How do you choose a beginning guitar?
Hi, Matt from Third Rock Music Center here, and today we’ll be talking about choosing the perfect guitar for a beginner. There are several different factors to consider when choosing a first instrument, and these factors can directly impact the learning process for someone who is just starting out. We’ll cover a few of these topics and hopefully make the selection process easier for you!
The first thing to consider will typically be the size of the guitar. If you’re looking for an instrument for a younger beginner, it may be wise to look at some 3/4 size guitars. These will be more comfortable as well as allow full access to the fretboard without being too strenuous. If a younger beginner is using a guitar that’s too large or cumbersome, it can become extremely discouraging as it gets in the way of properly reaching chords or strumming. Fortunately, there are plenty of great 3/4 options in both electric and acoustic.
You may also want to account for age, as if the beginner is growing or is approaching the age where growth spurts are common, you’ll want to choose an instrument they can grow into. On the other hand, if a 3/4 is too large for the beginner, a Ukulele may be an excellent option. The Nylon strings of a Ukulele can be easier to play, and the chord shapes can translate to guitar, making it an easy transition. If you are an older beginner, you’ll want to go with a full size guitar, which brings us to our next point.
Amongst both electric and acoustic, you’ll find a range of body shapes and styles. Just as every person is different, they may be suited to or more comfortable on a different body shape. For acoustic, the most popular shape is the dreadnought. This is what most people see when they think of the standard acoustic guitar and is one of the most popular body shapes. The larger body with a wide lower bout provides plenty of bass and low end, but can be uncomfortable for smaller players. You’ll also see plenty of OM and OOO body shapes. These have a narrower ‘’waist’’ and can prove more comfortable than a dreadnought, while providing a balanced sound.
For electric guitar, body shape selection is nearly endless, although there are some standard shapes. The Stratocaster, Telecaster, and ‘’singlecut’’ are the most common, and many beginners find the Stratocaster shape to be very comfortable. These all feature different electronics and parts, which contributes to having different sounds, bringing us to the next point of discussion.
Every guitar, even amongst the same model, has its own sound. Over the history of the instrument, players have found signature tones from certain guitars that have become staples in their given genre. As such, the biggest question to ask here is, what music does the beginner want to play? A critical part of learning is the excitement of playing the songs you love, and having the right guitar plays a big part in that. Conventional thought is to start on acoustic, however if the beginner listens to a lot of say, hard rock or Blues, they’d probably be more enthusiastic about playing electric guitar.
For acoustic, if one wants to play bluegrass or country, a dreadnought would be a fine choice. If they’re more interested in fingerstyle guitar, a smaller bodied instrument or a classical guitar may be preferable. For electric, if you want to play Rock or Blues, a Stratocaster or Singlecut would be a great choice, or if you want to play Country, nothing does it quite like a telecaster.
Ultimately, these points all seek to accomplish the same goal: Finding a guitar that will be exciting, encouraging, and inspiring for the beginner to play. The most important part of picking a beginner instrument is choosing a guitar that will keep the beginner coming back and won’t discourage them in any way. The absolute best way to do this is to come into the store and try some out. By doing this you can choose a guitar that appeals to the beginner and see how comfortable it is, if the neck and body shape feels right, if they like the sound, etc. Everyone has their individual preference, and by coming in, our expert staff can show you the options and find the perfect tailor fit for you!
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Matt Goetz with Electric Indigo. Photo credit Michael Haas.