In the internet age, picking up a new skill is often just a YouTube search away: Experts from all over the world are giving free, high-quality lessons on everything from tuba repair to car maintenance, and most of the time, all you need is the right gear to get started.
Far and away, the most popular lessons on YouTube are guitar lessons. Players of all ages are creating lessons across all kinds of musical styles, so whether you’re itching to learn the solo from “Free Bird,” or you just want to learn enough to play a few songs around a campfire, the perfect lesson for you is out there — but you’ll need the right equipment.
Thankfully, it’s never been more affordable to get started. Here are the best bundles of guitar equipment for getting started, no matter what kind of guitar player you aspire to be.
Acoustic guitars are great for learning, because you don’t need to buy an amplifier; in fact, they don’t need to be plugged into anything to sound good. If you’re ready to get your strum on, here’s what you’ll need.
A durable acoustic guitar. No matter how cautious you are, accidents will happen to your first guitar. As you learn to play and maneuver with it, bumps and bangs will be less common, but if you’re just getting started, plan ahead, and get a guitar that’s built to withstand a little abuse — or one that’s so affordable that you won’t mind replacing it down the road.
Our pick: The Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar is an incredible value. It’s a full-size guitar that’s easy to play and sounds effortlessly rich. In fact, the DR-100 is suitable for recording; it sounds like a much more expensive guitar.
A gig bag, a guitar strap, and some guitar picks. Taking your guitar anywhere will mean using a hardshell case or a gig bag, and you’re going to need a strap and some picks on day one. Eventually, it’ll be fun to upgrade each of them individually, but when you’re just starting out, you can save a lot of money by buying a bundle that includes all of them together.
Our pick: The ChromaCast Acoustic Guitar 6-Pocket Padded Gig Bag with Guitar Strap and Pick Sampler has everything you need. The padded gig bag provides ample protection, and includes pockets for keeping everything organized; the adjustable strap is comfortable and durable; and the pick sampler comes with picks in a good variety of colors.
A beginner book highlighting different methods of playing an acoustic guitar. YouTube videos are great, but sometimes a more traditional path can be helpful too. With a lesson book, you’ll be able to track your progress as you go, which can be challenging if you’re learning by watching videos from different authors.
Our pick: The Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition has taught generations of guitar players, and it provides a strong foundation in the basics.
If loud, thundering rhythm guitar and speedy, blistering lead guitar are more your thing, you’ll need a little bit more equipment. Here’s everything you need to buy to get ready for your life touring on the road — or just playing loud enough to wake up the neighbors.
An electric guitar built for speed. No matter what kind of metal you’re into, speed is essential, so you’ll need a guitar that’s made for it — a solid body axe that’s easy on the fingers but still delivers all the crunch and tone you need.
Our pick: The Jackson JS32 Rhoads Electric Guitar lives up to the namesake of Quiet Riot / Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads. It’s got two humbuckers for intense sustain, and it’s got the sleek styling that’s nearly as iconic as Rhoads himself.
An amplifier that can really scream. A good heavy metal guitar is just half the equation — you’ll need an amplifier that can help you learn to play with distortion. If you’re just getting started, get a practice amp that’s loud enough for a bedroom, but won’t break the bank.
Our pick: The Orange Micro Dark Terror Hybrid Amp Head Mini Stack Combo is about the size of a lunchbox, but delivers sound loud enough to nearly rival a Marshall half-stack. Best of all, because the amplifier and speaker are separate components, you can always plug the amp into a larger speaker cabinet when you’re ready to join a band or perform live.
A guide to the most influential metal songs. Every good metal guitarist starts by learning the classics. It doesn’t matter if you plan on playing rhythm guitar or lead guitar: you’ll need to start with the songs that define the genre.
Our pick: The Heavy Metal Guitar Bible is exactly what it sounds like. With a combination of note-accurate songs and general strategies for learning to play, it covers both material you’re familiar with and the basics for developing your own style.
Classic rock is really the genre that solidified the guitar as part of our cultural history — so if you’re ready to learn some power chords and write the next great rock anthem, here’s the gear to get.
A good “all in one” rock guitar bundle. For rock guitarists, it’s easy to find a bundle that includes an electric guitar, an amp, a cable, and picks, but there are a lot of low-quality kits out there. If you’re ready to jump start your career as a rock star, get a bundle that’s durable and high quality; a junky guitar can really ruin the whole experience.
Our pick: The Epiphone PPEG-EGL1VSCH1 Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package gives you everything you need to learn the licks and riffs from the best classic rock songs. No matter where you fall on the debate of who invented the guitar — was it Leo Fender, or Les Paul? — there’s no denying that Les Paul guitars sound amazing, look incredible, and are just plain fun to play.
A book of classic rock songs. Many classic rock guitar players use “fake books” — books with chord charts for songs that provide the basics of a song so a guitar player can fake it, or at least play a “close enough” version. A good fake book will have hundreds of songs, so there’s always something new to learn.
Our pick: The Greatest Rock Guitar Fake Book lives up to its name. It’s got 200 songs, transcribed both in sheet music and tablature — and guitar tablature is easy enough for anyone to pick up right away. If you’re a rock fan, you’ll know all of the songs in here, and with a little practice, you’ll be playing them before too long, too.