Guitars – The Basics
This lesson is for people who are interested in playing guitar but know very little about how guitars work, the differences in guitar, what works best for the type of music they are interested in and where to start.
Guitars come in many sizes, shapes and styles. The basic primary difference is Acoustic or Electric. The guitar is made up of different components, Body, Neck, Head, Strings, Frets, Sound hole, Bridge, Nut, Pickups Connectors. Generally most guitars have 6 strings but there are models with 7, 8 12 strings as well. Most Bass guitars have 4 strings but some have 5 or 6 as well.
Acoustic guitars do not require any additional equipment to create sound loud enough to perform or hear (at least in smaller venues or rooms). The guitar body has a cavity of space which projects the sound out from the guitar when the strings vibrate.
Electric guitars require an amplifier and a cable from the guitar which collects the signal created by the guitar pickups when the strings vibrate and projects the sound through a speaker or headphone.
So what type of guitar is right for you, many people ask me what should they use to learn on? Guitars can cost as little as $50.00 and as much as thousands of dollars. In general it doesn’t matter much at the beginning when you are starting to learn the basics of how to play guitar.
Electric guitars can be a little easier to play but also tend to be noisier and can be more costly. There are many brands making inexpensive guitars, some are ok to learn on, some will make learning harder as they are not as easy to properly push the strings down on to play. Personally I think a brand name guitar generally will be a better choice as it will play easier or can be set up to play easier. Some of those brands include Epiphone, Fender, Ibanez, Yamaha. Of course these brands also have more advanced more expensive models as well. Normally a student will learn on a standard 6 string guitar. I have a lesson dedicated to choosing a first guitar and recommendations for style, brand, etc.
Acoustic Guitars generally have 6 strings made of either nylon or steel. Nylon string guitars are sometimes called classical guitars and generally have a slightly smaller overall size compared to steel string guitars.
Classical guitars generally have a wider flatter profile on the neck. Nylon strings can be a little easier on the fingers while playing. However with a little practice your fingers will develop and the steel strings won’t hurt them for long. Classical guitars are more popular with finger style, classical or Spanish style musicians.
Steel String Acoustic Guitars are by far the most common and come in huge varieties of styles and sizes. Generally any guitar must fit the student properly, the body of the guitar cannot be too large to reach around and the neck cannot be too long to reach the end of the fret board comfortably. Any acoustic style guitar may come equipped with an electric pickup installed so the guitar can be connected to an amplifier. Guitars may also have a cutaway which allows easier access to the frets closest to the body of the guitar. Steel string guitars are generally used for modern, western, rock style music but this is a general rule not by any means is any guitar limited in the music it can create.
To learn guitar you must choose a guitar which fits the student properly, and it is set up properly to play easily. I have seen many students who have tried to learn and failed due to not having a guitar which fits them and is not set-up to play easily and properly. The used market for guitars has thousands available for exactly that reason. Don’t think all guitars are created equally; most can be adjusted so the new student can play them properly but this is something which needs to be done by a professional luthier or at least someone who knows how to make these adjustments properly.
Younger students will need smaller size guitars to fit them properly. All styles of guitars come in smaller sizes to fit smaller or younger students. If you are searching for a guitar there are many used guitars available, but be aware the person selling the guitar doesn’t always care about the purchaser. If you are inexperienced with guitars go to a guitar store and ask a sales person to assist you, they will help you pick the right size and style guitar in the right price range. A new student guitar of decent quality will be in the $125 to $250 range depending on style and brand name.