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Guitar buying advice




What do I need to start guitar lessons?
Not a great deal is the short answer. To learn the guitar there are only a few essentials but here is some advice on what to get.
A guitar
  This one's kind of obvious! If you haven't got one already you can come for a lesson, borrow one and get a feel for the instrument before splashing the cash for one of your own. I can also advise you on what to get as part of the lesson as well as tips on stringing and tuning the instrument. However here's some advice concerning buying a good instrument. A metronome is a must but as there are many free apps for this then it shouldn't cost you a penny.
Steel Strung: The most popular choice of people playing pop/rock/folk/blues based styles. In recent years there has been a proliferation of good quality budget instruments around the £100 - £200 mark. Anything below £100 is generally to be avoided. It'll be much harder to play and tune and will ultimately prove to be a false economy. Brands such as Stagg, Tanglewood, Samick, Aria all produce good instruments and new brands are coming along all the time. Shops take what's currently the best value at any given time. Keep an open mind and do some research on the net prior to going to view. Youtube is a fantastic source of information on new models. Also get an instrument with a cutaway - that is a guitar with a bit missing near the upper frets. The way I teach you'll be playing all over the neck more or less straight away and as you advance this limitation will become annoying.
Classical or nylon strung: With softer, lower tension strings these are a good choice for children or those with weaker hands. I can teach classical guitar techniques and generally get people to use both pick and fingers from the off anyway. These are available in 1/2 and 3/4 sizes making them suitable for younger children.
 There are two main paradigms: The Strat and the Les Paul
Okay - Polemic time. Look away if you're a Les Paul player but be aware this opinion is the result of 30+ years of teaching and playing experience.
I'm increasingly coming out in favor of the strat particularly for learners. The Les Paul has several fundamental design problems that make it harder for beginners. Very few Les Pauls' balance correctly and this tends make the student adopt bad posture habits by way of compensation. Any instrument should balance by itself and no real effort should be required by the player to maintain a comfortable and effective position. Les Pauls are nearly always body heavy and so tend to body dive. There numerous double cut style guitars by other manufacturers that remedy this as well as the notorius headstock break problem Gibson's are known for. Given the quality control issues Gibson have had over recent years it's definitely a case of buyer beware.
The range of budget guitars is amazing nowadays and constantly evolving so it's hard to put anything here that won't be out of date in 6 months time. Feel free to get in touch for advice on what's currently the best value. Ibanez do reasonable budget guitars also. Any Mexican made Strat, any new Strat should be at least okay. Yamaha Pacifica's. Yamaha as a rule don't make anything bad so you're on safe ground with any of their stuff.
Pointy/Odd shape Guitars
Okay...Whilst they may look cool whilst posing in the mirror (hey, you could have saved your money and used a tennis racket for that) or making your first video but once again they can seriously hamper your early development. Save them for when you can play a bit.
Practice Amp
A practice amp doesn't need to be loud so unless you know you'll be playing with a drummer solook for something smaller but with more features that will of use to you whilst learning. Most use digital modelling to give you an array of amp models and effects to choose from. Increasingly bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone provides the ability to play along with backing track and other functionality. This is an incredibly useful feature as you progress.