Help me pick my first guitar!

There are plenty of options of guitar to choose from, with many different budget options, shapes, colors and point of sales… it can be a little overwhelming. Here are some questions to ask yourself and some recommendations to help you navigate your first purchase in the matter.

Disclaimer: This page includes some affiliate links, which means that if you follow through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. This is at absolutely no additional cost to you. My recommendations are pointing to several recognized guitar brands. One of them being Eastman guitars, just to be transparent I’ve the delight to have an endorsement partnership with them. These are incredible instruments, handcrafted and still pretty affordable.

Alright let’s get back to it!

Which size should I get?

Here my little graph to help you pick the guitar size you need:

You’ll see here in my list of recommendations that some choices of sizes are restricted to classical guitars, decent electric guitars options start at the 3/4 size.  If your child’s height call for a 1/4 size guitar but is close to the 3’9″ gap, I would consider getting a 1/2 size. There is an important step up in quality of instruments.

Nylon or steel strings? And what about electric?

Foremost it should be a choice of taste, some prefer the sound of one over the other.
Listen for yourself those samples:
here a sample on which I use a nylon string guitar, it tends to have a warm and dark sound
here a sample on which I use steel string, you can hear how brighter it is
here a sample on which I use an electric guitar

For children up to 10 years old, nylon strings are often a better option because it’s softer on the top of the fingers than steel strings. Classical guitar necks are larger though which comes both with pros and cons. A little more room reduces your chance to accidentally mute a string while forming a chord, but then you need to stretch your fingers a little more to reach each note.

If you or your child are definitely drawn to an electric then jump ahead, it’s a great thing to be excited about your instrument and your regular practice will benefit from that. With the electric there are also pros and cons, generally electric guitars require less strength for pressing on the frets giving your wrist and fingers some rest, but it makes them more sensitive to imperfections in your playing.

Alright, ready to jump ahead?

Here a page on Amazon with my different recommendations with various budgets for a first guitar.
To simplify here is a little sum-up for you:

Up to $250 $250-500 $500-1000
Classical Steel string Electric Classical Steel string Electric Classical Steel string Electric
Full size Full size Full size Full size Full size Full size Full size Full size Full size
3/4 size 3/4 size 3/4 size 3/4 size 3/4 size 3/4 size 3/4 size
1/2 size 1/2 size 1/2 size
1/4 size

 

Awesome! I can’t wait to get it! And then what?

A method book would be a great complementary item to get. Here are some methods we use with my students.

Then make sure you have access to a metronome! One of my former teachers once told me “all practicing session without a metronome is just a waste of your time.” Ouch. Get one, either on your smartphone, like the efficient app Pro Metronome (Android and AppStore, and BTW you just need the free version) or better, for a distraction-free experience, a real metronome. You have the timeless mechanicals Wittners here, no battery needed and their sound is almost enjoyable. Or here a selection of digital metronomes that I gathered with tuners as well, one model is doing both. Yes a tuner will be useful for sure! And same thing, you can find apps that do the trick well. Like the free BOSS Tuner (Android and AppStore) or Polytune ($5) which is only on the AppStore though.

Do I need a teacher?

Well yes and no, it depends of you or your child. Many music legends were self-taught, those days aspiring musicians are also learning through youtube videos. It’s a possibility! It depends on what kind of learner you or your child are. You can always try (or your child) by yourself for few weeks and see how it goes. If it’s not going that great, find an experienced teacher in your area. It’s always best to get in-person lessons. Be careful though to find someone that provides structure, someone that teach you how to sight read music (and not only the watered-down tablature) and someone that you feel comfortable with. You can ask for referrals to local college music teachers. They might even have some spare time to teach private lessons.
And if you’re in the Seattle area, send me a little message, we might have a common availability.

Can’t I get lessons online?

Yes if nothing seems to work locally, it’s definitely an option. I teach online as well. (Like many other teachers!) I just wouldn’t recommend it for kids up to 14 years old.

I wish you the best in your pursuit of learning a new instrument, enjoy the ride, it’s a lot of fun!