Last Updated 10/8/20

Steel or Nylon? Full size or 3/4? Choosing a first guitar can be a intimidating, and confusing, so we've created this to help you make an educated choice about your first guitar.

Skip to:

Nylon, Steel or Electric?

Beginner Guitar Sizes

Beginner Guitar Price

Best Nylon String Acoustic Guitars for Beginners

Best Steel String Acoustic Guitars for Beginners

Best Electric Guitars for Beginners

Nylon, Steel String or Electric?

Nylon-string-guitar
Nylon String Guitar
 Steel String Acoustic Guitar
 Electric Guitar
Pros ✅Lower string tension, easier on softer fingers
✅Generally cheaper, and available in smaller sizes
✅Best for Classical, Flamenco & Latin styles of playing
    ✅Available in many different body shapes and neck profiles
    ✅Steel string acoustic guitar sound more versatile and relateable than nylon for most students
    ✅Best for singer/songwriters, folk and pop playing 
      ✅Almost endless options & customisation
      ✅Slimmer, rounder neck for easier chording
      ✅Best for Rock, Metal & Blues playing
        Cons ❌Wider, flatter neck makes many basic chord shapes more difficult
        ❌Neck is generally not adjustable
        ❌Many students find the tone dull and uninspiring
          ❌High string tension requires more strength to play
          ❌Few options for smaller instruments
          ❌You will likely loose your body weight in picks before you stop dropping them into the guitar
            ❌Requires additional equipment, like an amplifier making a full setup is generally more expensive, and less portable
            ❌Requires more regular maintenance
            ❌Few options for smaller instruments

            The Nylon String Myth

            Many teachers and websites recommend students start on a nylon string guitar, but other than tradition, is there actually any basis for this?

            A nylon string guitar (also known as a classical guitar) typically has a lower string tension, and less abrasive string material, so they are almost unquestionably a little softer on younger, softer fingers.

            However, while a nylon string guitar might seem easier to play in the abstract, that doesn't mean everything is easier to play on it. The wider, flatter neck and fingerboard make reach make some simple chords more difficult. The neck also typically joins the body at the 12th fret, making certain notes extremely difficult to reach. 

            Most experienced guitar teachers will generally tell you the right guitar to start on is the one you actually want to play. Simply put, if your goal is to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix or John Mayer, there is no real advantage to starting out on a nylon string. Your favourite songs will be easier to play on the electric, and the sound will be a lot more rewarding. 

            Similarly, aspiring singer/songwriters and folk musicians will likely get a lot more satisfaction out of a steel string acoustic. Sure, the strings are a little harder to press down initially, but students develop this strength quickly, and after a few weeks, it is rarely an issue.

            Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't start out on a nylon string guitar either. In addition to being the ideal beginner instrument for Classical, Flamenco or Latin styles of music, it's a safe bet for a very young, or very old beginner, who may genuinely have trouble holding down the thicker strings on a steel string acoustic. 

            Which Size Guitar Should I Buy?

            4/4 Guitar 3/4 Guitar 1/2 Guitar 1/4 Guitar
            Full Size
            3/4 Size
             1/2 Size
            1/4 Size
            Suitable for ages 12 and up
              Suitable for ages 9 - 12
                Suitable for ages 6 - 9
                  Suitable for ages 6 and under

                   

                  It should go without saying it is extremely important for a guitar student to have the right size guitar. In addition to the obvious fact that playing the wrong size guitar is going to be more difficult for a new student, playing the wrong size guitar can cause permanent damage to muscles and ligaments. 

                    Choosing the right size guitar is something that is generally best left to the experts, and we strongly recommend you either speak to a teacher or trained salesperson before making a final decision about which size guitar to buy. As such, the above size recommendations are only rough guides as to which size might be appropriate for which age. 

                    As with clothing, shoes and sporting equipment, there is a lot of variation, and it is not uncommon for people to be 15 or older before they are ready for a full size instrument. This is further complicated by the fact that every maker has their own ideas about how big each size should be.

                    Even taking height and reach into account, it would be impossible to create a firm set of rules about who should play which size guitar. Instrument sizing is not only based on the relative size of the player and instrument, but also on the player's armspan, finger length, shoulder and wrist flexibility, and a number of other minute factors that take an experienced eye to spot. 

                    As a general rule, it is better to have a guitar that is too small than too big. A small instrument may lack the richness of tone that a larger instrument will have, but playing a guitar that is too big has the potential to cause permanent damage to a young player's wrists, back, shoulder or hips. 

                    If it is impossible for you to consult with a teacher or salesperson, here are some handy tips for checking whether a guitar is an appropriate size.

