My First Guitar & Buying Your First Guitar

by Chris

January 14, 2020


Last Updated on April 26, 2024 by Chris

Buying your first guitar can be very exciting, but without any prior knowledge, how do you know what guitar to buy?

So, before you actually buy the thing, there are a few things about guitars that you may need to consider beforehand. When I got my first guitar, I knew nothing about choosing one or what considerations I needed to think about.

Before I talk about that though, I’m gonna talk about my own experience of getting my first guitar.

If you’d prefer, go straight to the tips on buying your first guitar. Read on for my story…

How and Why I Got My First Guitar

Before I get into when I got my first guitar, I’ll start with a little bit about me and when I found my love of guitar music.

It was at a time when I was listening to a lot of music on the radio. I was twelve years old and hadn’t got my first guitar yet; I hadn’t even considered it.

Most of what I listened to until this time was the usual pop music and stuff in the charts, but then I discovered hard rock and heavy metal! I loved it and would play air guitar to bands like AC/DC, ZZ Top, Scorpions, Megadeth, Extreme, and more. This was the first time I consciously sought guitar music.

Fast-forward a year or so, I started getting into the British indie music scene; Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Stone Roses, and bands of that ilk. This music was still guitar-driven; many bands drew influence from folk-rock and psychedelic rock from the sixties, the punk movement of the seventies, and the new wave bands of the early eighties.

While being much more guitar-oriented than the pop music I’d previously been listening to, it was still relatively simple, much less complicated than the rock and metal I’d discovered, so it gave me the notion that “I can do that!”.

Those bands had kind of a raw and unpolished sound to them, with a DIY attitude, and it was at this point that I picked up my dad’s old classical guitar, forgotten in the cupboard; he never played it, so I started messing around with it and tried to make my own music.

Obviously, it sounded horrible! I had no idea what I was doing.

Luckily my dad had a couple of old guitar books; also in the cupboard, so I had a read and realized that I was holding the guitar upside down! No wonder it sounded horrible! That and the fact that I didn’t know how to play anything or how to tune the thing up!

I tried turning the guitar the other way up and learning some simple chords from the book, but it felt weird; it was so much more comfortable the other way around. I ended up reversing the strings and playing it the way a normal lefty would… and so began my time as a Lefty Guitarist.

After learning a handful of open and barre chords, and a few strumming patterns, I asked my parents if I could learn to play on my own electric guitar. After all, the bands I listened to played electric, so why not me?

My First Electric Guitar and Guitar Lessons

Being the understanding and supportive parents they are, I was given a brand new Hohner Professional ST59 electric guitar, and a Marathon model mx22 amplifier, along with some guitar lessons. My dad had found a local guitar teacher, who had recommended the ST59 as a good beginner’s guitar.

Hohner ST59 Guitar on a guitar stand

I had no clue as to what “a good beginner’s guitar” was; I definitely have a much better idea of it now, but then I guess I’m not a beginner anymore.

Anyway, I was so happy! Finally, I could start to learn to play properly. I’d only had a few lessons though; at school, my exams were coming up, so my parents had said that I would need to stop my guitar lessons until after my exams were over, and unfortunately, that is where my guitar lessons ended for good. I never went back to them, so I’d only learned a few things, such as a few new chords, the pentatonic major scale, the pentatonic minor scale, and some basic music notation.

Was Self-Teaching the Way to Go?

Over the next five years or so, I didn’t progress much further and was just playing the same stuff I had learned with my guitar teacher five years ago. I wasn’t all that motivated to learn anything new either. I was good enough to work out how to play some music from the bands I listened to, but not nearly enough to be considered good and I couldn’t use the stuff I’d learned previously in a practical way.

However, I still loved the guitar, and often played guitar with my friend and next-door neighbor Steve, who is also left handed, and he played a USA Fender Stratocaster plugged into a Marshall half stack. Steve introduced me to loads of guitar music; mainly blues and blues-rock, so I found a new avenue of inspiration for my playing.

Soon after this time, I was about to head off to university and of course, I took my guitar and amp with me.

