According to the Association of Music Merchants, there were 2.6 million acoustic and electric guitars sold in the U.S. in 2017. That’s sold guitars in the U.S. alone. How much more if we count those guitars that are still up for sale in the market? Do you know how many guitars are there available today?
Let’s just focus on acoustic guitars, perhaps, there are millions of acoustic guitars on the market. Do you think it’s very easy to pick the ‘perfect’ guitar for you? Perhaps those who already own a guitar will know what to look for in an acoustic guitar. For beginners, do you have any idea how to choose an acoustic guitar?
I made a thorough study and crafted this article as straightforward as possible to help complete beginners find their first guitar. This is also a reference material for musicians to pick the right gear without spending too much. Likewise, this is a simple guide that helps you get the ultimate instrument without going through a lot of hassle.
Here are the steps on how to choose an acoustic guitar
1. Check your budget and set your spending limit
This should be the first step to buying your acoustic guitar. You should decide your budget first. If your budget is $1000, you’ll surely get an outstanding guitar. However, if you’re short on budget and you only have around $300, this is where the fun begins. Why? It’s very challenging to get a guitar with great quality within this budget. But don’t worry, there are still a lot of entry-level guitars out there within this budget that are worth buying for.
2. Know your playing skill level
Once you have locked in your budget, check yourself and your playing skills. Are you a beginner and needs a guitar that helps you start playing? Or, are you an advanced player who needs more bells and whistles in the guitar you want to have? Your budget should also coincide with your skill level. If you have a low budget, but you need an advanced guitar, you’ll hardly find one in the market.
3. Select between nylon-string acoustics or steel-string acoustics
Generally, there are two types of acoustic guitars — steel-string and nylon-string. The former is the most common guitar for rock, country, and blues, while the latter is for playing classical music and folk. In this step, you’ll also decide what genre you want to play to get the guitar that keeps you playing.
4. Determine Whether You Need an Acoustic or Acoustic-Electric Guitar
If you’re the kind of player who wants to get an amplified guitar sound, get an acoustic-electric guitar. It’s just an acoustic guitar with electronics and pickups onboard. Hence, when you play in public, or with a band, just connect it to an amp or any sound system. If you’re at home, you can play it like your regular acoustic guitar.
5. Choose Between Laminate and Solid Wood Top
Guitars with laminate tops are cheaper than solid wood tops. Why? At one difference, laminate guitars don’t resonate well as the solid wood guitars do. Hence, they aren’t that loud, and they don’t have as rich and full sound. To determine between laminate and solid wood top, simply run your fingers through the top. Most laminate guitars feel smoother and glossier than pure solid wood.
6. Learn What The Best Brands Have at Your Budget Range
Acoustic guitar brands like Fender, Yamaha, Epiphone, Takamine, Taylor, and Martin have guitars for you no matter what your spending limit is. There are several Fender and Yamaha acoustic guitars that are affordable for beginners who are on a tight budget. Epiphone and Takamine are great brands for those who are looking for mid-range guitars, particularly for intermediate players. Taylor and Martin acoustic guitars are for those who have a lot of budget since most of them are high-end guitars.
7. Consider the Tonewoods
The tonewood or the wood used to make the guitar affects the sound it produces. So, you have to know what kind of guitar sound you wish to reproduce. There’s not only one tonewood for the guitar. There are many, including Spruce, Cedar, Mahogany, Maple, Rosewood and a lot more.
Spruce: The most common tonewood for cheaper guitars. It offers a bright tone with great clarity.
Mahogany: Has strong sound which commonly called ‘punchy.’ It’s great for blues players. Spruce and Mahogany are the usual top and back and sides wood, respectively.
Cedar: Perfect for fingerpickers because it has warm and rich tones. Accommodates fast picking because of its quick and rich response, especially for lighter playing style.
Maple: A transparent tonewood with a lower response rate and high internal damping. With Maple, you can hear the tonal characteristics of the wood without any coloration.
Rosewood: Characterized by an overall darker tone with rich highs and mids, as well as strong lows
8. Get the Right Guitar Shape and Size for You
There are different shapes and sizes of acoustic guitars. Sizes range from mini, travel-sized, parlor, concert, grand concert, auditorium, grand auditorium, grand symphony, dreadnought, grand orchestra, and jumbo. If you’re buying an acoustic guitar for travel, get a travel guitar. If you’ll buy a guitar for your kids, get the mini/baby guitar or the parlor guitar. Acoustic guitars that are commonly seen today have a dreadnought body. Jumbo guitars are great for players with a bigger profile.
9. Decide Whether to Get a Guitar Alone or Guitar Packs
You’re almost ready to pick your next guitar. Now, decide whether to get a guitar alone or avail the deals and offers of acoustic guitar starter packs. If you are a beginner, perhaps, your best option is to get one of these starter packs. They are bundled with everything you need to start playing. While intermediate players can get a guitar alone, to maximize the quality and sound of the guitar.
10. If Possible, Play With the Guitar
If you plan to get your next best acoustic guitar at a local store, make sure that you’ll get the chance to play it. For a complete beginner, bring someone who knows how to play guitar and let him play for you. However, if you decide to buy it online, listen to some videos of the guitar in action. Better yet, read reviews about the guitar. It’s better to be sure that you’ll love playing and hearing the guitar you choose.
Every musician should know how to choose a guitar. For beginners, this is a real dilemma. However, after reading this article you’ll now have the idea, what do to and where to start in your quest for your next acoustic guitar.
Just a word to live by. When choosing your next acoustic guitar, don’t get discouraged with your low budget. Stick to this guide and end it by playing the guitar you choose. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll get a quality guitar — no matter what your budget range is — if you religiously stick to your budget and follow this guide until the end.
Check our guide on the best beginner guitars if you’d like to know which guitar should you buy.