Putting You Best Fret Forward, Advice for the Novice Guitarist, Part 1

Photo by Ahmed Rizkhaan on Unsplash

Learning to Play Guitar, A Hobby and Skill for Life:

So you’ve decided to learn how to play guitar. I congratulate you. The guitar is a beautiful, wonderful and versatile instrument. Guitarists who play well and know their stuff are always in demand. Learning music and learning to play the guitar is something you can keep and cherish for the rest of your life.

Learn to Swim Before You Dive Into the Deep End

You will probably only have one guitar for quite a while so it’s important that you choose one that is right for you and not one that you will grow tired of soon after you start playing it. Consider your own physical size: pick a guitar that isn’t too small or too big for you to hold. The sales associate where you buy your guitar will be able to help you with this. If he or she doesn’t or can’t, shop somewhere else. Buying your guitar from a music store will help to ensure you get a quality instrument that is right for you. Also, think about your abilities and aptitude for music. Don’t overspend if there is a chance you may not stick with it. You don’t need to spend much more than $200 (in the US or Canada), if you are a complete novice. Buying an expensive guitar won’t make you play any better at this level of skill and experience.

If you don’t have a guitar and don’t have ready access to a music store that you can physically walk into, there are quite a number of places from where you can order a guitar online. Amazon is a good starting point but other, more specialized stores might be a better option. In Canada, there is a wonderful chain of music stores called Long & McQuade that has a very good online presence and has huge selection of guitars for every level of guitar player. In the USA, there is an excellent store called Sweetwater music that also has an amazing online music store. I highly recommend both.

But there are so many more out there such as Steve’s Music, Muscian’s Friend, Red One Music, LA Music, and so on. If you prefer to do your own searching then Google online music store and read the Google reviews of what previous shopper’s have had to say about their experiences with whichever store you decide to buy from.

There are plenty of reasonably good guitars in the $100 – $200 range. There are also lots of second-hand guitars out there that you can search for on your favorite on-line sources of after market items. But if you under 18, definitely get your parents or guardians involved, even if you plan to just answer online ads for second-hand guitars. Always be extremely cautious when buying anything second-hand from strangers. I can’t stress it enough, if you are under 18, don’t communicate with anybody you don’t know online. And remember, an expensive guitar won’t make you sound any better if you are a beginner. It’s not about the equipment you have it’s more about how well you play your instrument.

An Educated Shopper Is a Smart Shopper

What to look for when you are shopping for a guitar or when you receive your purchase?

First, make sure the neck (the long, thin piece that sticks out from the body of the guitar) is straight. If it’s not straight, you will have trouble getting it in tune and keeping it in tune. I am a stickler for keeping my guitar in tune, as are most serious guitar players.

The other thing to look for is, you don’t want the neck to be too wide, escpecially for younger players with smaller hands because you will have trouble forming chords or even playing simple notes.

You also want to make sure the fret edges aren’t sharp when you slide your hand up and down the guitar because if they are, this will quickly become a source of continual irritation.

Another very important consideration is the guitar’s action. That’s just a fancy term for how high the strings are off the fretboard. The higher they are from the fretboard, the harder it will be for you to form notes and chords.

You also don’t want a guitar that buzzes when you form notes and chords. That will be hard for an absolute beginner to check so make sure you ask your sales associate about that or look for online buyers comments that relate to how good the guitar sounds. One of the worst things about a bad guitar is having buzzing strings – it simply sounds awful. Maybe (or get a trusted adult to) chat, email or phone your online store’s sales associate for advice. When researching an online music store or a physical store that you can walk into, knowing that their sales associates are helpful and knowledgeable is essential, especially for a novice guitar player.

So let’s sum up what we’ve learned so far:

  1. Make sure the guitar is the right size for you: not too big, not too small. You want to be comfortable when you play.
  2. If you’re buying your first guitar, be a smart shopper and don’t over- spend.
  3. Make sure you guitar’s neck is straight.
  4. Make sure the fret edges aren’t sharp otherwise they will irritate your hands and fingers when you try to play.
  5. Make sure the action isn’t too high. If it is, you will likely have trouble making any sort of reasonably good sound with your guitar. You will quickly get discouraged and won’t keep up with your guitar playing, and you might give up playing all togeter. That would be sad.
  6. Narrow your choices down to two or three guitars that look nice to you. Read the customer reviews and ask for advice if you can.

But before you rush off and order your first guitar, we need to discuss the basics of the guitar: the ABC’s of the guitar, if you will.

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