Choose your first blues guitar

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First Guitar Purchasing Guidelines

Let’s admit it, entering a Guitar Center store for the first time can be pretty overwhelming. Hundreds of guitars of different shapes, colors or size hanging from walls and ceiling. You want to get the best for the buck you have been saving for the last month or ten years. You want to pick one and immediately start playing “Stairway To Heaven”. The one problem of choice remains. Which one to buy? Which one is right for you and your, budget or maybe level of skill? This should clear some air.

First, there is a need to choose the “right” type of guitar for you. This means going for an Acoustic or an Electric Axe. Throughout this “guide”, you will consistently be told to hear what is played in the music you love to listen and go for the closest thing to it. Quite frankly, this is the trick you need to know and anything below this point will just be repeating itself to persuade you. Buy what is played in your earphones or the closest thing to it.

“Electric guitars are much more suited for the beginners. They are easier to handle and don’t hurt your hands too much. An acoustic guitar, however, requires a much more skill level and very strong fingers.” Personally, I find it to be a load of crap and would recommend going the other way around. Learning acoustic for the first couple of years would make you ecstatic when you get your hands on an electric guitar and you will be inspired and in love with both. Going from Electric to an Acoustic on the other hand is raising the difficulty level and might be too weird or hard for some to appreciate. Keith Richards supports me in going for the acoustic first. But he was around much longer so maybe it is I, who seconded his thought.

Acoustic guitars produce sound naturally and do not need any external setup. If you prefer to go with an acoustic guitar, you also need a guitar humidifier. This is a special tool for keeping your instrument moist. The lack of moist in the air affects an acoustic guitar’s health and sound quality.

Electric guitars, on the other hand, need external hardware such as power, amps and cables. Acoustic guitars are often used for folk, country or Blues music. Electric guitars, on the other hand, are much more suited for rock’n’roll, harder stuff and metal. This may affect your budget, so choose wisely. If you dream about playing guitar next to a campfire, this will probably be impossible with an electric guitar – as mentioned, they need external setup. Below there will be suggestions on the popular brands of guitar manufacturers. Remember to go for the music you like.

Think about purchasing a guitar tuner. Tuning a guitar is important and you should try to rely on the tools less in the beginning and develop your ears more. After you do, tools can be a shortcut, but not an alternative. If you prefer, there are online guitar tuner websites and apps out there, they do the same job.

Guitar strings will be your own category of cost. Choose the gauge you like and then go for the brand. Heavier strings diameter is usually chosen for the Blues but it still remains a personal subjective matter.

You also need to buy a guitar strap to keep the guitar on your shoulder. Add guitar tabs and guitar chords to the list too, first one for the first songs you need to learn, the second one for the first sounds you need to know about. Ultimate Guitar Website should suffice.

The Concept of “Blues Guitar”

It is worth noting that the concept of “Blues Guitar” is only in our minds. There is no such thing when it comes to the feeling. Buying a Custom Fender Stratocaster will get you no closer to playing Blues than buying a shovel and nailing a wire to it.

However, that shovel will produce much more Blues if you put your heart into it and Jack White seems to agree with me on this one:

So, keeping in mind that in proper hands, a shovel will sound better than Eric Clapton’s Luthier Stratocaster, I will attempt to formulate some guidelines to further assist your choosing the proper first Blues guitar.

Observing Your Favorite Guitarists

First of all, figure out what you’re listening to. Seriously, grab a pen and paper and write down your top ten guitarists. Then go look up what they are playing because chances are the music that you like will be resembling the music which you will want to play. If, say 5 out of 10 Blues Guitarists that you admire play a Strat, you should consider finding a Stratocaster in your budget. Fender makes them for everyone now from a $100 Squiers to thousands of dollars worth Custom Shop.

I personally might be a little biased, since I love and adore my Strat and everyone I listen to and learn from play one. Nevertheless, the concept remains – if you want to create your own sound based of the sounds you like, it would be good to get as close to the sounds you like as you can.

Reading the Specs

Now that you have narrowed it down to say, a couple of good options, it is time to do some heavy research on both. Figure out how many sub-models are there in one instrument. For instance, let’s compare Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Paul for our Blues Guitar choices:

Fender Stratocaster Models:

Custom – Thousands of dollars.

American Vintage – $1.5k+

American Standard – $1.3k

American Special – around $1k

Mexican Standard – around 600$

Japanese Standard – around 600$ but growing in value since there is almost a cult around these guitars.

Squier (which is a budget version of Fender) – anywhere from $100-$500

And a number of signature, special, vintage, humbucker/single coil options in between.

Gibson Les Paul Models:

Custom – same as Fender. Going to be more than $3,000.

Standard – around $2,5k.

Traditional – around $2k.

Studio – a little over $1k.

LPJ – around $800.

Melody Maker – around $500.

Epiphone – a more affordable version of Gibson guitars that range anywhere from $100-$600.

As we can see, there really isn’t any reason for someone who wants to play, not to play. Anyone can afford a guitar and those who can’t should look at Jack White video again.

Feeling the Guitar

As with everything else, we come back to the feel of our Blues Guitar. You absolutely must go to the guitar store, stand in front of all of them that are in your price range and wait until one jumps out into your hands. You will know that it is the one when you pick it up. Make sure you take only those that you can afford, because I assure you it gets better with each higher price range but then it will take longer for you to start.

So, within your budget, plug all the guitars that got your interest into an expensive amp and play with it without anyone rushing you into making a decision. This will be your “first guitar” for life and a wrong decision can discourage you from playing. We really do not want that. Hold it, look at it, feel it in your hands and go for it when you know you have made the right choice.

It is not going to hurt you to start with the cheaper versions of different models and upgrading when your heart calls for it. The better your guitar is, however, the easier it will be to play it and to sell it. Demand exists everywhere so take good care of your guitar. My money says you won’t care for selling your first guitar friend.

Just think about it, by the time you upgrade to a better model, you will play well and each better guitar will make your playing even easier. It is a great feeling.


Eric Clapton is known for his custom Stratocasters: