I know there is another question similar to this one but it didn't answer all my questions.

I am just a beginner and I want to buy an electric guitar. First of all I have heard that you should start with an acoustic but I don't like acoustic in general. Is this true??

Next, I should look at the quality of the guitar especially the neck, fingerboard and the frets right?? The knobs and switches should also be good?? Any specific things I should notice?? Can anyone recommend a simple tune or chord that I can play to compare tone and quality of pickups?? What does intonation mean and how can I check it?? Last question, How should I get my guitar set up for easy playing??

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    I just found your other question. If you like the HSS Squire then there's no reason not to buy it. It should be set up from the factory. I wouldn't worry about buying a more expensive model - again, you just won't notice the difference yet. I would force yourself to learn on the cheap guitar until you can play pretty well and have saved up enough for the USD 1500+ market (Fender American Standard or Gibson USA brands, etc.) At that point you'll know what to look for. If you want a humbucker, buy a guitar with one, don't try to retrofit. Aug 7, 2018 at 13:48
  • Thanks a lot for the advice. I was breaking my head then I realized I might get a better guitar later anyway.
    – Tarun
    Aug 7, 2018 at 13:50

4 Answers 4


First of all I have heard that you should start with an acoustic but I don't like acoustic in general. Is this true??

If the music you want to make is electric, you will never get there and love music with an acoustic. If the music you want to make is acoustic, you will never get there and love music with an electric. I own both. I love both. I prefer the electric.

Last question, How should I get my guitar set up for easy playing??

Reordered because this gets deeper.

"Easy playing" depends a lot on the kind of playing you want to do. If you want to play lead guitar, like Angus Young of AC/DC, you would want a flatter neck and lower action, which allows you the ability to bend more. If you want to play rhythm guitar, like Malcolm Young of AC/DC, you would want a little more bow in the neck and higher action, so the strings can ring freely without clanging on frets.

I recommend medium picks and strings (.010 sets) until you can express a need for either heavier (I want to detune and djent, or be cool like SRV) or lighter (I want easy bends for country or blues, or be cool like Billy Gibbons).

Doing a setup is fairly easy, and there are guides available online, but if you're getting a pro setup, explain the kind of playing you expect and they should be able to make it work.

A setup is, more or less: truss rod > new strings > string height > intonation. The scariest is adjusting the truss rod, but if you do quarter turns and give it time, even that shouldn't be too bad. And, esp. if you stick with the same gauge of strings, you shouldn't have to redo it when changing strings.

What does intonation mean and how can I check it??

Intonation means how close the note you're intending to play is to the note you're actually playing. If you play slide, or steel guitar, or fretless, or violin, or most other instruments, this means training your ears and hands. If you play guitar, it is a mechanical process.

We guitarists mostly mean that the octave note at the 12th fret is the same note as the octave note at the harmonic at the 12th fret. With the electric, this involves pulling out a screwdriver and an electric tuner. With an acoustic, this involves choosing the right strings, maybe cutting a new bridge, and eventually just saying "this is close enough".

Either way, you can't fully tune a guitar. Between physics and even temperament, it just isn't going to work. But you can get close enough.

Next, I should look at the quality of the guitar especially the neck, fingerboard and the frets right?? The knobs and switches should also be good?? Any specific things I should notice?? Can anyone recommend a simple tune or chord that I can play to compare tone and quality of pickups??

Plug it into an amp and move the switches and pots to every position. (Terminology break: the knob is the thing that you touch, but the potentiometer, or pot, is the thing that is part of the circuit.) An older pot may have dirt and cruft in it, and be scratchy. There is electronics cleaner that can help, and new pots are like $4 and some soldering, but if you don't want to do that, don't buy that guitar.

For the neck, the biggest watch-out I can think of is a dried-out fretboard, which will shrink some and have sharp annoying ends of frets sticking out the side. Some time and a file will rectify that, but again, if you don't want to do that, don't buy that guitar. You can get perfectly acceptable $100 guitars these days, a gift from Free Trade and the CNC gods, so there's no good reason to get started with a fixer-upper.

If you're learning, you don't have the trained ear yet to tell good tone and pickup quality. Don't stress on tone just yet. And best of luck.

  • Thanks a lot solved most of my problems but what is the octave note at the 12th fret and the octave note at harmonic at the 12th fret. I know basic theory but not harmonics. Could you explain??
    – Tarun
    Aug 11, 2018 at 16:09
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    There should be lots about playing harmonics, both on this site and on the net. In short, if you touch the string right at the 12th fret, it should ring out, quieter than an open string but one octave higher, which should be the note at the 12th fret. Aug 15, 2018 at 14:22
  • Ok that seems simple. I'll do this for every string when I buy the guitar next week.
    – Tarun
    Aug 17, 2018 at 4:23

First, I completely disagree that beginners should start with acoustics. I'm not sure where that idea came from, it makes no sense to me. I learned on electrics and to this day I rarely play acoustic, which leads to the advice I give my students on electric vs. acoustic: buy the one you want to play, based on the genre/style(s) you want to play. If your ultimate goal is to master all of James Taylor's songs, then buy an acoustic and get started right away. If you are obsessed with Rage Against The Machine and want to learn to create all kinds of crazy noises on your guitar, start with an electric.

For the rest of your questions, here's the problem: There's a lot to know about buying a high quality guitar to be able to assess whether it's a great guitar or a ripoff. We can't transmit all the knowledge you need over the internet in a few paragraphs on a web site. It's just not possible to summarize all the things to check and how to check for them.

