IF YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT BUYING YOUR FIRST ACOUSTIC GUITAR, WE'VE PUT TOGETHER THIS BUYING GUIDE WHICH WILL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST OPTION
If you're looking for an Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide then you're in the right place. 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 so PMT decided to make a buying guide with everything you actually need to know.
IS AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR WHAT YOU REALLY WANT?
IS AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR IS WHAT YOU REALLY WANT AND 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 and you want to sound like Jimi Hendrix or Slash.
Many people choose an electric guitar as their first instrument, so if you feel that's what you really want, check our Electric Guitar Starter Packages.
ACOUSTIC GUITARS ARE THE BEST CHOICE FOR BEGINNERS, USUALLY
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 accessible and affordable brands in the UK right now is Ferndale, which makes great value-for-money instruments, of outstanding quality.
If you don't want to know anything else about acoustic guitars, just keep Ferndale in mind and you'll be alright.
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 choose a smaller, 1/2 size guitar, 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 a Ukulele instead if you just want to give your kids a taste of how fun music can be. Ukes are also very easy to play!
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 properly - each case is different.
But a cheap ukulele could be a fun instrument for the young ones to experiment.
WHAT GUITAR TO CHOOSE, ACCORDING TO AGE GROUP?
As a rule of thumb:
- 6 or under: get a cheap ukulele
- 7-11: get a 1/2-sized guitar
- 12-15: get a 3/4-sized guitar
- 16+: teenagers are suited to playing full-sized instruments
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF SMALLER GUITARS?
- They're often cheaper and 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.
- 3/4-sized guitars are also great as travel guitars, if you want to take an acoustic on holiday.
- 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 adults as well.
Ed Sheeran is a champion of the 3/4 sized travel guitars, crafting a career in music utilizing a Martin LX1.
Now a household name, Ed Sheeran would eventually create a line of signature travel guitars with the team at Martin, culminating in a special edition model for each album that was released.
His latest, the Martin Ed Sheeran Divide Signature Edition 3 Acoustic Guitar has been met with acclaim from guitar magazines and players alike.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CLASSICAL GUITAR AND AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR?
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 main differences between classical and acoustic guitars are:
- Classical guitars 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 and for children.
- They are smaller: together with nylon strings, this means they sound mellower and quieter than the bigger, steel-strung acoustic guitars.
- Classical options also have wider necks: wider and chunkier can make it harder for players with smaller hands to play chords if you buy a full-sized model.
These guitars are suitable for playing classical music, hence their name.
Unlike steel-strung instruments, which are often played with a 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 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.
STEEL STRING 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 crisper 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 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.
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 we sell have a dreadnought shape. This is the most popular kind of acoustic guitar.
- Others acoustic guitar shapes include parlour, orchestral or folk. What these shapes have in common is that they all feature a slightly smaller body size and a more rounded tone, not as loud as dreadnoughts.
- Other popular kind of acoustic guitars are described as jumbo, with a slightly curvier shape than a dreadnought. Again, perhaps nothing a beginner would particularly notice or care about that much. Our tip is to simply pick the one you like the best. Trying one at a PMT Store might help you decide.
'SUPER JUMBO' ACOUSTIC GUITARS
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. 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 including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Sheryl Crow, Oasis and many others.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC AND ACOUSTIC GUITARS?
There are also Electro-Acoustic Guitars available.
They are basically just like the usual acoustic guitars but come fitted with a built-in preamp, which means they can also be plugged into 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 really necessary.
Many electro-acoustics have a cutaway design, which makes them slightly easier to play if the guitarist wants access to the upper frets.
The Taylor 114ce Grand Auditorium Electro-Acoustic 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 and 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.
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.
If you choose to buy an Acoustic Guitar Starter Pack, it'll come with all the extra bits you'll need.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO SPEND A FORTUNE
If you want a quality acoustic guitar, you don't have to spend a great deal. In fact, we have a huge selection of cheap acoustic guitars that don't suck.
BEST FX PEDALS FOR ELECTRO-ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Another of the best pedals 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.
This helpful tool figures out what key you're playing in, and it then creates natural vocal harmonies to bolster your sound.
You can also pick up the Boss Acoustic Pro Amp which combines this functionality with an amplifier - an immensely helpful tool.
We'd also recommend the Fender Smolder Acoustic Overdrive Pedal - something that was designed with acoustic players in mind.
This is a bright solution to the classic issue of feedback, adding overdrive to your acoustic signal, without the tone-destroying feedback that usually ensues.
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.
BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS UNDER £200
Ferndale make our favourite budget acoustic guitars - they're available in a variety of styles and offer a level of playability that you'd expect from a far more expensive instrument.
FENDER CD ACOUSTIC GUITARS (CLASSIC DESIGN SERIES)
YAMAHA ACOUSTIC GUITARS
EPIPHONE ACOUSTIC GUITARS
TANGLEWOOD ACOUSTIC GUITARS
BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS £200 TO £500
Ferndale also offer a great selection of guitars in this price range. By prioritising the sound, feel, and overall quality of the instrument, intermediate players can get great value and an effortless experience for less.
BEST ACOUSTIC GUITARS OVER £500
EPIPHONE MASTERBILT CENTURY
WHAT NOT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Choosing an acoustic guitar can be a little daunting, and there's a lot of misinformation out there, so Sam and Meg at PMT decided to put together these fun videos on how to choose an acoustic guitar, and what not to look for in an acoustic guitar. Well worth a watch if you have a few minutes - it's a complete beginners guide to shopping for an acoustic and could save you a lot of money in the long run.