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What Sort of Guitar Should I Learn On?

One of the questions I am asked most frequently concerns what type of guitar it is best to choose as a first instrument. There is a huge choice available in shops and online, and this can be bewildering for the beginner student. However, guitars can be broadly split into three categories:

  • acoustic nylon strung
  • acoustic steel strung
  • electric

In general terms it does not actually matter which type you choose as a first guitar, since they are all strung at the same pitch, and notes and chords are all executed in the same way. However, your choice mighty be influenced by budget, or indeed the type of music you wish to play.

If you wish to learn classical Spanish guitar, you will need a nylon strung acoustic guitar, as no other type will give the correct sound. Furthermore, young beginners often start on such an instrument, as the strings are softer on the fingers than steel strung models, and there are a few manufacturers who produce affordable yet quality starter instrument in this category.

The steel strung acoustic guitar produces a sharper sound, and is well suited to a huge variety of music and styles, often being the preferred choice in pop and folk styles. Again there are many good quality yet inexpensive models from which to choose, but they can be slightly harder to play at first, simply because the strings are slightly harder under the fingers than the nylon models. Electro-acoustic models are available but these do not need to be plugged into an amplifier in order to be heard.

Finally, the electric guitar is equally suited to the beginner, and lends itself to pop, rock, county and metal styles, among others. An electric guitar is almost always steel strung, and requires an amplifier and a lead in order to be heard properly. This is an extra expense, although decent starter packages are available that contain all you need to get started.

So, with the exception of Classical Spanish Guitar where a nylon strung classical instrument is needed, it really does not matter what you start with. The nylon sting guitar is a nice easy starting point to begin playing all styles, as is the steel strung acoustic, but likewise, if you fancy an electric, there is nothing to stop you starting out with one. As you progress, you will probably want a couple of guitars in your collection to give you a choice of sound and style.

Personally, I started with a nylon strung guitar, and learnt to play Classical guitar. After a couple of years, I got an electric guitar too, and learnt the techniques for lead and rock guitar, whilst still studying the Classical repertoire. All styles complement each other, and you are in fact embarking on an almost endless musical journey of discovery and enjoyment…

So, get down to you local music shop and see what takes your fancy.