Good First Guitar?

Aaon

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 30, 2004
287
19
Hello folks. I've noticed that many of the users here are musicians, so I am appealing to you for some advice. I really want to learn to play the guitar. I am going to be taking a class in guitar beginning in August, so I am looking for a good first acoustic guitar. I have been to various music/guitar shops, and I am pretty confused. There are instruments from as low as $50 to, well, much much higher. I suspect that the $50 guitars are pretty shoddy. I don't need a fantastic, expensive guitar, but I don't want junk either. I am hoping to stay at the $150-$250 level for a first instrument. Does anyone have a good suggestion for a first instrument? Thanks for your help!

Aaron
 

tombo

macrumors member
Sep 14, 2004
52
0
Brighton/Bristol UK
Okay,

I'm not saying this is 'right', it's just my best opinion. I don't know about models, but I've tried out a dozen or so instruments in my life in shops.

I think it's important to ask the guys in the shop. And you have to go to a shop. Buying online is awful, especially for a 1st instrument.

But as with all shops where your wallet is often at the mercy of the salesperson it's cool to come here first, so you can get some good 'buzzwords' or at least know about what to avoid when chatting to them. Then they won't treat you like a real 'n00b' and get you paying above your budget for something you don't need.

Try a whole load from $100 to $300 and they'll all feel different. Take a mate, or someone who has experience, if you're embarrased about strumming Crazy Little Thing Called Love on your own.

You want something you'll be comfortable with. Most important: -

Some will have easier strings to play (like it won't take as much force to press them down, referred to as 'action': Low action = the strings are close to the frets already, vs High action)

Some will have chunkier necks - some you won't be able to get your hands round.

Quality wise:
Try playing one note and just letting it ring. Better guitars will sustain the note for longer. Try it with different chords too. And try strumming it loudly, a cr*ppy guitar will buzz.
If it's really much lighter than the others it's a sign that it may not be built as well- good guitars have wooden braces inside to enhance the transfer of vibrations to the outside- a hollow cheap bit of wood doesn't do a great job of resonating.
Play a chord right up the neck- a high barre chord or something. -or get the guy in the shop to. If it's out of tune the fretwork (the positioning of the frets up the neck) might be rubbish- it happens on cheap guitars. Hard to remedy, too.

If you like something about a guitar and it's too expensive ask the guys in the shop if a cheaper model has something similar. Or if you find a nice sounding one but the action is too high ask them if they can do anything in the shop about it, they should be able to.

Future proof yourself too, if you're only able to play a few chords at the mo, ask the guys in the shop to give you a demo- if they're able to play impressive stuff on it with no probs it's a good sign- if they keep going back to another that might be more suitable when you're a bit better.

And it all depends on the type of music you play- whether you finger pick or just want to strum.

Let us know!
 

Nickygoat

macrumors 6502a
Dec 11, 2004
992
0
London
Aaon said:
Hello folks. I've noticed that many of the users here are musicians, so I am appealing to you for some advice. I really want to learn to play the guitar. I am going to be taking a class in guitar beginning in August, so I am looking for a good first acoustic guitar. I have been to various music/guitar shops, and I am pretty confused. There are instruments from as low as $50 to, well, much much higher. I suspect that the $50 guitars are pretty shoddy. I don't need a fantastic, expensive guitar, but I don't want junk either. I am hoping to stay at the $150-$250 level for a first instrument. Does anyone have a good suggestion for a first instrument? Thanks for your help!

Aaron
Ok, at that price range you're looking at laminates, which affect the sound quality a great deal - even a solid wood top will do wonders. Ideally you would have a completely solid guitar but they're pricey. Does it have to be acoustic? Electro-acoustic? For the same money electric guitars are generally a little better and are easier to upgrade (new pickups mainly, which make a massive difference). Reason being that acoustics have to rely on the construction and design for the sound, electrics rely less (although a lot) on the wood. But here goes:
Fender are always OK and the resales will be strong
Yamaha do good guitars for a good price.
Epiphone have a great history and are now owned by Gibson
Look here for a good appreciation of what goes into an acoustic and some guitar basics.
FWIW, I would say buy the best acoustic you can afford. That way if you decide you don't like playing you can resell for a good price, and if you do like playing you can trade up more easily.
Shop around, try as many as you can - take a knowledgeable friend if you can, and make a decision based upon "feel". Some guitars are suitable for some types of music but not others so go with what you want to play(you don't say)
Lastly enjoy it :p - you'll have something to do when there's no-one around and can entertain everyone else on the beach :p
 

toezter

macrumors regular
Jul 12, 2004
205
0
Madison, WI
first guitar, dont' even buy a name brand.

