Where to buy
Buying from a brick & mortar shop means you have somewhere to go back if you have any problems, and you’ll probably get more in-depth advice from a real-life human. They should also be able to demonstrate guitars so you can hear the differences in sound.
In Leeds, try PMT (Kirkstall Road) or Dawsons (Vicar Lane)
Online you will have more choice, sure, but it’s more hassle to send something back if there’s a problem.
I wouldn’t trust the build quality of anything with an RRP of less than £100.
Chances are, it’s made of cheap components, and you may have issues with tuning stability, sharp frets (ouch!), dodgy string height, and nasty sounds.
I’ve found that somewhere between £150-£300 you can usually get a nice enough guitar that will last you a long time.
You could also look at used listings to save ££. Just be sure to bring someone along who can check it over.
In most cases getting your new guitar professionally ‘set up’ by a guitar repairer will make your guitar nicer to play.
So if you’ve taken your guitar home and you’re not happy with it straight away, don’t go sending it back – ask a professional first.
In Leeds I recommend Gordon White @ Single Coil Guitar Repairs.
Classical = Nylon string
Acoustic = Steel String
On classical guitars, the strings are spaced further apart – but some don’t like how chunky the necks are.
Steel strings are less forgiving to start out with, but in a few weeks of playing, you’ll soon develop callouses on your fingertips.
New guitar strings will go out of tune quickly, so tune up regularly.
Electrics & Pickups
Some acoustics will have a pickup fitted, which would allow you to use a built in tuner, and plug the guitar into an amplifier or recording unit.
This will put the price up of course, and you can always get these fitted later on.
Dreadnought is the standard size body
000 size- a bit smaller, slimmer body.
Parlour guitar – smaller still.
Jumbo – as the name says.
Generally the smaller you go, the more tightly spaces the strings will be.
The best advice is to head to a guitar shop and ask to try a few out. Every guitar will have slightly different dimensions.
There are lots of different woods used in guitars – I can’t tell you all about how these affect the sound.
BUT I can tell you that a guitar built with a ‘solid top’ will have a better tone.
You might not notice it as a beginner.
The Top is the flat piece of wood with the sound hole cut out.
On cheaper guitars, this will be made of 3 or so thinner pieces of wood, glued together. This is called Laminate Top (but the label won’t boast this as a feature)
On guitars around £250+, this will be one solid piece of wood, which gives more resonance. Look for the words “Solid Top” in the description.
Go for a well known, reputable brand, like:
Squier / Fender
Squier, Epiphone, and Sigma are the more affordable versions of reputable makers, Fender (Squier), Gibson (Epiphone) and Sigma (Martin). My current acoustic is a Sigma – and it’s ace!
Get something you really like the look of.
I’ve had guitars that sounded nice, but didn’t look great to me, and they ended up collecting dust.
You should want to pick it up and play it every day.
Think of this as a ‘cost per use’ investment.
Before you blow all your money on your first guitar, make sure you budget for these:
Stand – £10 for a basic ‘A’ shape stand.
Case – £10 will get you something to protect it from the elements. Even a bin bag is better than nothing.
Every time a student brings a guitar without a case in the rain, I just know it’s going to sound like a soggy piece of cardboard.
Capo – A great tool for a beginner to have – it will give you access to more songs, and can be used as a beginner practice tool, too. It’s good to spend £10+, as I’ve tried cheaper ones that have weak springs and did’t clamp down as well.
Tuner – or you can use a free Guitar Tuner app.
Remember, as my mum used to say: You buy cheap, you buy twice!
Leave a comment and let me know if you have any more questions.