Should I hire one or buy one?
Where’s the best place to get it?
What’s a fair price and how much should I spend to get something that will be good enough?
What if my son or daughter decides they don’t like it?
These are just some of the questions asked by our parents when their children start out on a new instrument. However, it doesn’t have to buy a minefield of bewildering choice and over the next few months we will be looking at some of the most popular instruments and sharing some tips on what to purchase.
The main types of guitar
Nylon String or Classical
As the name suggests, this type of guitar has a mixture of plastic and wound metal strings. They come in all sizes from ¼ through to full size and are easy to get hold of.
The looser string tension and plastic strings are much kinder to beginner fingers and with cost starting around the £40 mark these make the ideal starter guitar.
Brands: For the complete beginner, Valencia, Jose Ferrer, Encore are all widely available in local music shops or Amazon
Steel String or Acoustic
The steel string guitar is the guitar you will have heard 1000 times on pop records and is a great instrument for strumming favourite songs. The upper strings are metal and are pretty unforgiving to beginner fingers so I would generally suggest the steel string guitar as a guitar to progress to after playing for a couple of years. If you are considering a steel string there is also the option to have a pickup fitted. This means you can plug the guitar into a PA system and is great (if not essential) for gigging where there is any sort of amplification. A playable guitar starts around £100/£150 and an extra £80 for the pick up)
Brands: Fender e.g. CF-60. Unless it is for someone tall, avoid the dreadnaught models as they are huge.
The classic RAWK guitar! Most electrics have a solid body and come in many different shapes and colours. It is worth mentioning that tuning of and position playing would be the same on any of these three types of guitar so it is easy to switch between them.
If you get an electric guitar, you will also need an amplifier. (see more below). The electric makes a great incentive to graduate to and as well as being an awesome beast of RAWK has the added bonus of a headphone socket for silent practice. Starting prices are similar to steel strings but don’t forget the amp.
Brands: Again Fender are excellent for the price and have a starter range called Squier. A Squire Telecaster or Stratocaster would be an excellent first choice
Choosing the correct size
This is absolutely essential to progress – something too big will make playing nearly impossible.
In your trial lesson our Guides will be able to suggest the correct size but if you want to get something sooner, and fully recognising that children as well as guitars come in all shapes and sizes, here are some ball park suggestions:
Age 4-6: ¼ to ½ size
Age 6-9: ½ to ¾ size
Age 9-11: ¾ size
Age 11 on: full size would probably be OK
These sizes are rough and it is always best to try different size guitars out if possible.
Tuner – Fender make great clip on tuners for under £10
Metronome – there are many free metronome apps or you can go for a digital metronome. I would avoid the classic pendulum metronomes. They may look nice but they don’t tick in time!
Music stand – music on the floor is not helpful for posture and spending £10 on a stand is well worth the money.
Folder – learning any instrument will mean books, sheets and notes. Having these randomly distributed around the house means lessons start late and also makes it hard to be organised for practice. Having everything in one place is a must!
Strap – a must for playing and standing of you have a steel string or electric. Check the guitar has an end pin to attach the strap to!
Spare strings – strings do snap from time to time and is helpful to have a spare set on hand. Just make sure you have the right type for the type of guitar you have.
For electric guitar only
An amplifier – When starting out a ten foot Marshall stack is not essential and there are many reasonably priced practice amps that have loads of features.
Try to get one with a clean channel and distortion channel and having reverb or delays effects built in is fun too. Fender make a good starter range that start around £50
Jack to jack leads – to connect your guitar to the amp. The cheap ones break instantly so its worth investing a little more.
Whilst there are many guitars to choose from, nearly all my students start out on a small size nylon string and progress from there. They are inexpensive, fairly robust and very portable. Because of this, unless there is a hire/buy scheme I wouldn’t bother hiring as you will have paid more in rental cost than the value of the instrument within the first year.
The guitar is a very popular instrument so if for any reason you need to sell it, it should not be difficult – I am certainly always in need of small guitars.
It makes a great first instrument and whether pursuing classical or tablature notation many different genres from Bach to latest pop hit can be played on the guitar. And if inspiration strikes, also a great choice for writing songs