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How to buy a guitar – a basic guide on choosing which guitar to buy – things to know when owning and buying a guitar

Updated on May 3, 2011
By Takkk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Takkk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

About owning guitars for beginners

I'm not claiming to be one of those guitar gods out there who can play the guitar with their toes, I just want to share with you some of the most basic guitar tips based from my own actual honest-to-goodness experience.

The best way to start learning to play a musical instrument of any difficulty is to first learn how to use and hold it properly. Now before we proceed with the basics, let us first seek out the motivation behind the drive with the following points to ponder.

Is it worth your time and effort to learn how to play the guitar

What made you decide to suddenly want to learn to play the guitar? Why did you prefer the guitar over other musical instruments such as the piano or the flute or the harmonica? Perhaps your reason is simply because the guitar is more handy to carry around with ease than the piano, but the flute or the harmonica is much smaller than the guitar, right? In fact the harmonica is even much more convenient to bring along in terms of portability.

If you happen to always carry a tune with you in your head then the harmonica is a nice handy little musical instrument that fits perfectly right in your hip pocket, convincing enough? Naaah, you can't sing while playing the harmonica or the flute stuck in your mouth, right? Besides, you probably wouldn't want to mess up your live performance by forgetting the lyrics and melody of the song due to the shortage of oxygen to your brain while playing the harmonica and catching your breath at the same time would you?

Now I don't intend to criticize or discourage you from venturing with your musical creativity with other musical instruments, but whatever your reason is, the guitar always stands out as the most versatile musical instrument ever invented. Playing the guitar is much cooler considering the wide variety of methods that can be implemented to enhance the sound accompaniment of all types of music given the skills and abilities of the guitarist.

My First Guitar

My ever dearest mother gave me my first guitar back in 1981, it was an acoustic nylon stringed guitar, commonly known as the classical guitar, which cost just around $1.14 back then. It's practically a cheap guitar most suitable for beginners like me at the time, but it's good enough to begin with for my guitar introduction, just enough for me to learn to strum or pluck a piece of note and to learn how to place my fingers properly with correct alignment and chord formation on the fretboard.

But after years of practice I started to realize that owning a good guitar is the key to keep your interest and motivation flowing. Factors such as poor sound quality, out of tune at higher octaves, over-stretched strings that hurts your fingers when holding down the chords are just some known obstacles that can make you easily give up even before you get started with your learning process.

Selecting the right guitar

So how do you select the right guitar? The most important point to consider here is not to judge the guitar by its looks, just because it looks cool to show off to your buddies doesn't mean it sounds good too. Selecting the right guitar should be prioritized by the sound quality it produces and one that feels comfortable to you when you're actually playing it, by that I mean you have to select the one that's easy on your fingers and one that resonates with good sound quality.

Deciding on picking the right guitar requires experience. You may ask around a bit from guitar masters, perhaps you may gain valuable source of buying tips by coursing your email inquiry directly to guitar enthusiasts you may come across on your Google search, or you may also refer your buying choice from the same guitar brand your friend may happen to own which suits your personal choice of preference. You may also ask an experienced guitarist to accompany you to the guitar store to help you pick the right one for you. However you may want to approach this is really up to you, but it does really require a great deal of planning and preparation.

Parts of an Acoustic Guitar

Parts of Acoustic Guitar
Parts of Acoustic Guitar | Source

Important points to consider when buying acoustic guitars

With acoustic guitars, it is advisable to buy the ones made with the solid top than the ones made with a laminated top. The top being referred to here is the topmost part of the body of the acoustic guitar with the round hole in it. Laminated top acoustic guitars are inferior in terms of quality due to its physical construction which is made up of joining together sheets of wood to form the top body to make it cheaper, whereas a solid top acoustic guitar is made with solid piece of wood that sounds better and would eventually provide an improved sound quality over time compared to its laminated top counterpart. Although the solid top acoustic guitar may cost a little more, yet still it is worth the investment considering the long standing benefit you get from the good sound quality that would eventually develop over time along with your guitar playing skills as you keep improving and become a better guitarist from the inspiration of having a good quality guitar. | Source
Steel String Acoustic Folk Guitar
Steel String Acoustic Folk Guitar

Two basic types of acoustic guitars

There are particularly two types of acoustic guitars. The nylon-string classical guitar and the steel-string folk guitar. So how do you differentiate one from the other in order to help you decide which of these two particular types should fall under your preferred choice. But they both look the same you may quickly retort back. Good question, so let us first clear up the confusion to turn it to your advantage. Everyone may very well be familiar with the looks of an acoustic guitar, they may look the same in terms of appearance, but look closely again and try to hold them just to get the feel of it.

