The late Les Paul, who is often regarded as the single greatest contributor to the development of the electric guitar, was fond of saying that he was impelled toward his choice of instrument by his mother, because it was both easier to perform while seated, and that “it avoided the embarrassment of always having something in your mouth”.
Be that as it may, the choice of any instrument for a prospective musician should draw upon Alexander Pope’s famous observation that “all our knowledge is ourselves to know”. Of all the possible choices within the broad spectrum of the “tools of the trade”, probably only the piano offers wider exposure to the general public, and the developing guitarist also has the advantages of both a relatively-small initial investment, and the adaptability to a wide range of musical venues.
So if you’re favored with a prospective Chet Atkins or Joni Mitchell among your family, it’s in everyone’s interest to balance the potential of an emerging artist with the considerable commitment and expense of finding a quality electric guitar best suited to the task. It can be very difficult to project the image of a competent and well-educated shopper when the term “fret” is only linked to concern over possibility of a low return on a substantial investment.
If we’ve reached a stage where a budding musician has advanced beyond the “bare bones” and low potential for damage common to most loaned or “starter” instruments, the odds are that that student has also familiarized him/herself with much of the jargon common to those within his/her circle of fiends who share a common interest, but this probably is not the case for parents or other family members who may be called upon to finance the endeavor.
It is at this point that the expertise of an educator, or a person with greater exposure to both the basics of the instrument chosen, and finer points of the arts scene itself, can prove most useful. Once considered a secondary subject within the broad spectrum of education, the teaching of the basics of music, and its appreciation, has become recognized as so central so central that it is regarded as one of the cornerstones of a well-rounded general education. The recognition of this trend, and the availability of more-comprehensive methods to address it, has fueled the growth of new music programs and alternatives — not all of them linked to the traditional school-district-based programs of an earlier day.
And it might also be noted at this point that if our aspiring musician’s dedication has advanced to a point where a lifelong interest — possibly even the pursuit of a career in music — materializes, a quality musical instrument will retain its value, and a market of experienced dealers and resellers has likely emerged, and can be consulted.