Shopping for your first guitar is pretty exciting! It’s the beginning of a lifelong love of music or even the start of a successful career in the music industry. It can also be a daunting experience as there are so many shapes, colours, makes and models. In the past, when Christine looked at a wall covered with guitars, they all looked basically the same to her – there are blue ones, red ones, black ones… But she’s learned a lot by talking to the staff at Origin Road, and they can really help you figure out where to focus your search. Our goal with this article is to give you some of the basics about guitars and what you might want to look for when purchasing your first guitar.

The first things to think about are whether you want an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, what size is appropriate, and what your budget is.

Choosing the Type of Guitar: Acoustic or Electric

There is really no wrong answer to this one.  It comes down to personal preference, where and when you will be playing, your goals for your guitar journey, and, to some extent, your preferred music genres.  Here are some pros and cons for acoustic and electric guitars.

Acoustic Guitar

Pros

  • Thicker strings build up hand strength quicker
  • Easier to transition from acoustic to electric
  • Does not need an amplifier
  • Sounds better for certain genres of music (country, folk)
  • Some models have a built in pickup to allow for amplification through a guitar amp or PA (adds $$ to price)

Cons

  • Typically has a bigger body and a thicker neck than an electric guitar
  • No variety of tone (electric acoustics have some tone shaping abilities but still quite limited)
  • A little harder to press the strings down due to their typically thicker gauge
  • Need a microphone to amplify or record the sound (unless you buy an electric acoustic)

Electric Guitar

Pros

  • Strings are easier to push down
  • Usually thinner necks
  • Smaller body so it’s easier to hold
  • Large range of tones
  • Sounds better for certain genres of music (rock, heavy metal, punk)
  • Can be amplified through a guitar amp or PA

Cons

  • Needs a few extra accessories (guitar amp, cable)
  • Not very loud unless plugged in to an amp or PA

Choosing a Size

The guitar size for most adults is a pretty easy choice.  A Full Size guitar is what most adults will choose – although there are some differences in size within that definition depending on the body shape.

For a child, there are a few sizes you may have to choose from.  Typically you will see 1/2, 3/4, and full size guitars.  1/4 and 7/8 are also available but less common.

The chart to the right gives a good average of child age and size and the size guitar they will most likely want to start with.  Obviously everyone is different and may have shorter or longer arms for their age and height.  The best thing to do is to come in to the store and try a few sizes and body shapes out.  Our staff will help you find what fits your body, what feels comfortable, and what is technically right for you and your musical tastes and learning goals.

What is Your Budget?

Fortunately, regardless of your budget, there is almost always something that will work for you given the points we have talked about above.  You will find entry level guitars, both acoustic and electric, fall into the range of about $150 – $500.  “Entry level” does not mean bad quality.  Most guitars these days are very good quality, even at the lower end of the price range.  What you will find as you go up in price is that the manufacturer is using better tone woods (meaning a nicer sound), better hardware (for tuners, pickups, strings, bridges, etc), electronics in an acoustic will add to the price, more attention to little details and a move from mass production to more hand crafted instruments is also something you will see as the price increases.  Having said all that, you can get a great first guitar for $150 to $250 and be happy with it for years.

What style, shape or colour do you like?

It’s important to like how your guitar looks, but it’s more important how it feels.  We recommend that you go into a store with a small list of some professional guitar players or guitar songs you like.  Even if you have no musical experience, the salesperson most likely does.  They can get a sense of what kind of sound you like, and explain or demonstrate the differences in sound of the varieties of guitar to help you decide on an instrument.

Summary of Things to Look For When Buying Your First Guitar

What type of guitar meets your needs? (Now and in the near future)

Is it comfortable? Can you hold it comfortably and reach the whole neck?

Does it sound good?

Does it stay in tune?

Is the neck straight?

Are the strings too high off the fretboard?

Do the electronics work well, do they crackle when turning knobs or switches?

Do you like the look of the guitar?

Does it fit within your budget?

The good news is that you don’t have to remember all of this and you don’t have to make all of these decisions on your own.  Our friendly, professional staff are here to help you figure all of this out in a warm, cozy, relaxed atmosphere.  Come on in and start your musical origin story here at Origin Road!

– A huge thank you to Chris Cameron for putting together the information for this article. –