So what do you do? Buy an inexpensive guitar to start out. You won't notice the difference between a USD 150 and USD 1500 guitar at first - you'll be a beginner on both of them, so don't even bother looking at the midrange or high end models.

Computer controlled milling have made it possible for guitar makers to produce extremely consistent and highly playable guitars for very little money. Gibson Epiphone guitars made in Korea and Fender Squire guitars made in Mexico are both examples of this - with the Fenders being widely seen as some of the best value for the money available anywhere.

Same goes with amplifiers. You just don't know what you want yet. You definitely want to get an amplifier as soon as you can afford one, but again, don't spend more than USD 100 - 200, if that. I see nothing wrong with beginners getting those all-in-one boxes that have a budget guitar, amp, cable, strap, and other doo-dads.

One thing you definitely need is a tuner. You can get an app for your smart phone, but having an inexpensive guitar tuner that you can plug the guitar into will be a little easier to use than an app and your phone's microphone.

The other thing you will need is to know how to tune it. Back in my day, of course, our only option was to buy a book for beginner guitarists. Now, you can just find a web site or YouTube video. Tune the guitar every time you play it. It will be annoying at first, but you will learn to tune the same way you learn to play, and being in tune will make a big difference as you learn.

Regarding amps, ignore the wattage. It doesn't matter at all. If you have a chance to play each amp, buy the one you think sounds better. Or have a person at a music shop play for you so you can hear the difference. But really, it doesn't matter that much. You just need to get playing and saving your money so when you're ready, you can buy midrange quality gear that you know you love because you've learned enough to be able to tell.

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    I am sure about Fender design and sound so I am going for the Squier Affinity Strat HSS. Also I have sort of learned all there is to learn in keyboard so I am no novice to music. I can hear the differences between the guitars in the store with a 100W amp, but I am not going to confuse myself more. About the tuner??? Is it possible to play the note on my keyboard and just tune it with my ear??? I do this for my violins and it turns out very well.
    – Tarun
    Aug 7, 2018 at 13:54
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    @Tarun Yes, if you already know how to tune a violin then you'll be fine with a guitar. You may feel like an electronic tuner is "cheating" but as someone who plays several instruments I love the fact that the electric guitar I can just tune precisely in a few seconds with a plug-in tuner that eliminates noise and uncertainty. If you already know a bit about music, then my advice is a little off, but one thing stands: Below USD 1000 - 2000, it's all budget stuff that is usually just going to be for learning. Don't stress about it. Aug 7, 2018 at 13:57
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    Ok thx a lot. 10W Practice Amp it is...
    – Tarun
    Aug 7, 2018 at 14:07
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    get a tuner app for your phone. or if your ear is good that is fine as well. get a metronome app too. lots of good free options. Look for used amps. you may get more quality for cheaper and a banged up amp will sound fine if it is in good working condition and this can save you some money. buying a used guitar can have all sorts of problems but not as much of an issue with an amp. if you can't really play and want to get a sense of what it will sound like ask the sales person to play for you. you should still "play it" to see how it feels in your hands but that may help.
    – b3ko
    Aug 7, 2018 at 15:24
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    @Tim: Someone without a tuner will need to play loudly enough to hear what they're doing. This may be difficult in a noisy environment, or disruptive in a quieter one. Using a neck-mounted or pickup-fed tuner will ease both of those problems.
    – supercat
    Aug 7, 2018 at 18:26

All depends on what you want to play.

Starting out on an acoustic is not a terrible idea when you are new to the guitar, having an instrument with a wide fingerboard is very forgiving for newbies. It has a purer tone which is great for learning the basics.

Yes, when you get some experience under your belt and you decide on what specific genre you want to play, then sure buy the instrument suited for that genre.

A cheap nylon is a gateway guitar. That being said if you know from the outset all you ever want to be is a jazz guitarist, then don't buy a nylon. Buy some sort of jazz guitar but for a new player who wants to dabble in a few genres before making a hard commit, the nylon will be a great intro guitar.

Yamaha makes great entry-level nylon guitars which have staggering amounts of value for money. You can buy a 300-500$ Yamaha that is a great instrument that will keep you occupied for many years while you are still developing chops.

As for the setup, typically you will not have to worry about that. Any new instrument should be sold with a setup done from the shop that sells you the instrument. That simply put is just an industry standard.

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    Lots of jazz is played on nylon strings, especially after the rise of Brazilian jazz.
    – user39614
    Aug 8, 2018 at 12:14
  • Thanks for the advice but I am sure I don't want to play calmer types of music that require acoustic guitars. I am not sure on a particular genre yet but I think that is because I am sort of between Pop, rock, classical rock and hard rock. Not much metal but I want to learn some jazz as well. I don't think I will ever be playing one type of music over another for long.
    – Tarun
    Aug 11, 2018 at 16:17

Get a guitar with the lowest action you can afford. That is what will make you play better and you will enjoy it more. The more expensive the instrument, the lower the action will be, as a rule. Get some decent pickups because that makes a big difference. Everything else is marginal for the most part as far as playability and sound goes and are even pretty good on the cheapest Chinese guitars.

  • I prefer low action but that isn't the be-all and end-all of better playability. A good setup for better sustain, no buzzing, polished frets and fret-ends, good intonation, and staying in tune are just as important. Sometime people might prefer a slightly higher action so they can dig in but it does seem like a good idea to get it al low as you can for your preference and your picking style. This ensures that you don't hold down notes notes so far they go out of tune.
    – Tarun
    Dec 25, 2019 at 12:00

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