How to Buy Your First Guitar: A Beginner’s Guide

Choosing the right instrument is crucial when embarking on your musical journey. Knowing how to buy your first guitar is essential to your success and enjoyment as a budding musician.

This comprehensive guide will cover different types of guitars, setting your budget, determining your preferences, finding a reputable seller, and selecting the necessary accessories.

East End Arts supports the growth of aspiring musicians through our music school, which provides access to private music lessons, group classes, camps, and music programs, making this guide a valuable resource for those looking to invest in their first guitar.

Understanding Different Types of Guitars

Before diving into how to buy your first guitar, it’s important to understand the differences between the main types of guitars available. The right choice depends on your musical preferences and goals.

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars produce sound through the natural resonance of their hollow bodies. They come in various shapes, sizes, and styles.

  • Steel-string acoustics: These guitars produce a bright, loud sound and are often used in rock, country, and pop music.
  • Classical nylon-string guitars: These guitars have a softer, mellower sound, suitable for classical and fingerstyle playing.
  • Dreadnoughts and parlor guitars: Dreadnoughts are large-bodied guitars with a deep, powerful sound, while parlor guitars have smaller bodies, resulting in a more intimate sound.

Electric Guitars

Electric guitars rely on electronic pickups and amplification to produce sound. They’re versatile and offer a wide range of tonal options, making them suitable for many music genres.

  • Solid-body electric guitars: The most common type of electric guitar, featuring a solid wood body that produces a sustain-rich sound. Popular in rock, metal, and pop music.
  • Semi-hollow and hollow-body electric guitars: These guitars have a chambered or hollow body, resulting in a warmer, more resonant tone, often preferred for jazz, blues, and classic rock.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Acoustic-electric guitars combine features of both acoustic and electric guitars. They have built-in electronics, such as pickups and preamps, allowing them to be easily amplified without compromising the natural acoustic sound.

Ukuleles: A Great Alternative for Beginners

Ukuleles are an excellent option for those considering learning the guitar but seeking a simpler, more accessible starting point. They are smaller, lighter, and typically have four strings, making them easier to play and learn.

  • Ease of learning: With fewer strings and a smaller fretboard, the ukulele is less intimidating for beginners and allows for quicker progress.
  • Portability: Its compact size makes the ukulele easy to carry around and practice anywhere.
  • Affordability: Ukuleles are generally less expensive than guitars, making them an attractive option for first-time musicians.
  • Versatility: Despite its size and simplicity, the ukulele can produce a wide range of sounds and styles, from traditional Hawaiian music to pop and rock.

At East End Arts, we recognize the potential of the ukulele as a valuable introduction to stringed instruments. We offer ukulele classes designed to teach beginners the fundamentals of playing, as well as more advanced techniques for experienced players.

By starting with the ukulele, students can build a strong foundation and transition to the guitar with greater ease and confidence.

Setting Your Budget

When considering how to buy your first guitar, setting a budget is crucial. Guitars are available in a wide range of prices, and understanding your options can help you make an informed decision.

Establishing a Price Range

  • Entry-level guitars: Priced around $100-$300, these guitars are designed for beginners and offer basic quality and features.
  • Mid-range guitars: Priced around $300-$800, these guitars typically offer better craftsmanship, materials, and features, providing a better overall playing experience.
  • High-end guitars: Priced above $800, these guitars are designed for professionals or serious hobbyists, offering top-notch materials, craftsmanship, and performance.

Considering Long-Term Value

While it’s tempting to opt for a cheaper guitar, investing in a higher-quality instrument can provide long-term value. A well-built guitar often has a better resale or trade-in value, making it easier to upgrade as your skills improve.

Determining Your Guitar Preferences

Understanding your musical goals, preferred styles, and personal comfort will help guide you in how to buy your first guitar.

Assessing Your Musical Style

Choose a guitar that suits your preferred music genre:

  • Acoustic guitar: Ideal for folk, country, and classical music.
  • Electric guitar: Suited for rock, metal, and jazz.