got your attention, good. just buy a starter package, goes around $100-$200, depends on how the guitar is setup. go for SIMPLE, as in all single coils, no humbuckers. they'll give you a little amp to play around with, bag, strap, ect.

your first guitar won't be a rock axe, it'll just be a "trainer". you don't even know if you'll be playing the next month, year, or 5 years. i've seen friends get a nice first guitar, and not even play it after 3 months. what happens? they try to sell it back and only get 50%.

i started with a lotus, very cheap, still have it actually. many years later i built up my collection with my gibson and 70's epiphone. 8 years of constant playing and still going.


EDIT:
epiphone was always owned by gibson. epiphone started when gibson started to mass produce their guitars, hence slapping on the epiphone name. gibsons are hand crafted, epiphones are machine crafted.

yamaha's are nice, but have terrible resale, same with washburns, unless you get the good series.

acoustic guitars will build up your finger strength, but i personally shoo away from those for beginers. beginers will tend to have more finger cramps opposed to an electric. therefore quitting easier.

if you buy a guitar from a music shop, ask about if they can set it up now and later. setting up a guitar means new strings, adjusting the truss rod, pickups, saddle and what not. basicly the things to make you play "easier" and keep the guitar in tune. then you wont' have to worry about string rattle, neck warpage, or whatever when first buying a guitar. beginers shouldn't have to worry about that.

also, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
 

Les Kern

macrumors 68040
Apr 26, 2002
3,063
76
Alabama
toezter said:
first guitar, dont' even buy a name brand.
Wrong-o.
I've been playing for 25 years now, so I've been around the block.
One of the common mistakes is buying a crap guitar, then trying to learn. You listen to crap, get disheartened, and quit. And trust me... a $50.00 guitar is an abomination. And don't even THINK of buying one of those Esteban models shown on TV. He's a fraud, and the guitars are seemingly made of balsa, Elmers glue, air and promises. Go to a guitar store, like Guitar Center. They tend to be honest.
I'd suggest a middle-range Yamaha. (My current practice model) They run 150-200 bucks and sound excellent. Great action, good quality boards and frets. Don't buy a guitar over that price, unless you have the bucks. If you do, get an Ovation middle-ground, or maybe a Takemine, but certainly don't buy crap.
Please don't.
 

jim.

macrumors 6502
Dec 22, 2004
308
0
C-ville, VA
toezter said:
epiphone was always owned by gibson. epiphone started when gibson started to mass produce their guitars, hence slapping on the epiphone name. gibsons are hand crafted, epiphones are machine crafted.
Nope. Epiphone was its own brand for a while. They went through two owners until Gibson bought it and turned it into a cheap brand. Early Epiphones ('30s-early '50s) were hand-crafted and exceptional guitars. Even some of the later ones up until '69 were made from the original Epiphone parts. Don't believe me? Dig up John Lennon and George Harrison and ask them about those Casinos they played on Revolver and later. The trick is that you won't find an early Epiphone in good shape unless you want to shell out a boatload of money. Even some of their current line are ok. I played a Sheraton II for several years, and it had great tone/playability.

Otherwise, your advice is sound. A cheap guitar will suffice you if you are not sure that you will continue playing. You need to find a good sounding cheap one though. Plenty of would-be guitar players are turned off by poor playability and crappy sound. If you want to go acoustic, I would recommend looking at Jasmine guitars. They are kind of the really cheap Takamine, which give exceptional sound for the money. If you can afford a Tak G-series, then definitely go for that. Brands to stay away from would be recent Martin and post-'95 Taylor. Their current machining gives shoddy sound as well as making for weak necks that could potentially snap on you. Plus they cost quite a bit, and IMHO don't deliver.

I have found Seagull guitars, while costing a little bit more than you want, give great sound and playability. I also agree with Nickygoat that Yamaha makes nice acoustics also. Follow that and what tombo says, and you will come out ok.

