Colin Falconer

Learning to play guitar can be made easier by choosing the right instrument, so:

‘What’s the best guitar for a beginner?’

This is a tricky one because, like cars and boats, they’re built for different purposes, budgets and people’s tastes. 

Since certain types of guitar are better suited to particular styles of music, the first thing to establish is what type of music you’d like to play. 

Generally speaking, this would be the style of music you like listening to. 

If you’d love to play Classical or Flamenco music your choice is simple:  A Classical Guitar.  This is an instrument with nylon strings.  They come in full size, half and three-quarter size and, for those with small hands, a narrow neck model is now available (it’s called a ‘Slim Jim’).  

If your musical taste runs to traditional or popular music you’re most probably looking for a steel-strung acoustic guitar of some sort. 

Should you want to play blues or rock music you’ll eventually end up buying a solid body electric guitar and an amplifier; but please don’t bring one to my WEA course, they’re harder to learn on and I don’t allow amplifiers in class.   

Some guitar teachers recommend starting off on a nylon-stringed instrument because these are a bit softer for student’s fingertips – but quite frankly, you’re better off getting an instrument which suits the style of music you’d like to play since, on either type of acoustic guitar, your fingertips will quickly harden as you practice.

Size is an important factor, as you need to be able to hold the instrument comfortably and to stretch your fingers the width of the neck.  If you’re slight of build a Parlour sized guitar could well be the perfect instrument. 

Left handed players have the additional decision of either learning on a left or right-handed guitar.  This is a difficult decision since both have advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages for a left-handed player learning on a right-handed guitar are: 

The advantages for a left-handed player learning on a left-handed guitar are:   


Let’s first state that while it’s possible to pick up a bargain from a second-hand dealer or on e-bay, unless you can tell a good instrument from a dud, you could end up wasting your money.  There are plenty of unplayable ‘bargain’ guitars out there. 

Your best choice is to buy from a proper music store, either your local one or one of the large internet sites.

Both have positives:

As a rough price guide:   Well-made plywood guitars cost about $150 - $250;  whilst a solid timber top guitar with superior fittings, starts at around $200 - $300 more.  I suggest you buy the best possible instrument you can comfortably afford.   For a small difference in price you can get a better guitar that won’t need to be upgraded as your playing skills advance, be easier to play, stay in tune, and sound like a real instrument should.

As well as purchasing your guitar and a protective case or padded gig-bag, you’ll also need to buy a spare set of strings and a ‘soft’ plectrum. 

DON'T BUY:  Special cleaning liquids, cloths, chord charts, tutor books, straps, string winders, pitch pipes, or any other gadgets.  And, please don’t buy an electronic tuner (most are rubbish) nor have a hole drilled for a strap button until you’ve talked to me.

Recommended tuners are available for $20 at your guitar course.

If you need any additional advice on buying your first guitar just phone me. 

(but please don’t ring before midday – I keep muso’s hours)

All the best,
Colin Falconer