BEGINNER GUITAR TIPS – Choosing A Guitar
This article contains valuable information about the process of properly choosing a guitar for your particular needs. It’s important to make the right choices to get off to the best start possible so you will have a rewarding experience learning guitar! After you read this article we recommend speaking with one of our qualified teachers, who can offer you guidance to make an informed purchase that you will be happy with for years to come. Also, please see our blog Where To Buy or Rent a Guitar in Downtown Toronto. This blog will have a list of reputable stores that sell and/or rent guitars in Toronto.
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of guitars that you can rent or purchase:
Acoustic Guitars are designed to produce sound without any form of electronic amplification. Amplification is achieved when a guitar is plugged into a device called an amplifier, which increases the volume level of the instrument. You would only need this if you are going to perform in a situation where the sound of your guitar would not be loud enough to be heard by everyone present. Most guitar companies produce acoustic guitars that have electronic “microphones” (called pickups) built into the instrument which will allow you to plug into an amplifier. These guitars are often called Acoustic/Electric guitars or Electro Acoustic guitars and will give you the option to play with or without an amplifier.
Electric Guitars are designed to produce sound ONLY with amplification. They are specifically made to be plugged into an amplifier and will NOT sound loud enough when played without amplification.
The next consideration when choosing a guitar is the style of music you would like to play. Here are the three main types of guitars:
Steel String Acoustic and Acoustic Electric Guitars. These guitars are by far the most common for beginners and are used extensively for the following musical styles: Folk, Country, Bluegrass, Light Rock and Pop. They have strings made of steel and other alloys but the strings are generally referred to as “steel strings”. Sometimes this style of guitar is called the “Dreadnought”. In this category you will also find 12-string guitars which have six pairs strings and are tuned in such a way that they can be played by any guitarist that can play a 6-string guitar. As explained earlier, the only difference between a Steel String Acoustic and an Acoustic Electric Guitar is that the former has no pick-up and the latter has one.
Electric Guitars are used mostly for Rock, Pop and Jazz. They also use steel strings, but the strings are usually thinner than acoustic guitar strings so are often easier to play. The drawback for beginners is that you need to buy an amplifier as wellas the guitar to get a good sound and this will usually be more expensive. We suggest starting on an acoustic guitar and then later switch to an electric guitar because the acoustic guitar is more physically demanding to play and will strengthen your fingers. If you start on an electric and switch to acoustic, you will find the transition much more difficult.
Classical (or Nylon String) Guitar.
These guitars can be bought with built in pickups for amplification, but they are designed to sound good without it. Three of the six strings are made of solid nylon and the other three are made of a metal alloy wrapped around a nylon core. They are generally used for Classical, Folk and “Latin” styles like Flamenco or Bossa Nova.
Once you have decided you want to go ahead with guitar studies, you can then decide whether you want to buy or rent a guitar. Here are some pros and cons to consider:
Renting is a great option if you would like to try some different guitars or if you are not ready to make a large financial or time commitment presently. While you use your rental guitar you can learn more about guitars through your teacher to make the best choice when you choose to buy. If you rent for 6 months or more, you might end up spending close to what a starter guitar would cost. Some retailers allow you to apply a certain percentage of your rental payments toward the purchase of your rental guitar, so make sure you ask for details. Guitar rental policies can vary from store to store so make sure to investigate before you rent.
Buying a guitar is more common and recommended if you feel confident about your choice of instrument and your commitment to practice consistently. Don’t be in a rush to buy the cheapest guitar out there. There are good reasons some guitars cost more than others – they sound better! It’s important to keep in mind that the quality of your guitar will have an impact on your learning. Higher quality instruments can be more expensive but are worth the investment if you are serious about your sound and the quality of your lesson experience.
We would suggest familiarizing yourself with the different categories of guitars to get a better understanding of how they sound. But if you are a beginner and just want to get started, we recommend getting an acoustic guitar that will match your musical tastes. Many beginners find that nylon strings are easier to play on, but steel string guitars are far more commonly used for a wider variety of styles.
We highly recommend that your first guitar should reflect your personal musical tastes because that is the music you will naturally want to play. Over time as you practice and learn more and more about the world of guitars, you will likely want to upgrade or buy a second guitar. Taking your time and doing adequate research in advance will ensure your complete satisfaction with every purchase you make.
If you are thinking of taking guitar lessons at the Toronto Guitar School and want to get some unbiased advice on your next guitar purchase feel free to email us or phone us at 416-707-1077 and we’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction!