Newbie Series Part3 : Lefty Beginner Acoustic Guitars

Neal Beedie July 19, 2011 33

This article will differ from the previous guide (Beginner Guitar List) because unlike electric guitars, acoustic guitars just come in too many different flavors to possibly recommend anything in particular without first knowing your musical tastes.

Instead I will give you a brief ‘rough and ready’ guide to the main types of guitars that you would consider as a beginner player and you can work from there.  Once you know what type or style of acoustic guitar you would like, apply our minimum threshold of $100 and whatever you can find should do a great job.  As with electric guitars, the more you spend the more you get, but don’t go too far overboard on your first guitar.  As a general rule of thumb stick with well known brands and you should be fine.  By all means leave me a comment and I will try and help you fine tune your decision.

So let’s take a look at the various types of acoustics we can pick from…

Acoustic or Electro-Acoustic Guitar ?

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide whether you want a traditional acoustic or an electro-acoustic guitar.  The main difference between the two is that you can plug your electro-acoustic directly into an amp whereas with a traditional acoustic you will need to use a microphone to amplify the sound.

A great advantage to starting out with an electro-acoustic guitar is being able to plug directly into a tuner.  Many guitars will also have a built-in tuner so that you can tune on the fly without the need for cables or extra accessories.

After reading this you may be thinking of just buying an electro-acoustic, hell, it’s the same as an acoustic with a few extra bells and whistles right?  This is true, but these extra gadgets obviously come at a price, and as a result electro-acoustics are more pricey than their traditional counterparts.

Personally I have always gone for the electro-acoustic just to have the extra options, but at the end of the day it all comes down to personal choice and budget.

Body Styles

Acoustic guitars come in a seemingly endless variety of different shapes and sizes and you’ll want to take this into deliberation when buying your first guitar.  Various shapes and styles are suited to different genres and so this can be an important consideration to make.  Let’s take a look at a few of the most common shapes.

Dreadnought Left Handed Acoustic GuitarsDreadnought Guitars

The most popular acoustic guitar body shape.  Dreadnought guitars have large body shapes which will equate to a louder sound being produced.  Due to the deeper soundbox the Dreadnought style will produce a very bassy, boomy sound.

For the average player, this is the right style of guitar to go for.  This is however a fairly large guitar and may be a handful for a smaller framed individual.

Grand Concert Left Handed Acoustic GuitarGrand Concert Guitars

The Grand Concert (GC) body style is the major body style most directly derived from the classical guitar. It has the thinnest soundbox and the smallest overall size of the major styles, making it very comfortable to play but also one of the quietest.

Its smaller size makes it suitable for younger or smaller-framed players.

Grand Auditorium Left Handed GuitarGrand Auditorium Guitars

The Grand Auditorium (GA) is very similar in design to the Grand Concert, but slightly wider and deeper. Many GA-style guitars also have a convex back panel to increase the volume of space in the soundbox without making the soundbox deeper at the edges, which would affect comfort and playability. The result is a very balanced tone, comparable to the GC but with greater volume and dynamic range and slightly more low-end response, without sacrificing the ergonomics of the classical style, making these body styles very popular.

Jumbo Left Handed GuitarsJumbo Guitars

Jumbo Guitars are designed to be loud and full of bass. It’s basically similar in function and usage to the dreadnaught. In some situations, the mid frequencies get lost, overpowered by the bass.

Again, due to its size, it may not be right for a beginner player, or a small framed player.  Ideal for use in large open environments where sound projection is important.

Classical Left Handed Guitar Nylon StringsClassical Nylon String Guitars

Classical guitars are characterized by the use of nylon strings. Typically, these instruments have a wide neck and a very flat fingerboard.

Some “old school” instructors feel that this is the only guitar a beginning guitarists should consider as the lighter string tension and greater string gauge are easy on the fingers.

Left Handed Travel Acoustic GuitarTravel Guitars / Small Scale Guitars

If you need something to learn with on the road then these more compact guitars are an ideal choice.  Likewise, if you are a smaller individual a travel guitar can be much easier to tame than the more sizeable options.

Keep in mind that these smaller guitars will also have a much smaller ‘voice’ than their full bodied cousins.

Cutaway Left Handed Acoustic GuitarCutaway Guitars

All of the body styles listed above can have a portion of the body ‘cut away’ on the bottom side to allow easier access to the upper frets.  The cutaway will affect the tone of the guitar to a degree.

This type of guitar tends to be favored by players who are more into a fingerstyle type of playing due to the better access to higher frets.

Types of Wood

The main element which will affect the sound coming from your guitar besides the shape is the wood that it is made from.  However, as a beginner this is not something you should be too concerned about.  For a $300 budget you are just never going to get high quality tone woods.  Besides, to an untrained newbie’s ear most acoustics will sound more or less the same!

