So, what sort of guitar do I need?
You put a new set of strings on your dad’s old Spanish guitar from the attic and although it was hard work and your fingers hurt you did manage to learn a couple of chords and you think I’d like to go for an upgrade.

First off, everyone’s fingers hurt at the beginning. They are not designed to press hard on what is basically cheese wire and rest assured that Eric Clapton shares this fact with every other budding guitar player…..when you start your fingers hurt.

But, don’t give up.The more you practice the easier it gets and you will develop some nice corns on the ends of your fingers that you can show off to the girls, which is why you’re doing it in the first place..right?

So what guitar?
Unfortunately the only thing you’ve probably got to go on is based on who you like and the style of music that they play. I say unfortunately because that is no basis for choosing a guitar. You are not going to sound like your hero even if you can afford to shell out for the undoubtedly mega expensive setup he’s got. The tone and class is in the fingers so if you are serious about wanting to get into playing electric music then you should plan out your entry into that world and not try to do it all at once.

There are many excellent quality entry level guitars for you to learn your craft and if the unthinkable happens and you give it all up to backpack the Greek islands with some girl in six months time it will have been better to have spent a couple of hundred quid rather than a couple of thousand.
Whatever the manufacturers tell you and whatever mythology you’ve heard (and there is a LOT of mythology built around guitars) there isn’t much to an electric guitar. A decent playable neck and good pickups are all you need. The main difference between a major brand, Fender, Gibson etc. (other brands are available) and a Vintage or Squier cheaper version is that the expensive one will come with more attention to detail and setting up. I play a 1979 Stratocaster but I also have a year old Vintage V6 which, to be absolutely honest and brutal, is pretty much the same. In a blindfold test you would be hard pressed to tell the difference and the sound is not far off. BUT, and this is a big but, there is a lot of psychology involved in all this and the manufacturers know that I would rather be seen playing my vintage Fender (as in old, vintage) than my Wilkinson jobby (as in Vintage, the make). This is a subject for another article.

The important thing to decide, and here there are major differences, is whether you go for single coil or humbucking pickups. That will be decided by the sort of music you want to play. Single coils like those on Fenders give a clean, toppy sound and humbuckers like you get on Gibsons are louder with less definition, usually referred to as ‘muddy’ although I don’t think that is a fair description.

I like to describe the difference as single coils are like scalpels and humbuckers are like lump hammers.

About the author

Our guest blogger Alan Kensley has been playing guitar, harmonica and singing for 54 years. He ran his own business making, customising and repairing electronic music gear and guitars for many years and was a staff writer and consultant for 'International Musician and Recording World' magazine and its sister magazine 'What Keyboard?'. He has an in depth knowledge of electric music from a technical background and a player's point of view and has a great reputation for his honest, no nonsense approach.