What is the Best Guitar for Beginners?
As a guitar teacher fielding questions from brand new guitar students, one question I get a lot is, “What’s the best guitar for beginners?”
In this article, I’m going to explain my answer as well as the key things you should look out for when you are looking for your first–or perhaps first decent–guitar.
Playability, Playability, Playability
When it comes to a guitar for a person who is new or at least relatively new to guitar playing, the key quality you want to look out for is playability. Is the guitar you’re checking out easy to play? Can you make notes ring out clearly on it? Do you have to struggle to press the strings down with your fingers?
Now, at first, you’re not going to be able to tell whether it’s your guitar that’s not playable or your fingers that don’t know how to play. So you need to plan for this as you scout out possible guitars to buy.
The only reason people compromise when it comes to their first guitar is the cost factor. If guitars were all free, every student starting out would have the perfect playable guitar on which to learn.
Yet, since guitars cost money (often a decent chunk of it), most beginning guitarists that I run into tend to have a guitar that is woefully inadequate for their needs. Specifically, most beginners end up trying to learn to play guitar on guitars that are basically unplayable. I would never in a million years want to get stuck trying to play some of these guitars.
Looks, the sound, the price–all of these factors are less important than playability.
Whether the guitar looks beautiful or not means nothing if you can’t play the thing and make it sing.
A guitar could sound like a million bucks, but if you find it impossible to play, you won’t be able to bring its potential to life.
Saving a few bucks on a cheaper guitar that’s unplayable is more likely to cause you to quit playing the guitar altogether. Wouldn’t you rather spend a couple hundred more and get a guitar that actually makes the process of learning to play the guitar easy and enjoyable?
The Quest for a Playable Guitar
Since I have plenty of students coming to me asking me what kind of guitar I recommend, I’ve been hunting far and wide for a guitar that combines the important aspects of playability, great sound, reasonable price and good looks. However, until just last week, I’d never found a line of guitars that I felt consistently good recommending.
A couple months ago, one of my Skype guitar students showed me her guitar and gave me the rundown on how it was designed to be playable above all else. It was made by a company called Zager Guitars. I was impressed, but since we were on a Skype lesson, I couldn’t exactly reach out and try the guitar out for myself.
This is where things got a little weird. A couple weeks after this student started up with me, I get an email out of the blue from the head of sales for Zager. He was writing to ask whether I’d be interested in spreading the word about their guitars.
Well, since I hadn’t played one for myself, I didn’t feel comfortable recommending these guitars. Not here on this site anyway.
But a couple weeks later, another one of my students who had been struggling to play on her standard newbie guitar (which was as cheap, bad sounding and totally unplayable as most of these randomly named plywood monstrosities tend to be) was ready to upgrade to a decent guitar. Given what I knew about her process of learning to play, I immediately thought of Zager guitars and figured it was time to go out on a limb and recommend them to my student sight unseen.
A couple weeks later, her new Zager ZAD20 guitar arrived.
(In a strange twist of fate, her old unplayable guitar actually tumbled off its perch on her bed and completely broke a couple days after she’d ordered her new guitar…how’s that for destiny, eh?)
When this student brought her guitar into our lesson, I was very excited to finally get to try out one of these Zager guitars. Since Zager only sells their guitars over the web, it had been shipped out from Nebraska and arrived in Nashville in one piece.
First Contact with a Zager ZAD20
So, how did this brand new Zager guitar play?
It was everything my Skype student had said it would be. It was as playable as any guitar could be.
Actually, it was even more playable than any guitar could be–this guitar redefined the meaning of “playability” for me.
If you’re trying to learn to play the guitar and are experiencing some buzzing frets when you play, then you should definitely try a Zager. It was amazing to hear the difference in my student’s playing with her old guitar and now with her new Zager. All those buzzing notes were totally clean and clear.
Moreover, I’ve never before played a Full-bar F Major chord and enjoyed myself quite so much. The Zager guitar makes playing bar chords way, way easier.
How Does a Zager Guitar Become so Playable?
I don’t understand everything about how Zager guitars are designed and constructed, but upon inspecting my students new ZAD20, I will share what I noticed.
First off, we all hear about the “action” on guitars, which is how high off the fretboard the strings are. On the Zager ZAD20, the action was perfectly set. Not so low as to cause frets to buzz like crazy, but not high at all either.
Another key component of a playable guitar is the shape of the neck. The Zager ZAD20 boasts an incredibly “fast” neck. It’s very thin, which means you can easily position your hand on the neck without having to struggle. It’s very easy to slide up and down the neck as well.
Next, Zagers come with light strings pre-installed. Where other guitar companies match strings to their guitars as an afterthought, Dennis Zager at Zager guitars has carefully considered the type and gauge of strings that works best to help a guitarist make music as effortlessly as possible. The strings that come on a new Zager are light and very, very playable.
There are, I’m sure, other aspects of the Zager guitar design that surely influence the playability of these guitars. I’m a guitar teacher, however, not a luthier, so I can’t completely speak to every dimension of this guitar’s construction. Suffice it to say that I have yet to encounter a more playable guitar, and that’s a huge thing for any beginner looking to pick up their first guitar.
Well, Is There Anything Bad About a Zager Guitar?
Lest you think I’ve taken the Zager pink kool-aid and can’t see anything that could be improved on the Zager ZAD20, there are some things I don’t like about this guitar.
My main gripe has to do with the sound. The ZAD20 sounds a little tinny and a little flat. The bass doesn’t boom quite as much as I’d like it to, and the trebles can sound a little tinny.
However, you have to keep in mind that the ZAD20 runs around $395. So, if you keep its price in perspective, the ZAD20 sounds unbelievable. It sounds way deeper and richer than comparable guitars at its price point, and it’s the most playable guitar you’ll ever find to boot.
The Zager ZAD20 Is the Best Guitar for Beginners
To summarize: if you’re a beginner looking for your very first guitar, or if you’re a beginning to intermediate guitarist with a guitar that is hard to play, definitely take a look at the ZAD20 from Zager Guitars.
You won’t find another guitar anywhere that sets you up for success as well as the ZAD20. This is a high quality, hand-crafted guitar designed to sound great and play well. I can’t say enough good things about them.
If you want to pick up a Zager, by the way, you won’t find them in stores. They’re only available directly from their website. Click the banner below to check them out: