The following is a list of the various items to help you get started playing guitar along with an explanation and tips on their use. Getting started playing the guitar isn’t difficult or expensive, but choosing the right equipment in the beginning will save you money and make the experience more enjoyable. The recommendations of specific brands/models of guitars, tuners, etc. come from years of teaching hundreds of students with these items and instruction materials. There are, of course, many other brands of guitars, amps, etc. and a dizzying array of books and videos. The following should provide a basis to help you judge which materials will be best for you.
To begin with, it really makes little difference whether you start out on an electric guitar, steel string acoustic guitar or nylon string acoustic guitar. That choice should depend on your goals. If you like classical guitar and wish to play classical guitar music, choose a nylon string guitar. Many instructors insist that all their beginning students start with a nylon string guitar because, they say, it’s easier on your fingers.
I believe this is inappropriate because, while the string tension may in fact be lighter (and the string diameter, larger), the guitar may not be stylistically consistent with the goals of the player. In short, if you want to play heavy metal, buy an electric guitar. If you want to strum away and maybe sing along by the campfire, a steel string acoustic is probably your best choice. Guitar Case or Bag? Many guitarists assume that a hardshell case is the only acceptable choice when it comes to transporting and protecting your guitar. For some, this may be true, but for the majority, a padded guitar bag is just fine if not preferable.
In fact, today, guitar bag sales outstrip hard-shell sales by a wide margin. This is partially due to a generally lower price tag, but also because the bag is much more transportable due to its light weight, soft feel and compact size. As far as protection is concerned, take care of your guitar whether it’s in a case or not and it will last for decades. That said, it is worthwhile to note that probably the number one culprit leading to guitar damage is heat. When a guitar gets too hot, necks warp and twist, finishes are damaged and wood often cracks. So, never leave your guitar in direct sun, in the trunk of a car or expose it to other sources of heat.
There are many ways to tune your guitar. Tuning forks and pitch pipes provide a fairly reliable reference pitch but temperature and humidity (and with pitch pipes, how hard you blow) effect their intonation. Also, these require the player to match the pitch of the guitar string to that of the pipe or fork; a skill that may take considerable time to develop. These days, electronic tuners are inexpensive, reliable and compact. They insure that your guitar is in tune with itself as well as with other instruments and are available for under $20.
As with learning anything, getting started with the guitar usually means buying an instruction book or two. Beginning guitar books generally follow a simmilar progression or methodology. First, they teach you how to hold the guitar and the pick. Next, you learn the notes on the staff followed by note values. Finally, most books move into exercises sequentially introducing the first through the sixth strings. Most books will also include the basic, open chord shapes as well. Any of these books are fine regardless of who the author is.
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of new books cropping up for beginning rock guitarists that diminish the value of many basic guitar skills like reading music or learning full chords. It’s probably better to avoid this type of book in the beginning and find one that is more comprehensive.
Hal Leonard – All Chords in All Positions Guitar Pick:
Most guitarists use a pick to either strum the guitar strings or play them individually. Choose a standard shaped pick like Jim Dunlop Nylon or Fender Medium. A pick that is too heavy will be hard to control at first and one that is too light won’t offer enough resistance to get a feel for the guitar strings. In short, any standard shaped, medium thickness pick will be perfect.
A question that often comes up is “do I need a strap?” In the beginning, probably not but, many people find it more comfortable to play thier guitar with a strap even when seated. The strap sometimes will allow a more natural hand position because the guitar tends to stay in position better. Electric guitars and some steel string acoustic guitars have strap buttons and the base of the guitar body as well as the area where the neck is joined to the guitar’s body. Any standard strap will fit these guitars. The strap ends have a keyhole shaped slot at the ends that simply fit over the buttons on the guitar. Many steel string acoustics only have the end pin and no second button near the heel. You will need to use a string (usually included) to tie the strap to the headstock beyond the nut but under the strings. Classical guitars usually have no strap buttons at all and require a special classical guitar strap. These are basically a neck loop with a hook that holds the guitar from the soundhole.