I’ve had many parents over the years ask me what type of guitar they should buy their child first. My recommendation is different from many other teachers. Most guitar teachers traditionally recommended that a student start lessons on an acoustic guitar. Their reasoning for this is that they really preferred students learn to read music and develop a certain amount of technique before they started playing rock and roll, etc.
However, after many years of teaching experience, I have found that their are a few key factors in getting a student started correctly. The most important thing in the beginning is that the student enjoys the lessons, and that he or she enjoys playing the guitar. If they enjoy it, they’ll practice, and they’ll stick with it.
Most kids want to play rock guitar in the beginning. They don’t want to play Bach, and they don’t want to play folk music. Therefore, I really recommend that brand new start playing on an electric guitar, not an acoustic guitar.
Another factor in getting started playing the guitar is the fact that it can be difficult. If it’s too difficult, a beginning student will simply give up, and never learn how to play. Contrary to popular belief, in the very beginning, playing an electric guitar is much easier to play than an acoustic guitar. It’s easier to fret the notes and get a good sound out of the instrument, and it’s easier to get a good playing position because the body isn’t as wide as it is on an acoustic guitar. In addition the neck is narrower, making it easier for small hands. It’s also easier to learn to play bar chords on an electric guitar.
Some teachers would argue with me, reasoning that as a teacher it’s my responsibility to point students to classical guitar, etc. My experience and thinking is that if a student sticks with the guitar and really learns how to play, they will eventually add more advanced styles to their skills. It’s much easier for them to do that at that point because they’ve already mastered the basics of playing the guitar.
For your first guitar I recommend buying a quality instrument. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you also don’t want to buy something that’s basically a piece of junk. There are 2 guitars in particular that I feel offer a great balance between price and quality. If you buy one of these 2 guitars, you won’t regret it later, because first of all you’ll have a high quality instrument to practice and perform on. You can perform professionally on both of these instruments, and many players do. If you decide to sell your guitar later, you won’t have trouble selling one of these 2 guitars, as they are recognized brands and models that other people look for.
All guitars go out of tune. However, a well-made guitar is easier to get in tune, and stays in tune longer than a poorly made guitar. I have seen students with really horribly cheap guitars, that wouldn’t hold their tuning at all. That’s really frustrating for the teacher as well as the student. Who wants to play a guitar that’s never in tune? In addition, a student needs to learn what a guitar is supposed to sound like when it’s in tune. Otherwise they won’t know when it goes out of tune, and needs to be tuned!
The other issue has to do with the electronics in the instrument. Just like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. The first guitar I bought was simply too cheap of a model. As a consequence, the guitar very quickly started making horrible noises. It eventually stopped playing altogether and I had to fix the wiring constantly. Not fun.
The first guitar that I recommend is a Fender Mexican Stratocaster. These are similar to an American Stratocaster, and I’ve heard that their are pro players who take their Mexican Stratocaster on the road because they don’t want to risk having their much more valuable American Stratocaster damaged. These are the easiest guitars to play as the body is thin, so it’s easy to keep close to your body.
I’ve never had any problems whatsoever with mine, and it’s been played in more bars, festivals, and private events than I can count. It’s a quality instrument at an affordable price. If you don’t have the money for a new model, there are countless used Mexican Stratocasters on the market as well. They are extremely popular guitars.
In the same price range, you can also pick up an Epiphone Les Paul. I personally don’t own one of these guitars, but I’ve had several students who had them, and I think they’re also fantastic. They’re a bit less durable than a Stratocaster, but they have that classic Les Paul sound similar to groups like Boston, etc. Again, good quality electronics, good intonation, and easy to resell if you take good care of it, and want to pick up something different in the future.
I buy all my equipment at Guitar Center. They sell new guitars, and usually have used models of these instruments as well. If you don’t find what you need at Guitar Center, your local pawn shops many times will have some of these models available as well.