As a guitar teacher I was often asked “What kind of guitar should I get myself, my son / daughter to learn to play on?” This is a very loaded question. Often it’s to get an answer to the debate between the parent and the child of whether it’s better to learn on an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar. What’s the real answer?
To start, the parent is often concerned about the interest level of the child or themselves. Then they’re often wondering about price. Then they’re curious as to which type of guitar is easier to play and/or learn on. Obviously they don’t wish to spend money on an expensive guitar only to find out that a couple of months later that they or their child is no longer interested in playing. All are valid questions and concerns.
When I answer this question about choosing the guitar to learn on, I start with the question – what style of music are you most interested in playing? This question goes a long way to determine which direction to point someone for purchasing a guitar.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking at playing most styles of rock you’re looking at some sort of electric style guitar. If you’re looking at playing singer/songwriter or folkier style of music, then you’re more likely to want an acoustic guitar.
More often than not a child is interested in playing some sort of rock guitar. This desire stems from seeing the artists they love to listen to and we all know that pop and rock are generally top of the heap for the “cool” factor. Knowing this it becomes a question of what electric guitar is going to give a great learning experience. Also know that with an electric guitar the concern is how to hear when playing. Electric guitars do require amplification in order to truly be heard.
Knowing what makes it easier to sit and play, I’m going to start off by saying any classic Fender style body is going to be your best bet. Starting out with an odd body style like a flying V is not going to enhance the ease of sitting down to learn to play.
There are many makes of Fender style electric guitars including, Fender, Ibanez, Washburn, Gibson, ESP, Ernie Ball, Taylor Guitars (yes they make electric guitars) and many more. Plus there are many niche electric guitar makers. Thus you’re purchasing not only the idea of a rock guitar, but also the look and feel of the instrument.
This is often the choice of the cost conscious parent or player. The reason is acoustic guitars are self contained and don’t require an amp to be heard. Despite this, most people think they’re a little harder to learn to play on.
Body styles for acoustic guitars are fairly standard and that makes them easier to sit and play. Size of the guitar becomes a concern for people as jumbo acoustics will be harder for a child to play on and is the main thing to think about for purchase.
Like electric guitars, there are a lot of acoustic manufacturers. Some of the better models for beginners are made by Taylor Guitars, Martin, Gibson, Washburn, and many more that are niche.
No matter what style of guitar you’re looking for it is highly recommended that you spend time at your local guitar store trying out various models of guitar to get a feel for the instruments. Some guitars will feel more comfortable, some won’t. You want to buy a guitar that feels comfortable and plays well for you. Otherwise you won’t enjoy playing, which ends up reducing your desire to learn.