Jim

Edit: Les Kern and I apparently think alike.
 

thepannist

macrumors member
Jul 16, 2002
44
0
As a guitar teacher, I'm in a constant struggle with students who buy crappy guitars. I see a lot of "Austin" and "Squire" coming into my studio and the same thing always happens. Their electronics always die within a short amount of time. So, you have the hidden cost of replacing them to deal with. Also, those guitars are set up horribly from the factory so unless you are willing to learn guitar repair, you are going to have to shell out another 30-50 bucks for all new electronics in order for them to continue to work in the long run (past 6 months).

The advice I give every student is to get a used Made in Mexico (no japan, please) Fender. Get either a Telecaster or Stratocaster. They are classic guitars with good electronics and a decent setup from the factory. And they sound pretty great (often times as good as their USA counterparts).

If the idea of a strat doesn't work with you (like a lot of students I have that think that a les paul is the only guitar worth anything), than the epiphone les pauls are very nice guitars. The cheap ones still have kinda crappy electronics, but they are still a definite cut above the Squires and Austins.

Good luck.
 

jim.

macrumors 6502
Dec 22, 2004
308
0
C-ville, VA
thepannist said:
The advice I give every student is to get a used Made in Mexico (no japan, please) Fender.
Really? All of the old Japan made Fenders I have played had better necks and better electronics than the Mexican counterparts. Is there something I was missing? I was with Regi Wooten one afternoon and he let me play his cheapo Japanese Squire that he had picked up in the early '90s. He said he didn't mod it at all, and it played wonderfully.

I have a Japan-made Electra guitar that plays and sounds wonderful. It is a late-70s model with original electronics, and it is very clean. I would always recommend a Japan model over a Mexican one. Of course, very few guitars are actually made in Japan anymore.

Jim
 

Nickygoat

macrumors 6502a
Dec 11, 2004
992
0
London
toezter said:
first guitar, dont' even buy a name brand.

got your attention, good. just buy a starter package, goes around $100-$200, depends on how the guitar is setup. go for SIMPLE, as in all single coils, no humbuckers. they'll give you a little amp to play around with, bag, strap, ect.

your first guitar won't be a rock axe, it'll just be a "trainer". you don't even know if you'll be playing the next month, year, or 5 years. i've seen friends get a nice first guitar, and not even play it after 3 months. what happens? they try to sell it back and only get 50%.

i started with a lotus, very cheap, still have it actually. many years later i built up my collection with my gibson and 70's epiphone. 8 years of constant playing and still going.


EDIT:
epiphone was always owned by gibson. epiphone started when gibson started to mass produce their guitars, hence slapping on the epiphone name. gibsons are hand crafted, epiphones are machine crafted.

yamaha's are nice, but have terrible resale, same with washburns, unless you get the good series.

acoustic guitars will build up your finger strength, but i personally shoo away from those for beginers. beginers will tend to have more finger cramps opposed to an electric. therefore quitting easier.

if you buy a guitar from a music shop, ask about if they can set it up now and later. setting up a guitar means new strings, adjusting the truss rod, pickups, saddle and what not. basicly the things to make you play "easier" and keep the guitar in tune. then you wont' have to worry about string rattle, neck warpage, or whatever when first buying a guitar. beginers shouldn't have to worry about that.

also, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
Got your attention? How wrong can you be?
Advising someone to buy a cheap guitar is like someone on here saying "buy a Dell - they're cheap and they'll get you started"
Check your facts - Epi was bought buy Gibson a number of years ago but was an independent company. And many Gibbos are machine made today - unless you're a true afficionado you won't care if they're handmade or machine made - the quality of the wood counts.
To the OP buy the best you can get
 

jim.

macrumors 6502
Dec 22, 2004
308
0
C-ville, VA
I don't think if you are just starting guitar that you really want to go all out and buy the best that you can afford. I think his price range of $200 or so should be able to get him something decent, especially for a beginner. Sound is what counts at this point. If it sounds good to him, then it will encourage him to keep playing. I started out on an $80 Washburn acoustic. It sounded good to me, and played ok, and I had money left over to buy needed accessories as well as extra strings (which, if you don't know should be changed at least once every 6 weeks for amateur playing, if not sooner). I don't think I would have been a better player if I would have gotten a '94 Breedlove instead.

