Review of a Fantastic Acoustic Guitar Starter Kit
"For Dummies" Beginner Kit
Complete Acoustic Guitar Starter Kit
A few months ago, I decided to try to learn the guitar. A starter kit wasn't actually my first choice, but after 10 minutes of questions like, "How do you press down the string?" and trying to strum the instrument across the neck, my friend/teacher gave up and recommended a complete starter kit. Taking her advice to heart, I consulted the Internet for a good acoustic set.
I was looking for a kit that would let me learn from scratch (as in a "how do you hold a guitar?" kind of scratch), was at good price, and included a decent guitar. I eventually decided on this product, and I'm happy enough about the result to be writing a hub on it.
If the news that I'm happy with it is enough, then that's great. You're welcome. But if you want more details (and I get pretty detailed), read on!
The Product: "For Dummies" Acoustic Guitar Set
Just to make things as clear as possible, this product contains:
- An acoustic guitar
- Three 0.7mm picks
- A "traveling case" (which is more like a dust cover)
- A "For Dummies" beginner's acoustic guitar guide
- An electronic tuner
I'll go through what I thought of each of these components individually, as well as what I thought of them altogether as a "complete starter kit". Comments are welcome, and I hope you find this useful!
The Guide / Course
Because this is a For Dummies set, it comes with a book course teaching acoustic guitar from the very basics (how to hold it, how to tune) to basic chords and progressions. There's also a CD included in the back.
I appreciated how the course assumed nothing and started from the really basic basics; I had no idea how to finger a guitar, or even hold it! The diagrams are quite clear and the explanations are generally easy to understand.
Personally, I like the corny jokes that constantly pop up, but some out there might not find them as charming as I do. (See graphic on the right. Haha, get it? :D) If you don't like them, it won't be much of a problem. The book is short enough that I now only refer to it to practice progressions, or to to occasionally remind myself of a chord. I found that I graduated from the course fairly quickly, but I haven't had a problem finding great free info on the web now that I have some basics down.
So overall, I'd say the book laid out a good foundation and allowed me easier access to the wealth of info on the web, but there wasn't anything in there that I couldn't have found on the Internet with a little digging. My satisfaction wasn't hurt by the course (because the overall product is a damn good deal, see guitar), but it didn't boost it much. I give the book a 3 out of 5.
The Electronic Tuner
I have no complaints about this tuner. It works great, is fairly intuitive, and has no excess buttons to confuse a non-tech person like me. One button turns it on, the same button turns it off. The batteries took a little while for me to get in, but that's most likely just my problem. No matter how many times you tell me, no matter how clearly you mark the charge, I will always begin by putting the positive end on the negative side.
The display is quite intuitive, with 3 LED lights to represent "too flat", "on pitch", and "too sharp", with the green for "on pitch" between the two reds. Really makes a whole lot of sense; not much to complain about there.
It took me almost a week to figure out why following the tuner's cues was creating awful noises on the strings, but there's no one to blame but myself. It seems completely ridiculous now, but I'll share the story as I suppose it might happen to someone else. Someday.
Having fit my batteries into the little black tuner, I immediately put the tuner near my guitar to fix the horribly off-key strings. It took me a minute to figure out where to put it (too far and it doesn't work), but eventually I got it nicely settled onto the pickguard. I strummed the string nearest to it and the red "too flat" light started flashing. Perfect. I fiddled with the tuning keys for a bit and learned which way was to tighten and which was to loosen.
Awe-inspiring video of me tuning
I tightened the thinnest string (the high E string) a little, then strummed it for the tuner. The red "too flat" sign was still blinking. I tightened a turn more. Now the tuner began blinking "too sharp". Having never played guitar before, and having no natural ear for pitch, I thought that the pitch couldn't possibly be too high yet, and decided to give it another turn. And lo and behold, I strummed and the red "too flat" light came on again.
I thought that the tuner must be glitchy, but decided to give it the benefit of the doubt for the rest of the strings. I watched for the little green light while proceeding through the rest of my strings, and when I could strum each string and only get the green light, I turned off the tuner and jumped straight into the first chords.
I carefully placed my fingers identically to the diagram, double and tripled-checked, then decisively strummed through all 6 strings. Worst sound I've ever heard, like a screeching cat flailing about on an off-key organ. After unsticking my expression from the wince it was stuck in, I checked my fingering. Nope, completely correct. Buzzing? Nope, not that either.
