Sussex Guitar Teaching.

Helping music move through you and your guitar.

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I Want A Guitar, But Which One?

You have decided you really want to learn to play guitar, but now you need to make your choice of instrument. There are many types of guitar, and we will go through them briefly to help you make that choice.

Contrary to some advice, there is no magic choice that is for everyone, you don't have to start with an acoustic guitar, but it may be the right option. There are 3 main groups we will look at, and there are some variations inside those groups. Cost can also be a factor, with the amplifier required for the electric guitar adding to it's costs, but also to it's entertainment.

Whichever type you choose, look at the options of starter packs where you can end up with useful things like an electronic tuner and spare strings for less than they would cost separately. Cases are useful when transporting the guitar, but at home a stand or a wall hanger can keep the guitar ready for you to pick up and play.

Nylon Strung Acoustic

Often also known as a 'Spanish' or 'Classical' guitar, this is many people's introduction to guitar, and as it has the softest strings of all, making it especially popular for the younger learner. Some people will prefer the fact they are not as harsh on the fingers!

They are the most cost efficient to produce too, leading to a pleasing instrument at a surprisingly small budget, although do be aware of the very cheap. £60-£100 is about right for the lower end. They are easily available in full, three-quarter and half sizes to suit the size of the learner.

The necks however have the largest profile of the 3 types (less so with the three-quarter and hlf sizes), making the reaching some chords and techniques trickier.

No accessories are vital to play this guitar, although footstools are used by those leaning in the classical style.

Electric Guitar

This type of guitar can make the largest variety of sounds when used with an amplifier, and is heard in almost all types of music. Phisically the easiest to play and learn on (smaller neck profiles with the strings closer to the necks) they are becoming a more and more common beginners option. The strings are steel and nickel wound and are harder on the fingers than the nylon, but easier than the steel strung acoustic.

The guitar is the most complicated, with pickups and circuitry as well as a truss rod in the neck making these the most expensive. £130 to £180 for the guitar, but there are accessories too.

Three quarter sizes are not as common as the acoustic options, and sometimes trickier to tune. The neck profiles are the slimmest here.

A guitar amp is required, which is what really adds to the cost (£60 to £130 ish), although you have more sound options.

Steel Strung Acoustic

Known sometimes as a 'Western' guitar, this is the acoustic guitar most heard in popular, country and rock music. It has steel and bronze wound strings and these are the highest tension strings of the 3 groups. These are the hardest of all on the fingers. Sometimes people will use electric strings for a while to help their fingers adjust.

The use of truss rods in the necks in particular make them marginally more expensive to produce than the nylon strung equivalent. £80 to £120 is the rough budget here.

Three quarter sizes are sometimes available but less common than with the nylon strung option. The neck profile is slimmer than the nylon strung acoustic, but usually marginally larger than the electric guitar.

A pick (also known as a plectrum) is a popular accessory used when playing these guitars.

So Which Is Right For Me Then?

The final choice, particularly for the adult learner, should take into account the answer to this question:-

"Which guitar makes the music I really want to be playing?"

There is little point in someone who has wanted an electric guitar for 20 years forcing themselves to play a nylon strung acoustic guitar. You may not end up picking it up at all!

For the young learner who isn't buying their own guitar, you may need let them earn their electric guitar if they do want one, by spending some time toughening up their fingers on a three-quarter sized nylon strung acoustic guitar. Even after some time with the nylon strung guitar, they will notice how uch harder the electric guitar can be on the hands. They will also have shown the commitment to justify the extra investment the electric guitar requires.

One Last Thing, What If I'm Left-Handed?

Now this can feel like a controversial subject at times, but doesn't need to be. I'm not sure when someone decided to make the first left-handed guitar, but given we are using both hands, until then there had just been guitars. How many left-handed violins, lutes, or pianos do you get? I've not seen any! People have seen them, and if they are left handed just mentally prepare themselves to play that way round. If anything, the hand being worked harder when you learn 'right-handed' is actually your left hand!

More than half of the left-handed people learning guitar do learn right handed (well known guitarists like Gary Moore and Mark Knopfler among them), leading to a big disparity in choice and value in nearly all areas. Only nylon strung acoustic guitars can be re-strung without issue for the beginner.

There will always be those with an issue with their left hand, meaning they really do need to have their right hand on the fingerboard, and those who have already learnt left-handed for a while. It's very hard to go through re-learning.

Whichever you choose, make sure you commit to learning, as the the first few months are the hardest, and the rewards for getting through them the greatest!
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