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Monday, August 09, 2004


I'm constantly being asked for advice about buying a 'first' guitar. The concern is always the same; nobody wants to drop a sizable chunk of change on something that will just collect dust if the child becomes disinterested. How true. I believe that any musical interest a child may have should be given a chance. So here's some advice along those lines.

An acoustic guitar would be ideal. They are portable (can you take that thing outside!) and need no peripherals/incidentals/accessories (other than a tuner! a must!). Acoustic guitar is a great tool for developing 'an ear' for notes and chords, and for developing the muscles needed to play. Acoustics generally have higher action (the space between the string and the neck) and more pressure is needed to 'fret' the note. Generally speaking, if you learn first on acoustic you will develop into a better player. Decent acoustic guitars can be had for a reasonable sum; $100-$200. You get what you pay for, and a quality guitar will cost more, but it will also last longer, and sound sweeter. Yamaha and Ibanez make affordable guitars of reasonable qulaity. If you feel like your child is worth the extra investment - go with a Martin. In my opinion, stay away from Ovation (they sound like crap) and nylon string/classical guitars (kid's hate them, the necks are too wide, and they don't have that big sound).

"I want an ELECTRIC guitar" Who doesn't ? If your child is adamant about being a rock god, this can be done as well. In fact most of my peers, including myself, began on electric. Again, you need to ask yourself how much you want to spend and how serious is your child. Electric guitars need amplifiers and straps (gonads must be supplied by the player), so already you will probably end up paying a little more for the electric 'package'. Most retailers (Sam Ash, guitar Center) offer package deals where you can get all you need at one low price; a starter kit if you will. These packages invariably consist of the lowest end models available, and I suggest strongly to stay away from them. My advice is to get your kid a Fender Stratocaster, and a small Fender combo amp (12 watts should be sufficient). Fender guitars are still reasonably priced despite thier popularity, and have a habit of staying nicely in tune. I own Two Fenders, a Stratocaster, and a Telecaster. American made Fenders are supposed to be superior, and they run about 700 dollars, a mexican strat costs about 300 (my strat is mexican and I love it), and a Squire (Fender's low end subsiduary) costs about 100. If, however, your child wants a Gibson, and who doesn't, have no fear...Epiphone is here. A Gibson Les Paul lists for an easy $2,400. Epiphone - Gibson's low end subsiduary - offers Les Pauls for $300-500. I bought my two Epiphone Les Paul Jr.s for $169 each, and I love them. So don't despair, your child's first guitar need not break your bank. Unfortunately, ear plugs are extra.

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