“The best acoustic guitar for beginners is one that bests suitable for beginners.”

what is the best acoustic guitar for beginners

What is the best acoustic guitar for beginners?

It’s frustrating when you’re going to buy an acoustic guitar, and you have no idea of which one is the best option. It is common with the beginners, especially because most of the time they don’t look for the one with good sound and more comfortable, they leave their eyes to speak their minds. So, before you make a mistake buying the one that looks nice but doesn’t have the best characteristics for you, please read below, and you will find out that purchasing a best acoustic guitar for beginners is easier than how it looks.

First of all, in this post I’ll only talk about the acoustic guitars with flat cover, there are guitars with archtop which are more common in jazz, but we aren’t going to talk about them.

The first thing to do when you are going to buy a guitar has discarded those guitars with really low prices. Let’s say those less of $150, even though, I wouldn’t buy a new instrument which price is less than $200, but if you don’t have too much budget, you can also think about the purchase of a second-hand guitar but with better quality. Or if you are a little more patient, you can wait a bit more and save more money, in that way you will be able to buy a good one for a not too high price, it’s the best investment. If you follow this advice, you will avoid problems like the guitar is not comfortable to play, it doesn’t sound good, among others.

When we eliminate the low quality of the guitars in our options, we’ll open a door where we are going to be able to find good quality for a low price as well, and we won’t have the problems that are having a bad guitar entails. For having the perfect acoustic guitar for you I suggest you follow the next steps:

  1. Choose a type of body
  2. Decide which characteristics you want in your guitar: nut width, cutaway, some free frets, the capacity to use electronic elements like amplifiers.
  3. Think wisely if we need a guitar with solid wood or not
  4. Choose a particular model

Then, according to the previous steps, let’s get deeper into them

Best Beginner Guitar Guide: Select The Type of Body

When we are going to buy the best acoustic guitar for beginners or best beginner guitar, the first thing that we need to know is which kind of body do we want in our guitar. You need to know that every type of body gives differents characteristics, and one can be more appropriate than other for some styles of music and techniques.

There isn’t an international standard for the body of a guitar, but if it comes to the most common we can mention the bodies from the brand Martin, their bodies are imitated around the world due to their comfort. Some from the Gibson are between the most copied as well, but if we talk about exclusiveness and originality, the brands Taylor and Larrivée have their catalog in body types. Now that we know about all the types of body that exist, I’m going to use as a reference only the most common ones, but it doesn’t mean that they are not useful or less attractive.

Before we get to the point, it’s good to know that the acoustic guitars can have 12 or 14 free frets in their neck. The guitars with 12 free frets have a major box due to this they are louder than the ones with 14 but if we are looking for a guitar that can give us a large repertory. One with 14 free frets could be a better option because the one with 12 frets will limit our access till the 12th fret. This characteristic doesn’t affect in repertory which has blues or ragtime.

Now, let’s get to the main point. I want to make it easy to understand so; I will use a small schema table which has the types of body that you can find in any music store:

Size of the body Name Number of free frets Technique
Small Parlor 12 Fingerstyle
Medium OM or 000 12 or 14 Fingerstyle
 

Big

Dreadnought 12 or 14 Plectrum
Jumbo 14 Plectrum
Ovation 14 or 16 Plectrum

As we can see, there are some types of the body more appropriate to play with the fingers (fingerstyle) and others to play with the plectrum. But these characteristics aren’t rules that we need to follow, as an example, I play an Alhambra Dreadnought with fingerstyle, but I would prefer that it was an OM. Reverend Gary Davis, an amazing guitarist, used to play with fingerstyle a jumbo. Knowing this, here comes my first advice, if you find a guitar which you can play maybe not your technique or style but you get by with it then go ahead with it because with a good guitar you can play any style and technique but always remember to ask yourself two questions:

  • For which style of music, I want it? Some bodies work better with a particular style than others.
  • Which technique will I use? Small bodies work better if you play them with fingerstyle, the big ones with plectrum and medium with both techniques.