Number of Strings

As a beginner it is generally recommended to start out on a 6 string guitar to make things a little easier to digest.  Guitars are available with different string configurations with 12-string being the most common after 6-string.  The main difference is that a 12 string has a natural chorus effect to it which produces a great ‘jangly’ tone without the need for extra processing.  Obviously they will take longer to tune and it will be more expensive to replace strings however.

I feel this article has gone on long enough and hopefully that should be plenty information to give you a good idea of what to buy.  If you are still confused (and I wouldn’t blame you!!) leave me a comment and I will get back to you.


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Part One : Important Tips Before You Buy

Part Two : Beginner Electric Guitars
Part Three : Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Part Four : Beginner Bass Guitars
Part Five : Amps
Part Six : Effects
Part Seven : Accessories
Part Eight : Lessons

33 Comments »

  1. Alexandra October 11, 2010 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    I really like how you broke down each guitars unique sound because I am trying to find my first guitar and have absolutely NO CLUE what the difference is in any of these. I'm at an absolute loss when it comes to figuring out which is good for me. I know i want to have the "Eric Clapton on acoustic" sound (or even like Crosby, Stills, and Nash) but whether that falls under dreadnought or classical i have no idea. I want to lean more towards blues/rock and eventually do the electric crossover. I've been looking at Fender brands recently, like the CN 90 or CD100LH. Can you please help me?

    • Neal October 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      If you want to specialise in Blues or Rock you'll want to stay away from classical guitars and find a steel string guitar. That rules out your CN 90.

      When you are looking for a specific sound the best idea is to head over to YouTube and see what other people are playing. So in your case, if we search for Clapton videos we can see that he is almost always playing a steel-string dreadnaught, so your Fender CD100 should be a fairly safe bet. As I said above, 90% of the time a Dreadnaught is the best choice for a beginner. Try any old dreadnaught at your guitar store to check out the rough size.

      It also may be worth noting that it would be far easier to do the 'crossover' from electric to acoustic rather than the other way around. Electrics have smaller bodies and thinner necks and so are far easier to play than a big 'ol acoustic. Best of luck :)

  2. Cramer December 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Can you advise me on a nice lefty acoustic guitar? It is obvious that your list here above is fantastic and very helpfull but I'm still on the lookout for a nice acoustic guitar that isn't all that pricey but still delivers some sweet sound. Can you help me and tell me maybe a good model?

    • Neal December 14, 2010 at 11:11 pm - Reply

      Hey Cramer, I couldn't possibly advise anything based on the information you've given. Register and ask on our forum and try and be as specific as possible with your requirements, i.e. budget, music style etc… Even your location can make a big difference, for example if you were in the UK there are some great British brands. Sign up and we'll sort you out! ;) http://leftyfretz.com/forum

      If you just want a good starter guitar which is an all-rounder, stick with well known brands and honestly you'll be fine. And don't be afraid to go second hand – acoustic guitars tend to sound better with age (as long as they've been looked after).

  3. JD Grabel December 21, 2010 at 10:43 am - Reply

    I am a newbie when it comes to playing any sort of guitar. I love the sound of the Acoustic and been wanting to learn to play for years. Well, I finally have it narrowed down to the Alvarez RD4102CL, Fender CD100-CELH, Ibanez AW30LECENT, and the Ibanez AEL10LE. I love the Greg Laswell acoustic sound, as well as Aaron Lewis Acoustic Sound. What would be the best Acoustic/Electric guitar out of those to begin with? Or should I start with something completly different? I want the most for my money and I felt $400-$500 would be a good price to start at. Afterall you get what you pay for.

  4. TKder June 9, 2011 at 6:15 am - Reply

    I'm a total newbie to guitar playing and this guide is really informative.

    My brother has an old right handed guitar which he doesn't use anymore and would like to give it to me, but I'm a leftie and feel totally uncomfortable trying to play with my right. So I was just wondering if it is a good idea to restring the right handed guitar so that I can play with my left or I should scrap that idea and get a lefty guitar instead?

    Thanks alot in advance! :)

    • Neal June 9, 2011 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Hi TKder – take a read through this article http://leftyfretz.com/restring-right-handed-guita…

      At a pinch it will get you by, but if it's an option a proper lefty is the way to go. My classical guitar is actually a righty that I strung upside-down with no modifications – it gets the job done B)

      • Steve September 1, 2011 at 1:25 am - Reply

        As an experienced player you can do it well… no doubt. For me as a beginner I gave up the guitar for a long time after getting frustrated trying to learn on a right handed guitar strung left handed never realizing what my biggest challenge was. A beginner NEEDS to have a lefty guitar if they are serious about getting past stage 1.

