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Choosing the Right Guitar

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Choosing the Right Guitar

So, you’ve been thinking about learning the guitar. Maybe you saw one at a friend’s house last month and it sparked your curiosity. Or, you came across someone playing a cover of your favourite song on Youtube and thought “well, I could probably do that.” It’s been a few weeks of hmming and hawing but here you are! You’ve decided it’s finally time to take the plunge and learn the guitar. But there’s just one problem… which guitar is right for you? There are a lot of options and it can be overwhelming to know what’s best, but don’t worry- here at Long and McQuade we’ve got you covered! Here’s everything you need to know about finding the right guitar for you, whether that be an acoustic guitar, a classical guitar or an electric guitar.

 

Your Guitar Options

There are three main types of guitars that are best for learning: acoustic (steel string), classical (nylon string) and electric guitars. Acoustic and electric guitars have narrow necks and are strung with steel strings. Classical guitars have nylon strings and traditionally have wider necks. Acoustic and classical guitars do not require any amplification or power and can be played easily in any space. This makes them a great option as travel guitars or guitars for writing as they can be easily picked up. Electric guitars require a few extra accessories in order to work, the most important of which is an amplifier. Because of this they are not as easily carried around but they create a very powerful sound that stands oceans apart from its acoustic cousins. Choosing the best guitar for you depends on… well… you! Are you a singer looking to accompany yourself? Is your ear drawn to the tasty riffs of your favourite musical artist and you just NEED to know how they make those crazy sounds? Are you patient? Easily deterred? Do you want to take  guitar lessons or use books to teach yourself?

The more you know about what you are looking to learn and how you learn the easier it is to choose the right guitar. It’s important to ask yourself the right questions but don’t worry! We’re going to go through the main questions you need to ask yourself and, by the end of this article, we are confident you’ll understand the right type of guitar for you. 

 

Nylon Strings vs Steel Strings-Which is Right for You?

Guitars come strung with either nylon or steel strings. If you buy a nylon string guitar it is not recommended you swap out the strings for ones made of steel. Each guitar is built differently to accommodate a specific amount of tension and switching the type of string risks damaging the instrument. Knowing whether to choose a nylon string guitar vs a steel string guitar normally depends on what musical style you are looking to play, however in certain cases it may be better for beginner players to start with a nylon guitar regardless of the style you are trying to learn. Nylon string guitars are generally much easier to play and get used to. Nylon strings are both softer and lighter weight so they are easy to press down and will allow you more comfort as you move through the initial period of learning chords and building calluses on your fingers. Nylon string guitars are traditionally made with wide necks (these are known more popularly as classical guitars) but there are a few brands that make nylon string guitars with narrow necks. These can be great if you are planning to transition eventually to steel string and want to get accustomed to the narrower neck. The Epiphone Classical E1 Guitar is a great example of a beginner nylon string guitar with a narrow neck.

 

The Epiphone E1 has a thinner neck which is more similar to a folk or electric guitar.

 

Acoustic (Steel String) Guitar

The acoustic guitar is the basic starting place for most guitarists. They are very popular and chances are you’ve seen or heard an acoustic guitar at some point in your life. Heck, you might have even picked one up at a neighbor’s home and strummed it once or twice before putting it back down and running away. Almost everyone and their grandma has at some point owned and then lost, or let fall to waste, an acoustic guitar. They are one of the most popular instruments to learn music on. They also are a great gateway into other types of guitars because they help you build a solid foundation of music theory knowledge (learning chords to play songs) and rhythm (learning how to strum along to your favourite tunes) that will only advantage you as you learn other instruments. 

 

The acoustic guitar can be heard front and center in the genres of folk, country and bluegrass. You can also hear it colouring the tunes of rock, pop and blues music as well. Famously we’ve seen many musicians play acoustic guitars such as Joni Mitchell, Robert Johnson, Tracy Chapman. Bob Dylan who  is famous for playing a Martin 00-17 (similar to the Martin 00-15m) and a Martin D-28.

 

Acoustic guitar is a great place to start learning your basic fundamentals, like how to develop good strumming and picking patterns. You can also get better at transitioning between chords so you can play a song in full. The acoustic guitar comes in a variety of different body shapes and sizes and what you choose depends on the sound you’re looking for and what is most comfortable for you. Bigger body shapes give you a fuller sound and can be great for genres like country, pop or rock but can be difficult to play if you have shorter arms or a smaller stature. Smaller body shapes have a beautiful clarity in sound in the higher frequency range so they can be great if you’re looking to play more fingerstyle or folk. They also are a bit more comfortable to sit with, especially if you’ll be playing in an informal setting (like your couch.) 