While at university I met my friend Neil, who would become one of my housemates the following year. Neil also played the guitar, and when I heard him play, I couldn’t believe how good he was! He also had an American Fender Stratocaster, and a Fender Twin Reverb amp, and his playing was so fast and fluid; I wished I could play as well as him, but I was nowhere near!

This spurred me on to buy some books and teach myself to play better. I bought a lesson book and a couple of guitar tab books of bands I liked at the time and managed to improve a little.

Neil was a big fan of the blues and a massive fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was already into players like Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher and enjoyed blues-based rock like the aforementioned AC/DC, Scorpions, and ZZ Top, but this was the first time that I had ever heard of SRV, but I immediately loved the sound of his music.

This made me want to play the blues, and so I improved on my pentatonic minor scale improvisation and practiced the 12-bar blues that I had learned in my earlier guitar lessons, I slowly but surely progressed, but not by a lot! I still only knew the first position of the pentatonic minor scale.

Looking back, I don’t think self-teaching was the right way to go, not for me anyway; maybe I should have hired a teacher again, but any progress is better than none right?

Since then, I’ve improved quite a lot; I’m still not amazing at playing, but I enjoy it now more than ever. With the internet and YouTube, it’s so much easier to find learning materials, and learning the guitar is accessible to most nowadays. I think I have learned quite a lot over the years, albeit slower than I’d have liked, but I can help any beginners out there.

This leads us to…

Buying Your First Guitar – What To Look For When Choosing

There are a few things you need to ask yourself before you buy your first guitar, so I’ve put together a short list of initial considerations.

  1. Are you naturally a left or right-handed player? – Go to your local guitar store or guitar-playing friend’s house and pick up a guitar and strum. Hold the guitar both the left handed and the right handed way.

    Which way felt most natural to you? I was recently talking to a lefty friend of mine who is considering buying an acoustic guitar, and during the conversation, he mimed playing the guitar. He instinctively used his left hand to strum the imaginary strings.

    I suggest you do the same; try playing air guitar and see which hand you use to strum. Was it your left hand? If so, then you are probably a lefty! If it was your right hand, then you are more likely a more common righty.
  2. What kind of music do you want to play? – What music do you like to listen to? Do you like loud, distorted electric guitar sounds? The soothing sounds of a classical guitar? The funky sound of a slap bass? A singer-songwriter and their acoustic guitar? Look at some live performances of your favorite artists and see what kind of guitars they play. It may give you some ideas.
  3. How much can you afford to spend? – Be aware that if you are going to get an electric guitar or bass, you will not only need to buy the guitar itself, you will also want to budget for an amplifier and guitar cable.

    If you want an acoustic or classical guitar, you may only need the guitar itself, but you may also need accessories like a capo or guitar tuner. You might also want to buy a spare set of strings, so it may be a good idea not to blow it all on the guitar.

    Also factor in whether you want to buy guitar lessons or learning materials, so don’t forget to budget for those.

    I would also buy the best you can afford, and don’t just settle for the cheapest thing that comes your way. If you opt for a cheaper guitar, you will probably want to buy a better one at a later date anyway. However, don’t be pressured by the shop staff into spending more than you can afford; above all else, they are there to sell guitars, and the more you spend, the happier they will be.
  4. Will this guitar feel right for you? – Once you have an idea of which guitars you might like, why not go to your local guitar store and pick up a few and see if you like the feel of them?

    Is it too big? Too heavy? Does it feel right when you sit and play? Is the neck too thick? It’s so important that you’re comfortable when playing your guitar. Also, don’t forget how it looks! Ideally, you’ll want to choose something that looks cool to you; something you’d want to pick up and play when you see it.

    Check out your favorite bands and artists; what do they play? If you have any guitar-playing friends, talk to them too; ask for their opinion on different guitars and what they like. Why not take them with you to a guitar shop?

Go Get That Guitar!

Hopefully, this short list will help point you in the right direction in choosing the right guitar for you. If you still have no idea what guitar to go for, look at some of my recommendations here. Good luck, now go get it!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below.

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