Your first guitar
Before we get into it, let me just say, this is my own personal view on choosing your first guitar. I am not sponsored by any company and the views expressed here are purely my own.
Ok. First things first - put your credit card away!
In my opinion, the worst thing you can do when buying your first guitar is blow a huge amount of money on an instrument in the hope it will 'encourage you to learn'. It won't! So forget about Gibson Les Pauls or Custom Shop Stratocasters for now.
Let's put things into perspective. Your first guitar needs to be good enough for you to learn the basics on. You're not going to be rocking the Albert Hall just yet. That said, it also needs to be a guitar you are comfortable with. Acoustic guitars can be quite bulky so a smaller bodied acoustic guitar might be the one to go for. Similarly with Electric guitars - there are some radical designs around, but are these going to be the most comfortable choice to get started with? Probably not.
The first thing you should do before you even start looking around for your first guitar is to set a budget. The second thing, and more importantly is, stick to your budget. In this day and age we are spoilt for choice with the amount of guitars that are available. The market is highly competitive which, for us as guitarists, is good news. So how should you decide on your budget? Try not to go below £100 if possible. This may seem a little steep but true to the old saying - you get what you pay for. Some of these cheaper guitars look great on the website but don't be fooled, they are photo shopped to look great. They are normally (ok always) made from the cheapest materials available. The quality control is also not up to much. Now, there is an exception to this £100 rule. I'm talking about a new instrument here. If you can pick up a £100+ guitar second-hand you may well save quite a bit of money. Unfortunately the turnover of guitars is huge as many people start to learn and quickly give up. TAKE LESSONS - THEY REALLY WORK!
Just be sure with second-hand guitars that you check them carefully for any signs of serious damage. I would tend to stay away from guitars that have cracking around the join to the body or the head as a rule of thumb!
So the lower end of the budget is £100 new or if you can pick up a second-hand guitar that was £100+ new for less that's fine. The high end of the budget (remember this is just my personal opinion) should not exceed £300. Why? Well think of it this way. You are new to this. You are probably going to drop it, bang it, scratch it... It's natural. Better to do this with a cheaper guitar rather than a £4000 custom shop model. I also believe you should earn your guitars. Start out with a good quality, modestly priced instrument then, a few years down the line when you have improved to a good level, look to make an investment in a more expensive guitar. Make it a challenge; once you reach grade 5 you will treat yourself to a Gibson SG, for example.
A few makes that I always recommend for beginners are as follows: Vintage (distributed by JHS ltd), Squier, Yamaha, Ibanez, Epiphone and Tanglewood.
1. Choose your budget and stick to it (£100 - £300)
2. Stay away from radical shapes to begin with. Go for comfort.
3. Don't go on looks alone. Ask to pick a guitar up and see how it feels, you don't need to play anything!
4. Do your research - A guitar with a £200 RRP in one shop might be on offer at another.
5. What type of music are you going to play? Choose a guitar that is suitable!
6. If you are going for an electric remember you mill need an amp/lead so factor that into your budget.
7. Ask if it comes with a gig bag or case and some plectrums. Anything they throw you in is a bonus.
8. Don't be pushed into buying something you don't really want. You will be spending a lot of time with your guitar so, make sure it's your choice not a pushy sales persons.
9. If you can, get someone to go with you who can help you pick a good quality guitar.
10. Stay away from cheap imitation imports. You'll be disappointed! Go with genuine brands like those above.