How To Choose A Guitar For Beginners In 5 Steps

By Jeremy Koering • Updated on June 28, 2022

When you’re thinking about which guitar to buy for a beginner, there are a few things you need to take into account.

You want to make sure the instrument is comfortable to play, ensuring it’s the right size and weight.

You’ll also need to decide what type of guitar is best suited for beginners. This includes considering what style of music or genre you want to play.

This post will show you how to choose a guitar for beginners in 5 easy steps.

Step 1. Choose The Type Of Guitar You Want To Play

The first step in choosing a guitar for beginners is to decide which type of guitar you want to play.

There are three main types of guitars: acoustic, electric, and classical.

Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitars are the most popular type of guitar. They’re well-rounded and versatile, making them a good choice for beginners.

Advantages of Acoustic Guitars

There are many reasons acoustic guitars are great for beginners. For one, they’re easy to carry around, and you can play them anywhere without taking a heavy amplifier with you.

You don’t need many accessories to start playing, just some guitar picks, a guitar strap, and a tuner.

Another reason they’re ideal for beginners is because they’re affordable, and you can find an acoustic guitar for a reasonable price.

Lastly, you can play any genre of music on an acoustic guitar. From pop to country, there’s an acoustic guitar sound for everyone.

Disadvantages of Acoustic Guitars

If you’re buying a guitar for a child, acoustic guitars can be tough to play, using thicker strings than electric guitars.

This can make it difficult for small hands to hold down the strings and create a clear sound.

Small hands will gain strength over time, but it can make playing the guitar very frustrating for the beginner.

If you buy an acoustic guitar, you can’t turn it up or turn it down.

This can be a nightmare for parents buying a guitar for their kids. If the child is playing too loud, you can’t just turn the sound down.

If you want to play with a band, there is no way to amplify your acoustic guitar without purchasing an acoustic guitar pickup or buying an acoustic-electric guitar.

Likewise, you cannot wear headphones like an electric guitar.

Generally speaking, beginner acoustic guitars are poorly constructed and made from cheap materials.

The hollow body of an acoustic guitar makes them more fragile than solid-body electric guitars.

Pros

  • Beginner acoustic guitars are typically less expensive than electric guitars.
  • You can play it anywhere.
  • You don’t need to buy a guitar amp, cables, or other accessories.
  • You can play a variety of genres on an acoustic guitar, including country, rock, pop, and folk.

Cons

  • They can be challenging for beginners because they require more finger strength.
  • You can’t turn it down or wear headphones.
  • You can’t connect it to an amplifier (unless it’s an acoustic-electric guitar or you purchase an acoustic guitar pickup).
  • It’s easier to damage an acoustic guitar than an electric guitar.

Electric Guitar

Electric guitars are perfect for those who want to rock out. An electric guitar is the way to go if you’re into rock’n’roll, hard rock, or jazz.

Advantages of an Electric Guitar

Electric guitars use a lighter gauge of guitar string and have less tension than an acoustic guitar, making them remarkably easy to play.

This is especially good for beginners with weak or small hands.

They are great for kids because they play with headphones. They can practice without being noisy or distracting those around them, making it easier for everyone in the house!

Electric guitars are very versatile. Electric guitars also have a more comprehensive range of sounds that you can create using different effects pedals, computer programs, and guitar amps.

You can make your electric guitar sound like anything, which allows you to be more creative.

Electric guitars are also very versatile. You can play any style of music on an electric guitar, from jazz to metal.

If you want to play with a band, you can plug your electric guitar into an amplifier and rock out.

Disadvantages of an Electric Guitar

Electric guitars require a guitar amplifier and cables, which can add to the cost of the instrument. If you’re on a tight budget, adding all the accessories to play an electric guitar can be very expensive.

They are also heavier than acoustic guitars, making them difficult to play for small bodies.

I discourage learning how to play an electric guitar because the transition from an electric to an acoustic is much more challenging than an acoustic to an electric.

Because electric guitars are easier to play, they don’t build as much strength in hand and fingers that most acoustic guitars require.

Similar to beginner acoustic guitars, beginner electric guitars are made with cheap parts, and it’s not uncommon for cheap electronics to fail.

If the electronics fail on your electric guitar, you won’t be able to amplify any sound.

Pros

  • Electric guitars are more accessible to play than acoustic or classical guitars.
  • You can use headphones.
  • Electric guitars are versatile, and you can purchase guitar pedals to change the tones, effects, and sounds of the guitar.
  • You can play just about any style or genre of music.
  • You can turn up the volume and play with a band with an amplifier.

