What is the best guitar for beginners? An acoustic guitar or an electric guitar? Nylon strings or steel? A Fender or a Gibson? A Squier or an Epiphone? A Stratocaster or a Les Paul? Or maybe a 12-string? Or a ukulele perhaps? Now because there’s so much confusion out there, let me tell you the real deal on what is the best guitar for beginners. and what should guide you when you need to choose a beginner’s guitar. So shall we begin?
The truth about beginners guitars
The simple truth is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference which guitar you start with as long as it’s not one of those super cheap ones. You know, the ones at the absolute low end. If you can spend more cash on a mid-range guitar – great, but otherwise just stay away from those under $100 guitars and you’ll be good. If you can’t afford a new one, it’s always better to go for a second-hand guitar than to settle on a lower quality brand. Again, we’re talking beginner guitars here, just an entry-level guitar that is not too expensive, but on the other hand not too crappy.
A crappy guitar would sound horrible and get out of tune frequently. With your lack of experience in guitars you might get the false impression that your playing is much worse than it really is (sorry, we all suck in the beginning…). So by all means – stay away from those super cheap ones and ignore the super cheap packages offering you a guitar for beginners plus a bunch of crappy accessories. If you don’t know how to tell a bad guitar from a good one – ask a friend who plays the guitar and they’ll know immediately. If you want to play it safe – check out my recommendations below which are all guitars that I have owned.
Guitar for beginners – acoustic or electric?
Now you may be concerned with whether you should start with an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar. Again – not a big deal, nothing is set in stone. Unless you have a very specific genre in mind, just think what would make you feel more motivated to pick up the guitar and play. It’s true that nylon strings may be easier for beginners (your fingers will hurt a lot less), so if you’re not sure – start with that. But if your passion is Rock or Metal – I don’t see a reason not to start with an electric guitar that sits nicely in your hands. One thing to always keep in mind it that it’s just your first guitar, a guitar for beginners. If you are like most guitar players, over time you will experiment with other guitar types and brands and most probably will have a small collection of them at home anyway.
One other practical consideration that might affect your decision is whether you have a private practicing space. An acoustic guitar is great in that it doesn’t require an amp or cables. On the other hand, it cannot be muted, which could be a little disturbing if you don’t have a private practicing space. An electric guitar could be used with an amp or with a set of headphones. The latter option really comes in handy when you want to practice at home and not disturb other family members. As a matter of fact, this is the way I normally practice. Just be sure to use a decent set of headphones.
Or begin with a friends’ guitar…
Now before I get into some specific recommendations, two more notes: if you could borrow a guitar from a friend for a few months, just to get you through those first few months – that would be ideal. A few months of guitar learning is just enough to make you realize whether you have it in you to commit to it or not. Second – if you do have it in you, then most chances that within a year or two you will have bought both an acoustic and an electric guitar anyway, which makes it much less of a dilemma which guitar type you should start with.
My first electric guitar
And now let me tell you my personal story. I started with a nylon-strings guitar that was lying at home. I can’t even remember its brand name, but it was good enough for getting the basics down. I then took a long break from guitars and years later went on to get my first ever electric guitar which was an Epiphone LP Special. It’s a decent guitar for beginners, and the price tag on it is very attractive. It’s a Les Paul kind of guitar, which means it looks like a Gibson Les Paul guitar, more or less, but at a much lower price point. In fact, it’s quite possibly the lowest-cost Les Paul guitar that you can get, without compromising quality, or crossing over to the crappy guitars domain. It features two hum-bucking pick-ups which aim to give it a Les Paul sound, or at least the closest tone you can get to a Les Paul sound, for under $200. Overall a great guitar for beginners and it will do the job for you exactly like it did for me. If you’re short on budget – that might just be the guitar for you. Check out the reviews on Amazon for the Epiphone Les Paul Special.
My second electric guitar
My story continues with the second electric guitar that I got. This time I went for a Fender Stratocaster. An iconic model that probably needs no introduction. These days Strats are made either in Mexico or in the U.S. (California). The Mexican Strat is considered a mid-range guitar, while the American model is positioned significantly higher. The difference in price is therefore significant too, although the difference in quality or tone is debatable. In fact, some folks claim that the Mexican sounds better. So it made more sense for me to get the Mexican model and this turned out to be a very good decision. I have only good things to say about my Mexican Strat. The guitar sits firmly in my hands, it feels and looks great, and its tone is nothing less than amazing. In fact, I wouldn’t consider it a guitar for beginners at all, but a performance-level guitar. The only drawback for beginners is the price tag ($600-$700). But if you can afford it, don’t look further. You’ll just love it, I guarantee. Check out the reviews on Amazon for the Mexican Fender Strat.
My first acoustic guitar
Acoustic guitars are more tricky to buy, especially online. In fact, I wouldn’t really recommend that you get one online unless it was your absolute first one. If you want to buy a longer-term acoustic guitar – go to a guitar shop and let your ears be the judge. You could always go online later and look for a good deal, but with acoustic guitars you would still run the risk of getting a different tone. But again, if you are a beginner and on a budget – here’s my personal first-hand recommendation: A Fender CD-60CE. You can check out the reviews on Amazon here, but quite honestly, with a $300 price tag and a Fender brand, you really can’t go wrong as far as your first acoustic guitar. This particular model also has an on-board preamp so you can either play this guitar unplugged, or plug it into an amp (great for recording yourself!). I like this guitar a lot and it served me well as an entry-level acoustic guitar so I’m confident that it would serve you just as well.
Feel free to leave a comment to ask a question or share your own story!