Buying your first guitar is a big moment! I remember my first guitar; it was a Yamaha acoustic that was really big and incredibly difficult to play. I think my dad picked it up from a charity shop; it wasn’t long until I upgraded and got a guitar that was (slightly) better. I have learnt a lot about guitars since then, and been through my fair share of bad ones and great ones! So don’t worry you are not alone in feeling confused about what to go for!
What to think about:
1. Acoustic or Electric or Classical?
So the first thing to think about is whether you want to play acoustic, electric or a classical guitar. Probably one of the most asked questions is which guitar should I buy? And, is it okay to learn on acoustic? Do I have to start on electric?
So even though they are strung and tuned the same, each is different. A classical guitar has nylon strings, which are really easy to play. Think of the strings on a ukulele. So for children a classical guitar is a great option as immediately you will be able to play notes and chords.
Next up, the electric guitar has steel strings but they aren’t as thick as an acoustic so you will have to get used to playing them (your skin on your finger will come off and harden a little) but it wont take you long. An electric guitar will need an amp and a lead, you wont be able to really hear the electric guitar unless you plug it in.
Then finally the acoustic, the strings are thicker on an acoustic. That’s why it’s usually a little harder to play an acoustic. You can get lighter strings, but light acoustic strings are about the same gauge as medium electric strings. But saying that there is nothing wrong with starting on an acoustic, you will get used to the strings in no time (with enough practice). An acoustic guitar is great to learn on as you don’t need any amplification and can simply pick it up when you want to play and immediately start playing. There is no set up required at all. You can also get electro acoustic guitars which have a pickup in-built and can be plugged into a speaker. Totally up to you whether you will need this, for most people just starting out this wont be necessary.
Guitars come in all different sizes. There are half/ ¾ size guitars, which are smaller and best for children or if you haven’t grown yet! You can also get travel guitars; these are great guitars to start on, as they are smaller and easy to move around. However with both of these guitars they will be smaller so the sound will be a bit quieter. Electric guitars tend to be the same sizes but different shapes, which will all feel completely different on your lap. So make sure you sit down with them in the shop. With acoustic you have (from small to big) Baby, Mini, Big Baby, Grand Concert, Grand Auditorium, Grand Symphony, Dreadnought and Grand Orchestra. Depending on your size you should get the guitar that feels the most comfortable when you put your arm around it.
3. New vs. Second Hand
There are two types of guitar, NEW; straight from the factory, which has never been played before, and Second hand; which has been owned and played by another or multiple owners. New guitars are nice and there is nothing wrong with buying one if you like it. It is worth noting that lots of new guitars aren’t set up (see point 4). However second hand instruments are amazing and usually you can get something that is way cheaper and better for the money. The best places to look are the local music shops, or even gumtree or eBay. You will be amazed what you find and what deals you can get. Make sure you check reviews of sellers and check that the guitar is in full working order (as well as the check against the other points in this article). If you can go and try the guitar and check it is as described and that you actually want to buy it.
4. Intonation/Set up of guitar is really important!
So when you buy a new guitar from a shop, they don’t usually set them up. A set up means all the notes work and the strings aren’t really far away from the neck. Set ups cost about £45, so it if you can get a guitar that is set up and good to go, then it will save you some cash! So again when trying a guitar, check that all the frets work (or get the sales person to check) and have a look how far away the strings are from the frets. The further the strings are away, the harder it is to play. Put the guitar down flat and look at the fretboard from the side of the neck, look at the strings and see how far away they are from the fretboard.
The best place to go in Bristol for a guitar set up is Waghorn Guitars, a small luthier in the heart of Bristol and they are really great people and will do a great job of servicing your guitar. Get in touch now if you have just purchased a guitar.
Address: 1 Mill Ave, Bristol BS1 4AJ
Monday - Friday 10:30am–6:30pm
Phone: 0117 927 2111
5. Pick up the guitar and make sure it feels right!
It is you that is playing this guitar and it is important that it feels/ looks right for you. Don’t just get a guitar because it’s a good deal, get one that you like the look of and that you can see yourself picking up each day. So even if you have never played a note before, sit down with the guitar and make sure it feels right when sat on your lap!
6. Left handed/Right Handed
This section is more for lefties! Seems like a simple thing, but lots of left-handed people play right-handed guitars. Today there is so much more options for left handed guitarists in music shops that you don’t have to force yourself to play right handed guitars just because you can’t find one you like. My advice is go into the music shop and pick up a few left-handed guitars, if they feel comfortable then go for it. If you want to give a right-handed guitar a go, then go for it! It might just take a bit extra time to get your fingers working. Jimi Hendrix played a left-handed guitar strung the wrong way round, so really there are no strict rules!
7. Take a friend with you!
Having a friend there that can play guitar, or has been playing for a while is invaluable when picking a guitar. Make sure that you still sit down with it and see that it is comfortable for you. But let them play a few songs and you can listen out for how it sounds. They will also be able to tell you how it feels to them and if it is any good.
8. Buy a guitar that lasts and will last the stretch of time!
So this may seem like a risk, but if you really want to learn guitar and have the feeling that you are going to play for a while. Then why not spend a little more and get yourself a guitar that will last you forever. Guitars usually hold their value pretty well, so the risk isn’t massive. But one thing I do know is if you get yourself a cheap guitar and learning goes well you will buy yourself a new better guitar within 6 months to a year. Why not save that money and start on something that’s worthwhile? The choice is yours!
