The first electric guitar is a milestone for every kid who decides he wants to be a guitar player. You’ve got just enough money to buy something decent and you don’t want to make a mistake. You’ll probably be playing the guitar you buy for a long time—at least until you get enough money to buy a better one—so you want this first guitar to serve you well. While you don’t need to own an American-made Gibson Les Paul or a Fender Strat to make good music, you’ll at least need an instrument that will sound good and be easy enough to play. Anything less will only interfere with your progress. Here are a few basic things you need to keep in mind when you shop for your first electric guitar.
Electric guitars for beginners come in all kinds of shapes, are made with all types of materials, and can vary in price quite a bit. You can get something pretty decent for between $300 and $500. Right up front, if you’re looking for the classic guitars and you don’t have the “classic” money, Epiphone (owned by Gibson) makes a great Les Paul at a lower price point and Squire (owned by Fender) makes Stratocasters and Telecasters at lower price points, so if you want high quality versions of the two big names in guitars, these are avenues you might want to consider.
Before you buy a guitar, take a look at the illustration below and familiarize yourself with the basic parts of an electric guitar. This will give you an idea about what you should pay attention to when you pick your instrument out.
One of the most important things to watch out for when you buy an electric guitar, new or used, is the action. Action is the distance between the fingerboard of the guitar and the string. When the action is too high you’ll have difficulty fretting (pushing the strings down) and when it’s too low you’ll get string buzz. Don’t give up on a guitar just because the action isn’t right. Sometimes you can adjust the neck and fix the issue. Before you leave the store with a guitar, though, have the owners adjust the action. If you can’t get it to feel the way you want it to, then you need to consider whether or not to take a chance on that particular model.
Always play a guitar before you buy it, especially if you’re purchasing a used instruments. It’s important to plug an electric guitar into an amp and listen for shorts or “crackling” noises around the inputs. Sometimes all that needs to be done to fix this problem is to clean inputs, but it isn’t worth taking a chance and spending your money on an instrument that already has a serious shorting issue.
Avoid buying guitars from big merchandise retail stores that sell everything (not naming names, but you know the stores). The guitars they sell are aimed at beginners, but they are made from cheap wood, low quality pick-ups, and you will never get them to stay in tune. This will lead to frustration and disappointment, and there’s no quicker way to put an end to someone’s musical dream than to play on one of these guitars. If these are all you can afford, continue to save your money until you can afford better.
Basswood, poplar, and maple are some of the tone woods you might find in budget or beginning guitars. These woods are used because they are abundant and can help bring down the cost of manufacturing a guitar, so there’s no need to put your money in a an electric guitar that uses some pressed hybrid wood for body construction. These cheap hybrid “pressed” woods can make a guitar inexpensive, sure, but the sound you get will be absolutely awful. These are the types of woods used in the guitars sold in the stores I warned you about earlier.
To sum it up, there are a lot of electric guitars for beginners on the market. Some of them are extremely good quality and some aren’t. If you’ve got a friend who knows something about electric guitars, bring him with you when you shop. If not, make sure you go to a reputable instrument dealer, or better yet, look at some of the online reviews of any guitar you’re thinking about plunking down money to buy.