Which guitar should I buy

The 3 main types are:

(including hollow bodied or semi-acoustics
Acoustic (steel strings - including those with electrics fitted, so called electro acoustics)
Classical (nylon strings).

Note that ‘semi-acoustics' are not really acoustic. They are electric guitars with a semi-hollow body, and are sometimes confusingly referred to as semi-acoustics. However, they play like electrics.
Also note that electro-acoustics are not electric guitars. They are acoustic instruments with electronics fitted so that they can be amplified. You can play them unplugged like an acoustic guitar.

Many people think that electric guitars are going to be loud when they are plugged in. They have a volume control so will be as loud as you set them. Also, be aware that you don’t have to plug them in! Many guitarists practise without plugging in so as a beginner you might want to invest in a better guitar and leave getting an amp until later.


Electric guitars are generally the easiest to play: the strings are thinner, the ‘action' is low and so they are easier to press down. Classical guitars have nylon strings which are softer than steel strings and easier to press down. The neck is also a bit wider which some actually find easier to start with. In general they are softer-toned and don't project as much as a steel string acoustic. This makes for quieter practising which could be a consideration.

The distance between the strings and the fretboard is called the action. With a lower action it’s easier to press the strings down. If a guitar's action is too high it will be very hard to play especially for a beginner. Getting your guitar action set up by a good luthier can make a huge difference to your guitar's playability. A very expensive guitar badly set up would be difficult to play and the intonation (fine tuning) would be out.

On electric and steel string acoustic the gauge of strings can make a big difference to the feel and playability. A lighter gauge set of strings can make things a bit easier when you’re starting out.

 Deciding which instrument to start with can be pretty simple if you think in terms of style

• If you want to play rock, get an electric.
• To play folk or fingerstyle, a steel string acoustic is the best choice.
• To play classical, Spanish, Flamenco or Latin then you need a nylon string classical guitar.

Budget Guitars are usually awful
Cheap guitar are usually more difficult to play. As a beginner this can be VERY disheartening as you will need all the help you can get to initially progress . The tuning, tone and action will also be poor.

Electric guitars

Most electric guitars are either a bit like a ‘Fender stratocaster’ (with 3 single coil pickups) or a ‘Gibson Les Paul’ (with 2 humbucker pickups).
Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul

Some players prefer the tone of single coils but they can buzz & hum a bit especially on cheaper guitars. Humbuckers produce a slightly more powerful sound and as the name suggests do not hum as much as single coils. A ‘Hardtail’ bridge (below on left) is recommended for beginners as it is a simpler design and gives much better tuning.

A bridge with  a‘Tremolo arm’ (pictured on the right above, usually on Stratocaster type guitars) should be avoided on beginner guitars. They are used to lower the pitch of the strings but in practice they put the guitar out of tune very easily. It’s an extra you can definitely do without as a novice. A Floyd-rose tremolo should definitely be avoided unless you’re an intermediate to advanced player.

How much should I spend on my first guitar?
For your first guitar £150 to £200 should get you something of reasonable quality.

Which guitars do you recommend for beginners?

There is a huge choice with new models coming out each year. Below are a few recommendations. 

Epiphone Les Paul Special II 
is great for beginners. ~£150.
It is reasonable quality (especially for the price) and doesn’t have too many controls.

Yamaha Pacifica
similar design to the famous ‘Fender Stratocaster’- comes in a wide range of models from around with different pickups and with / without tremolo ~ £150 to £500.  Below is the 120H with humbuckers which I would recommend.

Squier Telecaster
Classic simple design. Squier is the more affordable version on Fender.
Which amp
Any amp is fine to get started. Much better to spend more on a quality guitar and less on the amp. Most practice amps have an input for an mp3 player and an headphone output such as:

Fender Frontman 10G 10w
Marshall MG10CF 10w
Roland Cube amps (all sizes)

Other well known brands are Vox, Orange, Laney, Peavey, Blackstar and also Line 6 which tend to have a lot of fx built in which some find a bit confusing. “Practice amps” are small amps for playing at home. If you definitely want to play in a band you should get an amp with a 10” or 12” speaker. “Valve amps” are generally much louder and produce a fuller tone but are more expensive.

Do I Really Need An Amplifier?

Although they make enough sound for practice by themselves electric guitars need an amplifier to be heard above a voice or in a band. Products like Digitech or Zoom multi fx pedals, Line 6 Pocket Pod or the Vox amPlug can be used with your home stereo or headphones. This means you could get away with not buying an amp initially.
Small Guitars
3/4 guitars are fine for under the age of ~12 but to learn properly buy a full size. Some guitars have smaller bodies but a full size neck.  ‘Parlour’ guitars have smaller bodies while ‘Dreadnought’ or ‘Jumbo’ guitars have larger bodies for a louder fuller sound. It’s best to try in a shop and you will feel if the guitar is suitable.


Steel string
 The picture shows different size steel string acoustics from the Martin range. Guitars are commonly described as Parlour, Dreadnought and Jumbo. Bigger bodies produce more volume. Smaller guitars may suit some players more comfortably. It’s best to try a guitar to really tell how it feels.

I would recommend extra light strings (.010 to .047) which will make the guitar easier to play. Thicker strings will produce better volume and tone but are generally harder to play. On all acoustic guitars I would suggest not to get built in pickups / electrics unless you plan to definitely play amplified with a band. 

Fender CP-100 Parlour 
– is a smaller bodied guitar ~£160Ibanez AW300 ~£160 – Ibanez have a good range of steel string acoustics

Nylon string

What's difference between a Classical, Spanish and Flamenco guitar?
Essentially there are only very subtle differences between a Classical and Flamenco guitar.Classical guitars have a slightly larger body and produce a warmer mellower sound. Flamenco guitars use lighter woods and give a brighter sound. A Spanish guitar is a generic term for nylon string guitars. 

Washburn C80S~£150Admira make a good range of classical guitars to suit all budgets.
The Clasico Classical Guitar 7/8-size 1949 – is a slightly smaller than full size ideal for children ~£160