Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide
What is an Acoustic Guitar?
Picking the right guitar is kind of like picking a pet. People become extremely protective and possessive of their instruments so taking the time to learn how to choose the best possible one for you is very important. We’ve got many tips and pieces of information that you can use to narrow down all of the choices so you’re not overwhelmed. We have listed the important points to consider when deciding on your first…or your next guitar.
The Right Size is Very Important
Choosing the right sized guitar is very important to the learning process especially for kids that want to learn to play. A guitar that is too big will be very difficult for a child to hold and also to make the proper reach for the cords and strumming. In addition to that, having their arms up over the large guitar can really be very uncomfortable for them as well.
While adults are typically comfortable with a full sized guitar, if your child is younger, they will have a much more enjoyable introduction into guitar playing with the right sized instrument that is designed for their shorter arms, smaller bodies and smaller hands.
Don’t Look for the Least Expensive
The adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true when it comes to many things and guitars are on this list. In many cases you get even less. Cheaply made guitars are nothing but a money waster as you will have to end up replacing them again and again. It is better to buy the best guitar you can afford and have it for years.
Choose a Guitar that has the Look You Love and Will Enjoy
When you are looking for your guitar, be sure to choose one that you love the look and finish of as well as the other features. Having a guitar you visually love will motivate you to pick it up and practice a lot more.
Don’t Forget an Electronic Tuner
Tuners are so crucial, especially to a beginning player. They are as important to the success of learning to play a guitar as picks and strings are. You want to ensure that your guitar is kept tuned to standard pitch for many reasons. First of all, the best musical tone will come from a guitar that is properly tuned. Second, most guitars are initially set up to be played at standard pitch. Another reason is that standard pitch is the musical standard for most instruments. Having your guitar tuned above that standard pitch can result in broken strings or even damage to the guitar. Having it tuned too far BELOW the standard pitch can cause problems too such as string buzz against the fretboards.
Wood Types and Sound Quality
The type of wood used in making the guitar plays a large part in how the guitar will sound. The top, back, sides, and neck are the most important parts of the guitar when it comes to the overall tonality of the instrument.
Other parts that can enhance or constrain the sound include the bracing, binding, bridge and fretboard. The later factors don’t define the sound of the guitar but can definitely add to the tonal effects.
While the type of wood that is used to make a guitar is important, other factors that will be a part of the overall sound of the guitar will be the design of the guitar, how skilled the crafts man is and the quality of the wood itself.
- Spruce – This is a common material used in crating the top of the guitar. The most common type of spruce is Sitka. It combines the traditionally lightweight properties of softwood and rigidity to create a high velocity of sound. It also retains its clarity when played hard.
- Cedar – Most often, Western Red Cedar is used to create the top part of the guitar. The reason for this is the warm, balanced sound that is created when Red Cedar is used for the tops. It responds well, providing a rich response to lighter playing.
- Mahogany – this beautiful wood has a low response rate compared to other top woods. It has a low overtone and a good amount of density as well. Guitars that have tops made of mahogany usually make excellent country blues instruments due to the strong, punchy tone they produce. It produces a high velocity of sound when it is chosen as the wood for the back and sides of the instrument.
- Maple – different types of maple will offer different results. Big Leaf, Sugar and Bearclaw Maples are more acoustically transparent from the lower response rate and internal damping. The characteristics of the top are audible with adding any type of tonal coloration.
- Rosewood – Rosewood is used often in the creation of the fretboard and top as well. It is known for its high response rate and board range of tones. It also has a lot of strength and even darkness in the in the tone range. It has an overall richness filled with strong mids and highs that round of the sound nicely.
Features to Look for When Purchasing a Guitar
- Body style – Acoustic guitars come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. You can choose a smaller, travel size guitar or a dreadnought and everything in between. The style of the body of the guitars determines the tonal emphasis and sound projection ability. Sometimes you may have to choose between two elements that both seem important such as tonal quality versus comfort. Guitars that have cutaways make it much easier for a beginner to access the upper frets easier, while they are learning.
- Electronic Capability – Many acoustic guitars come with preamplifiers and pickups to enhance and “electrify” the acoustic sound. This is very good for venues where you have to make sure you can be heard no matter where you are playing.
- Neck – The size of the player’s hand is what determines the kind of neck you choose. The thickness and width of the neck correlates with the size of hr body of the guitar and how many frets it has. Most often, acoustic guitars have 12-14 frets. When a guitar is listed as 12-fret or 14-fret, they are only counting the frets that are clear of the body of the guitar, not the total number of frets.
- Intonation – The intonation of a guitar determines if the guitar can continue to play in tune the farther up the neck you move. The distance between frets above the 12th one needs to be precise so the guitar continues to play in tune no matter how high you play.
- Tonewood – Different types of woods produce different tones. The majority of guitar makes feel that the top of the guitar is the most important element in determining how the sound quality of the guitar is. The types of wood used in the creation of the guitar will also determine its cost as well.
- Tuning Machine – The type of tuning your guitar has is also of great importance. The tuning machine is what makes the guitar sound beautiful. Have an out of tune guitar and ANY guitarist, regardless of skill level, will sound terrible. If the guitar has enclosed machine heads, the will resist both rust and other corrosives. The enclosed nature requires less maintenance or replacement.
- Bridge and Fingerboard – The materials used on these parts of the guitar do affect the sound of the guitar, but those effects are minimal. It won’t make or break the sound of the guitar like the body or top will.
- Guitar Finish – Different finishes can also affect how your guitar vibrates. This isn’t something that you can do anything about. You don’t need to worry about choosing one finish over another because of sound. Choose the finish that makes you excited to look at and play.
When you follow the tips and information that we have provided above, you should be able to purchase your guitar with confidence and it won’t matter that it’s your first one. The knowledge provided here should give you a little more insight into the manufacturing of a guitar and how that manufacturing affects sound quality and tone.
Guitars are investments and some can last decades with the proper care so choosing the perfect one for you is a process. Don’t settle for something that doesn’t sound or look the way you want it to. Your first guitar is an important purchase and one you should feel great about afterwards.
- Yamaha- http://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical-instruments/
- Fender – http://shop.fender.com/en-US/
- Oscar Schmidt – http://www.oscarschmidt.com/