 

The acoustic guitar is a great guitar to start learning on if you’re just dipping your toes into the guitar world and want to lay down a basic musical foundation. It can get you started with more than enough skills to get you strumming at the campfire or a local open mic stage. It can be great for beginners who are keen to take the fast track to playing an instrument and don’t need or aren’t looking for a super in depth musical education. It’s also the best option for singers looking to accompany themselves or burgeoning songwriters looking to add music alongside their written lyrics. There’s a traditional saying coined by Harlan Howard that country music is just ‘three chords and the truth’. With the acoustic guitar all you need is three chords and you’re well on your way to writing and playing like the greats.  

 

 

 

 

The Denver DD44S is an excellent choice for a beginner want to learn acoustic guitar.  It is also available in ½ size and ¾ size for kids or those wanting a smaller guitar.

 

Classical (Nylon String) Guitar 

It’s best to think of the classical guitar as the historic older sibling of the acoustic guitar; it has much older roots and been around since the 16th century. If you are someone who thrives on more traditional academic structures and are looking to build a well-rounded and thorough musical education, then you’ll most likely enjoy learning to play the classical guitar. A genre in and of itself, classical guitar is a distinct style of playing and has evolved through centuries. In learning classical guitar, you are gaining a great and deep foundation as you will most likely learn to read written music.   Your daily or weekly lessons with scales and finger exercises. No doubt these practices can be a part of the learning experience with acoustic and electric guitars as well, but they aren’t as necessary to those particular styles of playing. Classical pieces are challenging and you will thoroughly enjoy feeling the coordination between your left and right hand develop as you play increasingly difficult pieces. Classical guitar is a great starting place for younger players who wish to establish a bedrock foundation or older players wanting to stimulate their brains in a new way while playing. 

 

 

Electric Guitar

The electric guitar (aka the rebellious cousin of the acoustic guitar) hit the scene in the 30s and boy did it make a splash. The electric guitar is now a widely popular instrument and one of the most exciting to start learning on. It is strung with steel strings and uses much lighter string gauges than acoustic guitar. For this reason, it is easier to play and won’t cause as much finger fatigue when practicing. You will also have a great time traveling up and down the neck at faster speeds because of the light strings and slim neck design. It is easier to hold down your basic chords because of the lower tension in the strings and you will never run out of ways to explore the plethora of ‘riffs’ and ‘‘licks’ that exist from decades of rich music catalogs including the very popular rock music genre. The body size of electric guitars tend to be smaller than acoustics which also adds to the comfortability of playing.  

 

Electric guitar can be a great instrument if you’re wanting to jam with others or want to rip a solo and feel like a rock God/Goddess. Or maybe, on a more relaxed level, you’re interested in exploring interesting and complex ethereal soundscapes in which case you’ll enjoy getting to learn the different types of guitar pedals that can alter and enhance your guitar tone. Reverb, delay, chorus (to name a few) and the list goes on and on. If that sentence didn’t overwhelm you then it just may be that you are suited to learning the electric guitar.

 

Electric guitar was primarily used in the jazz genre through the 1930s but it rose further to prominence and became a staple of the popular music genre in the 50s and 60s. Now we find the use of electric guitar across genres like rock, blues, country, pop, jazz, metal and folk.  

 

The electric guitar really encourages experimentation while learning a new instrument and style. You’ll find curious adventures with every new song as you try to lift particular sounds and replicate them on your pedals at home. It’s never a dull moment and the treasure hunt never ends as an electric guitar player. 

 

The Kramer Focus VT-211S is an excellent choice for any guitarist, especially beginners!

 

Electric Guitar Amplification

Electric guitars do need some kind of amplification.  There are many different sizes and shapes of guitar amps.  Small amplifiers like the Fender Frontman 10G are compact yet loud enough to rock the house! 

 

So Now What?

The world of guitars is full of fun opportunities to learn! To circle back on where we started, learning guitar is a great adventure but the only person who can tell you which direction to take is you! The best place to start is with the sound of your favourite artist, the one who inspires you to learn. Try to listen to the songs you enjoy and figure out what about them is interesting to you. If you are finding yourself naturally drawn into a piece of music then you should lean in and try to understand why. Decide upon the skills you want to develop. It can help to picture yourself down the road as a guitar player and try to imagine what you will look like. What style are you playing? Who do you sound like? What ability do you have? And if you’re still uncertain what might be the best guitar for you then don’t be afraid to ask for help. Here at Long and McQuade we’re available to answer any and all questions you have about starting your guitar journey and we’re just one call away!

 

 


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