Guitars are one of the most popular instruments around, and for good reason. They are versatile in that they can be used to play different styles of music and are portable and so can be easily carried around.
Additionally, they are affordable as they come in a wide range of prices, from cheap generic brands that are locally made to mid and high-end varieties from world-renowned brands.
Various factors should be considered when purchasing a guitar. The main factor to be considered is your skill level. The needs of a beginner guitar player are certainly very different to those of a more experienced guitar player.
The latter knows what works for them after many years of practise and so can confidently purchase a guitar that fits their skills, style of music and performance requirements.
As a beginner or learner, you’ll however need to a take a lot into consideration prior to buying your first guitar. This will avoid any regrets later once you’ve purchased your guitar.
For the sake of beginners, I’ll now cover some factors you may want to consider. Otherwise, skip to the next section to see places you can purchase a guitar.
Factors to consider when buying a Guitar
1.Style of music you want to learn and play
While guitars are very versatile, there are some styles of music which will require specific type of guitars. Example includes classical music, jazz and folk styles. Hence, this factor will ultimately determine the type of guitar you’ll want to buy.
2.Type of Guitar
Guitars come in five main types:
- Acoustic guitar (locally sometimes referred to as a “box” guitar)
- Classical guitar
- Electric guitar
- Semi-acoustic guitar
- Bass guitar
Most beginners typically start with either an acoustic or classical guitar. The main difference between this two is that the classical guitar uses nylon strings while the acoustic uses steel strings.
Furthermore, the acoustic is slightly larger and comes in a variety of shapes, whilst the classical is usually much smaller and usually has a body that has no cut out.
Classical guitars are ideally for playing classical music where you use your fingers (i.e. fingerpicking), as opposed to a pick (plectrum) to play the strings. Nonetheless, you can also find it being used for other styles such as folk, pop and smooth jazz.
Acoustic guitars are the most common type, and that’s probably what you’ll want to buy. You can use them for many styles of music including pop, blues, rock, country, folk to local styles like benga, rumba and omutibo.
The electric guitar is essentially the acoustic guitar but with electric pickups which allow the sound to be amplified and modulated through amps, pedals, and other electrical devices.
If you want to learn or play music where the electric guitar is typically used more often (e.g. rock, metal, rumba) then you don’t have to start with an acoustic. Just get an electric guitar and practise with it. This may however cost you more as you’ll also need a practise amp.
Next, we have semi-acoustic guitars. These are a kind of hybrid between acoustic and electric guitar as they have a semi-hollow (or hollow body) with electric pickups. This gives them a distinctive sound, and you’ll find them mostly being used to play jazz.
Semi-acoustic guitars should however not be confused with acoustic-electric guitars, which are basically the common acoustic guitars with pickups to amplify the sound.
You’ll find some Kenyan shops referring to these acoustic-electric as semi-acoustic guitars, so take note of the difference when buying.
Lastly, we have Bass guitars. These guitars are used for playing the rhythm section and are used in almost all styles of music.
They are almost similar to electric guitars, the main difference being that they’re slightly bigger and have fewer strings in a much thicker gauge (usually four or five as opposed to the six in normal guitars).
Guitars from better known brands such as Yamaha, Fender, Ibanez etc will usually cost you more compared to generic brands and locally made guitars.
The price range for most acoustic guitars start at around Ksh5000 and go all the way to over Ksh50,000 for high-end types. Entry-level acoustics from the big-name brands will however cost you around Ksh10,000 to 20,000.
Electric guitars start at around Ksh10,000 for the cheap generic brands and from around Ksh20,000 for the entry level models from well known brands. Bass guitars are usually slightly pricier than the electric guitars, starting at around Ksh25,000 for the entry level models.
4. Size and Weight
Guitars come in different sizes, from small, medium to large. Ideally, you want to try out the guitar first before buying it. This way you can test different models before settling on what works best for your size of arms, fingers as well as the amount of weight you can comfortably accommodate (note that electric guitars are typically heavier than their acoustic counterparts).
As such, if the guitar is intended for a child or teenager with smaller hands, you’ll probably want a small to medium size guitar that’s more comfortable for their size.
