Choosing your first musical instrument...
From time to time, I'll get a call from a prospective student (or parent) that would like to learn how to play but have not bought an instrument. They're looking for guidance on which instrument to buy, how much to spend, acoustic guitar vs. electric guitar, etc.
If this is where you are, here are the three most asked (and discussed) questions...
HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND?
Regardless of being a child student or and adult hobbyist, the main question is "how much should I spend?".
To determine this amount, you need to understand that, in most cases, the more the instrument costs, the better the instrument is.
What this means to a beginner is that it will usually be easier to fret the notes on the neck, it will hold its' tune better, the hardware (tuners, pickups) are of a higher quality, better construction and wiring, and better tone woods.
Each one of these will help you sound better and minimize the frustration you'll encounter as you try to teach yourself a new skill. And while there are several companies that produce quality beginner instruments, there are others that make instruments for an insanely low price, and the low price comes at the detriment of the playability of the instrument (high strings, low quality tuners that constantly go out of tune, bad soldering on the electronics, etc.)
So, if the price seems too good to be true, your likely looking at an instrument that will force you to upgrade very quickly to a better instrument, or worse, make you give up playing because it's unplayable (to which you think you are the problem, not the instrument.
ACOUSTIC OR ELECTRIC GUITAR?
This question mostly comes from parents.
"I've always heard you should start on the acoustic guitar and then move on to the electric guitar"
Well, it is "mostly" is up to the student...
First, both acoustic and electric guitars have the same number of strings, six strings. Both are tuned the same way and to the same notes (EADGBe). You'll hold your pick the same for both. You'll fret notes the same on both. The chords and scales you play will be the same for both. See the similarities?
There are some differences, such as the overall size (acoustic guitars are larger/deeper bodied than electrics), string gauges (string thickness - acoustics have thicker strings, electrics thinner), easy of "playing" (acoustic, just grab and play. Electric - plug into the amp, turn it on, adjust volume, play).
*A side note, you don't need an amp to practice with an electric guitar. You can hear yourself just fine at bedroom volumes. The amp is necessary when playing with others.
So when I mentioned it comes down to the student, what that means is you should buy the instrument that grabbed your interest in the first place.
For example, let's say you love Alan Jackson and want to wear a cowboy hat, strum a big acoustic guitar and sing about Friday Nights and heartbreaks. Well, you need to get yourself an acoustic guitar. On the other hand, you saw this guy named Slash playing a ripping guitar solo on a low slung electric Gibson Les Paul and that's what you want to do. Well, get an electric guitar.
From my experience teaching over the last two decades, adults generally follow this rule. And for kids, nothing will cause them to not practice when they don't want to more than having to play that 'dumb guitar' mom bought me when I wanted to play the other kind.
What should I get with the instrument?
We're talking accessories here.
When you've picked out your instrument, make sure it comes with the following items. And if it doesn't add them before checking out.
Instrument Case / Gig Bag
Hard shell cases provide the most protection when traveling with the instrument (ex. to lessons, friends house to rehearse, gigs) but cost more. Gig bags are cheaper, easier to carry around, but offer less protection. Go with the gig bag if the instrument rarely leaves the house (like to guitar lessons and back home).
Electronic Clip on Tuner
Stringed instruments must be tuned, often. No way around it. Tuning is simply a part of the game, so to speak. And these days, it's never been easier to tune with the clip on tuners on the market. They clip on to the headstock, feel the vibration of the string, and tell you the note. From there, if you know how to tune, simple tighten/loosen the tuning peg on the instrument to get to the right pitch.
As an instructor, I often see students struggling with holding onto their instruments while trying to put their fingers in the right place and pick. A strap will hold the instrument in place so that you have one less thing to focus on when practicing.
Yes, you can play with your fingers. But unless you are pursuing classical guitar, you'll often start with a pick. Make sure you get a handful of picks because they do disappear on you (often in the couch, dryer, alternate universes, etc.).
If you're in the Panama City or Panama City Beach area and are considering buying an instrument and learning how to play, reach out to me. I'd love to help you out and work with you as a student!
Blue Heron Music Studio is located in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Offering Music Lessons, Guitar Lessons, Bass Lessons, and Ukulele lessons.
Call or Email to schedule a free trial lesson.