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The wrong guitar can stunt your musical growth.

Getting The Right Guitar

It's tough to learn guitar if you have the wrong instrument. Whether you're just starting out as a beginner guitar player, or you're looking for a new instrument, make sure you choose the right tool. Although your guitar is just the dumb machine, the right sound and feel will help you achieve musical fulfillment.


Check list:

  • Make sure the guitar is in good condition:
    • Check to see if the neck is straight.
    • Check out the action height.
  • Make sure the guitar has good intonation.
  • Do you like the way it sounds?
  • Do you like the way it feels?

Acoustic guitar versus electric guitar

Choosing between an electric and acoustic can be as simple as figuring out what sort of music you enjoy, then choosing the guitar that best represents that. You might want to learn how to play both acoustic and electric guitars. If you're budget will only stretch to one, then an electric guitar might be a bit more versatile. You can more successfully play acoustic guitar music on an electric guitar than play hard rock on an acoustic.

When learning how to play electric guitar, it's all about features

Do you like the sound of single coil pickups or humbuckers?

Single coils sound brighter but some folks think they sound "thin" and they are more likely to buzz and "feed back". Humbuckers are generally quieter but many people think they sound "muffled". Humbuckers are more popular with folks learning how to play guitar with distortion. Fender guitars (like the "Strat") are more often equipped with single coils. Gibson guitars (like the "Les Paul") more often feature humbuckers.

Do you want to learn how to play a guitar that has a tremelo system (whammy bar) or not?

This is that thin handle that sticks out of the bridge on some guitars. It is a lever that tightens or loosens the strings to create a pitch "wobble" effect. Many interesting players (including Jimi Hendrix) swear by them but they might throw your guitar out of tune. If you don't see yourself using it, you're better off learning how to play a guitar that doesn't have one. You'll stay in tune easier. More expensive guitars have better tremolo systems (such as the Floyd Rose Locking System) that do stay in tune. You'll want to learn to adjust your electric or acoustic guitar so you can keep it's various features up to spec.

Getting the right amplifier for your electric guitar


Check list:

  • Good reverb.
  • Good tone control.
  • Good distortion, if you're going to be playing hard rock.

To learn how to play electric guitar, you'll need an amplifier. There are so many different types that it's hard to tell you what to get. Check out your friends and guitar heros to find out what they play. Make sure your amp has good reverb (electronic reverberation). Amps that don't have it can sound "sterile". Make sure it has good tone control (treble, mid, bass). If you want to learn how to play hard rock guitar, make sure the amp has good distortion and learn how to adjust it.

You'll want to learn about effects like Amp Modeling, Chorus, Flange. Phase, Delay, Pitch Shift, Wah-Wah, Compression, Noise Gate and EQ. Many modern amplifiers have effects built right in. Otherwise you might want to invest in some stomp boxes that you plug into your signal chain to add individual effects.

If you don't know anything about guitars ask a friend or sales person to check the guitar out for you.

-Scotty West, guitar teacher and creator of the Absolutely Understand Guitar Video Lesson Program