How do I know if I've got a good starter guitar?

Do you have a good starter guitar?

Lots of beginners to guitar are worried about whether or not the guitar they are currently using is a good starter guitar. Most of the time, the guitars they use just fine. Chances are good that you are already playing an excellent guitar for your level.

If you want a more informed opinion about your guitar, my suggestion is to bring your guitar to a guitar technician. These are people who work on guitars all day long and can give you some of the best advice.

Aside from taking the guitar to a professional, how do you know if you have a good starter guitar?

The attributes of a good starter guitar

Does it stay in tune?

Let's assume that you know how to tune your guitar. If your guitar can't stay in tune, it's a bad guitar. 

If you have tuned your guitar and it still doesn't sound correct, you could try replacing the strings. If that doesn't work, you could try replacing the tuning pegs. The latter option is a bit overkill. Besides: Are you willing to do all of that just for a starter guitar? 

If any cheap guitar (to me, under $300) does not stay in tune, I won't play it and I won't replace the tuning pegs.

Does it have a lot of fret buzz?

Fret buzz happens when your guitar's strings are so close to the fretboard that they rattle uncontrollably. It doesn't matter how much pressure you use on the fret or if you have the best possible positioning.

If the strings buzz, this is a mark of a not-so-good starter guitar, but it's not a deal breaker.

String buzz is one of the many things that guitar technicians fix on a daily basis. So, go get that guitar set up! It might solve the problem for you. Additionally, the same technician could give you a very pointed opinion on the quality of your guitar.

Are the strings far off the fret board?

If a guitar can stay in tune and doesn't sound buzzy, the next thing I'd look at is how far the strings are off the fretboard. This is called string action. 

The mark of a well-made guitar is that the action is low enough not to get fret buzz, but not so high that it's hard to play. The expensive guitars, like the ones that are above $2,000, are almost  guaranteed to have low string action without too much fret buzz.

The higher the string action, the harder the time you're going to have pressing the strings (and the more the strings will dig into your fingers).

What about your starter guitar? Does it have low string action? This is something that a guitar buddy or a guitar technician can answer for you.

Do you enjoy looking at the starter guitar? Does it have character?

I really love guitars that are all scuffed up... Not guitars that were intentionally scuffed up in the factory, but guitars that have a history of being played. A guitar with character... What about you?

Do you like a guitar that has scuffs? Scrapes? Scratches? History? Do you like a guitar that is pristine? Unspoiled? Innocent and corruptible? What about colors? Do you like a guitar that is shiny? Bright? Neon green or pink? Or is just plain black your style? Natural? A sunburst of some sorts?

What about style of guitar? Do you like acoustic cutaways, or do you think they look garish? Do you want a guitar that most everyone has or do you want a unique one? Do you want one that looks like heaven to play, or do you want one that is dirty and looks as if it went to hell and back?

A good starter guitar will looks appealing to you. 

Do you like playing it?

The final question is an important one: Do you like playing the guitar?

If it feels like a piece of junk, chances are that you will regret having it around. I don't care if you borrowed it from a friend and didn't have to pay for it, it'll suck to play. 

If you really like the feeling of holding the guitar in your lap, the weight of it, the feeling of when your hands are on it, then you're on the right track.