Evaluating Size and Playability

A comfortable guitar is essential for enjoyable and effective practice. Consider the following when choosing the right size and shape:

  • Guitar size recommendations for different age groups: Smaller guitars are suitable for children and young players, while adults may find full-sized guitars more comfortable.
  • Exploring different guitar shapes and neck profiles: The shape of a guitar’s body and neck can greatly impact playability. Try various options to find the best fit for your hand size and playing style.

Selecting the Right Materials and Construction

Different materials and construction methods can affect a guitar’s sound and durability:

  • Different tonewoods and their impact on sound: Guitars are made from a variety of woods, each with unique tonal properties. Mahogany produces a warm, resonant sound, while maple creates a bright, articulate tone.
  • Solid wood vs. laminate construction: Solid wood guitars generally offer a richer, more resonant sound but can be more expensive. Laminate guitars are more affordable and less sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.
  • Importance of quality hardware: High-quality hardware, such as tuning machines, bridges, and pickups, ensures your guitar stays in tune and performs optimally.

Finding a Reputable Seller

To ensure a successful purchase, it’s essential to find a reputable seller who can guide you in how to buy your first guitar.

Local Music Stores

Buying from a local music store offers several advantages:

  • Advantages of trying guitars in person: Physically testing different guitars enables you to evaluate their sound, feel, and playability.
  • Expert advice and recommendations: Music store staff can provide valuable guidance based on your needs and preferences.
  • Opportunities for guitar setup and service: Many music stores offer guitar setup and maintenance services, ensuring your instrument stays in optimal condition.

Online Retailers

If local options are limited, online retailers offer a wide selection and competitive pricing:

  • Researching user reviews and ratings: Read customer reviews and ratings to assess the quality and performance of different guitars.
  • Considering return policies and warranties: Choose a retailer with a generous return policy and warranty to protect your investment.

Second-Hand Market

Buying a used guitar can save you money, but it’s essential to carefully evaluate the instrument:

  • Buying from private sellers or online marketplaces: Sites like Reverb, eBay, and Craigslist offer numerous used guitars, but exercise caution and do your research.
  • Tips for evaluating used guitars: Inspect the guitar for any signs of damage, such as cracks, warping, or excessive fret wear.
  • Factoring in potential repair costs: Be prepared to budget for any necessary repairs or upgrades.

Accessories to Accompany Your First Guitar

When learning how to buy your first guitar, don’t forget about essential accessories to support your musical journey.

Essential Accessories

  • Guitar case or gig bag: Protect your guitar during transport and storage.
  • Guitar strap: Allows for comfortable playing while standing.
  • Picks and pick holder: Essential for playing various techniques and styles.
  • Tuner: Keep your guitar in tune for optimal sound and practice.
  • Capo: Change the key of your guitar without retuning.

Additional Items for Electric Guitars

  • Amplifier: Necessary for producing sound from your electric guitar.
  • Instrument cable: Connects your guitar to the amplifier.
  • Effects pedals: Add various sound effects and tonal shaping to your playing.

Start Your Musical Journey with East End Arts!

Knowing how to buy your first guitar is a crucial step in starting your musical journey. By seeking guidance from experienced players or instructors, focusing on your personal preferences, and considering your individual needs, you’ll be well-equipped to find the perfect instrument.

Remember, East End Arts is here to support your growth as a musician through our private music lessons, group classes, camps and music programs. Happy playing!

The 7 Powerful Benefits of Music Education for Children

Music inspires creativity. Just like the benefits of art for children, the benefits of music education in early childhood last a lifetime. Even if your child doesn’t embrace music until later, the benefits of music education in High School gives your child a competitive edge both in academia and future careers.

Music education benefits the bodies and brains of developing children, and they don’t even realize it. They think they are just having fun with sound, but they are building muscles and neural pathways while developing skills that will help them in adult life. Here are 7 ways music education benefits children. 