Eventually, I decided to recheck my tuning. Strumming carefully through each string, I still got the little green light of "on pitch". Now very uncertain about the electronic tuner, I thought about going to check the pitch on a piano, but decided that I had enough of guitar for that day. I put it away for a bit and didn't play for a couple of days.
A few days later, I pulled out both the guitar and the tuner. Picking up with the first chord, I had the same problem as before - screeching cat flailing on organ. Rather frustrated, I angrily stared at the tuner. Trying to note every detail on the device, I suddenly noticed something. There was a second row of LED lights underneath the pitch lights, marked with the 6 names of the strings.
The strings were so far off pitch when I first received the guitar that the tuner thought I was trying to tune to an A when I was going for an E, or a D. I tuned the strings to a perfect pitch - just the wrong pitch for that string. Cat-on-organ mystery solved! Sigh... I suppose it says something about the strings, at least, seeing as none of them broke!
Generally speaking, though, the electronic tuner seems to be very intuitive and easy to use for most. I personally had quite the odd experience with it in the beginning, but it's serving me well now! I use it several times a week, and after about 3 months the batteries haven't faded at all. No complaints! 5 out of 5.
The Picks and The "Case"
I don't have too much to say about the picks, simply because I'm not good enough to feel any difference between sizes that are anywhere close to each other. These picks are 0.7 mm thick, which qualify them as "medium".
I can tell you that they've worked great for me, and that they feel very comfortable to use. I lost one (the set comes with three), and am thinking that it's probably a good idea to get a few more. Basically no problems at all, rated 5 out of 5 stars.
The case is a different matter. With no padding, hopelessly thin fabric, and zippers that break after a week or two, the bag is effectively just a cheap free throw-in. While possibly handy for keeping dust off the guitar, I tossed mine after the zippers broke, about 4 weeks in.
Usable as a dust cover until the lousy zipper breaks or the thin fabric tears - 1 out of 5 stars.
Like I said previously, I'm not an expert judge of anything guitar, but this instrument seems very decent to me. While I'm fairly new to guitar, I do know what a good instrument sounds like, and this acoustic guitar feels pretty good.
The guitar is from Kona, which is a big enough brand that I'd heard of it before knowing about this particular product. As far as I've heard, Kona has a pretty decent rep for quality guitars, and this acoustic is no exception. The sound is clear and rich, the strings are sturdy (see tuner story), and I have no complaints about how it looks. After looking at some of the guitars being sold in music stores, which often go for over $200, I feel like I got a pretty great deal - without even counting anything besides the guitar itself.
When the guitar first arrived, it was well packaged and completely undamaged. As far as I can remember, it came exactly as described - no surprises.
A couple of friends have said that the action (the height of the strings above the fretboard) is a little too high, making it rather challenging for a beginner's fingers, but after the first couple of weeks I callused up and had no further problems. That might be something to note, though, especially if you have very sensitive fingers and/or have no idea how to adjust the action on guitar strings.
Besides that, though, I honestly have zero complaints about the guitar. It looks good, sounds good, and is a pretty great deal. 5 out of 5 stars!
Rating for Beginner's Acoustic Guitar Kit
Video of a few chords
Learning Guitar With This Kit
As a complete kit, this set allows you to get started from scratch quite smoothly. Like said previously (see course), the book begins from the very basics. I highly recommend going through the first chapter thoroughly rather than just leaping in, as it will seriously help a great deal. Trust me.
After that reading assignment and after sticking batteries in the tuner and tuning the strings, you're basically ready to begin learning your first chords! It took me a couple of weeks to get the first chapter of chords completely memorized, but the second chapter of dominant chords went by much faster. There are also sections on melodies and example songs.
The course takes you to double-stopping, but that's about as far as it goes. Any additional info will have to be gained from the Internet, a friend, or a teacher. I personally bought the product thinking it was a fairly good deal just for the guitar (and picks/tuner), so I viewed the course as more of a throw-in. I'd always planned to mostly use the Internet, and after maxing out the book, that's what I eventually ended up doing.
The course gives you a solid base to expand from, which can be very valuable for total beginners like I was, but this isn't the course for someone looking to become an expert from one kit. I've had a great time with it though, and I felt like I've learned quite a bit more than I expected. I also didn't need to go out and buy picks or a tuner, though I did have to get a new case.
I'm very happy with the guitar itself, and I think that it's going to stay with me for at least another year or two. It isn't just a throwaway guitar - my original judgement (I bought this mostly for the guitar) was pretty sound. The product allowed me to really learn from scratch, and also gave me a guitar that will last a while. I'd say that this acoustic starter kit lives up to its name as a complete starter kit - 4.5 out of 5 stars!