Are you interested in buying your first electric guitar?
It’s no secret that buying your first electric guitar can be a frustrating experience.
Since you’re a beginner, it’s hard to know which model or manufacturer to start with.
You can’t say whether you need certain features or not.
Heck, you might not even understand the basic parts of an electric guitar yet.
Buying your first electric guitar can be a fun experience if you think of it as an adventure.
Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for right away.
Or maybe you’ll take your time, and search for an electric guitar you love.
Either way, it’s your own personal experiment, your own journey.
Finding what suits you best, the features you like, that comes with time and experience.
Until then, follow these steps, and you’ll be buying your first electric guitar in no time.
Check it out!!
- Set an Initial Budget
- Choose a Design and Features
- Make Sure You’re Buying the Right Electric Guitar
- Final Things to Consider Before Purchase
Buying Your First Electric Guitar: Set an initial budget
Buying your first electric guitar can be a challenge.
People often ask how much they should spend or how much it costs.
That’s the wrong way to look at it.
If you’re serious about learning the guitar it’s an investment of your time and money.
That’s why it’s important to set an initial budget before you do just about anything else.
When you’ve set your budget, you can raise or lower it based on what you discover you like.
You must think about your money and also about the time involved.
If you have plenty of money to spend, you might want to think about lowering your budget.
Plus, once you’ve started playing you’ll discover lots of things to spend money on.
As a beginner, you’ll soon find out you need to try different strings and guitar picks to find the right one for you.
That’s something you can’t do until you’ve started.
So set an initial budget, an amount of money you’re willing to spend to buy an electric guitar.
Don’t count on being able to recoup your money either.
Some people buy a guitar and figure they can sell it later if they don’t like it.
But if you bought a very inexpensive guitar it’s unlikely you’ll get all of your money back.
Plus, there’s the time you spend finding the right guitar for you.
Consider an acoustic or classical guitar if your budget starts to get tight.
They tend to cost less and make great starter guitars.
Or maybe you’ll choose to wait and increase your budget.
What if I’m unsure or just trying it out?
Spending less money on your first electric guitar might be the way to go.
If you’re not sure you’re gonna stick with it or maybe just want to try it out, it’s better to go with a low-cost option.
A smaller budget will let you get started without risking too much money.
Plus, when you do try out playing electric guitar and if you find out it’s for you, you can always upgrade to a better or nicer guitar later.
Lower-cost options let you get started without much hassle.
The less you spend when you start the easier it is to decide it’s not for you.
A smaller budget doesn’t mean you have no options.
It just means you’re more interested in staying within a budget and need to make some trade-offs.
Starting with a classical or an acoustic guitar can be cheaper and easier than starting with an electric guitar.
For less than you’d think, you can get an acoustic guitar that plays well and fill your needs.
Then you can find out if you enjoy playing the guitar.
If you do, you can learn the basics and “upgrade” to electric at a later date.
At that point, you’ll have some experience and can make a more informed decision as to your first electric guitar.
Plus, you’ll be able to start playing electric guitar already knowing your basics.
Will spending more get me a better guitar?
You’re not guaranteed to get a better electric guitar by spending more money.
Beyond a certain price, you’re paying for things a beginner doesn’t need.
In some cases, these things could even hamper a beginner’s progress.
Things like exotic tonewoods cost more so a more expensive guitar may have, for instance, an ebony fretboard.
Beginners don’t need a guitar with an ebony fretboard.
Same thing with features like a Floyd Rose Tremolos.
They’re amazing and fun to play, but the extra steps necessary to set one up can be too much for beginners.
If a guitar has extra features or stuff you don’t understand, you don’t need them.
Later on, when you’ve gained some experience, you’ll much better understand why someone would want a guitar with these features.
A big mistake would be to spend more money than you’re comfortable with expecting a headache-free guitar.
Even expensive guitars can be disappointing if they’re not set up correctly.
Then you need to spend even more money to have it set up.
It would have been better to buy a cheaper guitar and spend the difference on an amp, accessories, and a setup.
Plus, beginners won’t understand or may even notice the difference in tonewoods.
A professional or advanced player may understand the difference between a maple fretboard and an ebonite one.
But a beginner doesn’t have enough experience to know yet.
What about the low-priced electric guitars I’ve seen online?
A good, low-cost guitar can be a hit-or-miss option.
If you’re buying a very low-cost guitar you must keep your expectations in check.
