10 Essentials To Consider Before Buying Your First Acoustic Guitar

An acoustic guitar is a perfect starter instrument for many reasons. They all look appealing, but there’s so much more to an acoustic than the beautiful curves and soft wood. Read on to get educated on the 10 essentials to consider before buying an acoustic guitar…

1. Cost
Have a budget amount in mind and get the best instrument for your budget range. Do not go any lower. Cheaper acoustics won’t last long, won’t stay in tune, and the cheaper wood will bend over time. If you buy cheap, you buy twice; it’s as simple as that! Buying a suitable acoustic will assist you in learning the right way, and help prevent constant tuning issues. A second-hand guitar is definitely a great option to consider. For me, I like a guitar to be well worn in; you may even pick up a top of the range acoustic for half the price! If you’re new to buying guitars, do make sure to take a guitarist or expert with you to check it over first before buying, or just speak to the friendly staff at Kenny’s Music.

2. Wood
Acoustic guitars are built from an array of wood types. Depending on the wood construction, this will have a major impact on the guitar’s sound. There is a science behind wood and what sounds best, but it’s all down to what the guitarist thinks. That’s the beauty of it. After all, you’re going to be playing it!

The soundboard, neck, and fretboard can be constructed from different woods.

The most common wood materials are:

Soundboards: Spruce, Cedar, Mahogany, and Maple.
Back and Sides: Rosewood, Mahogany, Maple, Koa, Sapele, and Walnut.
Necks And Frets: Rosewood, Ebony, Maple, Walnut, and Micarta.

Don’t get confused by all the different species of wood. Guitar bodies are built from laminate wood or solid wood. As a rule of thumb, laminated wood is cheaper than solid wood. It’s not to say laminated isn’t as good in some aspects, but solid wood offers a more resonant tone, which means you get more vibration, a better sustain, and a purer tone. Hence why solid wood is more expensive.

3. Buying For A Child?
If you’re considering buying a guitar for your child, and you’re not sure about what size to buy. Here’s a simple chart to get you started:

  • Age
  • Child’s Height
  • Guitar Size
  • Total Guitar Length
    1.04 to 1.14m
    1.14 to 1.30m
    1.30 to 1.42m
    1.44 to 1.60m

Comfort is king. Guitars come in more and more sizes these days. There are hybrid guitars too, a mix between guitar and ukulele (such as the popular Yamaha Guitalele). Stay away from buying a child’s guitar from a toy shop! No explanation needed here. Your guitar shop will sell a range of guitars for all ages and sizes. Younger children have very soft small hands, so look at getting the lightest gauge strings to give them the best chance of learning. Overstretching can be painful for smaller hands and put them off playing. Ensure you look at buying the correct size guitar for your little human.

4. Electro Acoustic or Acoustic
Acoustic! Unless you’re an intermediate player, stay away from amplifiers and effects. Soley concentrate on learning the instrument properly. Once you get to the stage of strumming chords, or you want to play in a live situation, then consider an electro acoustic.

5. Travel
If you need to pack your guitar up several times a week to visit the tutor, or you want to take it traveling, then consider an expensive acoustic guitar with caution. After all, guitars are made of wood, and they do dent and scratch very easily. If your guitar needs to travel, buy a hard case. They can be expensive but nowhere as expensive as buying a new acoustic after it’s neck has been snapped. A good case is worth every penny and you’ll have it for years.

6. Gigging Acoustic
If you’re ready for the live gig, then there are a couple of things to consider:

If you’re looking to play alone or with other acoustic instruments, your acoustic can be mic’d up. There is no better sound than a mic’d up acoustic playing big open chords!

If you’re in a band scenario with a drummer and bassist you may want to avoid asking the soundman to mic you up as feedback will crucify everybody in the room. Time to look at a sturdy electro-acoustic. Simply plug in and raise your volume with the band. Avoid swirling, dive-bombing clouds of ear-busting screech.

7. Sound
Which acoustic sounds the best?

Just because a guitar costs a small fortune, it doesn’t mean you’re going to like the sound of it. You will know within a couple a strums whether you like it or not. The best advice is to go try at least five acoustics out. Get a feel for what you like. Feel how the guitar sits into your body and how thick the neck is. Listen to the sound. Your fingers and playing style and different from the next person, so the sound is completely up to you.

8. Should I buy a guitar from a well known brand?
Although you don’t need to buy from the most expensive acoustic brands out there, big players like Fender and Yamaha cater to beginners. They are affordable guitars that are generally built with the expensive model’s specifications in mind. So in a word, yes, I would definitely look at the well known brands.
Not only this, if you like a certain brand you can work your way up the instrument tree as you improve.

9. Set Up
Although the costs may be stacking up, I must advise how important it is to get a guitar tech to set your guitar up after purchase. Every guitar I’ve purchased over the years, whether new or used, I’ve taken straight to the guitar doctor. If you’re a beginner, give yourself the best possible chance of success. The strings may be too high or the frets may buzz in certain positions. This would make learning so much more difficult and downright annoying. Get a pro to set you up.

10. Don’t Forget!
Unless you can tune by ear, you’re definitely going to need a decent tuner. You can get Clip-on Non Chromatic tuners these days for very low prices. They sit on the guitar headstock and you can tune with ease. It’s an essential piece of equipment. A guitar stand is not a bad idea either as leaning a guitar on a wall bends the neck. If you’re a home player, a soft case is ‘ok’ but if you’re putting some real money into a nice guitar, protect it at all costs and buy a hard case. Also make sure to get yourself a spare set of strings – you don’t want to be waiting a month to replace one string because the shops are closed.

I hope this has given you some confidence to go out there and take that first big step to buying an acoustic guitar. It can give you a lifetime of enjoyment and many positive health benefits. Get out there, try a few, you’ll be hooked in no time.

Guest Blog by Lee from authorityguitar.com

Lee has been playing guitar for over 25 years. He’s been lucky enough to play on TV in London and supported some big bands back in the 2000’s. He’s also played on BBC Radio several times and worked as a full time guitarist/singer on a holiday resort. He has also taken his guitar travelling to the USA, New Zealand, Thailand and Australia.

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