If you're thinking about buying your first acoustic guitar, we've put together this guide which will help you to do just find the perfect one for you!
Playing guitar is a fun, pleasurable activity for people of all ages - it's never too early or too late to begin! However, choosing a guitar that's right for you can be a bit daunting, especially given that there are so many models available.
From age of the player, to your budget and even the musical style that you prefer, there are a few things to consider, before buying your first guitar: There are many "buying guides" out there, but we think most of them are not all that helpful (a beginner would never care about types of wood, for instance!) so PMT decided to make a buying guide with everything you actually need to know! No more, and no less...
1) IS ACOUSTIC GUITAR WHAT YOU REALLY WANT?
Acoustic guitar models: classical, jumbo, super jumbo
The first thing to consider is whether an acoustic guitar is what you really want/ need. For most beginners, the best choice for a first guitar will certainly be an acoustic model. There are a few good reasons for this, but the main one is that it's something you can play straight out of the box - no need to worry about getting other accessories such as amplifier and cables. For this reason, it can be a cheaper investment than an electric guitar!
However, by no means is this a good reason to buy an acoustic guitar, if what you really want to do is to play an electric guitar - both instruments sound very different, and you may get frustrated if you choose to start on an acoustic guitar when what you really want to do is to sound like Jimi Hendrix or Slash!
But, as a general rule, an acoustic model will be the best choice for beginners, and would be what we'd recommend as a first guitar. It will allow you to learn how to play chords and develop all the skills you'll need to play an electric guitar later on, should you decide to buy one. One of the best and most popular brands in the UK right now is Tanglewood, which make great value-for-money instruments, of outstanding quality. If you don't want to know anything else about acoustic guitars, just keep Tanglewood in mind and you'll be all right!
2) GIVE YOUR CHILD A CHILDREN'S GUITAR (3/4 Size models)
Children have smaller hands than adults, so if you're buying an acoustic guitar for a ten-year old child, for instance, the best option is to chose a smaller-sized instrument, which will make playing easier. It's usually better to buy a smaller, cheaper guitar for a kid, than a more expensive model meant for adults - which they might find too hard to play, and this could even put them off playing the instrument altogether!
Another good option for children is to buy them an ukulele instead, if you just want give your kids a taste of how fun music can be. Ukes are also very easy to play!
Teenagers are OK playing full-sized instruments.
- Some advantages of smaller, 3/4 guitars: often cheaper (under £60) therefore not a big investment, which might be a good idea if you're not sure you (or the person you're buying the guitar for) will actually end up dedicating time to playing guitar... Many 3/4-size acoustic guitars are suitable for children, but you'll notice some more expensive models too - ever since Ed Sheeran chose a 3/4 guitar as his main instrument, it's been a popular choice for grown ups, too! They are suitable for adults if the player has smaller hands, or even as a "travel guitar", cheap and easy to carry.
- Question: What's the best age for children to start playing guitar? There's no fixed rule. Kids as young as 3 could show an interest in music, but usually only after 6 or as late as 9 they'll have the dexterity to learn to play proper - each case is different! But a cheap ukulele could be a fun instrument for the young ones to experiment with... you never know, you could have a new Hendrix in your home!
3) WHAT IS A "CLASSICAL GUITAR"? DO YOU NEED ONE?
At PMT, we separate Classical Guitars from the standard Acoustic Guitar models, to make it easier for you to choose one or the other. They are both acoustic guitars, but they sound and feel very different.
The classical models have nylon strings instead of steel strings. Nylon strings are softer and therefore easier to play, because they are less demanding on the fingertips of the beginner - and for this reason classical models are usually a good choice as a first guitar. These guitars (also referred to as 'Spanish guitars') are suitable for playing classical music, hence their name. Unlike steel-strung instruments, which are often played with a pick (also known as plectrum) classical guitars are meant to be played by finger-picking the strings. Andrés Segovia was considered one of the masters of the instrument, and this video shows a classical guitar being put to good use:
Classical guitars are smaller, and sound mellower and quieter than steel-strung acoustic guitars. The main downside of classical models is that the necks are usually wider and chunkier, which can make it harder for players with smaller hands to play chords.
Classical Guitar Pros and Cons
- PROS: Usually cheaper, smaller, softer to play, mellow sounding, suitable for classical music and beginners.
- CONS: Neck can be too wide and chunky for smaller hands; sound not bright or loud enough for modern pop & rock music.
4) STEEL-STRUNG ACOUSTIC GUITARS
This is by far the most popular kind of acoustic guitar. Most guitars you'll find for sale will be of this kind, unless they are specifically described as being "Classical". And because all guitars listed on our Acoustic Guitars section are steel-strung anyway, this fact is not usually mentioned on their names or description - it's simply taken as a given.
However, this is one of the crucial differences between the standard acoustic models and classical ones: steel strings sound crispier and brighter than nylon strings, but are also harder to play. For this reason, some beginners might not find them easy to play with, especially children, and this is one of the main reasons a classical, nylon string guitar is usually the best choice for beginners, and children in particular.
Most players use a plectrum (also called just a "pick") when playing an acoustic guitar. However, steel-strung acoustics can also be played by finger-picking the strings.