9. Get yourself a deal!
There are lots of shops nowadays and with the online market and all the options of places to buy you can really get yourself a deal. So shop around! Watch different guitars on eBay or gumtree and make sure you get a good deal. Ask for student discount if you are a student. Ask the shop assistant if they are doing any sales at the moment, or if they can throw in some free strings, or do you a deal on a tuner/capo. They will want your sale so you can get some free goodies! Also a lot of shops will do a price match so if you find it cheaper online they will match it.
10. Have confidence buying your first guitar!
Go and get your first guitar with confidence. One of the worst things when buying your first guitar is feeling a lack of confidence when entering a shop and coming out with a bad guitar that a sales person has just made you buy. There are some great experienced shops you can go to that will take their time and answer all your questions. I have had some horrible times in music shops where the shop assistant just wants to show how good they are on guitar and how terrible you are. If you have a weird vibe, just leave! All the music shops I have listed below are tried and tested and they will give you so much help and support you wont struggle at all!
MICKLEBURGH MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
One of the best (if not the best) music shop in Bristol is Mickleburgh Musical Instruments! This independent music shop has been selling quality musical equipment since 1903, so you have nothing to fear when you step inside their shop.
Address: 1-9 Stokes Croft, Bristol BS1 3PL
Monday - Saturday 9am–5:30pm
Phone: 0117 924 1151
Another amazing place is Hobgoblin Music, which was established in 1976. This place is a little different as you wont find names like Fender or Gibson. But all their guitars are handmade and you will find a lot of acoustic guitar here. One of my favourite places in Bristol!
Address: 36 Park Street, Bristol, BS1 5JG
Monday- Saturday 10am–6pm
Phone: 0117 929 0902
So unfortunately they don’t have a shop in Bristol! But another great option is guitarguitar, the closest store is Birmingham, but you can order online. They have always been very supportive in each location I have been to and the customer service there is excellent (they also have stores in London).
Address: 104 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 8LA
Monday - Saturday: 10am - 5:30pm
Sun: 9am – 5pm
Phone: 0121 456 1904
Some guitar suggestions!
I’ve done my research and here are some guitar suggestions for you!
Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS Candy Apple Red Guitar Pack - £254.00
Roundback Electro Acoustic Guitar + 15W Amp Pack, Black - £139.99
LA Left Handed Electric Guitar + Amp Pack, Pink - £99.99
Right Handed ¾ Size Guitars
Squier Mini Strat (v2) Black, Red or Pink - £124.00
3/4 Classical Guitar Pack, Natural - £49.99
Deluxe 3/4 Classical Guitar Pack, Natural - £64.99
Cordoba Protege C1 3/4 Size Classical Guitar – £154.00
Squier Bullet Telecaster Surf Green/Indian Laurel Guitar - £139.00
Deacon Classic, DEG3WH Artic White Electric Guitar - £149.00
Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS Montego Black Metallic/Rosewood Electric Guitar - £180.00
Squier Affinity Telecaster Arctic White/Maple Electric Guitar - £180.00
Deacon Classic LPSTD CS DEG2CS Electric Guitar - £179.00
Left Handed Electric Guitars
New Jersey Left Handed Electric Guitar – £129.99
Yamaha PA112JL Pacifica Black LH - £212.00
Squier Affinity Strat Sunburst RN LH - £179.00
Epiphone G-400 Pro Cherry LH - £299.00
Left Handed ¾ Size Guitars
3/4 LA Left Handed Electric Guitar + Amp Pack - £99.99
3/4 LA Left Handed Electric Guitar - £79.99
Amps (if you go for an electric guitar)
Boss KTNMINI Katana 7W Guitar Amplifier £95.00
Roland MicroCube GX Red Guitar Amp - £101.00
Blackstar ID Core 10 V2 Black – £99.00
Line 6 Spider Classic 15 Combo - £69.00
Blue Moon BG-20 Parlour Size Guitar, Sunburst - £129.00
Ashbury AG-43 OOO Guitar, Solid Cedar - £265.00
Yamaha F310 Acoustic Guitar - £129.00
Ashbury AG-43 000 Guitar, Electro Acoustic - £379.00
Left handed Acoustic Guitar
Sigma TM-12EL with Bag Left-Handed Travel guitar - £309.00
Sigma 0MM-1STL Left-handed Acoustic Guitar - £199.00
Sigma 000M-15L Left-handed Acoustic Guitar - £269.00
Fender CC-60S-LH Folk, Solid top, Left Handed Acoustic Guitar - £162.00
Blue Moon BG-18 Dreadnought Guitar, Left Handed - £69.99 (bigger guitar for bigger people)
¾ size bass guitars
3/4 LA Bass Guitar + 15W Amp Pack, Black - £109.99
Stagg BC300 Bass Guitar - £125.00
Squier Affinity Race Red/Rosewood Jazz Bass – £209.00
Musicman Sterling Stingray SUB 2BEQ Black Bass Guitar - £299.00
Fender Rumble 15 v3 Combo Bass Amp - £87.00
Orange Crush Bass 25 Combo - £165.00
Lead to Get
Fender 10ft Black Angled Guitar Cable - £11.99
Capo to Get
Dunlop 83CB Trigger Capo - £19.99
Tuner to Get
Snark Chromatic Guitar Blue Clip-On Tuner - £14.99
Plectrums to Get
Dunlop Variety Pack Light/Medium 12 Player Pack - £4.99
Dunlop PVP102 Variety Pack Medium/Heavy 12 Player Pack - £4.99
But you don’t have to just go for one of these! Go and search around and find the right guitar for you! You now have all the info to grab yourself a really great guitar! We are here to help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help. At Bristol House of Music we teach guitar, bass, piano, vocals, songwriting, ukulele and music theory. Click here to book your first lesson.
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