When buying your guitar, you’ll most likely need to buy some accessories for it. The most basic ones you’ll almost need include:
- Gig Bag to carry the guitar
- Plectrums to strum/pick the strings
- Practice Amp for the electric or bass guitars
Others which you may or may not need include:
- Tuner for tuning the instrument (though you can also use an app to do that)
- String winder for when you need to change strings
- Hard Case if you need something sturdier than a bag to store the guitar
- Capo (if needed)
Some guitars come in what they call a Guitar Starter Pack. This is essentially a package consisting of an entry level guitar model bundled with a set of accessories such as a bag, a small basic practice amp, picks, tuner, extra set of guitar strings, capo etc. The exact items will vary depending on the type of guitar and brand.
You can settle for such a pack if it proves more cost-effective than buying the individual items separately. Note however that the model you want may not necessarily have a guitar pack option.
The following is a list of musical instrument shops in Nairobi where you can find guitars as well as other instruments. Contact the respective shop or visit their website or shops to check their catalogue of guitars.
Note: The order is random and therefore does not imply any kind of endorsement.
1. Credible Sounds
Credible sounds are the authorized dealers and service centre for Yamaha instruments in Kenya. As such, most but not all the instruments and equipments showcased in their shops are Yamaha made.
The guitars are however strictly Yamaha so if you prefer some other brand like Fender, Ibanez, Cort, Epiphone, Jackson etc. you may want to look elsewhere.
Location: The main shop is along Moi Avenue, Badru House (Ground Floor). They’ve another branch in Village Market, Ground Floor.
2. Hedgehog Creative
This is a popular store located in Sarit Centre. They stock a wide variety of instruments in addition to guitars. The main guitar brands they stock are Cort and Fender. You may therefore want to check with them if you need a model for either of these brands.
Location: Sarit Centre Shopping Mall, Ground Floor, Westlands
3. Sound Creations Limited Kenya
Sound creations limited are the authorized dealers for Ibanez instruments in Kenya. Therefore, if you want a Ibanez guitar or bass, check with them first.
Location: Mpaka Plaza, Mpaka Road, Westlands
4. New Assanand Music Store
This is a long-standing musical store that stocks a wide variety of instruments. They stock different brands of electric and acoustic guitars.
Location: Sasa Mall, 2nd floor, along Mo Avenue
5. Musicland Music Shop
This is shop is located along Moi Aveneue just a few metres from Credible Sounds. They stock a variety of guitar brands as well as other musical instruments.
Location: Moi Avenue
6. Other Shops
This list wouldn’t have been complete without a mention of the many smaller shops that are strewn all over the CBD.
The first location is along Moi Avenue, specifically that section between Bazaar Plaza down to the junction with Kenyatta Avenue; basically along where Credible Sounds, Assanand and Musicland shops are located. The second location is along Luthuli Avenue with its numerous electronic shops, some of which you’d be mistaken to think exclusively deal with speakers and amps.
Both of these avenues have many music instrument shops which tend to be more affordable compared to the larger shops. This because they stock a variety of brands, including lesser known brands and generics. You may therefore want to check them out, especially if you’re on a tight budget since these tend to be cheaper compared to guitars of the same class from the known brands.
This is not a complete list, but hopefully this should get you started if you’re considering buying a guitar. Most of them should also meet your needs for other instruments such as drum sets, violins, pianos and the most popular instrument of choice nowadays – DJ equipment.
Unfortunately, if you need something very specific, it’s very likely you’ll come up short with all these stores. Buying from Amazon (or other global retailers) and importing may be the only resort in these circumstances.
In such situations, you may try some package delivery companies that handle the importing for you at a fee since most retailers don’t ship directly to Kenya. Under this arrangement, however, the costs will no doubt skyrocket (double even), due to the weight and size of Guitars.
Ultimately the decision is yours, so go with what pleases you and fits your style of playing. You can do some window shopping and check some reviews online before making a final decision or better yet, take an experienced player with you to help you make a selection.
If you have questions or a store you’d like to add to this list, leave them in the comments below or send me a message through the contact page. Cheers!