You will find that the nylon-string classical guitar is a bit smaller than the steel-string folk guitar, its fretboard is much wider which allows for your fingers to play the musical chords around with ease given the wider space of the fretboard which makes it more applicable for finger-picking than strumming. It is strongly recommended for beginners to start playing a classical guitar because nylon string is softer compared to steel string. The soft property of the nylon strings tends to not hurt your fingers which eventually allows you to practice much longer compared to the limited length of time you would spend practicing guitar chords with steel-string guitars. But all of this depends on your will and determination since your fingertips will normally develop calluses thick enough to make the pain a thing of the past.

Now try to pluck a note to compare the resonating sound from both. You will notice that the steel-string acoustic guitar has a clearer richer sound with prolonged string vibration providing a longer fading sound, whereas the sound resonance of the nylon string dies out quickly, although it is especially important to consider also that the rounder smoother tone of the nylon string classical guitar is more preferred for acoustic guitar instrumental solo. To help you differentiate between the two types of acoustic guitars, watch the enclosed video below of the Beatles performing their hit song “And I Love Her” as an example. The video shows Paul McCartney singing and playing his well-known trademark left-handed Hofner 500/1 (violin-shaped 1961 model) electric bass guitar, while John Lennon and George Harrison are seen on the video using acoustic guitars. Notice the distinction of both acoustic guitars here, John Lennon can be seen seated and doing all the strumming for the rhythm guitar part of the song using a steel-string 1962 Gibson J160E acoustic folk guitar, while George Harrison standing beside Paul McCartney is doing all the guitar picking and plucking including the guitar instrumental solo ad-lib part of the song using a nylon-string 1950 Jose Ramirez classical acoustic flamenco guitar. This video clearly shows the difference on the usage of these two types of acoustic guitars demonstrated by John Lennon and George Harrison.

Demonstration on the distinct usage of the two types of Acoustic Guitars (Nylon String Classical Guitar and a Steel String Folk Guitar)

By Andr Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Andr Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Important points to consider when buying electric guitars

If you are a guitar newbie or a mom or dad who wants to surprise your kid on their birthday and you prefer to buy an electric guitar rather than an acoustic guitar as a gift, you have to be aware that an electric guitar does not rely on the physical soundboard of the guitar body where the sound is produced like an acoustic guitar does, electric guitars must be plugged in to a sound amplifier where its sound comes from, do not plug your electric guitar to your home's wall outlet, the term electric guitar simply means that its sound is electrically amplified by a separate electrical sound system. So when buying an electric guitar, always remember that it goes along to buy also its sound amplifier to make up a whole complete functioning unit.

When you buy electric guitar, make sure to choose the ones with the strings adequately close enough to the fretboard so that it will not hurt your fingers when pushing down on the strings against the fretboard. Pay special attention also that there should not be any vibratory whirring sound when plucking and holding down each of the six strings laid on the fretboard starting from the lower octave to the higher octave. Check also that the neck of the guitar is securely attached to the body by ensuring that there are no partial splits or openings and cracks between the placement of the neck on the body. Make sure that you have good electronics installed by listening to the sound quality emanating from the guitar amplifier, a good indication is the absence of statics or cracking sound while playing around with the volume and tone control of the electric guitar.

Other guitar accessories to consider when buying guitars

  1. Guitar Strap

  2. Guitar Case

  3. Guitar Tuner

  4. Guitar Pick

  5. Guitar Strings

  6. Guitar Stand

  7. Guitar Cable (for electric guitars)

  8. Effects Pedals (for electric guitars)

I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the following license:

How to buy a guitar – a basic guide on which guitar to buy – things to know when owning a guitar by ianjonas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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    • ianjonas profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you for your comment Fely Rose, I really appreciate your taking the time to read and appreciate this hub. Thank you also for the inspirational support, your vote of confidence will be my motivation and drive.

    • profile image

      Fely Rose 

      7 years ago

      It's worth learning all types of musical instrument, but the guitar stands out the best. You could strum any where you wish to, in all corners of the wall, in all occasions , so handy too.

      You could be another John Lennon or Paul MC Cartney.


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