    • Steve September 1, 2011 at 1:28 am - Reply

      A new left handed bridge, and nut set, installed but someone who knows their stuff will make that guitar play beautifully in your hands. ;)

  5. MissBurgess June 11, 2011 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Someone has recently given me a Washburn lefty guitar so I can learn left handed. It sounds lovely! It couldn't have been expensive otherwise he would not have parted with it! I think it is a student grade guitar, but I would recommend…

    • Neal June 11, 2011 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Show us a photo of it in the forum! ;)

  6. Steve September 1, 2011 at 1:20 am - Reply

    An awesome beginner dreadnaught guitar is a Yamaha Eterna EF-15. Solid mahogony with a laminated spruce top that gets golden with age, and will hold a tune forever. They sound deep, and rich, and can be picked up used for under $200.

    Don’t make this mistake!
    Mine was built right handed, and had the strings flipped for a lefty before I bought it thinking it was a lefty guitar. I tried to play it for months, got frustrated, and put it away for ten years because the action(gaps between frets, and strings) was all screwed up. I mentioned this to an awesome player who asked me to let him work on it. He built a new nut, and bridge set for it, and gave it back to me. I’ve been playing it ever since.

    • Neal September 1, 2011 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Good advice, thanks Steve :D

  7. Ged October 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    I was gonna start accoustic cos Keith Richards says it’s the way to go. Now you say it’s easier to start electric. Which is it?

    • Neal October 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      Acoustic is slightly harder on your fingers because the strings are usually thicker and also further from the fretboard, so you need to use a little extra force to fret a note or perform bends/vibrato. You can lower the action, but as a beginner you’ll ideally want to pay a tech to do it for you. The bonus is that you’ll build up good calluses and finger strength faster.

      Start with whichever appeals to you most, there’s no right or wrong way to go.

      Personally I started out on electric because I wanted to learn Metallica in my fledgling days. It also gave me the option of practicing with headphones.

  8. jervis November 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    I am a large newbie. Big hands…. Big fingers…. Just an all around big guy. Is a jumbo guitar for me? Any suggestions?

    • Neal November 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      I don’t think that just because you’re a big dude you automatically have to play a big guitar – you’ll just have an easier time playing one compared to a smaller person. Buy something that is suited to the style of music that you want to play, a dreadnaught is a good place to start as it is a good all-rounder.

  9. jervis November 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Oh… Forgot to mention… I am left-handed.

  10. Tiffany April 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Neal! I don’t know if you still post, but you said you check so whatever xD Well, I’m a newbie at guitars and I wanted to learn how to play acoustic first because I feel pretty comfy playing it at my house, and since I am a pretty small girl, I’m having trouble trying to decide on which guitar I should start off with :/ Do you think I should get the Grand Auditorium or the Travel one? They both sound nice! Thanks so much!! :]

    • Neal April 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm - Reply

      You need to try them yourself and see which you like better. Generally the smaller the guitar gets the quieter the sound becomes. A great quality small guitar is the Taylor GS Mini – I have one and it’s a great little guitar with a surprisingly loud sound.

  11. Tiffany April 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Oh, yhea, and I’m trying to stick to mostly alternative rock kind of music xD

  12. Devin May 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    So I have been looking into the right guitar for myself and have narrowed it down to two. I was hoping you might be able to give me some in-site as to what to expect to purchase and which might be the best fit for me. The two I have narrowed it down to are the lbanez TCY10E or the AEF18. I want something that will keep me occupied for a good few years and has the potential to do digital recordings in the future. I would like to play rock and some jazz / blues but mostly want something that will be as versatile as possible for as little money as possible while still keeping a good enough sound to keep me interested until I feel the need to drop a large amount of money on the next one. Could you also please help me with trying to decide if I should purchase online to get a better deal since I really don’t know what would feel right to me anyways? Shocking thing is I haven’t really been able to find very many stores in the Nashville, TN that has more than two or three left handed guitars for sell. Especially when requesting an electric/acoustic. The other thing I was wondering is if these need to have battery power to play or if its just if your wanting that electric sound. Also should I consider going ahead and purchasing an amp or is that something I could always wait on and/or just play through my computer? Also, how do you feel about all the bundle kits you see online for sell?

    Thanks!

    • Neal May 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      That’s a lot of questions – maybe consider joining the forum and asking there for a detailed reply :) As far as i’m aware the TCY10E isn’t available left handed. Unless you really want to play loud and with effects I wouldn’t worry about an amp right away, and avoid guitar bundles like the plague.

      • Devin May 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm - Reply

        Thanks! I’m going to join the forum now! I thought so about the bundles but just wanted to make sure. Thanks again!

  13. Mark January 15, 2013 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Hi Neal! Im looking to buy a new acoustic guitar one with a cut away i mainly play blues rock and fingerstyle.i live in the uk and because im left handed its hard for me to get my hands on a decent left handed guitar. I started of on a westfield acoustic dreadnought body it was around £100 for the first couple of months i was happy with it but comparing it to my friends yamaha im really not happy with it and the action on the guitar is terrible and now i want to upgrade ive been playing guitar for almost a year now. What reccommendations do you have for left handed acoustic cut away guitars? I rather try out guitars in a music shop but if im lucky they only have 1 or 2 my budget is £150 any reply would be great thanks(:

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