Cons

  • Electric guitars are more expensive than acoustic guitars.
  • They require additional accessories and gear like an amp, guitar cables, and more.
  • They are heavier than acoustic guitars.
  • It can be hard to transition to acoustic guitars if you learn on an electric guitar because the lighter strings don’t strengthen the hand and fingers as much.
  • Beginner electric guitars are often made with poor electronics that may fail.

Classical Guitar

Classical guitars are typically used for classical and flamenco music. They have a mellower sound more than other types of guitars.

Advantages of a Classical Guitar

Classical guitars are the most affordable type of guitar, and a classical guitar is an excellent option if you’re on a budget.

The nylon strings on a classical guitar are softer, making them easier on the fingers than steel-stringed acoustic or electric guitars.

This is especially important for beginners who have not yet built up calluses on their fingers. The nylon strings also have less tension, making them easier to press down.

This is an excellent type of guitar for small hands or those with arthritis because it doesn’t require as much strength to play.

Classical guitars have a beautiful, unique sound that is different from other guitars.

If you’re looking for an instrument with a mellower sound, a classical guitar may be right.

If you’re interested in playing acoustic or electric guitars, learning on a classical guitar will build solid muscles and finger dexterity in your hand.

Disadvantages of a Classical Guitar

Classical guitars feel totally different than other types of guitars. They’re not designed to be played the same way as acoustics or electrics.

The guitar necks on beginner classical guitars are often thicker, making them more challenging to wrap your hand around.

While nylon strings are softer than other guitar strings, it will take a long time for your fingers to develop calluses with them.

Classical guitars are often fingerpicked and strummed differently than other guitars, limiting the versatility for beginners.

It’s not easy playing popular genres of music with a classical guitar because the mellower sound doesn’t fit those genres.

If you’re interested in playing rock or pop music, a classical guitar is probably not the best choice.

Pros

  • Classical guitars are a lot cheaper than acoustic guitars or electric guitars.
  • Nylon strings are softer than steel strings, so it’s easier for beginners to play.
  • Classical guitars have a very distinct sound and style of play.
  • Classical guitars build strong hand muscles that can transition to any type of guitar without any problems.

Cons

  • Classical guitars feel totally different than any other guitar.
  • Often classical guitars have thick guitar necks, which can be challenging for small hands to play.
  • It takes a long time to build calluses on your fingers with nylon strings.
  • They are not versatile and are limited to classical, flamenco, hybrid, and folk styles of music.

Step 2. Choose The Right Size & Shape

Guitar manufacturers make guitars in three sizes: Full Size, ¾ Size, and ½ Size. These smaller guitars are made specifically for people with small bodies, small hands, or children.

Full Size

A full size guitar is about 40″ by 15″ inches with a 25″ to 25.5″ neck. This is the size of a guitar most people think of when they imagine a guitar.

Most adults and kids above the age of 13 should be able to play a full size guitar with relative ease.

We recommend buying a full size guitar if you’re over 5’4″ tall (165 cm).

A full size guitar will have a fuller sound and better projection than a ¾ size or ½ size guitar.

Ideal For

  • Adults and kids over 5’4″ tall
  • Live Concerts

3/4 Size

A ¾ size guitar is about 36″ by 14″ inches with a 23.5″ to 24″ neck. These guitars are slightly smaller in stature and are great for kids and smaller adults, and they make great travel guitars.

This size is perfect for young beginners and adults between 4’1″ (125 cm) and 5’4″ (165 cm) tall.

These guitars are more accessible to hold and play with than full-size guitars.

In general, a ¾ size guitar doesn’t have a big sound, and it’s quieter than its full size siblings.

Ideal For

  • Adults and kids that are between 4’1″ to 5’4″ tall
  • People that have small hands
  • Travel

1/2 Size

A ½ size guitar is about 30″ to 34″ inches with a 21″ neck. These mini guitars are made for very small hands.

This size is made for people under 4’1″ (125 cm) tall. They’re lightweight and easy to play with small hands.

Many of them don’t have much sound or tone and don’t project very loud. These guitars aren’t made for the stage.

Ideal For

  • Adults and kids that are less than 4’1″ tall
  • People that have very small hands

Step 3. Choose Your Budget

Your budget will dictate the quality of guitar you can afford.

