Before we begin this particular discussion it should be noted that I am an acoustic guitar player. An acoustic guitar is one with a body of sufficient size and shape to actually project the sound of the guitar with no assistance from electronics. Even tho my acoustic guitars are amplified, they may be played without any amplification whatsoever. This is not true of electric guitars, about which I know very little outside of the fact that Mark Knofler makes them sound fantastic. So initially I will only be addressing acoustic guitars in the guitar tips. That being said…
First of all, get a guitar that you can comfortably hold. If you are a diminutive person perhaps you will find a dreadnaught guitar too large to be at ease in your arms. Go to a good music store and establish a connection with them. They will allow you to sit there and try out all kinds of guitars, in all kinds of price ranges. Just keep playing the various guitars until one speaks to you. And don't start out with the $5000 model. If you do that, then nothing will compare with it and you'll become so dissatisfied with the lower priced guitars that you'll just end up bitter and angry and selling lawn furniture in Brentwood. Figure out what you can spend and then play the guitars in that range. If none of them work for you, then start going up a little higher.
I can tell you that the better guitar you have, the faster your learning curve. Tho all that will depend upon your personal musical gifts.
Listen, this is important. Music is in every single one of us. If you have a pulse, then you have rhythm in you. While it is true that some folks seem to have prodigious gifts, anything that anyone can do on an instrument can also be done by you. (BTW, I'm not talking about composing here; making it up is a whole other muscle). I'm just talking about playing it; being able to make it come out of your instrument. It make take you a whole lot longer to get there than it takes someone else, but it is attainable, and miraculously, the more effort you put into it, the easier the next hurdle will be. The downside is, the better you get, the more you realize you have to learn. No musician is ever as good as he wants/hopes to be. It is the curse and the blessing.
Secondly, use the lightest gauge string you can get away with. This makes it easier to push down the strings and thereby easier on your fingers. Also it forces you to play softer which in turn produces more finesse. You play light gauge strings too hard and they rattle like an old beater. And as you play softer, you discover all kinds of sounds and overtones that you didn't notice when you were playing hard. You want it louder? Get a guitar with a pick up and turn it up.
But I'll let you in on a little secret. You play softly, folks lean in and be quiet, they are drawn in. You play loudly and they are shouting to be heard over your efforts. I have many friends who maintain the heavier gauge string sounds better. It does if you play it harder, but playing harder is not playing better--it's playing harder. The heavier the string gauge, the more sound you are probably going to get out of the instrument, but the harder it is to hold the strings down. For ease of learning and grasping finesse, go with the lightest strings you can put on it.
And sometimes that's exactly what you want. I have several guitars, so I can keep one with heavier gauge strings just for a specific sound, but generally, you'll have just one guitar. So set it up so that it is a joy for you to play. Speaking of set up, you should take the guitar you buy to a reputable guitar repair man and tell him to set it up for your kind of playing. Many times the guitar can be set up by a techy at the store where you purchased it, but I always go to a reputable guitar guy. If you are a lead player, the set up is different than for a finger picker or a slide player. Talk to the fellow and let him hear you play. Then he'll know how to set it up for you. He will adjust the action and the tension just for you. It's not expensive and it's really worth it. If you don't know who to go to in your town, email me at email@example.com and I'll find someone in your town. Or ask the reputable guitar store in your town. They usually know.
Thirdly, keep a cloth in your case or gig bag and wipe down the neck and the strings when you stop playing. This keeps the sweat and finger goop from deadening your strings and allows the guitar to sound better, longer with each set of strings. I use Elixir Strings (www.elixirstrings.com). They sound great and they last a long time. They have a nano coating that keeps the strings from rusting. (fyi, If you are really strapped for money, and you don't use strings with a plastic coating on them (like Elixir) you can try dropping the strings in boiling water for a few minutes. That lifts all the goop off the old strings and gives you a little more life, tho not a whole lot. And, most importantly, be sure to let the strings cool down before you attempt to put them back on your guitar, otherwise you'll have two kinds of blisters on your fingers).
More later about traveling, and brands of guitars