Best Beginner Guitar

My first guitar was the worst ever. I wanted to rock out like Jimmy Page but ended up getting a cheese log that required kung-fu grip to play and my amp blew up after a week of frustration. Things got better once I got a 'real' guitar but, in hindsight, it wasn't the right model for me which meant that I did not play it as much as I should have and, as a result, Eddie van Halen slipped into the void left by my absence.

It's a tragedy. The moral of the story is: the best beginner guitar is the one that is most playable and therefore gets played the most. More playing = more progress.

Buy the best guitar you can afford now and you'll have a greater chance of success and, in the event your little Hendrix bails out in favor of video games or shuffleboard, you'll get a greater proportion of your money back when you sell it.

Should you be buying an acoustic guitar to learn on? Is your learner wanting to play acoustic music? Yes? Buy an acoustic guitar. No? Do not buy an acoustic guitar. It's that simple. There's no special virtue associated with starting out on an acoustic guitar.

Should you start out with a classical guitar? Who's taking the lessons here, you are your kid? I doubt they want to learn classical guitar so let's just back off the Tiger Mom Helicopter Pilot thing.

Okay, so how to select the guitar:

First, determine whether the player-to-be is (a) infatuated with a particular guitarist or band, i.e., a hero-worshiper, (b) digs a particular genre of music over worship of some hero, (c) has no clue.

If it comes down to hero worship I would suggest getting the exact model as the guitarist in question, so long as it fits your budget. They'll play it more. In many cases, the actual guitar played by the artist costs a small fortune but many have 'signature' versions manufactured overseas for a fraction of the cost. Luckily, most beginners are into the latest fads so finding a Chinese-made signature model is the norm and inexpensive.

If the rocker of the future is more into a style of music find a guitar that meets the requirements. If it's metal they're into then get something with a couple of humbuckers, lots of pointy angles, black, and maybe a whammy bar; classic rock = anything goes; country = Tele, and so on. Like all areas of life, there are stereotypical items and instruments for each genre of music. Just tell the guys at the shop what you're into and they'll steer you in the right direction.

If there's no clue so far, just go to a guitar shop and ask for something that is versatile and easy to play.

Buy your first guitar locally from a guitar shop so they can perform a setup on it so that playability is maximized. Later on, once you learn about guitar maintenance and setup, buying electrics online makes more sense. Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, are more unique and I suggest playing a bunch of them before choosing one in person.

What are some good brands to look for? Luckily, we live in the golden age of guitars and there are hardly any made that are just plain terrible. But naturally, there are a few brands I would recommend over others and they have models in various price brackets.

Fender has been in business since WWII but, for the money, G&L makes a better guitar for those of us who like twangy music and classic rock. (Interestingly, Mr. Leo Fender himself left his company in 1965 and later formed G&L guitars so many players feel like a G&L is more Fender than Fender).

Gibson has been around for generations and is responsible for many iconic guitars but, today, Paul Reed Smith (PRS Guitars) makes a better guitar for those into thicker sounds.

As for acoustic guitars, I think Martin still makes a great guitar for the money but if you want to spend less, check out Alvarez guitars -- they seem to make a great bang-for-the-buck instrument.

What about an amp? For now they are unnecessary. Your budding guitarist likely has a smart phone which means they already have a wealth of virtual amps and effects at their disposal with a few apps and cheap interfaces that plug the guitar into the phone. Alternately, there are several headphone things that plug into guitars that offer the sound of raging amplifiers without disturbing the parents downstairs.

Do we need to pay for lessons? Nah, when I was a kid it made sense, but with resources like YouTube, everything a person needs is available for free. If they have access to the internet they'll figure it out.