I bought a guitar in january and have been teaching myself. I've mostly learned with tabs and listening to songs I know. I'm at the point now where I try to play every song on my playlist as it comes up. Some just aren't really possible (i.e. rap) but it is good practice to learn a bunch of songs that way. It has helped me to play with friends that know what they're doing. They have corrected a few simple mistakes that I've made. I also bought a chord dictionary with fingerings in it, which has helped a bit for figuring out chords I couldn't quite get on my own.
I was pretty much self-taught w/ the help of friends. Here's my advice (since you asked),
1. practice a bit on a friend's guitar (if you can). Talk to him/her about "action", which is the distance between the string and the surface...some prefer a lot for more play, beginners generally prefer less (easier to grip and easier on fingers). The friend will also teach you to tune a guitar (you tune EVERY time you play, so get good at it, or it'll sound bad), also, if you don't know how, then it'll be hard to compare guitars once you're ready to buy.
2. Shop w/ a friend. Buying a musical instrument at retail is like buying a car for sticker (and I don't mean invoice)...prepare to haggle, be aware of that. Expect to get extras like case, strap, elec. tuner, and definitely a handful of piks (if they charge you 1 dime for each...just walk out).
3. You can't go wrong with Gibson or Taylor, but they are way expensive. I would recommend a Takamine (mine) or a yamaha, but it depends on which one. There's no substitute for sitting down and strumming. Get a feel for the guitar. The action matters as well as the way it sits in your arms. Check to see if the neck is straight (like you're checking a cue stick), check for scatches or dents and CRACKS! A new guitar should be PERFECT. Most important, the sound. After it's tuned, play a chord you know well and that sound should just brighten the whole room.
4. Two basics types of acoustic guitars: solid face or composite. Ask and confirm w/ salesperson. Solid face is really the only standard for a long lasting good sounding guitar, but they usually start at $500. Other variation like the wood, shape (they affect the tone), and trim are all extras.
5. Once you have your own...practice. Life will be a biotch until the calouses come, then it's a whole new world. Get a good chord book and then endeavor to pay your favorite tunes. enjoy.
6. Be sure to get a tuner. A stand is nice (btw, the best way to leave a guitar, short of wither in it's case or on a stand, is to lean it against something soft (couch) w/ string side down).
Going to buy a guitar with a friend is very important, especially if you don't think you'll notice differences in guitars. I brought a friend that has tried a bunch, and he was able to tell me what he thought of each guitar.
I tried a few, and ended up with a Seagull Spruce M6 (www.seagullguitars.com), its a solid top, and it just keeps sounding better and better. I figured it was worth the extra money to start off rather than want to upgrade after a short time playing. Now I'm wanting to buy an electric, but waiting to get better at acoustic first.
Ask if you've got questions, I've just recently gotten into this, and probably had a lot of the same Q's.
I totally agree w/ the chickencow (what a name...makes me chuckle even typing it)... and for some reason, you just gotta add the "the" before it...
Solid tops rule...composites are all pretty much the same, so get the cheapest that sounds good, if that's where you're going. I would totally recommend saving up for a solid top. Then you'll have it, play it, for LIFE...once you know what you're doing, the composite will be either be trashed, broken, or handed -off to another beginner.
lessons are nice, but I learned everything from some acoustic guitar gurus...these guys were so passionate, they fall asleep playing into the night and wake up next to their guitars almost every morning!!! And they did their research on guitar theories, care, brands...the whole shiznit! College life rules! (the 1 guy took 7 years to graduate...if that helps you understand he's love for guitars)
If you don't have friends that play, take a one day intro lesson...that's all you'll need. How good you get will depend on how much you practice...there's no substitute. It's like the easiest intrument to self learn (C'mon...rock stars)...except for maybe the kazoo.
These guys covered the basics. One thing I'd like to add:
Get an inexpensive guitar first. That way if you get bored with it, you have a low initial investment. If you end up loving it, you can get a nice one later and will know what to look for, plus you'll have a spare to take to the beach or camping or whatever, so you won't have to worry about damaging your good axe.
I can't really add too much more to what these guys have already said. I've been playing off and on (seems like more often "off" than "on" ) for approximately 9 or 10 years (not consecutively). I'm not really a "lead" guitarists, but rather a rhythm guitarist. From what I've seen while helping some of my friends out, don't be surprised if after a few months you feel like you don't have a clue what your doing (unless you are playing everyday, then less time). This is normal, in my opinion. There's something about the mystic of "knowing" what rhythm to play that's foreign to beginners. There's no big secret, you just play what feels right. Don't worry, one day it'll "click"!
To add to what AXJ said; you definitely should start with a "cheap" guitar. I would, however, caution against buying a cheap peice of crap since you won't be happy playing it, will get frustrated, and finally put it in the closet. That's bad (duh!). I would recommend borrowing a guitar from a friend. A lot of times people will have more than one guitar (since most people follow the advice that AXJ gave - I did) and would be happy to help you out. I own two acoustics, and one electric (and my wife has an acoustic). Another route to consider is buying used guitars. You can get great deals on some guitars by getting them used (that's how I got a Taylor). Of course, you need to make sure it's in good condition so make sure you bring a friend who knows what to look for when buying it. You could probably find a decent guitar at a pawn shop. People are always borrowing too much money and then going and pawning stuff off to pay the bills.
Looks like I had more to say than I originally thought.
Yamahama F310, Takamine G240 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
Are these two any good? I'm not really sure what I'm looking for. I took what you guys said into account and I guess I would be going for a decent beginner guitar to learn on for a while. (I hope none of these is a cheap piece of crap)
Takamine is a reputable company as far as guitars go...so I can't imagine they would compromise quality to the point of making a POS. I have a takamine (a different model) and I love it...I have to say though, when I got it, it sounded nice, but looked beautiful...I think they focus on the trim as well as the sound. Seems like a good deal. Don't know about the specific one in the add though. Although the ones made in Japan are the best, mine was made in Idonesia and still rock my world (I had it 4 years).
Yamaha is a reputable company, but they make a lot of different products. I have seen some crappy yamahas...(i.e. sold at Costco), but I can't say the one in the add is bad or good.
HEre's some thoughts:
you can take a $5000 Gibson and if it's not tuned...it'll sound like crap.
you can take a POS and tune it perfect, and it'll sound like angels singing...for a short time.
Basically, if you're a beginner and you become committed to learning it, then it won't matter what you buy....you'll sound good. But generally, the cheaper guitars don't last (i.e. many years)...things like warping or cracking (which negatively affects the tone) will happen, but that's not to say the guitar won't play...some people are more fussy than others about that.
In the guitar whelm, you do get what you paid for (sound and/or looks), just stay away from ones autographed by willie nelson...
I would caution against buying a guitar via mailorder, especially your first. You should go to a good music store (Mars, Guitar Center, etc. - huge selections) and play them in person. No two guitars play the same way. I played a friends Fender Strat (Squire ~$200), and it played almost as well as my Fender U.S. Lone Star Strat (~$800 at the time - 5 years ago). However, he played every single Squire they had at Mars before buying that one (something like 25 guitars he played ). The point: play them until you find one that feels right. Mail ordering your first is kind of dangerous. My $0.02