So you want to play guitar....
But what kind of guitar should you buy as your first instrument? Or you may have been given one or found one in the attic but you don't know if it's right for a beginner. There is no right or wrong answer to that question, it depend on who you are and what you want to do.
For example, if you're buying a guitar for a small kid, you should try a smaller scale guitar because his hands may not be big enough to tackle a regular fret board yet.
Another big question is: do you think you have the passion or is it just another thing you want to try?
A popular beginner's choice is a Nylon guitar, you can find inexpensive models and starter kits (that may include picks, case and a stand) both in regular and small scale.
Nylon strings are easier to fret than steel ones so you need less strength to play chords and barres and you can build your calluses without hurting your fingertips too much.
On the other hand a Nylon guitar' sound is really only suited for classical music so when you're finally ready to play your favorite song it may let you down unless you go for a specific style.
An Acoustic Steel strings guitar is the other side of the coin: is much harder to play at first and your fingertips may hurt and look like raw meatballs if you play it too much before your calluses are hard enough but the sound is definitely more trendy and, if you switch to an electric later on, you will have developed a very strong left hand.
But if your dream is to become a guitar hero, you may want to start directly with an Electric guitar but remember that to enjoy it completely you also need an amplifier, so a starter's pack (including an amp, a strap and maybe a tuner) may be be the answer.
When buying a new guitar, I'd generally recommend to go to a shop and try them yourselves but, if you're a total beginner, maybe it's best if you can find a more experienced guitarist to help you choose your instrument: it could be a friend or a dealer you can trust.
When it comes to electric guitars the choice of models is enormous: how do you find the right guitar for you?
Start by looking at your 'guitar heroes': what kind of guitar are they playing? Concentrate more on the characteristics than on the brand: the guitars they use may be over your budget but, luckily, nowadays it's easier to find a good budget guitar than it was in the past.
The body of the guitar may be solid (most modern guitars are solid bodies) or hollow ( jazz or rockabilly guitars).
The shape of the body can be a single cutaway (Les Paul style) or double cutaway (strat style) but it's more of an esthetic choice rather than a sonic one. You can also find arrow shaped, star shaped and even rectangular guitars and every shape in between.
What influences the sound of a guitar is the type and quality of the wood and the kind and number of pickups.
If you're on a budget, you may not have a great choice of woods but you can choose the pickup to match your favourite guitarist's sound.
Single coil pickups have a thinner, less powerful sound but they are very expressive and are generally used for Blues, Funk, and Country styles (with notable exceptions).
Humbucker pickups, on the other hand, are more powerful and fatter sounding and are generally associated with harder styles like rock and metal.
Another feature you have to check is the type of bridge your dream guitar must have: a fixed bridge (think Les Paul or Telecaster) will give you no tuning problems but won't allow you to bend notes like a tremolo. A standard tremolo bridge (Stratocaster) will let you have some fun but you'll have to check your tuning quite often if it's not really good and you abuse it.
A floating tremolo with string locks is what you need if you're into dive bombs and crazy whammy effects: you can bend notes down and up and completely slacken your strings and it will come right back in tune every time.
Another big part in shaping your sound is choosing the right amp and effects: if you want to really have fun with an electric guitar, you must keep this in mind when managing your budget.
Again, find out what your favorite player is using and choose the amp that has the same characteristics and is in your price range: you probably won't need a big double stack right away so you can choose a smaller combo amp to begin with.
Depending on the sound you're looking for, you may need some effects: overdrive, chorus, delay and many more can come in the form of single pedals or a multi effect pedalboard or rack. Many amplifiers nowadays come with their own onboard effects.
Another solution is a 'modeling' pedalboard or computer app that emulates the sound of a complete 'rig' (amp, fx and speakers): it's fully programmable, you can emulate different kind of amps and you can play in your room without disturbing anyone (even through your headphones) or blast away at full stadium volume with the same sound quality when you play live. Most of them are even available as Apps for your smart phone or tablet!
You can also record your guitar directly to your computer without worrying about microphone positioning (very tricky stuff) and soundproofing your bedroom: actually, I haven't been playing through a real amp for the last fifteen years, both live or in the studio.