – it pays off in the long run!

#6 – Put it in a case! When setting up your budget make allowance for the fact that your new guitar needs a case! Put it in the best case you can afford – this does two things; Naturally, it protects your instrument from damage that it may receive from transport etc. Also it protects your investment. The more care you take of your instrument – the higher the price you will receive when it comes time to upgrade. A good case is the best insurance policy for your guitar you can own!

#7 – Beware the advice of friends! At first this may sound ungracious and thankless but you need to keep in mind that many, many bad decisions have come from people who trust solely in the advice given by a “friend in the know”. While they may be fantastic people and have absolutely every best intention and your best interests at heart, they almost invariably get it wrong! They are probably unaware of the market, the prices of equipment, the performance of equipment (such as specifications etc) and most of all they have the unerring ability to read your needs incorrectly then advise on those grounds – mostly this leads to one outcome – bad friendships…. Seek the advice of professionals if you are unsure. Your music teacher, your local music store proprietor or a professional musician (if you know one) and even then – still do your own research just to be sure.

#8 – Buy a name brand. There are so many different brands of guitar out there! So many in fact it’s totally confusing and among them are good and bad! It’s very hard to know…well, unless you know so the best advice is to buy a standard name brand that is recognizable and has some longevity. I used to suggest Yamaha guitars because everyone knew Yamaha – even if they only knew they made motorbikes and outboard engines!! The Yamaha name is people friendly and people trust the brand. This can have an effect on the resale price of your instrument. Something you should consider every time you buy a musical instrument of any kind is brand! Again, this is not to say that there are many fine unknown  brands out there who make a good guitar but good brands stand out, they have history and reputation and they want to keep it that way. Ask your guitar retailer for his suggestions as well he may just surprise you with some excellent choices you may not have thought of. Without any prejudice here are a few well known, tried and true guitar brands that manufacture beginner guitars in both acoustic and electric that may be right for you:

Cort

Fender

Yamaha

Crafter

Epiphone

Admira

Takamine

Ibanez

LAG

Maton

Blueridge

Tanglewood

As you can see it is a big topic but one that you can very easily navigate through with great outcomes if you follow some simple rules and stick to your guns. Here are some You Tube links to have a look at to get you started. Good luck!