A lot of beginner guitarists make some dreadful mistakes when picking out their first acoustic guitar. Or maybe you aren’t necessarily a beginner, but looking for some advice on choosing your next guitar. Either way, we’ve got you completely covered in this article, as we’re going to highlight some major do’s and don’t of picking out the right acoustic guitar for you.
Don’t choose a guitar based on paintjob or aesthetic appeal
Yeah, that sunburst finish or skull-emblemed fretboard looks totally sweet! Let me tell you a story about a company called B.C. Rich, who designs primarily “heavy metal” guitars (I know, this is an article about acoustic guitars, but bear with me).
B.C. Rich was primarily known for designing “affordable” electric guitars with heavy metal influence, like sharp edges and all-black finishes galore.
They’re also universally derided on guitar forums for sounding pretty bad. Do not choose a guitar based on its appearance! Sure, it can “look cool” – but does it sound good? Take a look at this page for some of the best beginner guitars.
Do measure your finger width
Guitars can come in various fret sizes – the width between each individual note. They range in size from “narrow” to “jumbo”, and can ultimately affect the playability and tone of a guitar. However, equally important are your finger measurements!
It should go without saying that guitarists with small hands will have problems with jumbo frets, and players with large hands may have difficulty with narrow frets. So what you want to do is try to spread your fingers comfortably, starting from the 5th fret to the 9th frets. As you can see in this photo, I can comfortably spread my fingers from the 5th to the 9th fret on this guitar:
The reason I advise the 5th to the 9th fret is because they correspond to many scale patterns, which eventually you will (hopefully) learn. So being able to comfortably stretch between the 5th and 9th fret is highly beneficial to your guitar playing.
Don’t overlook the materials used
Guitars are made from various types of wood, some better than others, and they can also affect the guitar’s sound. There are many different wood types, but as a basic example, mahogany guitars will have a brighter, warmer sound with clear high notes, while cedar has a much warmer sound, and is popular with finger-style players.
You should also consider the neck – these generally come in either “bolt-on” or “neck-through”. A bolt-on neck will literally be bolted to the body, whereas a neck-through is part of the entire guitar carving. Bolt-on necks have a little more ‘twang’ to their sound, whereas set necks have much greater resonance and warmer sound.
Neither is necessarily better than the other, it can really boil down to the main genre and style of music you want to play.
Do buy something you’re going to cherish
Buying your first guitar isn’t like getting a tattoo, it’s not something you’ll be stuck with forever. But I’ve seen too many people buy ultra-cheap guitars, and get discouraged from playing because it sounds bad. And yes, a beginner’s playing will already sound bad, but there’s no reason to make it sound worse by buying the cheapest “starter guitar” you can find.
Ultimately, you should buy something that inspires you to play, and makes you feel like you want to aspire to the price tag you paid for it. So go ahead and splurge a little.