The manufacturers don’t spend as much time checking the guitars since that involves expensive manual labor.
If you’re realistic about your expectations, you can get a good electric guitar for a very low price.
The most common scenario seems to be your guitar requires a setup.
This can wipe out any savings you may have made by going with the lowest-cost option.
If you’re handy, or already know how to adjust an acoustic guitar, you can often make these adjustments yourself.
It’s important to understand what kind of guitar you’re buying.
The biggest complaint I hear about these very low-cost guitars is they “don’t work”.
After I dig a little, I find out the person who bought the guitar expected the same type of guitar you’d get for 3 or 4 times the price they paid.
In reality, their guitar only needed a small adjustment to play perfectly.
If you’re unsure, it can be a good idea to spend a bit more money on your first electric guitar.
You’re more likely to get a guitar that’s been set up correctly.
If you’re on a tight budget or don’t want to spend too much, a very low-cost electric guitar can be a great option.
And in today’s world, you can always send it back for a replacement or a refund.
Getting a good guitar for so little money is great for beginners.
Do I need to budget for anything else?
If you’re playing the electric guitar then an amp should be included in your budget.
Unless you buy a combo pack that includes an amp, you need one to properly play the electric guitar.
You should also set aside some money to buy new strings.
Often the guitar you buy has strings that might be over a year old.
Your guitar won’t sound its best until they’ve been changed.
You should also consider accessories that make things easier and more convenient.
An electric guitar stand makes it convenient to store and play your new guitar.
A gig bag makes a convenient storage spot for extra strings, picks, and cables.
Even if you don’t keep your guitar in it you’ll want one if you intend to take your new guitar anywhere.
You don’t need to buy a dedicated tuner right away, but you might want to.
While using your phone app can be easy, if you’re playing you don’t want to go through the hassle of pulling your phone out, unlocking your phone, etc.
A headstock tuner can be a convenient and useful accessory.
Also, if you buy an amp with modeling features you can have onboard effects without needing pedals.
While these types of amps can’t replace pedals, being able to add a little reverb to your sound makes practicing more enjoyable since it will sound more “professional” and like a “real” guitar.
Guitar picks, cleaning polish, a string winder.
You don’t need to buy these things right away, but you’ll want to pick up them when you can afford them.
You’d be amazed at how much easier string changes become once you’ve got a string winder.
You might budget a small amount every month and buy a set of picks one month, a tuner the next, etc.
It’s a good way to fill out your needs without spending too much all at once.
How Do I Make Sure My New Electric Guitar Plays Properly?
The cost of buying an electric guitar may be increased if it requires a setup.
This involves some basic adjustments to make sure your guitar plays properly.
Adjusting the distance between the strings and the fretboard.
Ensuring the guitar has a straight neck and proper intonation.
Your guitar may not need a setup.
Sometimes if you spend a bit more on your first guitar it will come with a proper setup.
The manufacturer will set up your guitar at the factory.
This requires manual labor, so it’s part of the reason it costs more.
If you’re handy with tools you can make most of these adjustments yourself.
Beginners who find their new electric guitar arrived broken often find out the guitar just needs to be set up.
Setting aside some money or having someone you know check your guitar out can be a great option.
Otherwise, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
Low-cost guitars often don’t need a setup, but it’s hit or miss.
But remember, sometimes when you spend more on a guitar it may not be set up properly.
I’ve pulled guitars off the wall at stores that hadn’t been set up at all.
Sometimes the store won’t set your guitar up for you unless you pay an extra fee.
For this reason, buying online evens the playing field, since if you buy online you’re getting the same guitar you might have gotten at a music store.
Buying Your First Electric Guitar: Choose a Design and Features
Basic features will serve a beginner best.
When you’re starting out, things can be confusing enough.
There’s a fine line between versatility and overwhelm.
It’s easy to become confused by features a beginner doesn’t need.
While having only one pickup and one volume control may not be what you want, it does make it easier to play.
Understanding the nuance between pickup, tone control, volume, and amp settings can cause confusion.
If you don’t understand how a feature can change your sound you’ll be confused as to what to do with it.
In some cases, it could cause you to give up entirely if you become frustrated with being unable to create certain sounds.
As long as you cover your basics, there’s no need for a beginner to chase after extra features.
As a matter of fact, it’s more important that your guitar be set up properly and feel comfortable than be packed with features.
A beginner needs to gain some experience playing before they can decide what features they need.
