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Buying Acoustic Guitars at Different Skill Levels
It might sound cheesy, but when a guitarist buys a guitar, there’s a connection formed between the musician and the instrument. Chances are, you will have your guitar for a very long time, and your fingers and hands will slide over the frets and strings for hundreds of hours over the years. As you grow your skills as a musician, your guitar will also change slightly with the passing of time. The tone and feel of the guitar will slowly alter, and all the nicks and scratches along the wood will be scars that explain different stories.
Now, finding the right acoustic guitar can be overwhelming at first, especially for beginners. There are dozens of guitar makers, and various different kinds of wood, hardware, design styles, and components of every acoustic guitar that can be unique. When considering what acoustic guitar is right for you, it comes down to two main factors: budget and skill level.
Let's get started!
Guitar Skill Level
Your skill level should be the first aspect you analyze when deciding to buy a guitar as it will help you determine your budget. Different guitar makers have different pricing, and there are also models of guitar designed for certain skill levels.
Beginner/Amateur Skill Level
Have you never picked up a guitar before? Have you been playing the guitar on and off for years but still only know those few chords? Or are you kind of person who isn’t sure if guitar playing is even right for you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be a good idea to consider buying an entry level or beginner guitar.
Buying a guitar has gotten easier with technology. Modern manufacturing and improved facilities has made it so even low to moderately priced guitars can possess the quality and sound you need for your perfect acoustic guitar.
So, what are some good tips for finding the perfect beginner guitar?
- Focus on the feel of the guitar, not the look: This is incredibly important, and is true for all levels of guitar playing. A guitar might be that perfect color and look nice in the store, but ultimately, if it is made of cheap materials, feels difficult to play, and has a tone that isn’t quite right you won’t be satisfied.
- Pick up and play: Being a guitarist in a guitar shop should feel like being a kid in a candy store. Explore the guitars, and spend a few minutes playing some of them. Don’t be discouraged if you’re still starting out and don’t even know any songs to play. Just strum the strings, and run your hands over the fret board to see how it feels!
- Don’t worry about the specifics: It’s easy to get lost in all the details when looking for a guitar. Is the guitar rosewood, or mahogany? Is it made in Spain, America, or Japan? Is it a solid top, or laminate? Don’t sweat it. For your beginner guitar you should focus on what feels good to play and what is reasonably priced. Most beginner guitars are in the same price range and are of fairly similar quality, and this will make your life easier when buying your first acoustic guitar!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Talk to several guitarists you know and guitarists who work at guitar shops. They were all beginners once too, and while every guitarist may have different preferences for brands or styles, they can still help you get started with the basics
So, what are some good beginner acoustic guitars?
The Epiphone Hummingbird Pro - $400
The Epiphone Hummingbird Pro is an acoustic/electric guitar that really sets the bar high for what a beginner level guitar should offer. The Hummingbird is a classic, and was used by Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones. The Hummingbird is made of spruce and mahogany, and overall creates a very warm and rounded tone. Thanks to the electric pick-up the Hummingbird also allows for a lot of versatility. If you ever need to play louder or if you just want to rock out, you can!
Yamaha FG800 - $300
The Yamaha FG800 is another great option for your beginner acoustic guitar. The guitar is solid, and produces a very strong and robust sound while still remaining balanced. The body is a traditional style, and is composed of spruce and Nato/Okume wood for a rich tone. Overall this guitar is very high in quality, and for a beginner guitarist who isn’t interested in including an electronic pickup in the package, the Yamaha FG800 may be the perfect fit!
Takamine G Series Dreadnought Solid Top - $320
With a slim neck and overall balanced, well rounded tone, the Takamine G Series Dreadnought offers a lot for beginner guitar players. The fret board is easy to play, and the body itself has a lovely gloss finish. Overall the Takamine G Series Dreadnought is very versatile, and you won’t be limited to just one style of playing. When it comes to simplicity that offers performance, this is the right acoustic guitar for the job!
Intermediate Skill Level
If you’ve steadily been playing guitar for many months or years and find that you are progressing rapidly, it is time to consider buying an intermediate level guitar. Now, this is only the point in which you begin consideration and not the point of decision making. If you are perfectly happy strumming around the campfire with the first acoustic guitar you ever bought there might not be a need to upgrade! However, if you’re looking to take your playing to the next level and commit fully to guitar playing, you should know a few tips about buying an intermediate level guitar.
What should you look for when finding the right intermediate acoustic guitar?
- Still focus on feel and play-ability over appearance: And don't forget to continue to play as many guitars as you can get your hands on!
- Start paying attention to brands: Don’t make this your priority, but many guitarists find that they like the feel and sound of certain guitar makers. If you try a Martin guitar for example and you really enjoy it but the price is too high, perhaps try out a slightly lower end Martin.
- Start paying attention to specifications/materials: This is for the same reason you should start paying attention to brands. Perhaps the sound mahogany produces will sound better to you than rosewood. Different materials do matter for the fret board and body of the guitar. Also, guitars with different shapes or styles matter. Do you want the driving, powerful sound of a dreadnought? Or is the bright sound offered by a concert guitar more for you?
- Consider what style you will play: Different acoustic guitars are better for certain styles. If you’re shredding up and down the neck you will probably want a guitar with a cutout, for example. If you want something truly powerful and classic, a Jumbo guitar may be right for you.
So, what are some good intermediate acoustic guitars?
Martin Guitar DX1AE - $570
The Martin DX1AE is an acoustic-electric dreadnought guitar made of solid Sitka spruce and finished with mahogany. This guitar produces an incredibly rich and vibrant sound, and while it may be plain in appearance, the performance of the guitar is beautiful. The neck of the DX1AE is also very smooth and easy to play and it really is a step up from any beginner guitar.
Simon & Patrick Cutaway GT Folk Acoustic Electric Guitar - Cedar A3T - $850
Simon and Patrick guitars are Canadian made guitars with a reputation for being quality guitars at reasonable prices. The Cedar A3T is a very popular model, with a clear and bright tone that also sounds great when amplified. The guitar has a solid mahogany back and sides, and also has a cutaway allowing for easy soloing access and movement along the fret board. Overall, Simon and Patrick are a great manufacturer as a whole for intermediate level guitars, and the Cedar A3T Spruce is no exception.
Seagull Entourage CW Ql - $499
The Entourage CW Ql is a great intermediate guitar in that it offers a lot of features yet still maintains quality and performance. It has a built in tuner, as well as a cutaway for easy fret board access. The top of the body is solid pressure tested cedar and the back/sides are Canadian wild cherry. The body also has a semi-gloss custom polished finish, and the Seagull Entourage CW QL is definitely a guitar that will last you a lifetime if you maintain it.
Some Final Tips
Buying the perfect acoustic guitar isn’t a science at the end of the day. You need a mix of experimentation, experience, and time. Choose a guitar that feels comfortable and is enjoyable to play. Never settle for a guitar that is just “so-so” in your mind. It’s important to love your instrument if you want to love your music.
Do some additional reading as well, and don’t be afraid to explore different brands or even guitar websites and forums! If you plan on entering a guitar shop to ask an expert some questions, be prepared to describe what you’re looking for. Know your price range, any specifications you are interested in, and also think of the peripherals! A sturdy guitar case that can protect your acoustic guitar is a must, and there are many different string types, picks, and additional guitar related gadgets like tuners or capos you can buy.
For now, enjoy the beginnings of your guitar search! I hope you have found this Hubpage informative and that with these tips, you can find the perfect acoustic guitar for you! Happy playing!