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Starting Electric Guitar

Want to get in touch with your inner rock star? Picking up the electric guitar is a great way to do that. Not only is the electric guitar easy to start, it’s a lifelong hobby that’s fun, challenging, and sure to impress your friends and the ladies.

In the past, learning an instrument was a major commitment. Today, with all the resources available on the internet, you can not only get started in a matter of days without ever setting foot in a music store or music teacher’s practice room, you can also master the instrument from the comfort and convenience of your own home. We’re going to tell you how.

Getting Started

Unlike the acoustic guitar, it takes a little bit more to get started on the electric. An electric guitar on its own is technically all you need, but you’re going to want to plug it in and pick up a couple accessories to really get started on the right foot. However, that first guitar is the most important piece of the puzzle. 

Choosing a Guitar

There are literally thousands of electric guitar choices available to choose from that it’s super easy to get overwhelmed. Fortunately, There’s no need to bang your head against the wall choosing a guitar when you haven’t even started playing yet. There will be plenty of time, once you’re more advanced, to find a guitar that suits you perfectly. For now, we’ve enlisted one of our writers with over 20 years of electric guitar experience to curate the three best options for beginners.

Squier Fender Standard Strat Epiphone Les Paul Ibanez RG450X
The Fender Squier Stratocaster is the entry level version of perhaps the most famous guitar of all time: the Fender Stratocaster. Perfect for classic rock lovers, the Squier is a perfect segue to the guitar played by greats such as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. If there’s any guitar that rivals the Strat in popularity, it’s the Les Paul. Like the Squier, the Epiphone Les Paul is the entry level Les Paul. While it’s plenty versatile, go with the Epiphone Les Paul if 90s rock and grunge is your vibe. For metal heads out there, the Ibanez RX450G is our pick. Great for heavy riffs and soloing alike, the RX450G is a great guitar at a great price. And, it’s got 24 frets, something that will come in handy down the road.

Amplifiers

Now that you’ve chosen a guitar, you’ll need an Amp*. For beginners, there’s one amp that stands up above the rest in our opinion, the Blackstar Fly 3. It’s got a shockingly good sound for a portable, the headphone jack sound quality is also great, and it’s size and portability make it ideal for small apartments, dorms, and naturally, if you have to leave the house in order to play.

If you have a lot of space, live in a private residence, and don’t see portability as much of an issue, the Fender Champion 20 is our in-house experts top pick for beginners. It’s got a great tone, crisp sounding over-drive and quality reverb and other effects, which makes it suitable for many genres without needing additional effects pedals. It’s also an amp that will last you beyond your beginner years.

* – You could go the all digital route but it’s more complicated to setup properly  

In addition to an Amp, there are a few other small accessories you’ll want to get.

Cable Picks Strings
Honestly, the differences between cables isn’t large, pick up cables that are at least 10ft in length for convenience. You may want to experiment with different picks, but for beginners, Dunlop 1mm picks strike a great balance between being sturdy enough for picking individual notes while still loose enough to easily strum Controversial perhaps, but we think easier is better, especially for beginners, and no strings play easier than Ernie Ball super slinky 9’s.

In addition to the three things above, you should also consider buying a guitar case and a guitar stand. A case is great if you ever want to leave your home with your guitar. At home, you don’t want your guitar just lying around, so pick up a simple stand as well.

Case / Bag Stand
Honestly, the differences between cables isn’t large, pick up cables that are at least 10ft in length for convenience. Controversial perhaps, but we think easier is better, especially for beginners, and no strings play easier than Ernie Ball super slinky 9’s.

Playing the Guitar

You’re all set with equipment. Now it’s time to play! We’ve compiled a list of great resources to help get you started learning the guitar. Remember, even though the guitar is a relatively easy instrument to learn, it isn’t something you’ll pick up overnight. It will take significant practice over a period of at least a few months before you can reliably play some simple songs–unless you have other previous musical instrument experience.

Getting Started

To get started you’ll need to potentially string your guitar and definitely tune it. To tune your guitar, we recommend getting the GuitarTuna app, it’s free, and easy to use.

To String your guitar, check out this video:

Now plug your guitar in to your amp and you’re ready to play!

For lessons on where to go from here, check out JustinGuitar. It’s a free resource with tons of lessons that are extremely beginner friendly.

If soloing is more your jam, hone in on your lead playing with Beginner Guitar HQ’s How to Improve Your Solo Skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

Not ready to take the plunge yet? Got a few questions? Here are a few common ones.

I’m a lefty, what should I do? 

Many lefties regret not having learned on a regular right-y guitar, however, there is no “right” answer (no pun intended). The benefits of learning right-y despite being a lefty is a larger selection of available guitars, easier duplication of lessons, and ability to pick up and play on your friends guitar. Learning on a lefty guitar; however, is probably a little easier for a natural lefty.

How long does it take to get good?

It can take a lifetime or it can take under two years, depending how much time you dedicate and how you define “good”. To learn how to strum a few songs to impress the ladies can be done in a matter of months. To be able to shred like Yngwie Malmsteen may take years of rigorous practice.

How different is acoustic vs electric?

While both are guitars and naturally have many similarities, they do have their differences. Most people find acoustic guitars more difficult to play, given the tighter, heavier strings and larger body. Electric guitars usually have thinner necks, more accessible frets, and lower action, the distance between the strings and the fretboard.

With effects and software, how much does what guitar I choose really matter?

This is an interest area of debate. Nowadays, software (and hardware) effects can turn almost any guitar into a great sounding one. However, the difference in guitar quality does not only come down to sound. Better guitars are much more “playable” than bad guitars–they feel much better and it’s easier to pick and move your fingers across their fretboards.

I’m worried my neighbors will complain about the noise. What should I do?

A great thing about the electric guitar is that it can easily be played through headphones. The actual sound an electric guitar makes when not plugged in is way too low for any reasonable neighbor to be bothered by, let alone even hear. Get a pair of headphones and plug them into the speaker/headphone jack of your amp if noise is a concern.

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