Choosing a beginner guitar

Want to learn to play the guitar? Lately we have been astonished at the quality of some of the budget/beginner acoustic guitars coming through from the likes of Ibanez and Fender; these cost around £100 and look to have a good spec – solid spruce tops and decent necks and tuners – which should be good for the beginner or those on a tight budget.

The accepted wisdom is that the more you pay the more you get but with today’s manufacturing processes, access to decent components and Far East costs, you can get some good guitars for little money. Not like when I was a teenager when the budget guitars were terrible – poor action and intonation and a ‘thin’ sound. You either gave up because it was so hard to play or you quickly bought a better guitar! When you first start, parents, naturally, don’t want to spend a lot on a first guitar for you just in case it is a passing phase!

I have played a couple of these budget guitars from the major brands and they aren’t too bad! You should avoid though, some of the unknown Chinese made brands you might see in some non instrument retailers – blue and pink guitars for £50-90. These look to have poor finishing, cheap feeling components and probably have a nasty sound.

So how do the major brands do it? Are these loss leaders to hook players in? Or can you genuinely make a reasonable guitar for £15-20? (the cost to manufacture something is generally one sixth of the retail price).

It’s a little different with electric guitars as the components – pickups, electric and hardware – have a greater impact on the sound. Changing the strings and setting it up right may make a big difference and turn a budget guitar into something half-decent…or will it? Again the major brands do produce some reasonable electrics for just over a £100 – Squier and Yamaha comes to mind – and bargains can be had. But again there are some unknown budget brands that just look – and will sound and feel – terrible.

But here’s the rub; as a beginner would you know? And as a beginner if you can play well on one of these then you can play anything…..

To choose a beginner or ‘starter’ guitar try and find one from one of the well known manufacturers; for around £100 you can have an electric from, for example Fender/Squier, EXP, Westfield, Stagg and Deacon and if you go up to £150 you can add Epiphone, Yamaha, Ibanez and Washburn to that list. Acoustic guitars from Epiphone, Ibanez and Fender/Squier start from around £100.

A lot of these manufacturers produce ‘starter packs’ which will include accessories and most of what you need to start playing. For an electric this will include a practice amp, lead, tuner and plectrums. These can be had from Epiphone, Fender/Squire, Lindo, Encore and Westfield.

Your choice of guitars in the £100 to £150 range is large with all the major manufacturers producing models in this range, so you should find one for you.

Links to Gear Pages:

Acoustic Guitars
Electric Guitars
Bass Guitars