The guitar is a beautiful, versatile, expressive and popular instrument that many people of differing ages and musical experience choose to learn. But where should you start, and what type of instrument is going to be the most suitable?
Here’s some information that can help you make this important decision, because choosing the right style of guitar to begin with can have a big impact on how successful you will be in learning to play.
Why? Because if you get the right instrument for you, you will find it easier to succeed and get greater satisfaction from playing, and be more likely to continue to play.
Let’s talk about the different types of guitar and why they may suit different types of learners.
Broadly speaking there are three different types of guitar: classical, acoustic and electric. The classical style of guitar is also acoustic, but has a couple of key differences to what we will refer to as acoustic guitars.
The first is the strings; classical guitars use nylon strings while most acoustic guitars use steel strings. The second is the radius of the fingerboard (or fretboard), which refers to the curvature of the fingerboard from one side to the other.
Classical guitars generally have a flat fingerboard, while steel string acoustic guitars will show a curvature in their profile. Electric guitars have steel strings, a curved radius and a heavier body, and come with a whole world of potential in terms of the sounds that you can make.
When matching a guitar to a learner, we need to consider the characteristics of both the guitar and the particular human being that wishes to play it. These include physical characteristics and musical ones.
Let’s look at a simple example of each. A full size steel string acoustic guitar will be physically challenging for a ten year old to wrangle, and a nylon string classical guitar may prove musically frustrating for a seventeen year old who wants to play punk music.
In most cases, children learning to play guitar will be most suited to a small classical guitar. The nylon strings are softer on young fingers and require less pressure to create a clear note, and the size of the guitar is proportionate to the player. A flat fingerboard of often easier to learn patterns on too.
Electric guitars can also be readily played by young learners, provided they are able to comfortably manage the weight of the instrument, and people of all ages can revel in the sensitivity of the strings and the wide range of sounds, effects and music styles that can be explored.
Many adults who choose to take up the guitar may prefer a steel string acoustic; it’s easy to learn a few chords to play along with friends at social gatherings, or strum some songs at home. With sufficient strength and hardier fingers to press down on the steel strings, players are rewarded with a louder sound and a stronger tone.
Whatever type of guitar you choose there are options to suit every budget, with quality entry-level new instruments available for just a couple of hundred dollars. Mid range instruments start at around $500, and both the quality and price of guitars continues to rise well into the thousands of dollars.
If you’re just starting out remember to find a guitar that’s right for you. Get advice from your teacher, or visit your local music shop and try a few different styles out for size. With the right guitar, you’ll love to play!