So we know his budget and he wants an acoustic, so we should suggest guitars within that budget that sound good. For $200-$250 he could get a decent Takamine G-series, which is a good guitar, or for around $100-200 he could get a Seagull that sounds almost as good as the Tak, if not better (just minus electronics). I'm of the (maybe wrong) school that thinks your first instrument should last you 1-2 years max. When you learn to play, you begin to get more knowledgeable about what you want and how you play. Then you upgrade with your new-found knowledge, and you will undoubtedly end up with a better instrument than you would have if you purchased at the top of your price range two years earlier.

In guitars you get what you pay for. But there are some amenities that you can do without on a beginner instrument. I would suggest looking at acoustics without preamps. That will get you better tone for your money, since you don't have to pay for the electronics (plus the fact that cutting a hole in the side of an instrument has to affect its vibration and tone). That's the main difference between the Seagull guitars and the Takamine ones.

Of course I have been out of the guitar market for a while now, so the prices I recall could be lower than current ones.

Jim

Edit: Oh yeah, and keep in mind that most guitars in this range will not come with any form of case. So you probably want to budget another $50 or so to get a good carrying-bag.
 

sjpetry

macrumors 65816
Oct 28, 2004
1,195
0
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
A liitle off topic but...

Just for the record, the quality of Stratocaster go like this:

1.) American

2.) Japanese

3.) Mexican

Some Japanese stratocaster can be better than their American counterparts.
 

vieoray

macrumors regular
Feb 18, 2005
128
0
i would suggest you buy the best you can afford. and don't be concerned too much about name brand. go into a shop and handle the guitars - get one that sounds and feels like 'the one' to you. don't be afraid to ask questions

that was the best advice anyone has ever given me about buying a guitar. :) hope it helps.
 

Nuc

macrumors 6502a
Jan 20, 2003
798
6
TN
I like my Ibanez

I personally like my Ibanez guitar. It has a satan finish which I think makes it sound better than a guitar that has a lacquer finish. I think I paid ~$375 about 10 years ago. It had a killer case that came with it. You should be able to find them cheeper than this though. I used to have a classical guitar but sold it, I enjoyed this guitar a lot. I've always liked a 12 string guitar but I've never owned one...

Best of luck,

Nuc
 

thepannist

macrumors member
Jul 16, 2002
44
0
sjpetry said:
Just for the record, the quality of Stratocaster go like this:

1.) American

2.) Japanese

3.) Mexican

Some Japanese stratocaster can be better than their American counterparts.
You're joking, right? While, I would agree that they all pretty much play the same (if you set them up right), the quality of electronics is vastly different. Open up one of each and you will see what I mean. Many of the new japanese strats have these bizarre circuit board pots and switches. Mexicans and Americans have normal electronics. Now, if you don't mind replacing the electronics, I would say that any of them are decent guitars

If you are going for an acoustic, get anything you want to that you can afford. I always liked Epiphone acoustics. Deans aren't bad (although an epi for the same price is usually better). I have played some good yamahas (and some really crappy ones). Hohners are great for the money. Just please don't get a JBPlayer or an Austin or something like that. Name brands usually are better in this market.
 

fitinferno

macrumors 6502
Apr 7, 2005
371
0
London, UK
jim. said:
[F]or around $100-200 he could get a Seagull that sounds almost as good as the Tak, if not better (just minus electronics).
Where did you get that price range for the Seagull?? I have rarely seen them go for under $200.

With that being said, as I have no idea how you'd get a Seagull for under $200, I definitely suggest checking out Art et Lutherie guitars (they are, btw, made by the same people who make Seagull guitars--Godin). That is the brand of guitar I own and I am in love with it. I am a beginner as well and it makes me happy because the action is low, there's a truss rod so the neck won't get all bent up in time, it's absolutely beautiful and made in Canada from Canadian woods. Plus, it's got a cedar top...so it sounds brilliant. It was a very reasonable price to pay for a quality starter guitar.

Other than that, I've played on a few Epiphones and have been very impressed with the price & quality of them. Yamahas can be very nice, but there are some out there (the super basic starter models) that I find are just not something I would want to deal with. And, of course, Fenders are generally ones you can't go wrong with.

