Not sure where to start when searching for your first acoustic guitar?
You’ve come to the right place.
As a beginner, you only need to consider 3 things when looking to purchase your very own, very first, acoustic guitar:
This may “sound” obvious, but the first thing you should do before buying any instrument, is play it.
Sure, you can read up on all the specs and features online. But I guarantee you’ll notice things about the sound of an instrument that someone else (who’s trying to sell it to you) didn’t notice, the moment it’s in your hands.
Even if you don’t know how to play it yet, pick it up, take it out of the case, hold it in your lap, feel the neck, strings, and tuning pegs, and try to make a sound with it.
Now try the same thing with at least 4 more acoustic guitars. You’ll know more about what you like and don’t like, and what your price range is, after immersing yourself in a variety of guitars.
Most purchases (ever, in the history of buying things) are made based on looks. What a product looks like has the most effect on who buys it, and how much they’ll be willing to pay for it. That’s perfectly fine if you’re buying a painting, because the only thing you’ll ever do with that painting is look at it. But when it comes to an acoustic guitar, you’ll be engaged in more activities than just looking at, so let’s focus on the different features and how they affect your enjoyment of your first instrument:
This illustration from Bourgeois Guitars gives you a quick idea of all the subtle variations (excluding cutaways) across the family of acoustic guitars:
When it comes to body styles, the main features you want to consider are:
- Do you want a cutaway – so you can easily access the higher frets?
- How does the shape of the guitar body affect the sound you want?
- How does it feel with your body when you’re playing for long stretches?
This illustration from Premier Guitar shows the basic categories of neck shapes. Each shape has a distinct feeling to the playability in the fretting hand.
String Gauge / Action
Guitar strings come in different sizes raning from “heavy” to “light”. The ligher the strings, the thinner they are, thus giving you less resistance and generally being easier to play. Heavier strings tend to sustain notes for longer, and produce more sound.
That should help you get a better idea of what you want, now let’s take a look at the price ranges.
The price-point of your first guitar should be lower than you think. You’re not buying a house. It’s not an investment (yet). You want to purchase an instrument that meets the minimum requirements for sound and playability, so you can get home and start playing. With just a basic sketch of an idea of the perfect guitar for you, you can make a choice, and be confident you bought exactly what you need, and didn’t waste your time or money.
Now that we’ve established the sound you’re after, and the price-range you’re working with, let’s get down to brass tacks. You should immediately feel compatible with a guitar the moment you pick it up. Every body is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all guitar model. It’s up to you to find what works for you, and that’s the best part – it’s unique to you. For example, St. Vincent designed a guitar for Earnie Ball “designed specifically to fit the female form“.
Recommended Models / Where To Buy?
I work closely with local businesses to offer students trusted products, at competitive prices, in order to build lasting professional relationships. I do this because it provides better products and services over the long run than Amazon, Guitar Center or any other massive corporate chain can compete with.
When is comes to beginner level acoustic guitars, I recommend Brooklyn Fine Guitars, located at 264 Hoyt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217.
Here are a few available models you can “try before you buy” in the shop today: