Oct 20th, 2009
As a beginning guitar player choosing that first instrument can be an overwhelming decision. There are a large variety of acoustic guitars to choose from, all at different prices, with many features. As a new player you want to choose a good instrument, but may not have the knowledge to know what is good and what is not.
If you have a more knowledgeable guitar-playing friend brining them along is always a good idea. Its good to get a second opinion, and they can play the guitar so you can hear what it sounds like out front. Here are some important features to consider.
Solid Top – If your budget can afford it, I highly encourage you to buy a guitar with solid top. Guitar tops are either made out of solid wood, or a series of laminations. Solid tops will sound better with age as you play them more, whereas a laminated top sounds as good as its every going to sound right out of the box.
Solid Back and Sides – Much like a solid top, a guitar with solid back and sides will have an overall better sound. The sound will continue to improve as the guitar is played over the years and the wood gets broken in. A guitar with a solid top and solid back and sides will usually cost at least $800, so something like that may not be in everyone’s budget. Laminated back and sides are certainly not bad, as a guitar’s top contributes more to the overall sound. If you are looking for solid back and sides be sure that the guitar description explicitly says so. Many manufacturers will say “Solid top with select back and sides”, which usually means they are laminated.
Tuners – Staying in tune is very important, and a good beginner guitar should have solid set of tuners that don’t slip. Tune a prospective guitar up to pitch and play it hard, strumming some chords and picking single strings. They should stay in tune. Check each tuner, turning the knob you should feel some resistance, they should not feel loose and slip.
Body Size – There are a lot of different acoustic guitar body sizes. Dreadnoughts are by far the most popular, but there are also mini jumbos, grand concerts, and parlor sizes, to name a few. Be sure to try several different sizes to see what feels best for you. Smaller guitars like grand concert and orchestra model sizes are often more comfortable for some people, who may feel that a dreadnought size is just to big.
Setup – While many guitars can be setup to fit the player, check to make sure that a prospective instrument plays fairly comfortably before you buy. It should be comfortable to fret all along the neck, and the strings should not be to far from the fretboard. Sight along the neck, it should be straight, with no twists. The frets should be seated snugly in the fret slots. A reputable music shop should give you a short approval period after buying an instrument, during which it can be beneficial to take to a competent repair person for a quick look. If you are really interested in a certain instrument the cost for getting it looked at can be a wise investment.
Pickup, yes or no? - I often see first time buyers for acoustic guitars asking what sort of acoustic electric they should get. I am of the mindset that if you want a pickup get one installed after you buy the guitar. Its better to spend that money initially on a higher quality instrument than a preinstalled pickup. Plus many preinstalled pickups include a preamp cut into the side of the guitar, which is going to make the instrument heavier and affect, tone, sustain, and volume. Sure, it might not be alot, but who wants a plastic box installed into the side of their beautiful wooden guitar? Just get an external preamp later on down the line. Some good companies for pickups include K and K, LR Baggs, Fishman, Mcintyre. You can find a good pickup for about $100.
So those are some points to keep in mind when buying that important first instrument. Now for the fun part, go out and play a lot of guitars before choosing the right one for you.
About the Author
Anton Emery is the Community Manager of http://www.RhythmStrummer.com. This site offers easy guitar songs for adult learners in a fun & patient atmosphere, taught by teachers who care. Students learn songs & technique lessons across a variety of genres, including Folk, Country, and Classic Rock- all with NO advertising.