The 8 best beginner guitar recommendations… and how to avoid the 3 most common mistakes
So you’ve decided to learn the guitar have ya? Fantastic!
I’ll show you exactly how to get started quickly, and give you my opinion on what I think are the absolute best beginner guitars I’ve found.
I’ll give you some recommendations for both acoustic and electric guitar. These are the ones you should seriously be considering if you’re just starting out, and I’ll explain why later.
Keep in mind, these recommendations are based on not only my own research, but on the consistent recommendations from the guitar playing community. They’ve been tested by lots of other people and have gotten great reviews.
That said, the guitar is definitely one of the best instruments to learn. You’re gonna love it! Let’s get started…
In this article, you’ll learn about:
- The best beginner guitar(s) I’ve found (electric and acoustic)
- Why learning on the right guitar is one of the most important decisions you can make
- Things to avoid when buying a beginner guitar (must read)
- What to look for in a guitar
- The best way to start after you get a guitar (and avoid all the common mistakes)
I’ll give you the scoop on ALL of the above in this article. You’ll probably want to read through this whole thing before making a decision. You’ll be glad you did.
What are the best beginner guitars available?
I’ll save you some time. If you want to cut straight to the chase, here are my picks for the best beginner guitars — one for each of the common styles. One rule to keep in mind is, “get the same STYLE of guitar your guitar hero has”. It simplifies things a lot.
Instead of thinking about the different woods (mahogany, maple, rosewood, etc), all the different pickups, necks, scale lengths, bridges, body types… all you have to worry about is getting the STYLE right. 95% of the time, that will get you the SOUND you want as well.
I’ve given you a recommendation for each of the most common styles.
Any Yamaha with a solid top (make sure it says solid) such as the Yamaha FG700S ($200)
Or if you can afford it, The Seagull S6 ($400 but well worth it)
The guitars above are IDEAL for learning because they’re great sounding, easy on the fingers, have great tone (especially the Seagull), and if that wasn’t enough… they are dirt cheap (for what you get). There’s no way you can go wrong with either of them if your plan is to learn acoustic. Absolutely none.
Note: When it comes to acoustics, I recommend you do NOT go super cheap (unless you know what you’re doing). I’m not joking about this. The results can be painful both physically and emotionally when you’re not able to learn anything. I made this mistake starting out and I regret it 100% (I’ll tell you about this later on). Save yourself the trouble. Get a decent, playable guitar to learn on and you’ll be one step ahead of most beginners who try to go cheap, then end up quitting because it’s too hard to learn (cheap guitars are hard to learn on!).
Remember, choose based on the style you will play most. Take your pick from the choices below. They’re all unbelievable values. Really playable, good tone, and very affordable.
Style #1 – Stratocaster style guitar
Like the kind used by Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc (the list is LONG). Very common in rock, blues, country, and pop. Strats usually have single-coil pickups which produce a sharp, cutting-tone that’s bright and twangy.
The Yamaha Gigmaker ($260).
The advantage of this specific package is that you’ve got everything you need to get started right away: guitar (duh), amp, strings, tuner, guitar cable, picks, gig bag, strap, and instructional DVD. Those of you who just wanna get a guitar and start, this is your choice. Squier also makes similar package, but I recommend this over the Squier because the parts (electronics) are higher quality, although the Yamaha costs a little bit extra.
Now, if you don’t mind spending a little more and buy the guitar, amp, bag, tuner, etc… all separately (and I recommend this), you can get a much higher quality guitar.
A superb guitar for the money, the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V ($300)
Listen, I realize I’m recommending a lot of Yamahas here, but I swear they are just that good when it comes to QUALITY and PRICE. I don’t know why that is, but it’s something a lot of guitar players have discovered. They’re just really good and very affordable. You’ll find a lot of guitars that are better, but they will cost you. I’m recommending every single guitar here for a reason. Keep that in mind.
Style #2 – METAL
If you plan on playing heavier stuff like Metal, Thrash, or anything like that, this section is for you.
The Ibanez Metal Jumpstart package ($300)
Let’s not beat around the bush. The accessories that come with this package (tuner, amp) aren’t the greatest. But they make do. The REAL strength of this package lies solely with the guitar. The guitar is fantastic. Super easy to play (and thus play fast), and to learn on. I’ll explain why that’s important later on. But bottom line, this is a great choice if you want a quick all-in-one package that includes a great guitar.
If you just want a good guitar by itself without the accessories and can pay a little extra, by all means get the next metal guitar I’m gonna recommend. Trust me, you can’t go wrong with this one if your thing is metal.
The Ibanez RG2EX1 Electric Guitar ($300)
Style #3 – Les Paul
Lastly, if you fancy yourself the next Slash, Jimmy Page, or Pete Townshend… you’ll want to pick up a Les Paul style guitar. It’ll get you that classic rock sound that you’re looking for. Les Pauls are equipped with “humbuckers” which produce a fat, meaty sound that’s rounder and less sharp than the single-coil pickups of a strat. The signal is also stronger so you’ll get more sustain.
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II ($200) is a great choice
Check out the Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top ($400-$550)
I feel weird even recommending it as a beginner guitar, because it would work just as well for someone who’s been playing for years. But if you want something that’ll last you for years that you can really be proud of (while at the same time being great for learning), then the Epiphone Les Paul Standard will treat you just right.
Keep reading and I’ll explain why I picked the guitars above.
Does it matter what guitar you learn on?
Years ago, when I first got started learning guitar, I went out and picked the first guitar I could find that was in the color I wanted (blue). I picked the guitar based on how it looked and the fact that I could afford it ($200), but not on much else.
