Buying your first guitar

Buying your first guitar can be quite a confusing experience. What I hope to do in this blog is point you in the right direction and get you to make the right decision when buying your guitar.

What music do I want to play?

This is definitely one of the first questions you should ask yourself. The style of music you are interested in playing should really dictate what guitar you are looking to purchase. There are three main types of guitar.

Nylon String
Steel String

Nylon String Guitars

Classical and Flamenco are generally played using a Nylon String acoustic guitar. They have a very warm sounding tone and tend to be a little easier on the fingers when you first start playing. They also sound great when using advanced percussive techniques.

You will find Nylon String acoustics in varying sizes from 1/4 size to full size. So if you are buying for someone between the ages of 5 and 13 you might want to look at the smaller sizes. I would however avoid buying a 3/4 size guitar as it won't be long until it feels too small and you'll need to get a full size guitar to make playing comfortable again. There are also 2 different types of bodies. One is standard and the other has what you call a cutaway. The cutaway allows you to reach the higher frets without the guitar getting in the way. This is something to consider if you think you will be playing pieces of music with high notes in.

Steel String Guitars

Steel string guitars have a much brighter sound and in my opinion, are a bit more verstaile than the nylon string guitars. Artists like Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard are good examples of steel string guitars in modern music. Looking around a lot of shops I feel that steel string guitars come in a lot more shapes and sizes so the best thing to do is just pick a few up and sit with them... even if you don't know how to play anything... and see how it feels. If it seems comfortable just sitting with it then when you get playing there shouldn't be any issues.

You can also get what are called 'electro-acoustics'. All this means is that it comes with a pickup or microphone already built in so you can plug it in to an amp or speaker (it will not sound like an electric guitar).

Steel String guitars come in 1/4 size, 1/2 size and 3/4 size

Electric Guitars

A lot of people associate electric guitars with rock and heavy metal, but they can do far more than that. In my opinion they are the most versatile type of guitar. The amount of sounds you can get out of them is almost endless! There are so many shapes and sizes of electric guitar its quite hard to guide people in the right direction. If you already know a few chords and riffs then the best thing to do is go down to an instrument shop, try a few out and see what feels and sounds best to you.

Many people starting out playing the guitar will already have a shape in mind they would like as they have seen the guitarists from their favourite bands play them. If this is the case for you then make sure you try a couple of different guitars of the same shape. This is because that even though they have the same shape, there will be slight differences in the neck shape and thickness and wood type which can make a huge difference in playing and sound. For me personally, I like a thin maple neck but I know a lot of people who like thick mahogany necks and so on...

As with all the other types of guitar, you can buy electric guitars in different sizes starting from 1/4 size all the way up to full size. 1/4 and 1/2 size are great for young kids starting out but as I said at the start of this blog, maybe avoid the 3/4 size as it might not be long until a full size guitar is needed.


If you are buying an electric guitar then you will need an amplifier to partner it. There are plenty of starter packs that include both a guitar, amp and accessories like a strap, tuner and leads etc and are always well priced. Another way would be to set yourself a budget and then go 60/40 in favour of the amp. A lot of the tone will come from the amp. From expirence you can put an awesome guitar through a bad amp and it won't sound great but you can put a cheap guitar through an awesome amp and it will sound... well... awesome!

Where to buy

I've always been a firm beliver of trying before you buy when it comes to musical instruments. There are plenty of shops around Bristol to go to and have a good look around. One of the biggest shops is Professional Music Technology on Rupert Street, Bristol. The staff are reallly helpful and friendly and will point you in the right direction of what you're looking for. There is a huge selection of guitars to choose from as well as plenty of accessories.

Another favourite shop of mine is Intersound in Dursley. They have a really cool selection of guitars that you won't find in many other shops, so if you're looking for something a little different then definitely check them out. Steve and the rest of the gang are incredibly helpful and they also do great guitar setups (think of it as a car service, checking everything is working as it should).

There are loads of other music shops around Bristol. Here are a few to check out:

Hobgoblin Music
Treble Rock

What if I haven't learned anything yet?

Even if you don't know how to play anything on the guitar yet I would still say it is definitely worth sitting down in a shop with a guitar and just see how it feels when you are sat down with it. Straight away you will know if the guitar is too big or too small. Try and reach the lowest fret and highest fret on all the strings and see how easy it is to push down the strings. Strings that are really high above the fretboard are quite hard to play. This can be adjusted but if they are already quite far away it could be difficult to get them low without causing lots of buzz from the strings.

Always ask

Never be afraid to ask for help in shops. Everyone who works there is there to help you... not to force you to buy something you don't need. Anyone who works in a music shop will play an instrument and understand what its like being a beginner and getting your first instrument.

Buying Second Hand

A great way to save money is buying a second hand instrument. Websites like eBay and Gumtree have a huge range of guitars and amps at a great price. Always aim to buy local so you can go and have a look at the guitar before you buy it to see what condition its in. As mentioned before... even if you don't know how to play anything, just sit down with it and see how it feels. Push down the strings to see if it they seem easy or hard to push down etc. If you see a guitar online that you might like to try but are unsure please feel free to send me a message with the link and it'll take a look to see if its worth going for a visit or not.

If you have any questions about buying a new guitar please get in touch and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.