#1 Improves Motor Skills

Learning to manipulate the keys on a keyboard or horn, the strings on an instrument, a bow, or use drumsticks builds muscle strength and flexibility. It increases control over small muscles in the hands, arms, and feet. Dexterity isn’t the only benefit.  Playing a stringed instrument improves gross motor skills as both sides of the body must work differently and together at the same time. By learning bilateral and unilateral body movements, the brain and body improve. Studies show locomotive ability increases as well as neural networks in children exposed to music. 

From learning to clap in time with open hands to playing an instrument, music education for children improves motor skills.

#2 Develops Memory

Dartmouth College researchers find that musicians consistently outperform non-musicians in memory tests. Music education teaches children to read music, play the proper notes on their instrument, and follow the lead of a director.  Executing these processes simultaneously relies on the memory center of the brain.

There’s a reason that children worldwide learn to sing their alphabet. Music helps memorization. Studies in the US and Japan find that music doesn’t just help us retrieve stored memories, it helps us cement new ones. 

#3 Builds Hand-Eye Coordination

Hand-eye coordination occurs when the eyes can direct a task that the hands carry out. When a child learns a new instrument or learns a new piece of music, they must create the required notes using the correct hand motions. Eyes shift between notes on paper and the hands to ensure the correct sound is produced.

Just as playing sports improves hand-eye coordination, learning to play an instrument improves hand-eye coordination as well. 

#4 Improves Listening 

Music isn’t processed by the center of the brain dedicated to speech. That’s why stroke victims who lose the ability to speak can still sing. Researchers find that children who received music training show differences in the thickness of the auditory areas in the right versus the left hemisphere. This is a sign that music training impacts brain structure. Engaging in music enhances listening skills as both sides of the brain are engaged. 

Nina Kraus, a brain researcher at Northwestern University, says “music training leads to changes throughout the auditory system that prime musicians for listening challenges beyond music processing.” 

Music is like a workout for the brain to keep it toned. 

Auditory learning required by music education courses requires your child to form relationships between sounds and meaning. Your child’s brain gains the ability to assess the relevance of information-bearing elements in auditory signals. So, even in non-musical contexts, like a classroom lecture, musicians learn and remember more than non-musicians.

#5 Helps Math Skills

Music and math are related, no matter how different they may seem. Engagement in music is about exploring sounds and this exploration improves math skills. You can’t engage in music without developing pattern awareness and counting skills. These types of skills contribute to success in mathematics. For example, even young children learn to recognize the repeating verses and choruses in music as patterns. Pattern familiarity is crucial for exploring and understanding mathematical formulas and equations.

Understanding fractions is easier when you already grasp the half note. Measures and time signatures help with understanding ratios.

#6 Increases Self-Discipline

Making music requires practice. The more a child practices, the better they get. This self-perpetuating feedback mechanism teaches cause and effect. The requirement to practice regularly builds a high level of self-discipline that can be applied to other areas of study. The effort and patience required to learn music create powerful building blocks for study habits that benefit their academics too.

#7 Builds Self-Confidence

Engaging in music education helps children build confidence about who they are and what they can achieve. Music classes bring students together in a social setting where they must learn to work as a team. As they build individual strengths, they also build the ability to work with others confidently.

When a child performs, they conquer fear and receive a tremendous boost in their confidence. These skills help them navigate life as adults. Children that participate in a music competition as part of their education learn powerful confidence-building lessons. Music competitions teach children to win and how to manage defeat. 

Setting and achieving goals, whether it is a new instrument, a new piece of music, or a new technique builds true self-confidence.

Long Island Music Education for Children and Teens

Music education is important for children of all ages. Even if your child takes up an instrument in their teens, they still reap the rewards for the rest of their life.

The East End Arts & Music School offers private and group lessons, lessons in sound engineering in our world-class recording studio, performance opportunities, the chance to collaborate with master musicians, and summer camps. There are programs for high school students who plan on pursuing music in college and sessions for kids who want to play in a band.

Music education programs are available all year and for all levels. Scholarships are available for those who qualify.

Explore music education at East End Arts & Music School.