It was the biggest mistake I could make.
You see, the guitar you learn on matters A LOT. It’s the difference between playing your first song in a month and struggling for years to learn anything correctly… or even flat out quitting after a month. It could make or break you.
How could a simple thing like what guitar you learn on have that much of an impact you say?
It’s simple really…
Many beginner guitars (read: cheap) are actually made with low-grade materials…
… and quickly constructed in a shoddy way in overseas factories, where the workers are paid wages so low it would make you appreciate even the worst minimum wage job you could imagine getting here in America. The guitar that gets produced can at best be described as a piece of garbage. That’s if I’m being kind.
Junk guitars like these are made for the sole purpose of selling to unsuspecting beginners. They look very nice on the outside, but sound and feel like hell when you play it. No serious guitarist would ever spend money on such awful instruments.
Unfortunately, I was one of those unsuspecting newbies who fell for this trap. I paid $200 for an Ibanez Acoustic guitar and was totally happy with what I got…
UNTIL I TRIED TO PLAY IT.
Things to avoid when buying a beginner guitar:
- Don’t get a guitar that’s ridiculously difficult to play.
The guitar I got was exactly that. The action was unbearably high (strings too far from guitar fretboard).
- Don’t get a guitar with cheap “woods”.
Any guitar luthier will tell you that the choice of wood is the single MOST IMPORTANT factor that will determine the sound of your guitar. My junk guitar had a body that was made of cheap reconstituted wood shavings instead of actual solid wood. Junk material like that means your sound will also be junk. Any note I played didn’t sustain for more than a single second and it didn’t have that boomy lush sound you normally get from acoustics.
- Don’t get a guitar if the strings buzz or won’t stay in tune.
It wouldn’t matter if Eric Clapton played my guitar. Those strings would still buzz, because the guitar was made haphazardly on an assembly line and was built with flaws from day one. A guitar that goes out of tune after 5 minutes of playing will also become a nightmare.
So after having all these problems I wondered: Is it just me?
Or was all this just normal? Maybe all guitars are just as difficult to play. So I went over and tried playing one of my friend’s guitars… Guess what?
Not only that, the sound was boomy, crisp, clean, and projected across the entire room.
Needless to say, I felt incredibly ripped off.
But you see, that wasn’t the end of it. Not even close. I had already spent $200 on the guitar. Even if it wasn’t the best, I was still determined to learn guitar. So I went ahead and used the piece of junk anyway.
Another HUGE mistake (I’ve made em all it seems).
WARNING: This one mistake caused me years of frustration with guitar. Avoid at your own risk.
You see, learning on a difficult to play guitar is almost like trying to bench 300lbs your first time in the gym.
It won’t work and you’ll probably hurt yourself. One half of the guitar-learning equation is about the physical ability to play it. When tuned properly, those strings have a combined tension of over 100 lbs, believe it or not. That’s a lot of tension your tiny little fingers will have to deal with.
If they’re not strong enough (and most certainly they are not if you’re a beginner), then what will happen is the high tension will cause your hands to GET TIRED extremely fast. You won’t be able to practice for very long. What’s worse is once they become exhausted, they will become TENSE as well and…
You won’t practice accurately.
If you get nothing else besides this one point, you’ll have gotten more out of reading this than $1000 in guitar lessons
Important: NEVER practice guitar without accuracy.
Don’t be sloppy. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Whereas my friend was learning a new song every month and playing it perfectly, I had trouble learning even ONE song properly. It was terrible.
But it wasn’t my fault. It was all because of not knowing the choice of guitar even mattered. But boy does it matter.
Luckily for me, I kept going and eventually learned guitar IN SPITE of the rough start.
I’m here today to save you trouble of going through what I did. Because it’s totally unnecessary and totally avoidable…
Trust me, you will regret it if you practice sloppy. Guaranteed. I’ve been there, done that and I talk to guitarists all the time. I know what always happens to people who practice fast and sloppy (years of struggle).
So to sum it up:
- Get an easy to play guitar (low action) so that you make learning as painless as possible.
- Never practice guitar without accuracy. If your fingers feel stiff, STOP. That’s enough for the day.
How to get started once you own a guitar
Here is the best way to learn guitar starting out: Learn actual music, not techniques.
Should you get a teacher? Depends.
Having a teacher is usually good in the beginning because he can make sure you’re doing things physically right, and answer any questions you have.
However, once you learn HOW to practice correctly,you really don’t need a teacher anymore. That’s really the truth. Some of the best guitarists who ever lived were self taught: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vauhan, etc.
Because the hardest part is learning how to practice. Learning how to PHYSICALLY play something. That’s the part that messes everyone up.
Nobody quits the guitar because the theory was too tough
People quit because they can’t get their fingers to do what they want!
But once you figure out how to train your hands, guitar becomes easy.
- Learn songs you like
- Learn some theory, tie it back to the songs you’ve learned
You need to just do it consistently. Songs themselves have everything you need to master the guitar: new techniques, new theory, etc..
Most importantly, songs teach you in a FUNCTIONAL way. When you learn songs, you are learning new ideas in the FULL CONTEXT of the exact type of music you want to master. This speeds up your learning dramatically faster than learning techniques and theory out of context.
TIP: To shorten your learning curve, lay a solid foundation for mastering various guitar styles, and make long-term progress with your new guitar, take a look at this guitar learning system.
You should practice DAILY consistently for best results. You can still learn without practicing daily, but the progress is dramatically slower. Thats the honest truth.
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I hope you got a lot out of this guide to the “Best Beginner Guitar”.
Talk to you again soon,