Most forms of popular music from the past and present have used steel-strung acoustic guitars: from old, obscure blues records, to some of the biggest hits by acts such as The Beatles or Oasis, to most pop acts in the charts today, such as Ed Sheeran. When you see someone playing an acoustic guitar on stage or on TV, hear it on the radio or on records, or someone busking on the street, it is usually this kind of acoustic guitar, not a classical guitar.
Different types of Acoustic Guitars
There are quite a few differences between guitars within the "acoustic guitar" range: shape, types of wood and, of course, the cost. All of those things may make one guitar better than another, or at very least make them sound different. But, for a first-time buyer and player, most of these differences won't be very relevant or noticeable, and you can ignore any references to the types of wood, etc. as this kind of info is there mostly for the benefit of more experienced players.
Most acoustic guitars will have a dreadnought shape. Others, might be described as "parlour", "orchestral" or "folk" shaped, which means a slight smaller body size and a more rounded tone, not as bass-y or as loud. And finally, others will be described as "jumbo", with a slightly curvier shape than a dreadnought. Again, perhaps nothing a beginner would particularly notice or care about that much.
'Super Jumbo' Acoustics
One particular type that may stand out is the super jumbo-shaped guitar, such as the Gibson J200. It has a body that's slightly larger and curvier than a dreadnought shape. This produces a sound that's louder and richer, though perhaps nothing a beginner guitarist will notice at first. Super Jumbo guitars are definitely too big as a first guitar for a younger player, and the shape is not as popular as dreadnought... but it found favour with many players over the years: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Sheryl Crow, Oasis and many others! Check out Noel Gallagher playing a super jumbo acoustic:
5) WHAT ARE ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC GUITARS?
There are also Electro-Acoustic Guitars available. They are basically just like the usual acoustic guitars, but come with built-in preamp, which means they can also be plugged to an amp or directly to the PA. This is a useful feature if the player performs live, or plans to do so. If you're just a beginner who just wants to play at home, getting an electro-acoustic is not necessary, really.
Many electro-acoustics have a cutaway design, which make them slightly easier to play if the guitarist want access to the upper frets. The Taylor 214-CE is one of the best models available right now.
Acoustic Guitar Pros and Cons
- PROS: Most popular type, used in all styles of music; bright & loud sound; great for playing chords when you're learning; versatile.
- CONS: Steel strings may be harder to play for beginners or children, and hurt fingertips a little bit.
6) DON'T FORGET THE ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIES!
While it's true you can play an acoustic "straight out of the box", in reality things are just a little bit less simple than that! You are advised to buy a guitar tuner, a few guitar picks and a pack of extra acoustic guitar strings. If you choose to buy an Acoustic Guitar Starter pack, it'll come with all the extra bits which you'll need.
BEST FX PEDALS FOR ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Those who play electro-acoustic guitars, though, will benefit for other accessories, too, such as Acoustic Guitar Amps and fx pedals. One of the coolest things about playing an electro-acoustic is that you can use fx pedals to change the sound of your guitar, for instance adding chorus for a fuller sound, or delay. Though you can use any guitar effect with your electro-acoustic, there are dedicated fx units such as the TC Helicon Voicelive Play Acoustic and the Zoom A3 Acoustic Guitar Preamp & Multi-Effects Pedal.
However, the best pedal right now is the new Boss VE-8 Acoustic Singer, which is perfect for those who play and sing, because it features inputs for your electro-acoustic and also your microphone.
A PLAYER'S' FAVOURITE: YAMAHA ACOUSTICS
On a previous blog, we explained why Yamaha Acoustics are a player's favourite. These guitars offer great value for money, and, despite the brand being as closely associated with Keyboards (or even motorcycles!) as with guitars, Yamaha is a name that is also synonymous with quality when it comes to acoustic guitars: players who've chosen Yamaha Acoustics include Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page, Graham Coxon, Paul Simon, Elliot Smith and many others.
One of the best Yamaha models is the new Yamaha FG-180 50th Anniversary, a limited-edition guitar which celebrates Yamaha's first ever acoustic. This stunning model is limited to only 250 in Europe, and will become a collector's item very quickly. Vintage FG-180 are some of the most sought-after acoustics by Yamaha, here's a demo of one of them:
TOP CHOICES OF BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS, BY PRICE RANGE:
Here's our selection of some of the best acoustic guitar models we have in stock at the moment, by price range. They're all good but, of course, you get what you pay for: guitars under £100 are usually only recommended for beginners, and guitars over £500 are the ones professional musicians go to. In-between, you'll find many guitars which are of fantastic quality for very low prices, and may even be used by pros, too.
BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS UNDER £200
Tanglewood Crossroads Acoustics. Only £99
Fender CD-60 Acoustic. From £106
Eastcoast Acoustics. From £69
Yamaha Acoustics. From £119
Epiphone Acoustics. From £99
Tanglewood Acoustics. From £99
BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS OVER £200 to £500
Eastcoast LIS models. From £215
Yamaha Acoustics. From £217
Martin Acoustics. From £239
Taylor Acoustics. From £295
Epiphone models. From £259
BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS OVER £500 (A.K.A. "THE REALLY GOOD STUFF!")