In general, you get what you pay for with guitars, and the less you spend, the lower the quality of the guitar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a great guitar at an affordable price.

Some decent entry-level guitars won’t break the bank but will still allow you to learn and enjoy playing the guitar.

Kids will outgrow their ¾ and ½ size guitars.

If you buy a smaller guitar for your child, they will outgrow it. I would recommend buying a name brand if you plan to resell the guitar when they grow out of it.

A name brand like Fender, Yamaha, or Taylor will retain its resell value better than small or unknown brands.

If your budget is $400, a great ¾ beginner’s guitar is the Baby Taylor. This guitar can last a lifetime, has excellent sound, and can be kept as a travel guitar for years to come.

Step 4. Choose Your Accessories

There are a couple of guitar accessories you’ll need to get started. If you buy an electric guitar, you will need a guitar amplifier.

The first thing we recommend is a sturdy guitar case. A guitar case will protect your guitar from dings, scratches, and the elements.

The second is a guitar tuner. A guitar tuner will help you keep your guitar in tune.

There are many different types of guitar tuners, but we recommend a simple clip-on tuner that attaches to the headstock of your guitar.

The third is a metronome. A metronome will help you keep time while you’re practicing.

The fourth is a guitar stand. A guitar stand will help you keep your guitar safe and out of the way when you’re not playing it.

The fifth is a set of guitar strings. Guitar strings will eventually break and will need to be replaced.

Finally, we recommend a guitar strap. A guitar strap will help you keep your guitar in place while playing.

You can buy many other accessories for your guitar, but these are the essential items we recommend for beginners.

Step 5. Start Playing!

Now that you know the basics of how to choose a guitar for beginners, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice.

Start by thinking about what type of music you want to play and what guitar style will be best suited for that genre.

Consider your budget and factor in the cost of accessories like a case, tuner, metronome, and stand.

Once you have all of that figured out, it’s time to take the plunge and start practicing! 

If you can’t afford formal lessons or don’t have the time, there are a lot of great free resources on YouTube. I recommend checking out these YouTubers who can teach you how to play your new guitar:

How To Choose A Guitar For Beginners FAQ

Here are common questions we receive about buying your first guitar:

It depends on the person. The best guitar for a beginner is the one that’s the most comfortable for them to play.

There are a lot of different guitars out there, so it really comes down to finding the one that feels good in your hands and sounds good to your ears. You might want to try a few different guitars at your local music store before deciding which one to buy.

Whatever guitar you choose, make sure you take some time to practice regularly to get better at playing it. The more you practice, the better you’ll become, and eventually, you’ll be able to start playing some songs that you love.

I recommend buying a full size guitar unless you’re buying for a child. A full-size guitar has a larger body and produces a fuller sound.

If you’re buying for a child, I recommend getting a ¾ size or ½ size guitar, and these guitars are smaller in size and perfect for kids just starting out.

If you’re not sure whether a full-size guitar is right for you, consider trying out a few different sizes at your local music store before purchasing.

There isn’t necessarily a “better” way to start playing guitar – it ultimately comes down to personal preference. I would recommend starting with an acoustic guitar for a few reasons. 

For one, acoustic guitars are generally more affordable than electric guitars, so they’re a good option if you’re on a budget. They’re also more straightforward in construction and upkeep – no need to worry about things like amplifiers or cables. 

Another reason I would recommend starting with an acoustic guitar is because they tend to build bet muscles and strength in your hand, which translates across all guitars.

The best guitar is the one that you enjoy playing the most. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheap or expensive guitar, as long as you’re happy with it and enjoy yourself when you play.

There are a lot of different guitars out there, so it’s essential to do your research and find the one that fits your style and your budget. There are electric guitars, acoustic guitars, classical guitars, and more, so take your time and find the right one for you. And above all else, have fun!

Absolutely! Anyone can teach themselves to play guitar if they have the patience and dedication.

When starting out, the most important thing is to find a guitar that’s comfortable for you to play. You don’t need an expensive guitar to start – any acoustic will do. If you don’t have time or can’t afford lessons, head to YouTube and search go guitar lessons. You’ll find a lot of great free lessons that will help set you on the right path and keep you from making common mistakes.

With a bit of practice, you’ll be playing your favorite songs in no time!

Jeremy Koering

I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have worked in the Nashville music industry. I'm a fan of rock, blues, jazz, and country.

Published on June 1, 2022 by Jeremy Koering