- Accoustic or Electric?
- What's the difference?
- Humbuckers or Single Coils?
- What they heck is a humbucker?
- How big should it be?
- How do you want it to sound?
I would say that the most critical element, especially when buying for a youngster, is making sure that the process is fun. Playing guitar IS fun and so you need to make sure you keep the fun factor alive all the way along. Ok, so let's address some of the questions from above.
ACOUSTIC or electric?
I tend to recommend electric guitars for beginner players and I will focus primarily there. There's a couple of reasons for this. The fun factor and player comfort are the big one's.
When I started playing it was on acoustic guitars. These were HUGE on me and I always had blisters. If you can make it comfortable to play then it's much more likely that someone will stick with it.
Electric guitars are much easier on tender fingers. The "Action" or distance between the bottom of the string and the fret is reduced and this makes the string easier to press down. Also, there is less tension on the guitar's strings. This makes it much more comfortable for new players.
Electric guitars like the Fender Squire Mini or the Ibanez Mikro are built for the little ones on our lives. They offer smaller bodies and short scale necks that are easier for little fingers to play chords.
Your little one might rather play Thunderstruck than Kumbaya. Remember, keep it fun if you want them to stick with it.
Finally, my personal favorite feature. You can buy an amplifier with a HEADPHONE JACK! Therefore you won't have to listen to Thunderstruck if you prefer Kumbaya!
I'll start by talking about the scale length of the guitar neck.
First, click the picture to the left and look at the Bridge and the Nut of the guitar. The distance between the two is called the "Scale Length."
The Scale Length is very important in determining how comfortable the guitar will be for the fretting hand.
- The Scale Length of a Standard Fender Stratocaster is 25.5”. A short scale guitar like the Fender Squire Mini is 22.75 inches. This means that frets on the Squire Mini are closer together than those on the standard Stratocaster. Therefore, smaller hands will find this much more comfortable.
- A Shorter Scale Length will also reduce the amount of tension needed to tune the string to pitch. This makes pressing the string down or bending the string easier.
In general, a guitar with a shorter scale length is easier to handle for a beginner or a smaller person. Still, there are other factors that determine the playability as well, such as string gauge, neck profile, neck dimensions and how well the instrument is set up.
I will talk more about these topics later.
The best way to know for sure is to go to the local music store and try different scale lengths to see what is most comfortable for you.
SINGLE COIL OR HUMBUCKER? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
I could do an entire post on this topic. In fact I will at some point. For now though, we are referring to the guitars "pickups" The job of the guitar pickup is to "pick up" the vibration of the strings and convert them to an electronic signal that can be amplified.
Go back to the anatomy of a guitar diagram above and click on the picture to see the pickups. This is an example of "single coil" pickups on a Fender Stratocaster. They are often associated with blues, country, and rock sounds. Think Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and John Mayer. All of these guys play(ed) Fender Stratocaster Guitars as do I. You can here mine here. Check out the solo around two minutes in to get an idea of what single coils sound like.
A humbucking pickup, or humbucker is a type of electric guitar pickup that uses two coils to "buck the hum" (or cancel out the interference), induced by the alternating current in single coil pickups. They tend to have higher output and a great for heavier styles of music like hard rock and heavy metal.
I am being overly general here as there are humbucker guitars that are used for jazz and there have been heavy metal guitar players that use single coils. There are no hard and fast rules here so go with what you like. If you love Stevie Ray Vaughan then get a strat.
YOU WILL NEED AN AMPLIFIER - Fortunately entry level practice amplifiers are pretty inexpensive and many offer that coveted headphone Jack! My personal favorite is the Roland Micro Cube. I have one and it's fantastic. I take it to the cottage with me all the time.
I have included a basic guideline for guitar sizes based on the type of guitar and the age of the player.
The chart below is a good starting point.
Ages 6 - 9
Acoustic - 3/4 Size
Classical - 3/4 Size
Electric - Mini Electric Guitar
Bass - Mini Bass Guitar
Ages 9 - 12
Acoustic - 36" Student Size
Classical - 36" Student Size
Electric - Full Size Electric Guitar
Bass - Short Scale Bass
12 - Adult
Acoustic - 40" Concert Size
Acoustic - 41" Dreadnought
Classical - 40" Concert Size
Electric - Full Size Electric Guitar
Bass - Full Size Bass Guitar
Again, these are only recommendations At the end of the day you need to find what's best for you or the person you intend to buy the guitar for.
Try stuff out. Talk to your guitar teacher or other people who play guitar. Some stores even rent guitars. Check out Long & McQuade for that.
Lastly, DON'T CHEAP OUT! This doesn't mean you have to buy the best guitar in the store but the cheapest will be cheap for a reason. Things like machine heads for tuning the guitar will be of poor quality on an inexpensive instrument. If you are unable to keep the guitar in tune it will become a source of frustration and aggravation and this is counterproductive when we are hoping to have a little fun.
Anyhow, I hope you have found this informative and useful. I will continue writing and posting as often as I can. Please feel free to comment and don't forget to hit up the bands facebook page with a like and most importantly,