Guitar buyers guide

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Choosing a guitar can be a confusing mess involving dozens of different price ranges, colors, configurations, woods, electronics and so on.  Which guitar is good for me, or my beginning student? 

Well, in order to help you out, here are some helpful hints and a list of which guitars "make the grade" for beginning students.

You get what you pay for - sounds obvious, but that guitar that sells for $70 will have some problems that will probably make it unplayable.  Twisted neck, high string action, difficult adjustments are all up to work against the beginning guitarist.​

Guitar scale.  Guitars come in 3 general sizes, 1/2 size, 3/4 size, and full size.  the size of the guitar needs to fit the hand size of the player.  the right sized guitar allows the student to reach the first and 4th frets without moving their hand too much.  Most kids have smaller hands that adults, so a 1/2 or 3/4 sized guitar will generally be the right scale.

Electric or Acoustic or Classical - Acoustics are harder to play for beginners than electric guitars.  Period.  The strings on acoustics are thicker and students often suffer with sore fingers more frequently than when playing acoustics than electrics.  On the other hand, electrics need an amplifier to be heard, adding to the cost of the purchase.  Classical guitars have nylon strings which are easier to play, and reduce finger soreness.  Electrics cost the most to begin with, but generally are the easiest to play (when set up properly).

Set up and guitar adjustments - Guitars need care and attention to pay at their optimum.  Setting up a guitar so that it plays properly is needed in 99% of new guitar purchases.  Manufacturers set up guitars from the factory so that they are "just" playable".  By "Just" I mean you'll be able to pay a song or solo, but the string action will always be high, and the intonation will be set for heavy strings.  This makes it difficult for a beginners to use their guitar without sore fingers or muscle fatigue.  Setting up a guitar is generally $50-$75 and is well worth the investment.

Hand me down guitars - Often hand me down guitars haven't been cared for in some time, and need a good set up, cleaning, new strings and other adjustments to make them playable.  As long as the guitar fits the students hands, a hand me down guitar with a good set up is a fine alternative to buying a new guitar.

Top picks:

* ★★★★★★★★★★ Epiphone Les Paul Special II

* ★★★★★★★★ Squire Affinity Stratocaster

* ★★★★★★ Squire Affinity Telecaster

* ★★★★★★ Jackson JS22 Dinky

* ★★★★ Squire Bullet Stratocaster

* ★★★ Epiphone SG Special

* ★★★ Ibanez GRX20Z

* ★★★ Squire Affinity Telecaster

* ★★ Ibanez GRX70QA

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