I highly stress the low action thing, though. Make sure your guitar either has a low action to begin with or else make sure it can be adjusted to have a lower action. As a beginner, your fingers will not be calloused and holding the strings down will probably be slightly painful even. Having a high action will make this even worse than it should be. Most of the cheap guitars everyone has told you to avoid have super high action...and I find that this is what causes the beginner problems more than the sound quality of them. If you can't even make the chord shape properly, you won't even get to hear the not-so-great quality sound the guitar is making!
 

jefhatfield

Retired
Jul 9, 2000
8,803
0
Les Kern said:
Wrong-o.
I've been playing for 25 years now, so I've been around the block.
One of the common mistakes is buying a crap guitar, then trying to learn. You listen to crap, get disheartened, and quit. And trust me... a $50.00 guitar is an abomination. And don't even THINK of buying one of those Esteban models shown on TV. He's a fraud, and the guitars are seemingly made of balsa, Elmers glue, air and promises. Go to a guitar store, like Guitar Center. They tend to be honest.
I'd suggest a middle-range Yamaha. (My current practice model) They run 150-200 bucks and sound excellent. Great action, good quality boards and frets. Don't buy a guitar over that price, unless you have the bucks. If you do, get an Ovation middle-ground, or maybe a Takemine, but certainly don't buy crap.
Please don't.
i have been playing a long time too and i totally agree with you

for low price acoustics, and electrics, yamaha is very hard to beat and i have seen some experienced players use low cost yamaha instruments

fender has great low cost electrics and epiphone has some great low cost acoustics (with solid tops) under $300, but all around for a beginner or intermediate, go with yamaha

for a little more money in the sub-$500 dollar range, a takamine, ovation, dean, ibanez, mid level fender, or guitar center special martin, guild, or taylor are great but it's not necessary in the beginning

i don't suggest getting a $1000+ dollar martin, taylor, or gibson because i have seen too many people do that and give up on guitar...one friend i had bought a very rare taylor for over $3000 dollars and never played the thing once and though it was the best acoustic guitar i have seen in my town, it was owned by someone who thought that buying the best would guarantee that he would stick to learning, which he didn't

if i was stuck on a desert island and was told i could use the instruments from one company/corporate group for guitar, drums, bass, piano/keyboards, pro audio, then i would choose yamaha without hesitation
 

MustangFive

macrumors newbie
Jun 6, 2005
1
0
South Pasadena, CA
i've been playing for 15 years and have had a lot of different guitars over the years. The guitar I recommend for beginners is the Washburn D-10S. I've had two D-10 6-strings and one 12-string. They look nice, stay in tune, play and sound wonderfully, plus the price is well within your stated range.

Washburn D-10S at MusiciansFriend.com

Don't take my word for it though - Go to your nearest Guitar Center/Sam Ash and play one. You won't be disapppointed.

Mustang Five - out
 

jefhatfield

Retired
Jul 9, 2000
8,803
0
MustangFive said:
i've been playing for 15 years and have had a lot of different guitars over the years. The guitar I recommend for beginners is the Washburn D-10S. I've had two D-10 6-strings and one 12-string. They look nice, stay in tune, play and sound wonderfully, plus the price is well within your stated range.

Washburn D-10S at MusiciansFriend.com

Don't take my word for it though - Go to your nearest Guitar Center/Sam Ash and play one. You won't be disapppointed.

Mustang Five - out
that looks like a really good guitar, and for under $200 hundred bucks and equipped with a solid top...that sounds like one of the best deals i have ever seen recently
 

JesseJames

macrumors 6502a
LISTEN TO ME SON

I recommend Epiphone or Fender acoustic guitars.
They are excellent quality for the money. They sound great and have excellent playability on the neck. Won't hurt your hands too much playing these. There WILL BE PAIN in the beginning as you practice fingering and chording. DON'T get discouraged, stick with it. Your muscles and tendons will strengthen and you will get better. Just stick with it. If you REALLY want to learn how to play guitar you will grit through it.
No need to get anything above the 300 dollar range. My first Fender acoustic was a DG-10 and it played great and sounded great for a little over 200 bucks. Haggle with the salesperson and you might be able to knock off 20 dollars or so.
It's important to try out and buy what YOU feel is best for you. Every player has different tastes. Some like a higher action on their guitar than others (that's the string height from the fret-board). But since you are starting out, I highly recommend getting a guitar with a low action to help you just get use to playing.
The aforementioned guitar brands all have nice low action.
Best of luck.

