Buying Your First Electric Guitar Rig

Everything that you need to know when you are wanting to get into the world of electric guitar.

Ultimate Guitar
Both young and old guitar enthusiasts make the decision to pick up the guitar and set their mind to learning, and buying your first electric guitar rig should be a fun and educational experience. Guitars are arguably the favorite choice when it comes to learning a new instrument, and guitar sales are a thriving industry that has created the need for knowledgeable salespeople.

Buying Electric Guitars

A guitar shop with a knowledgeable sales associate is a great place to be, if they are focused on you, the customer. There are many small retailers who exemplify this, but walk into any Guitar Center or Sam Ash music, and you will consistently find an employee who has their focus on educating the customer. The serious beginner would benefit from taking some time to do their research before they shop, but an able and willing sales associate can be invaluable in fitting the novice with a suitable rig. Be mindful that the big box guitar stores give you plenty of space to play with the instrument, as comfort when you are beginning to play is important. While being big means a consistent flavor in every store you go into, it does not always mean the best price or the best customer service. Smaller retailers of guitars are often renting instruments out to school students and holding lessons at the store as well. This encourages a friendly atmosphere, and a store that needs to uphold a reputation of honesty and integrity in the community. These stores may put customers in touch with quality brands that the larger retailers will not or cannot carry, giving students unique options as their playing grows.

What is in an Electric Guitar Rig?

Buying your first electric guitar is an exercise in willpower. Both large and small retail guitar stores have amazing works of art displayed along with the less expensive factory models. As hard as it may be, the goal of the new guitar player should be finding a quality instrument with basic features, a good reputation, and a warranty. It also helps if the first guitar tune-up and cleaning is thrown in free. The beginning guitar player is getting an instrument to learn on, because this is where the most joy is derived. Buying decent quality and good looks can be achieved, however. In fact this is the largest segment of the market, so models from Fender, Dean, Ibanez, Mitchell, and dozens of other companies, all have good beginner to intermediate models at prices between $200-$500. A great rig with an electric guitar, a guitar amp, and a spare set of strings can be purchased at the $500 range. For new players on a budget, a lower end package under two or three hundred dollars will provide hours of excitement for the beginner. These lower end packages usually feature guitars like the Fender Starcaster, which won't impede learning, but may not be suitable as the student's ear is trained to hear better. Few people can say with absolute conviction that they will never quit playing once they start. The reality is that many people will start to learn and quit not too long after for one reason or another. If money is no object, enjoy the best Fender or Rickenbacker guitars has to offer, and while you're at it, buy a Marshall amp large enough to blow out the living room windows. For the majority of beginners this is not feasible, and spending several thousand dollars on the best guitar and amp is a waste of money. Buy basic quality with a clear amp, and focus on producing good tone with excellent technique.

What Else You Need To Play Electric

There is a point when an electric guitar is too cheap, and produces horrific sound through no fault of the beginner. These guitars are very cheaply made and priced, and will be detrimental to learning notes and chords, and training the ear to hear them. That said, there are a handful of electric guitar accessories you need when buying your first electric guitar rig, besides the electric guitar and guitar amp. Purchase at least one set of strings, preferably two if you plan on practicing a lot, a string winder, an electric tuner, and a simple guitar tablature book for reference. About the author - Corey Palmer has been a guitarist for the past twenty years and has owned quite a number of different guitars in that time. He also offers guitar tutorials and other advice.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

    String winder?! Anyways, as KG6_Steven said, bring a experienced guitar player with you, they would make it harder for the emplyees to "advertise" Spider IIIs...
    A Multi effects pedal made all the difference in the world when I started playing. Playing thru that cheap starter amp almost made me quit. It sounded like a wounded kat. The effects made the guitar sound like rock'n roll. And I could tune/mix the effects to whatever sound or tone I was looking for. I've saved at least 2 other beginners from giving up guitar by using the same method. If it sounds good, you are more motivated to keep playing/praticing. And, I can practice/play anytime I want with a portable, battery powered little RP50 and some headphones. In the evenings with the family while they watch TV, at work during lunch, sitting outside around the pool. I practice everyday, and people only have to listen to it when I decide to plug into one of my much better, quality amps, that I would never have had, had I not been motivated enough to keep trying. It has a tuner in it as well. Oh, and I find the string winder very handy. Wouldn't change strings without one. My 2 centz.
    Zeppelin Addict
    innertom wrote: and a distortion pedal. its a must have
    not when learning. it is much easier to pick out playing mistakes while learning to play through an amp on a clean setting. when you become more fluid you can go for distortion but until then its really just a quick fix for not soundin great
    String winders are actually pretty handy. They save a lot of hand crankin' on the ol' tuners. I would strongly discourage any beginner from using distortion or other effects, until they have their technique perfected. It sure would be bad if you thought you were playing those chords right and then learned that you weren't with the distortion turned off.
    "and a distortion pedal." No, not when you begin, like me, some beginners think that a distortion pedal with "fix" the amp's horrible sound.
    Great article, very informative. Explains the options well and the benefits of each choice well.
    Chetbango wrote: Oh, and wouldn't an electric guitar "rig" include an amp?
    "A great rig with an electric guitar, a guitar amp, and a spare set of strings can be purchased at the $500 range."
    Decent article. While I wouldn't be too concerned about a free tune-up and cleaning, I think I'd be more concerned with a proper setup - which is what you may've meant. Intonation isn't a biggie to a beginner, but proper action is. It's also important to point out that most stores will haggle on the price of big ticket items. If they reduce the price to make the sale, don't expect them to toss in freebies, such as strings. I also recommend taking an experienced guitar player with you for your first purchase. They can cut through the hype and they're not on commission.
    joey arce
    I do have to say I tried to use local stores, but they were just a**es. I prefer the guys at sam ash. At least the one I go to. I can just talk to them what I am looking for. Actually when I walk in and they get somethign new in I try it out. Worst experience was when they handed me the dark fire that is an awful guitar.
    Hey i am 15 n i got my first eletric guitar there two days age can any 1 tell me a few songs to start on ??