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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
Travel 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.
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.
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