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In the age of technology, DJs and Turntables may be cool and throbbing with energy but there’s nothing like the strum of a guitar and the self-assured swagger of a true rock god (or goddess!). Imagine Jimmy Page working his magic on an Ableton. Hell, no!

A recent Washington Post report revealed that sales of electric guitars are on the decline. However, it’s not all over because there are still some of you who remember and know what good music a.k.a. Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds like – the one that’s got soul, attitude, and has something to say.

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Acoustic or Electric?

Besides obvious cost reasons, beginners shouldn’t ideally buy an electric guitar as their first instrument. An acoustic guitar will put you on the right (and painful) path to control your fingers and make you aware of tone clarity in a much better way.

It’ll also be less annoying for your dad, sibling, neighbour or cat to handle your disharmonic progress since it won’t be blasting out of a 40W amplifier with a distortion pedal turned to the highest level. Trust me, my humble sister still remembers the intro to “South of Heaven” even though she has no clue what/who composed it.

Among acoustic guitars, imported manufacturers (such as Fender, Yamaha, Washburn, Cort, Epiphone etc.) have an edge over their Indian counterparts (Givson, Hobner, Hohner and other imitators) as their craftsmanship is way better. This means the wood used for the body and top is high-quality (spruce and mahogany) and, crucially, the frets will be perfectly placed and levelled.

During my learning days on a Hobner playing Metallica, it wasn’t uncommon to have bleeding fingers only because some of the frets were wonky and had sharp edges. Although this may work for Bryan Adams, no beginner should be subject to this because of a faulty instrument.

Which Colour Should I Buy?

Seriously, it does not matter. What you should look for instead is good sound emanating from an acoustic and its craftsmanship. This will only help you progress with confidence. Test it for dead notes and sharp frets throughout the fretboard. I know several frustrated friends who’ve tried learning on a shitty guitar (of their colour choice) only to chuck it into a kabaadi-wala’s store.

Right-Handed or Left-Handed Guitars?

This is a preference based on your general dexterity, but I must tell you that right-handed guitars are made in much higher quantities and varieties, and are subsequently cheaper than left-handed ones. This translates to a wider range of guitars at your disposal if you ever have to advance your knowledge. You can always train your way to ambidexterity. Some of the most famous right-handed guitarists such as Gary Moore, Mark Knopfler, and Kiko Loureiro are normally left-handed.

Jumbo or Cutaway?

Again this is a matter of preference – generally speaking for rhythm or solo usage. A jumbo acoustic guitar sounds fuller with more low-end or bass, while a cutaway (also called F-Cut in Indian music shops) will have higher mids and treble but will allow you to easily access the higher frets and NAIL that Sweet Child of Mine intro! I personally prefer the Cutaway. Avoid the Spanish guitar, which has the best sound but is more suited to learn Western Classical music and uses finger-picking – a steeper learning curve.

What Else Should I Get?

For your new guitar, most sellers offer a free soft carry-case, which you should buy if they don’t. A set of strings from brands such as D’Addario are a must as you will break a couple of strings on your learning journey. A handful of cheap plectrums (picks) are a must as these buggers are known to fall and hide inside the hole in your acoustic.

Where Should I Get It From?

The best way to buy your first guitar is by going to a music store and personally testing the instrument. Online retailers such as Bajaao and Musician’s Mall should be your second option.

How Much Should I Pay?

There’s no limit to cost when it comes to a great acoustic guitar. A general budget of 6-8k should suffice for a good instrument that will egg you to play it and unleash your inner rockstar.

Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar

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