Guitar playing can be an economical hobby; you can easily get started with decent equipment for under $300. I recommend putting together your own starter kit rather than going for pre-assembled varieties. I also advocate for a classical foundation no matter what genre you’re aiming toward; but don’t let that stop you: work with what you've got. Most importantly be sure that you take charge of the direction you’re headed. Here are a few ideas to get you going...

Best Beginner’s Guitar

The Cordoba C-5 Classical acoustic nylon string guitar with solid cedar top is one of your best bets. It has low action on the neck (making it easier to play) and good tone for a reasonable price. The guitar I play most often is also a Cordoba, a Gipsy Kings electric flamenco. They're a reputable manufacturer (though perhaps a little short-staffed on quality control). Shop around to locate a good deal, or you can always resort to Musician's Friend who probably will have them in stock for under $300.

Method Books

Classic Guitar Technique, by Aaron Shearer, Volumes I & II (Warner Bros) published under various labels beginning in 1959 (Volume I) and 1964 (Volume II) are the ones to get. Some of my students have had trouble locating copies with the change of publishers, but they're worth hunting down. Shearer gives the best step-by-step descriptions of how to achieve excellent technique. You might try the website dedicated to Aaron Shearer as a resource. One of my students recently found his copies through Elderly Instruments.

Basic Equipment

You'll need a foot stool. I have been able to locate ideally sized plastic kitchen stools for a buck each at discount stores. You can also find foot stools specifically designed for guitar players. They're not expensive, but they also break easily. Other than that you'll need a metronome (you might try the Qwik Time QT-3 Quartz Metronome). And don't forget a tuning fork. Tuning with "pitch forks" (as I like to call them here in the grain belt) is becoming a lost art in this world of electronic tuning devices, but they're not difficult to use.

The Alesis SR-16 Stereo Drum Machine is also a handy practice tool. I encourage students to consider it for learning to play in accompaniment with others. Your teacher, if you have one, should be guiding you toward rhythmic accompaniment, not just learning notes and chords. After all the point is to play music, right?

Classical Recordings

Speaking of playing music, here are some ideas for audio recordings, an essential component to all starter kits: 

  • Andres Segovia 1927-1939 Recordings, Volume 1 & 2 (EMI Classics, October 1990)
  • Segovia: The Great Master (Original Recording Remastered: Deutsche Grammophon, September 2004)
  • Christopher Parkening: The Great Recordings by America's Preeminent Guitar Virtuoso (EMI Classics, September 1993)
  • In the Spanish Style: Christopher Parkening (EMI Classics, October 1990)
  • Classic Williams: Romance of the Guitar (Sony, May 2000)
  • Villa-Lobos: Guitar Concerto; Préludes; Etudes (RCA Victor Gold Seal, November 1993)
  • and recordings of Julian Bream