How to Buy a Guitar

Buying a guitar is an exhilarating experience. Whether it's your first one or if it's one to add to the collection, there are a few things to consider when selecting the right guitar. First, we need to know what types of guitars are out there. Most people are familiar with electric guitars and acoustic guitar, but not all guitars are the same. 

We'll start with nylon-string acoustic guitars. These typically have smaller bodies and wider nut width (which means the strings are further apart from each other). Also, nylon strings are a bit more elastic than other strings, making them easier on the hands. Nylon-string guitars produce a warm, rich tone. These are the guitars of choice for classical players and other types of finger-style players.  

Next we have steel-string acoustic guitars. The bodies of these guitars can be on the large side, so keep in mind the size of the person who will be playing the instrument. The necks of these guitars are typically longer and narrower than their nylon-string counterparts. This brings the strings closer together, making it easy to play with a pick. The strings on these guitars can feel a bit tight, and the steel digs into untrained fingers.  These guitars can be a little rough on beginners, but nothing a little practice can't fix. Steel-string guitars have a generally brighter tone, and are used for a multitude of musical styles from rock to jazz to country.  

Then we have the electric guitar. There are quite a variety of electric guitars out there, so we'll keep it general just to get the idea. The necks of these guitars tend to be pretty long and the strings are close together, these are built with pick-style playing in mind. The bodies of electric guitars vary in size (depending on whether it's a solid body, semi-hollow body, or hollow body), but most guitars are a pretty manageable size for any player. Because of the design of most electric guitars, the steel strings tend to be a little looser than on acoustic guitars. 

Guitars also come a variety of sizes, and if you are buying a guitar for a child, chances are you will need to purchase either a quarter-size, half-size or three-quarter size guitar.  The body of the guitar should fit comfortably in the child's lap, and their right arm should be able to hand over the top of the body and touch the strings.  You'll notice that there are short, raised lines along the neck of the guitar, which are called frets.  The child should be able to place each finger on adjacent frets without excessively stretching or splaying their hand.  When buying for a child, it is a good idea to go to a store rather than purchase online so that you have a chance to try out different sizes and find the best one that fits.  

For first time guitar buyers, always talk to an expert first (meaning a guitar teacher, sales people are not experts and don't always have your best interests in mind.) This will help immensely with your decision, which can sometimes feel overwhelming. Teachers often have recommendations on types of guitars, brands, sizes, vendors, etc.   

One last tip: always consider the tone of the guitar and its ease of play. Don't buy something because of how it looks just to find out it's hard to play and sounds terrible.