Hard to Play Guitars?
Now, what do I mean by “hard to play”? One of the major considerations for a guitar player of almost every level is “action”. Action refers to how far the strings sit above the fretboard. There is this sweet spot where the strings are very close to the fretboard, and thus easy to depress with your fretting fingers, yet don’t produce a buzzing sound where the string vibrates against a fret wire when you strum or pick a string. A nice low action makes the guitar infinitely easier to play, which is crucial when you are first beginning, as it helps to alleviate some of the inevitable frustrations. If you pick up a guitar for the first time and try to strum a chord and feel like your fingers are working harder than they should to get the strings to the fretboard, then put that guitar back and try another.
You need to have an axe that makes you want to pick it up and play it, not one that makes you think twice because it’s killing your fingers. Your fingers will invariably hurt just from doing something they aren’t used to doing, so no need to amplify it with bad action. OK, so action is important, but what kind of guitar do you want? What kind of guitar do you need? This is where you have to decide a few things before you buy.
How To Decide Between Electric or Acoustic
What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to be in a rock/metal/punk/ska band? Do you want to play songs around a campfire while people sing along? Obviously, these are two totally different goals, and each has its own requirements from a guitar, so let’s start with the latter. An acoustic guitar can have steel strings like an electric, or you can get a classical acoustic with nylon strings. The nylon strings of the classical acoustic may be easier on your fingers at the beginning, but you are a bit more limited in what you can ultimately play. I will say, however, that anyone that can play a classical guitar well can make these guitars sound absolutely amazing as they do possess such a warm and comforting tone. If you’re saying to yourself right now “pppffft, classical guitar? I want to shred!”, go to YouTube and check out just how shred-worthy some classical guitarists are. You don’t truly know shred until you’ve seen Paganini played with finger picked sweep arpeggios on a nylon string guitar. An acoustic guitar with steel strings is likely what you are more familiar with as it covers the musical gamut from blues to rock and everything in between.
A steel string acoustic guitar usually has a smaller neck (not as wide or as thick) than its nylon counterpart, and that makes it generally easier to learn on. The steel strings also make it a bit louder, as well as crisper and brighter sounding, so it would be the guitar of choice for those camping sing-alongs. Another bonus is you don’t need to buy an amplifier (although you can get electric acoustic guitars as well—it is simply a steel string acoustic with a pickup in the body), so it really is simplicity at its best.
Most guitarists will own several guitars, and at least one of them will invariably be an acoustic guitar, as they are really easy to just pick up and play without the hassles or worries of amps and effects or bothering neighbours. Just sitting and doodling or writing your next hit comes very easily with a nice acoustic guitar. Of course, if money is an issue and you can’t possibly get both an acoustic and an electric at this point, then my advice is to get what you really want! The more invested you are in your purchase, the more likely you are to sit and play, and that leads to nothing but good things.
So, you want an electric guitar? Great choice! There are few things, in my mind at least, as chillingly electrifying as hitting a power chord and hearing it rumble out of your amplifier. Sure, you can pick up an electric and start playing it; you can even generally hear it as the strings are still vibrating; but without the soundhole of an acoustic (or being plugged into an amplifier), that is the best you will get. Any noise will easily drown out your unplugged electric. So, if you are wanting an electric, then you will need some form of amplification to get it to do what it was made to do. That, of course, being to RAWK! So if what you want to produce (sound wise) comes from an acoustic guitar, like the incredible songs from a band like Neutral Milk Hotel, then you want an acoustic guitar. If you see yourself as the next Dave Mustaine or Dimebag Darrell, then you definitely need an electric one!
There are also accessories that you need with your guitar, and this is where something like a “starter pack” can come in handy (as it provides you with a guitar and everything that you need to make it work in one nicely priced bundle). For a new budget-minded guitarist, the Fender Squier Series Stratocaster pack comes with a guitar, amplifier, strap, gig bag, spare strings, and the oh-so-important tuner. The gig bag really only protects the guitar from scratches, so if you plan on travelling in any significant way with it, you should upgrade to a hard-shell guitar case.
But no matter what you are looking for, always try several different versions and brands, and no matter how cool it looks (or how little it may cost), if it doesn’t feel comfortable—for whatever reason, then keep on looking, because at the end of the day, your comfort will lead you to want to play, and that is always a good thing. So best of luck, happy shopping at Best Buy, and I truly hope to see you on a stage somewhere soon!
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