Some features offer tonal versatility or change the way a guitar sounds, but if you don’t have a baseline of understanding you won’t know if you need that feature.
But, it’s your choice!
If there’s a feature you feel you must have, go for it.
Is there a quick way to narrow down which guitar to buy?
The style of music you want to play will help you find the right guitar for you.
Different types of guitars will create different types of music.
Guitars with humbucker pickups go well with distorted music like rock and roll.
So if you plan on playing music like rock or heavy metal, you’ll be happiest with a guitar with at least one humbucker.
If you’re into country or classic rock, you might like a single-coil pickup sound.
Stratocasters usually have single-coil pickups and have been used for decades to create classic songs.
You can mix and match, for instance, a Stratocaster with a humbucker in the bridge position makes for a versatile and popular choice.
Take a look at the guitars you see guitarists you enjoy playing.
Look for videos of songs you like and look at what they’re playing.
If you see your favorite guitarist playing single-coil pickups, you’ll be happiest with the same pickups.
Without some experience, you can’t be sure, but this’ll give you a great starting place.
After you’ve played electric guitar for a while, you’ll be able to say, “I prefer X because…”
If you focus on the style of music you’re most interested in you’ll be able to narrow down your choices.
It’s a great place to start, and you have a better chance of creating the sounds and tones you’re looking for if you’re playing the right type of guitar.
It’s also a good way to discover new types and styles of guitars.
I found one of my most cherished electric guitars after watching a performance of one of my favorite guitarists.
What is important about the looks and design of my first guitar?
You should experience joy when you look at your first electric guitar.
The design of your first guitar makes a big impact on your enjoyment of it.
With all of the different styles and options out there, it’s easy to find a guitar you like.
This may not seem like it’s important but if you don’t like the looks you won’t feel joy.
If you don’t feel joy you’re less likely to continue playing.
It may seem ridiculous, but if you talk to a few guitarists they’ll tell you how much they love their guitars.
Not like, or enjoy, or appreciate.
They love them.
They chose those guitars for different reasons, but the joy they felt was a big factor.
If you don’t feel joy when you look at your first guitar, it may not be the right one for you.
Yes, you may decide to buy it and live with it, but it may not be worth it.
It might be better to keep looking until you find the guitar that’s right for you.
It’s very subjective but it’s also something that’s vitally important.
Even something like the color of your guitar may be important to you.
It’s worth taking your time to consider.
Why is the feel of your first electric guitar important?
Playing the right guitar will just feel right.
The way a guitar feels is different for everybody but you need one that’s comfortable to play.
Only you can decide which electric guitar feels right for you.
A Stratocaster’s body has comfort cutouts and was designed to be comfortable to play.
An explorer-shaped guitar doesn’t have comfort cutouts and can dig into your body a little.
There are still people who will choose the explorer-shaped guitar over the Strat.
If a guitar weighs too much for you to play comfortably it might not be the one for you.
Once you’ve considered the shape, things like the feel of the neck will also play a part.
You need to consider the whole guitar playing experience.
What about a guitar that’s comfortable but has looks that you hate?
It’s probably the wrong guitar.
The guitar you like the best may not be the one that’s most comfortable to play.
There are many different styles of electric guitars to choose from.
So if you’re just starting out, it may be better for you to buy a guitar that’s comfortable to play.
Your first guitar being comfortable could be the difference between you learning and not learning the guitar.
If you have a guitar that’s uncomfortable or too heavy it’ll be hard for you to enjoy playing and you’re much less likely to practice.
Once you’ve played for a bit, a guitar that’s not as comfortable won’t bother you as much.
You’ll be used to playing a guitar made of solid wood.
You’ll also notice when you play a guitar that’s more comfortable than the one you’re used to.
I was shocked at how much easier and more comfortable it was to play fast leads on a Jackson Dinky.
Yet most of the time, I still reach the Stratocaster.
How do I know whether to choose single coil or humbucker pickups?
In order to choose the type of pickups you’ll need, think about the style of music you want to play.
Single coil pickups have a brighter tone and are crisp.
Humbucker pickups tend to sound thicker and cut through distortion better.
Beginners often ask which pickups to choose.
Different types of pickups create different sounds and have been designed with different styles of music in mind.
The type of music you want to play will help you to choose.
If you want to play music that uses a lot of distortion, think metal, then you need a humbucker pickup.