                    1. Measure the guitar against your height. It should reach somewhere between your hips and ribs.
                    2. Sit down with the guitar in the classical sitting position. With a little practice, the guitar should balance without help from your hands, and with minimal effort from your legs. A guitar that is too small will tip, or slide. A guitar that is too big will require a lot of effort from the knees to hold in place.
                    3. Reach towards the end of the neck with your left hand. You should be able to wrap your fingers around the headstock without straining.
                    4. Wrap your fingers around the neck. You should be able to make your index finger and middle finger touch without too much effort.
                    5. Try pressing down a single string with the very tip of your finger. If you find that it is almost impossible to press down one string at a time, the guitar is likely too small.

                    Logans Offer guitar sizing free of charge in Sydney, with no obligation to buy, and no appointment necessary. See our opening ours here

                    How Much Does a Beginner Guitar Cost?

                    It really depends on you, but Logans generally advise you budget at least $350 for your first guitar. More if you want to add accessories like a stand, tuner or case.

                    Cheaper than this usually suffer from a wide range of issues, ranging from bad tuning stability, unfinished fretwork, harsh or "boxy" sound, high string action that makes playing them virtually impossible, or some unholy combination of all these problems. We see these instruments in our workshop almost daily, and while we can sometimes make small improvements to these guitars, they are almost never worth it. 

                    There are notable exceptions to this, like Yamaha's C & CS Series, or the Cordoba Protege, but we would advise all of our customers to be wary of cheap, poor quality instruments. If a price sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is.

                    We recommend that everyone sticks to well made, brand name instruments for their first guitar. 

                    Best Beginner Nylon String Acoustic Guitars

                    Pros ✅Available in sizes 4/4 (C40) and 3/4 (CS40)
                    ✅Includes Korg digital tuner & instructional DVD
                    ✅Durable construction & 3 year warranty

                      Available in sizes 4/4, 3/4,1/2 & 1/4
                      ✅ Includes fitted carry bag
                      ✅Brighter, clearer sound
                      ✅Modern Spanish design includes trussrod for additional neck stability & adjustability

                        ✅Available in size 4/4
                        ✅Solid Cedar top for warm tone and improved projection
                        ✅Includes deluxe padded carry bag
                        Modern Spanish design includes trussrod for additional neck stability & adjustability

                          Cons ❌Doesn't include gig bag, but at this price, who's complaining? 


                            ❌Small nylon string guitars with high tensions strings are not everyone's cup of tea
                            ❌Takes longer than average to "break in" for an entry level guitar
                              ❌Satin finish requires extra care
                              ❌ Warmer sound is not suitable for all styles of music

                              Best Beginner Steel String Acoustic Guitars

                              Pros ✅Slim, easy to play neck
                              ✅Comes with thinner strings, ideal for beginners
                              ✅Includes tuner, gigbag, capo and a wide range of other accessories
                              ✅Durable construction & 3 year warranty

                                ✅Slim, easy to play neck
                                ✅Comes with thinner strings, ideal for beginners
                                ✅Great tuning stability for an entry level guitar
                                ✅Surprisingly full sound for a laminate top guitar

                                  ✅Wide range of colour options
                                  ✅Rich, detailed sound comparable to much more expensive guitars
                                  ✅Pleasing satin finish neck will suit most players
                                  Smaller concert body model also available

                                    Cons ❌Tone is a little "boxy"
                                    ❌Fretwork could be better
                                      ❌Doesn't include any accessories
                                      ❌Glossy neck feel will not suit all players
                                        ❌At this price, none

                                        Best Beginner Electric Guitars

                                        Pros ✅Available in both full and 3/4 size
                                        ✅Wide range of body shapes and colour options 
                                        ✅Based on classic Fender designs
                                        ✅Exceptionally good tone for the price

                                          ✅Lefty models & wide range of colour options
                                          ✅Simple control layout with plenty of tonal options
                                          ✅Great tuning stability for an entry level guitar

                                            ✅Classic Les Paul Jr Body Shape
                                            ✅Comfortable slim taper neck
                                            ✅bright, versatile tone
                                            ✅ Epiphone limited lifetime guarantee

                                              Cons

                                              ❌Tremolo models can have tuning issues
                                              ❌Stock strings on 3/4 models are too thin*
                                              ❌Output jack needs regular tightening on most models*

                                                ❌Bright pickups will not suit everyone
                                                ❌Heavier than many similar style guitars
                                                  ❌ Doesn't sound like most Les Pauls, which may bother

                                                  *= note that these are very easy things to fix, and absolutely not deal breakers on what is otherwise a great series of guitars

                                                   

                                                   

                                                   For more great guitar related content, follow us on Facebook or Instagram @Loganspianos