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When starting out playing electric guitar, you will be faced with many choices of guitar, amplifier and hordes of other pieces of equipment. While much of the gadgetry is fun, the SINGLE most important part of your setup is the guitar itself.
However much money you have to spend, try to get the best guitar you can - even if it means not being able to afford an amplifier to begin with!
Unless you are playing in a band, you don't really need an amp to start off with, and the better your guitar is, the easier and more enjoyable your learning experience will be!
And in most cases - you get what you pay for!
I think an amplifier is essential in learning technique of electric guitar. Also, i wouldn't be what i am today if i had not dealt with a cheap and noisy sounding guitar, as I learned a lot of tips on making it sound better that i can now use on expensive guitars to make them sound better. If you can sound good on a crappy guitar, you can sound great on a good guitar.