If you play with a single coil pickup, you might find your sound isn’t very clear and gets lost in the mix.
If you’re into country, you’ll want a guitar with single coil pickups.
They’re brighter and lend themselves to the popular guitar twang sound.
Which type of pickups you choose comes down to personal preference.
Don’t let the type of pickups stop you from buying a guitar you like.
You can change the type of pickups in a guitar but it can be a serious undertaking.
If the guitar you like doesn’t have humbuckers, you may be able to find a similar model that has them.
Nowadays even low-cost guitars are available with humbuckers.
It’s more important to find a guitar you like the look and feel of.
Plus, until you have experience playing it’ll be difficult to know which type of pickup you prefer.
Plenty of players have more than one guitar.
This lets them play a guitar with humbuckers for one type of music and use one with single-coil pickups for another type.
Later you’ll want to experiment with different types of pickups, but as a beginner think about the sound you’re looking for.
Then check out the guitars of bands that play that sound.
That’ll help you know whether you need humbuckers or not.
What bridge is best for beginners?
Beginners need a guitar that will be easy to keep in tune.
In some cases, it’s better for a beginner to have a guitar with a fixed bridge.
Tremolo bridges can add dynamism to your playing but for beginners, they often go unused.
Plus, if the nut on your guitar hasn’t been cut properly, you can get string binding.
When you use the tremolo the string gets caught in the groove on the nut and doesn’t return to pitch.
This can be fixed,(or at least improved,) by putting graphite from a pencil in the groove of the nut.
But beginners often get frustrated and end up taking off the tremolo arm.
Tremolos also offer much finer-grained control over intonation and string height.
It’s more about tradeoffs.
For players who don’t use a tremolo, you can choose a guitar with a fixed bridge.
They don’t allow as much control over intonation and string height.
For guitarists who play a lot of bends and pulls, they tend to be more stable in tuning.
None of this needs to be a deal breaker.
Beginners need to be aware of the different types of bridges available on guitars.
There’s no right bridge for a beginner so if you find a guitar you love that doesn’t have the bridge you’d prefer, don’t let that be a deal breaker.
Buying Your First Electric Guitar: Make Sure You’re Buying the Right Electric Guitar
Guitars with advanced features like Evertune bridges may cause confusion for beginners and should be avoided.
Beginners should eliminate travel guitars and mini-sized guitars from their list.
Unless you’re buying a guitar for a child a mini guitar isn’t a great choice for a first guitar.
Travel guitars make sense if you want to practice while on vacation but don’t make a lot of sense as a first guitar for beginners.
They’re great for guitarists who want to practice on the road but their small size means they’re not great for beginners.
Semi-hollow and hollow body guitars don’t handle heavy distortion well and are not the best option for a beginner.
If you’re just starting out, you don’t need probably don’t need a semi-hollow or hollow-body guitar.
They also tend to be more expensive and more finicky to play.
Unless you’re looking to strictly play jazz guitar, beginners should give them a pass.
Also, avoid limited edition or specialty guitars.
Limited edition guitars tend to be expensive and appeal to collectors or die-hard fans.
Specialty guitars can be fun and can help tap your creativity, but they aren’t a great choice for beginners.
Other than that, you can find a whole host of electric guitars that are perfect for beginners.
Solid body guitars are best for beginners since you get all of the positives of the electric guitar.
What is the most important part about buying an electric guitar?
The most important part of buying an electric guitar may be the joy you feel.
If you love your guitar and feel excited by it you’re halfway there.
If you don’t love it, it may not be the right one for you.
Plenty of guitarists will tell you how much they love their guitars.
It’s an important part of the connection they feel to playing music.
Electric guitars seem to be the only instrument that receives extreme personalization.
You can put stickers on them, paint them, and do things to make your guitar unique and your own.
It doesn’t seem like other instruments get the same kind of treatment.
Once you’ve found the right electric guitar for you, you’ll know it.
It means you’re taking the first step on your journey to mastering the guitar.
You’ll always remember your first guitar.
You can ask any guitarist and they can describe their first guitar.
They often say they wish they still had it, if only for nostalgia’s sake.
That’s one of the reasons it might be the most important part of buying an electric guitar.
If you keep playing your first guitar could be something you keep for a lifetime.
It could even be one of the things you leave behind.
I have several guitars from relatives that have passed on.
They provide a history and a connection to the past.
It gives me a good feeling to know these instruments were loved and cherished and someday I may pass something similar on to someone else.
