Tips To Find Your First Guitar

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I have had guitars (at least a hundred of them) come and go. From cheapo Chinese made to expensive genuine Fenders and Gibsons.

But I still have my first electric guitar. And guess what? It is still my number #1 guitar.

It is the one I play more than other guitars I have regardless of their price tag.

How can that be?

You see, I knew from the start it was blues and B.B.King for me. When I found out B.B.King’s main axe is  “Lucille”, a semihollow Gibson es335 type guitar, I went for a budget version or copy of it when its time to buy my first guitar.

It was a Korean made Maison ES335 with a sexy shiny red burst.

I’ve had it since I’m 17 years old and today it is my #1 playing guitar.

This may not be everyone’s first guitar story but I believe, anyone can get as close as possible to getting it right the first time.

Yes, 1. Start With Checking Out What Our Heroes Play

It is the easiest way. Find what our heroes play. If our musical goal is to play the same type of music in the same style, get the “budget version” of our heroes’ likely more premium and expensive guitar (because they are after all I assume, likely richer than you).

This will narrow the list down tremendously and get you closer to a guitar you’ll likely bond with for a long long time.

When we trust our heroes’ choice, we trust they have done their homework to look for the best guitar for the style of music they play professionally. Of course unless they followed the same principle and copied their heroes in which is still okay.

Today, budget version of more expensive guitars although made in the Far East (eg China and Indonesia) aren’t bad guitars. It was already good during my time but now with the quality gap closing, there are some really great guitars to be had. One can enjoy great guitars for very little money today.

Your Heroes What Your Heroes Play What You Should Consider Buying
Eric Clapton Fender Stratocaster Squier Custom Vibe or Vintage Modified Stratocaster
Albert Collins, Keith Richards Fender Telecaster Squier Custom Vibe or Vintage Modified Telecasters
Angus Young, Tony Iommi Gibson SG Epiphone SG
Zakk Wylde, Ace Frehley, Billy Gibbons, Pete Townshead Gibson Les Paul Epiphone Les Paul, ESP LTD EC-1000
BB King, Larry Carlton, Chuck Berry Gibson ES335, ES339, ES175 Epiphone Dot or Sheraton, Epiphone ES339
Carlos Santana PRS PRS Their SE Models

There are more quality Brand’s beyond the 2 big names, Fender and Gibson. For acoustic, we also have Martin players fans to check out Sigma Guitars and fan of Taylor guitarists to check out Crafters.

But you get my idea.

2. Play Them Before Your Buy

At the end of the day, the brand gives us some assurance of build and quality but there’s more to guitars. Just like people, they are all different even if they come from the same family. The key to find your guitar has to be therefore one you have tried it yourself.  Go to a reputable guitar shop in your city and try these guitars in person. Hold it, feel it, strum it and see if you feel the connection with it. How does it feel in your hand and against your body. Do you like how it look and is styled. How about even how it smells? You have to like it before you surrender your hard earned cash on.

You may have your reason not to want a second-hand guitar, but it is an amazing path to get your guitar for a fraction of the price you pay new. If you are patient enough and hang out at second hand buy/sell forums, you may get yourself a real bargain buying from someone who has likely given up playing.

3. Give the final verdict only after the Guitar is properly setup.

Another important thing to consider is if it is properly setup and has good action. By action, I mean if the distance of the string to the frets is close enough at all parts up and down the fretboard so you are able to fret easily. The action is the key element that impacts playability. As I recommend beginning to play not at the first position because it is an unnatural position, play in the middle of the fretboard and hold a bar C chord in the 8th position. Press down the strings there and see if you can easily do that. If it is not, why? Is the neck not straight which may suggest a structural problem.

If you can find someone who knows if the playability is due to structural issues or just needed a good setup, bring him along. The focus is on comfort and how you feel when you hold and play the guitar. If the structure of the guitar is okay, then the action can be remedied by the store owner or if budget permits, to send it to a technician or luthier for a professional setup. It is worth the money.

These are just some tips I have but do take your time to find the right guitar. Don’t be too hasty to buy. What you need is an instrument that will inspire you to want to hold it. When you hold it more, you will play it more. When you play it more, you will practice to make playing good guitar possible.

So guys, enjoy the process.


Click here for another way to choose a good guitar


Do drop me a comment or feedback about your first guitar? How did you make the decision? How did you bond with it since?

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4 thoughts on “Tips To Find Your First Guitar

  1. steven

    I found your site to be interesting. While I do not play any instruments, if i were going to decide to start to play the guitar i feel that i will have a good idea of where to start from the advice given on your site. the one thing that i think might be a good addition to your site would be to add some video tutorials of how do some of the things that are suggested on your site. I saw that you had a DVD on there which is good but videos that demonstrate your skill as well as teach could also help to make your site more appealing

    Reply
    1. ht

      Thanks for the comments. I will look into video tutorials soon. Thanks for the suggestions. I always welcome what you folks want to know and me to write about. Cheers!

      Reply
  2. Joshua Thomas

    This was a good read! I’m more of a piano person but I still remember the agony of helping my wife find her first guitar. We settled on a Stratocaster, which she’s kept in good condition to this day! Well…it’s mostly because she’s gone back to art school, but heck, what can I say. Just a few things to add: guitars do carry personalities so it’s important to get something that “mirrors” yourself. Getting a small amp at the outset, along with a tuner wouldn’t hurt either (though tuning purely by ear helps keep you sharp). Take care, and rock on!

    Reply
    1. ht

      Thanks Joshua for sharing your experience. A strat is a really cool guitar. Hope your wife will bring it out one day and play it for a long time after that. How you bought it with her and how she switch her interest to art school may become a great story you can tell others for generations to come. See how the stories goes…

      Reply

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