For the record I own a Yamaha acoustic and a Epiphone electric/acoustic.
Both lefties. :D
 

evilernie

macrumors 6502
Jan 6, 2005
306
0
Tough question

I've had a few acoustics over the years, the first was an ibanez that I got for about $250. What a piece of crap that was. Then an uncle that passed away left me his Fender. Nice guitar. I forget the model, but I would guess it cost about $300 - $400 new. Finally, when I got married my wife bought me a Taylor 814ce for a wedding present! The ibanez was sold on ebay, and of course now the Fender sits in a case in the basement but I can't part with it for sentimental reasons.

Anyway, all I'm saying is definitely go and try them out for yourself. There is no "one" perfect guitar. However, you do get what you pay for, so get the best guitar you can afford. Taylors and Martins cost a ton of money for a reason.
 

Crikey

macrumors 6502
Jan 14, 2004
356
0
Spencer's Butte, Oregon
Congratulations on starting to play guitar! It's a great hobby.

I think you should play as many guitars in as many shops as you have patience for, and pick the one that sounds best to your ears. Also ask the salespeople what makes a good guitar versus a poor one. If you have a friend who plays and is willing to go along, get his/her opinions.

Do a listening comparison between guitars with solid wood soundboards and those with laminated wood soundboards. There are a number of models with solid tops in your price range now that China is mass-producing guitars. For me, the difference in tonal quality was pretty plain and worth the extra money. Check it out for yourself.

Have fun!


Crikey
 

rikers_mailbox

macrumors 6502a
Sep 27, 2003
739
0
LA-la-land
sjpetry said:
Is this something you are looking for it is the Baby Taylor. It is a great little guitar, but it's not full scale. Which might be a problem.
Exactly what I was going to suggest. The Baby Taylor was my first acoustic and I highly recommend it. It's great for beginners; easy to play/handle and it sounds fantastic for the price. Even better, it comes with a padded, soft sided carry case for trips to lessons. :)

Correction: go with the "Big Baby". . . it's a 15/16-scale Dreadnought. The "Baby" is 3/4-scale, not as good to learn on.
 

natehan

macrumors member
May 15, 2005
42
0
Chicago
Les Kern said:
Wrong-o.
I've been playing for 25 years now, so I've been around the block.
One of the common mistakes is buying a crap guitar, then trying to learn. You listen to crap, get disheartened, and quit. And trust me... a $50.00 guitar is an abomination. And don't even THINK of buying one of those Esteban models shown on TV. He's a fraud, and the guitars are seemingly made of balsa, Elmers glue, air and promises. Go to a guitar store, like Guitar Center. They tend to be honest.
I'd suggest a middle-range Yamaha. (My current practice model) They run 150-200 bucks and sound excellent. Great action, good quality boards and frets. Don't buy a guitar over that price, unless you have the bucks. If you do, get an Ovation middle-ground, or maybe a Takemine, but certainly don't buy crap.
Please don't.
Listen to crap? OVATIONS, YAMAHA, AND TAKS ARE CRAP. Look, playing a bad guitar doesn't make you quit playing. That's ridiculous, your ability to commit to something decides whether you will quit or not. If you go to a guitar store, you won't notice a difference between the sound of good guitars and bad ones because your ear has not been trained yet.
If you start with a bad guitar and commit to it and get serious about guitar playing, then you should buy a nice one, and that's when you'll start realizing more complex sounds in guitars (specifically acoustic) like the deep lows in Martins and the crisp highs in Taylors.

I agree with not buying a guitar that is like 50 dollars because you don't want a poorly crafted guitar falling apart on you when you decide to get serious. As someone mentioned, get one of those starter kits, which includes tuners, strings, gig bag and other stuff.

And Guitar Center IS NOT HONEST! They want your money. Those punks work on commission and are shady. You can always haggle at Guitar Center. If you decide to go there, bring someone that knows guitars and has haggled there before. You can even haggle down AT LEAST 40 on the starter kits.

My advice, just stick with it. There will be dry times when you don't want to learn, but your perseverance will pay off.