By Nejc Vidmar
Ok, so you want to play the guitar, but you don’t know anything about it. Where to start, what kind of a guitar is best for beginners, what to learn first, what are the basics… This are the questions that many kids (and their parents) ask themselves when they want to start playing the guitar. In this article I’ll focus more on the instrument itself, than on actual tips for playing.
There is a popular belief, that it’s best to start on a classical guitar, and when you develop some skills you can switch to acoustic or electric guitar. This belief is simply put – FALSE. Of course, you can go that way, but you need to know a few things about the guitars before you buy one. You should start with the guitar that meets your preferable style(s) the most.
We can roughly divide the types of guitars into 3 categories. Classical, acoustic and electric guitars.
- Classical guitars (or Spanish guitars) are designed in a certain way, to serve a purpose of classical playing style. What that means is that strings are positioned a little bit farther apart from one another. This is because this guitar is primarily meant to be finger picked, so the distance between the strings enables fingers to fit in between. That also means that the neck is a bit wider – it is a bit harder for a beginner to play the chords, and usually the string action is a bit higher than on acoustic or electric guitars. String action is the distance between the guitar neck and the strings. What also sets them apart from the other two types are nylon strings.
- Acoustic guitar is in a way a hybrid between classical and electric. Not completely, but the strings are closer to one another, string action is lower and the neck is more narrow. Also, acoustic guitars have metal strings. But the body is still big, so especially for young players, this sometimes is a problem, because they have to be able to reach over the guitar to be able to play.
- Electric guitars are in my opinion the most comfortable of the three. Body is thinner and often more anatomic to fit your body. String action is low, neck is narrow, and everything seems to be easier to reach. The biggest difference between electric and the other two types of guitars is that they don’t have resonant chambers. This means that you have to have an amplifier to hear the sound. Of course, when you play electric guitar unamplified you can still hear the sound clearly, but way more quiet than on the other two types.
Ok, so now we have divided the types of guitars and emphasized their biggest differences. So which guitar to pick? The best answer would be the one that you would like to play the most. If you like flamenco or something similar, go for the classical guitar. If you like folk music with big strumming sound, then acoustic is probably the best fit for you. If you’re more into rock, blues and other similar styles, start with electric guitar. This might be a bit generalized, but you get the idea. Anyway, in my opinion, electric guitar is the most versatile. On electric guitar, you can learn almost anything you can learn on a classical or acoustic guitar. While the other way around, it doesn’t really work.
Of course, many times (especially) children don’t have developed musical taste and it’s hard to know what kind of guitar would fit their needs the best. In this case I’d recommend to have a meeting with a professional guitar teacher, who can use his or hers experiences to find out what specific kid would actually like to play, and advise you which way to go.
If you know what style you want to play, than you have to find a suitable guitar within a certain type of guitars. My best advice would be to get the one that you feel most comfortable with. Sometimes more expensive isn’t necessarily better. The right guitar is the one you WANT to play. The one you can barely wait to pick up and play. The one that will inspire you.
This article was written by Nejc Vidmar, a professional guitar teacher from Slovenia. In his career as a teacher he saw many guitarists with wrong types of guitars for their needs, and saw some complete transformations by students who switched to guitars which met their playing styles better.