A lot of pupils ask me what guitar they should purchase. The truth is that you do definitely get what you pay for. You can get a bargain second hand, but at the same time if you don’t know what you’re looking for you can end up with a guitar that is badly set up, or even unplayable. If you’re just starting out on guitar, then being ‘easy to play’ is possibly the most important aspect. In the last 10 years, factory-made budget beginner guitars have come a long way in terms of quality and value for money. As you can probably tell from this page, I’m quite a fan of Fender! As well as being excellent, well-made guitars that are easy to play, it’s also probably the most famous brand in the world of guitars, so retains it’s second-hand value very well. I’ve concentrated mainly on starter/beginner guitars on this page, as better players will possibly want something more specific to their tastes/style.
If you wanted a classical guitar which has nylon strings, then you could go for a Fender ESC105 (£97). The nylon strings are easier on the fingers, but do not suit contemporary music as well – rather more traditional, classical, spanish or folk styles.
Children’s guitars tend to be slightly smaller, and also usually have nylon strings which are a little easier on the fingers for young hands. An excellent 3/4 sized guitar is the Fender ESC80. Or if you are willing to spend a little more, there is the Fender MC-1, which is very similar but the wood is higher quality. I’ve had pupils who’ve owned a variety of starter guitars including the popular Jose Ferrer ones, but the strings are much closer to the fretboards on the Fenders and they also stay in tune very well.
It is slightly easier for younger players to start on an acoustic/classical guitar due to the nylon strings being kinder on young fingers. However, if a child especially wanted to play electric guitar then I’d have no problem with that as the extra enjoyment might mean they would practice a lot more and get their fingers used to the thin steel strings anyway. A decent 3/4 sized guitar is the Epiphone Les Paul Express (it is available in sunburst colour too). If you’re willing to spend a little more, there is also the Dean EVO Mini Electric. Also, see notes in the electric guitar section above about whether to buy an amp.
For very young children (approx ages 5-7) it might be worth starting out with a 1/2 sized guitar like the Encore Classical.
Some starter electric guitars:
- Squier Stratocaster – cheap, but solid – this version features a special pickup which can make it more adaptable.
- Ibanez GRG140 – higher quality version of the Stratocaster basically, with free cable
- Epiphone Les Paul 100 – an alternative classic guitar
You will also need something to amplify your electric guitar so that you can hear it properly. Traditionally, this is done with an amp but unless you are willing to spend £100+ on this alone, I would recommend an iRig which allows you to connect your guitar to other speakers or headphones via an app on a phone/tablet. You would also need a guitar cable (whether using an amp or iRig). The guitar amps that come in ‘starter packages’ are usually awful.
There is little point in buying a separate guitar tuning device as you can get apps for your phone/tablet that do the job just as well. The app Guitar Tuna (available for Apple and Android devices) makes it very easy to learn how to tune your instrument.