Even if it’s just some kid who picks up my guitar at a garage sale and wants to make it his own.
Buying Your First Electric Guitar: Final Things to Consider Before Purchase
Starting out playing the electric guitar is a fun way to learn the guitar.
But it may be easier to start with a classical or acoustic guitar.
There’s no wrong way to learn to play the guitar.
It’s more like people find it easier to learn things like chord shapes on an acoustic guitar.
Once you have your basics down, then buy an electric guitar.
It gives you more time to learn what you want out of your first electric guitar.
Plus, you don’t need to buy an amp.
It just simplifies the process of learning to play the guitar.
Everybody’s journey is different and if you keep playing electric guitar you’ll end up buying an acoustic or classical guitar in the future(Probably).
It’s something to consider, especially if you don’t feel like making the decisions necessary to buy an electric guitar.
You won’t be wasting time deciding on features you don’t fully understand yet.
Plus, anything you learn on the acoustic guitar will transfer to the electric guitar.
Tuning, changing strings, playing techniques, all this is the same on an electric guitar.
It’s up to you if you want to start out with a simpler option.
If you’re excited to play music that requires an electric guitar, then go for the electric guitar.
Just know you can pick up the electric guitar later if you choose to start with an acoustic guitar.
Buying Your First Electric Guitar: Conclusion
Buying your first electric guitar can have its ups and down
If you worry about buying the wrong guitar it takes the fun out of it.
Once you’ve started worrying about making the wrong choice, it’s hard to remember why you wanted an electric guitar in the first place.
Why do you want to play the electric guitar?
Only you know the answer to this question.
If you don’t already know, it could be because you haven’t given it much thought.
Maybe it seems obvious or something only a fool would ask.
It might help, when you get worried or frustrated, to remind yourself of why you’re doing this.
Once you’ve bought your first guitar, it’s easier to buy your second and third.
The guitarist who buys only one guitar and never even considers buying another is rarer than hens teeth.
So don’t worry or fret too much.
You’ll find the best electric guitar for you.
And remember: Finding the right electric guitar is meant to be fun.
If you talk to guys who play electric guitar they do it because they enjoy it.
So try to remember this if you get caught up in analysis paralysis.
When it’s all said and done, the process of buying your first electric guitar should be enjoyable.
Just like your first electric guitar should bring you joy.
The process of getting there may be a hassle, but in the end, if your guitar brings you joy when you pick it up or when you look at it, it’ll have been worth it.
Even if it takes you a little longer to get there.
Because if you persevere, you’ll find the electric guitar that brings you joy.
Finally, here are some links to some more in-depth posts that should help you get started.
- Buying an Electric Guitar for Beginners
- How to Get Better at Electric Guitar
- How to Check Action on Your Electric Guitar
- How Much is an Electric Guitar?
- How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp
- Electric Guitar Setup for Beginners
- What do You Need to Play Electric Guitar?
Buying Your First Electric Guitar: FAQ
- How much should I spend on my first electric guitar?
- Budgeting for your first electric guitar means you should feel comfortable with the amount of money you spend. While you can get a good guitar for less than $100, if you want a guitar with a quality build from a major manufacturer you should expect to spend around $300. At this price, you’ve got more of a chance to get a guitar that will play well out of the box.
- Is it OK to learn electric guitar first?
- It’s easy to think there’s a “right” or “best” way to learn guitar but this isn’t the case. If you think it’d be more fun to learn electric guitar first, go for it, there’s no reason not to. You can always learn acoustic guitar later. Plus, everything you learn on an electric applies to acoustic or classical guitar. Some people find it easier and faster to learn the basics on an acoustic. So if you think you’ll have a better or easier time starting with an electric guitar, trust your instincts.
- What kind of electric guitar should a beginner get?
- For a beginner, it’s best to have simple features. But beginners often want a guitar with a lot of features. This can help them discover their playing style and sound. The most popular option is a Stratocasters-style guitar since they’ve got versatile pickups and have a comfortable feel. If the looks of a Strat aren’t appealing to you look at some guitars you like and search out a similar model in your price range. If it has a look and design you enjoy, it’s gonna be the best one for you. The features a beginner needs will be covered by almost any low-cost guitar.
JT currently resides in Southern California and has been playing the guitar since he was 13. He enjoys baking French pastries, drinking loose-leaf tea, and running Slackware Linux.