Tips For Guitar Beginners

How To Choose An Acoustic Guitar

Pros and Cons Of Choosing An Acoustic Guitar

When Figuring out how to choose an acoustic guitar, the first thing you should consider is the pros and cons of choosing an acoustic guitar.


Pros Of Acoustic Guitars

  • Great for folk, country, and rock guitar – Steel-string acoustic guitars just sound great. That’s one reason they are used in popular music. Not only that, if you want to play for friends around a campfire, at church, or just accompany your own voice, but they are also the standard. They are also awesome for writing music.
  • Less gear to get you started. When you start with an acoustic or nylon guitar, you don’t need to worry about buying an amplifier and chord in order to hear the guitar.
  • Portability. Since you don’t need a lot of other gear, you can take an acoustic guitar anywhere and play anything, anytime. You also won’t annoy other people with your loud music.
  • A great way to learn – When you learn to play on an acoustic, moving to an electric or nylon guitar is really easy in comparison. If you start with an electric, you will quickly realize how hard it is to move to an acoustic because it is harder to press down on the strings.

Cons of Acoustic Guitars

  • It hurts to play more compared to electric or nylon guitars – While this is true, once you are able to play acoustic, you can switch to any instrument with ease.

Acoustic or Nylon, what is the difference?
Acoustic guitars have steel strings, this creates a more treble-like tone. The steel strings are wound to soften the tone. Steel-string acoustic guitars are used in country, rock, and folk styles. Nylon guitars are easier to play because nylon strings hurt the fingers less. These are typically played in classical guitar but many folk players also use them. Nylon string guitars give a warm relaxed tone. The one drawback to nylon or classical guitars is that the neck on some models can sometimes be very large. For those players with small hands, this could be a problem.

How To Choose An Acoustic Guitar such as this Nylon string classical guitar.
Nylon string classical guitar.

Acoustic Guitar Body Styles


You may find a few other varieties of these styles when figuring out how to choose an acoustic guitar, but these are your main considerations.

  • Parlor – These are the smallest-sized guitars you can get. Often set up for students who are younger or players who want a smaller size. They have a bright tone where the low bass tones are not as pronounced. If you are buying your first guitar for a student, then you might consider these.
  • Concert – Are slightly larger than parlor guitars are the concert guitars. Both work great for fingerpicking and have a brighter tone with less emphasis on the lows.
  • Auditorium – The auditorium has a great balance between highs and lows with good volume and projection. These are also great for fingerstyle playing and are often used by solo singers/songwriters for performance.
  • Dreadnaught – One of the more popular styles of a body for guitar. These achieve a great balance of highs and lows and are versatile in the style of music they are used for. Many of us started our guitar journey with a dreadnaught.
  • Jumbo or Super Jumbo – These guitars are great for getting out the volume. Their jumbo-sized bodies were designed for volume and they produce a big bold sound. Be aware that the body size may be harder for smaller people to play.
  • Classical – these are usually smaller than the steel-stringed guitars mentioned above but have a warm inviting tone and since they use nylon strings, it can be easier to play than their steel string counterparts. Be careful though, even though the steel strings are easier, many of these styles of the guitar have very wide necks which can make things more difficult for smaller hands.
  • Travel Guitars – In recent years, travel-sized guitars have been popularized by Taylor Guitar and Martin Guitar companies. These are smaller guitars that fit more easily in compartments when traveling, hence the name. If you are looking at buying your first guitar and are of smaller stature, these are a great option and have great tone and playability. I have one of these on my list of guitars to get.

How To Evaluate An Acoustic Guitar

Here are some things to consider when figuring out how to choose an acoustic guitar.

Price

While you don’t want to go expensive, don’t go too cheap either. Don’t order your guitar from Walmart because it is cheap and comes with a bunch of starter stuff. On the other hand, don’t spend a grand on your first guitar. A good starter guitar with a decent tone will run you around $150 to $200. The old saying you get what you pay for is true.

If you go super cheap you will get super cheap and you will probably end up discouraged by the tone and quality of the guitar. This is why I recommend spending a little bit more and getting something you really like. Never buy a guitar because it is pretty. If it sounds great and is pretty, that’s a bonus. I would rather play an ugly guitar that sounds great than a pretty guitar that sounds like shit. Does it sound good? If it looks pretty but sounds like crap, put it back and move on.

Feel

Play Some Guitars And See What You Like – Bring a friend who plays to help you determine the sound quality and playability. The first thing you should consider is the tone of the guitar. How is the action on the guitar? Is it easy to play? This is where it might be good to bring a friend with you who can play who can help you with these things. Also, most store employees can play too, but since they are trying to sell you a guitar, you might find more reliability from a friend.

How does the size feel? Small-scale vs large-scale. Do your fingers fit in the frets? Some people recommend full-sized guitars no matter what. They believe that you will adjust your playing to suit the guitar. While this is true, there may be reasons for considering a 3/4 sized guitar, especially for smaller children.

Sound

The most important thing to consider is how does it sound? Does it sound good? If it looks pretty but sounds like crap, put it back and move on. You will enjoy playing much more with a guitar that has a good tone. Again, this is where an experienced guitar player can help you evaluate the sound. They can play it, you can hear how it sounds. Many acoustic guitars come with pickups. Plug it into the same type of amp you plan to use. If you plan to buy both at the same time, make this a consideration. Are the pickups working and do the switches work? How is the tone when plugged in?

Quality

Check the frets, fretboard, and body for flaws. The frets should be smooth and the ends should not be sharp. Run your hand along the top and bottom of the fretboard. Is it sharp? The frets should not be sharp. The fretboard should not have nicks or other flaws and the fretboard should be a size that fits your hand. Are the seems and joints snug and put together well? Are there scratches? Look down the length of the neck, is it straight? Does it stay in tune and do the tuners slip when you are trying to tune?

Buy the guitar not the brand.

Conclusion – Choosing A Good Guitar


Choosing a good quality guitar is important, however, how to choose an acoustic guitar that is right for you is even more important. So in conclusion, consider body style and size, feel, tone, price, and quality when considering what to look for in a good acoustic guitar. If you are looking for some accessories for your guitar, be sure to check out the post on Guitar Accessories.

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