Hello! I wanted to create my first discussion here, and I thought about what I'd have liked to have known when I bought my first guitar (in 1980!). So, here goes - my 2 cents and experience...
Do as much research as possible - types of woods, sizes, scale length, nut width, etc. In 1980, my grandmother came to me before Christmas and said "if I give you $250 for Christmas, will you buy a guitar and take lessons?" I said yes, took my also-17-year-old friend with me to a guitar store (he played guitar, so I thought he could help...), and bought a guitar. No research, no knowledge, no clue...
Buy the most guitar you can afford! I started on a Penco with a too high action, hopefully at least a solid top, and I have no idea what nut width it had. If I had started with a guitar with better action, and a nut width that suited my hand, I'd be Tommy Emmanuel now! Well, maybe not, but I'd be better...
My point is, buying a $99 guitar package is not the best way to go. I understand not wanting to spend a lot of money for something if you are not sure you (or whoever you're buying for) is going to stick with it, but, if you've at least bought an instrument, and not a piece of crap, if there is no interest, you can at least get something back by selling it. Also, and a far more important point, if it's difficult to play, practice won't happen, or even be enjoyable.
Know that there are different nut widths, and find out which is best for you. Small hands? Don't buy a 1.75", 1.8", or larger nut. Large hands or thick fingertips? Don't get a 1.68" or 1.6875" (1 11/16). If your hands don't fit the fretboard comfortably, or your large fingers are muffling adjacent strings, you are going to frustrate yourself, and not want to play.
Get at least a solid-top guitar, from a manufacturer with a good reputation. If you have the money, go for an all-solid-wood guitar - expect to spend at least about $500-$600 for solid wood. Expect to spend at least $200 - probably $250-$300 - for a good quality, solid top, laminated wood back and side guitar.
My suggestions? Play all the guitars that you can, make an informed decision, and you'll have a great musical experience! Check out all Godin acoustics - great range of materials, nut widths, and prices. I'm sure others will have MANY brand suggestions for you as well!
Good advice, FloridaGull. The only tricky point is "play as many as you can." I certainly agree, but if you're a beginner, it'll be hard to evaluate based solely on your own playing, so I found it helpful not only to have the guitar store salesperson play it, but also bring a friend who is a good player and can speak to you objectively after playing it him/herself.
BTW, I have a Seagull S6 Original for sale at Don's Music City here in Greensboro, NC, for anybody in the area who's interested. Like new and a great price!
I may not be an expert Gull, but I agree 100% with that statement. I would always steer a new (and mostly youth) player towards electric first. For that reason.
I learned on a classical, and it took me a LOOOOOONG time and a lot of hair pulling before I was able to play a normal steel string acoustic without my fingers always touching the other strings.
I'm just saying....
Nut width plays a huge role in the learning process..especially after someone has mastered the basics.
here's an analogy.
When I was a small boy. my brothers and I learned to play table tennis on a table that was made from a 4X8 sheet of plywood. The actual dimensions of a regulation table tennis table are 5X9.
When us boys were unleashed on the general public on regulation tables... Well let's just say that the only person who could come close to beating me was my brother...and visa versa.
That extra foot all around made a HUGE difference!
Of course. There's always someone better, faster, stronger... etc...
I finally met my match on the table tennis table.
But that guy went on to win two Silver medals in the olympics, and was ranked number one in the U.S. professionally...
Started learning guitar seriously this January 2011. The search of my first guitar took more than 12 guitars... LOL
Well, actually I had many "first" guitars, everyone of them felt like a "first" for a while...
The real first one was a brand new $70 no-name deal from online, no truss rod, I played it till my fingers bled, literally, after callus and blisters, the action was so damn high now I realized. Being the kind of person who have this tendency to reinvent the wheel (and refused to engage a teacher), I plowed on, blister or not. But then the guitar kept getting out of tune, so finally broke down and went downt to the local store and got a real guitar, a used beat-up Yamaha for $150. Still use it for my next-to-computer guitar after converting to 5-string and making the action super low, using it to arrange the new songs. What I love more about it was that somebody installed a pre-amp inside, that puts out a real loud and clear signal (no volume control), and the battery has yet to run out.
Then my electric guitar friend made me realize THAT is easier on my fingers, so bought a new Squire, looked the same color as that one in Wayne's World. It was OK, but the strings are so close together... So I bought another cheap electric online, one with WIDE NUT, but the wiring inside is so crappy, lots of unwanted noise. I have a Roland Micro Cube by now. Got really frustrated with the noise, so I went down to the local store and bought a brand new regular-nut Ibenez Gio, no noise, very nice.
But alas, after a couple weeks I realized I really wanted the wide nut, so I bought an Agile wide-nut online. Loved it, bought a 2nd one (don't ask me why). Then I realized... electric guitars are NOT for strumming/singing, the sustain is too long, especially an Agile 3000. And being a beginner, I don't know how to hand-silent the strings. Back to accoustic/electric, and Ovations, since in my regular playing position I am standing up instead of sitting down, Ovation allows you to see the strings in that in that position. And 4 Ovations later, I found my "true love", in a $320 shipping-included refurb CSE24, modified to 5-string of course and truss rod and nut properly adjusted (by me). Sweat sweet guitar.
Did try to get rid some of the unwanted, or all if I can, but no luck. Seem like guitars are so cheap to make, it constitute very little of the selling price. The the beautiful (sound and look) purple Ibanez Gio is still in the original brand new on condition, paid $200 locally, the guy would only take it back for $50. In my head I thought, I rather smash this guitar and burn it at that price... LOL
In the end did get rid of a couple ones I bought new online, at 30% loss. The rest are resting on my wall high up, around house, as decorations, well actually more than decoration since I can take any of them down and strum...
Definitely get a teacher who can save you some money instead of buying a dozen guitars like me, unless of course you can afford it w/o the wife bitching...
Well, nut width is important, because it indicates the E-to-E distance. Regular guitar has a 35mm E-to-E distance, too small for adult beginners IMO, Seagull guitar is excellent for adult beginner with their adult-size fingers, 39mm E-to-E. As the student get better, they can go back to regular guitar which has a 35mm E-to-E distance. I don't own any Seagull, but tried one at the store and varified the E-to-E distance. Instead I convert regular guitar with its regular nut to 5-string, and replace the regular nut with a 48mm sawed-off nut (to 42mm) , axing off the 6th string (low-E) of course, which resulted in a Seagull-like spacing for the remaining 5 strings.
But the last few dasy I wondered if I could ever play a regular guitar with regular nut, so I tried, a bit tricky, so many strings lol, so little space. So today I convert one Ovation using a 44mm sawed-off nut so that the spacing goes half-way back toward regular nut, it works. A lot more "seamless" in the transition. The 44mm nut has a 37mm E-to-E distance.
So now to convert all my guitars to this new nut... yes, I am learning more to be a self-taught luthier than guitar player LOL.
Well, slap me silly, just found out today that sometimes you hold down TWO strings with one finger, especially if they are very tight in there against the nut on the 1st fret. Silly me, trying to use two fingers to do that LOL. So this is one reason to keep the strings closer together.