If you are not sure of what I mean when I say small, medium or big bodies then let me explain it in a short way, starting from the smallest to the largest.

Parlor

It has the body of a little box with 12 free frets, and it was made to play it with fingerstyle and music like blues and rag. It isn’t appropriated to play solos higher than the 12th fret. It works better for playing in low positions, and it is comfortable to play while sitting, its sound may surprise you if we compare it to a high-quality instrument.

Martin’s company makes a type of box, the 00 with 12 frets that are actually the Parlor even when the brand doesn’t call it like that.

Parlour Guitar

The OM, 000 or Auditorium

This type of body is really common among the acoustic guitars. It was used for playing blues and rag before the Dreadnought appeared. Nowadays, it’s used to play fingerstyle due to its exceptional balance between, treble, mid and bass. It makes easier to control the performance regarding nuances, colors, among others. It is a good option to play with a plectrum if you are trying to get a soft sound.

They width of the rings is less than the dreadnought, because of this it’s easier to hold between our legs and arms while we play sitting, this fact makes them be the most comfortable guitars to keep. They can have 12 or 14 free frets. The model 00 with 14 frets made by Martin’s company is really similar to this one, especially in the box.

If you’re looking to play blues, it is your best option but always be careful when it comes to buying a new one, a lot of OM have a modern sound that will ruin your blues style.

OM-000-Auditorium

Image from musicradar.com

Dreadnought

It’s the most frequent type of box in the acoustic guitars. The people who made it were trying to provide better bass and volume to the already existing guitars (parlor and OM). The first dreadnought was made by F.H. Martin and Harry L. Hunt, but the first dreadnoughts in sell had the label Ditson instead of Martin. The name came from a warship of the Royal Navy named HMS Dreadnought due to its robustness and performance.

These last two characteristics were impregnated in this guitar. In the beginning, they were made with 12 frets and then with 14, and they are perfect for a huge variety of styles. It’s better if you play them with plectrum due to the sound and are better for playing while standing than sitting.

Jumbo

Those guitars are divided into two sizes, jumbo and super jumbo. The first one is perfect for strumming, but a few models allow you to play fingerstyle with them. I don’t have too much experience with this guitar but knowing how does a dreadnought work with this technique, I can say a jumbo is a good option for the musician who plays with a plectrum and sometimes fingerstyle. A popular model of the jumbo is the Gibson J-165 which was made in 1951.

Now, let’s talk about the super jumbo. The first thing I can say, this guitar is like a tank, it has a big box and really widths rings which gives it strong bass and a sound with much more body. It is played with plectrum most of the time and the brand Gibson made this guitar a legend, especially the model J200, such a beauty right?
J200 Gibson

Ovation

Even when a lot of companies is imitating nowadays this box, it’s fair enough to call it Ovation for being the original brand which applied synthetics material and amazing designs to the construction of the guitars. The body of this guitar doesn’t have rings and background as usually. Instead, they have a curvilinear mold made of a synthetic material called Lyrachord that was discovered for Charles H. Kaman, guitarist, and engineer, owner of The Kaman Corporation which is the owner of the Ovation brand. This kind of model includes most of the time cutaways, and the material which was made gives the music a bright and energetic sound. Some models have 16 free frets.

This guitar is used by soloists and songwriters/singers.

Others types of boxes

As I said before, the types of boxes that I mentioned aren’t the only ones. Every maker always introduces a different characteristic that makes the difference in their guitars from the others. There are a lot of makers who created new types of bodies successfully like Larrivée with its L box that is a mix of the dreadnought and the OM which has good comments about how it sounds and how comfortable it is. Taylor is another brand with its types of bodies; they have dreadnoughts and jumbos, but you can find others like:

  • Grand Concert (GC): it has a small body perfect for fingerstyle
  • Grand Auditorium (GA): a mix of the Grand Concert and a dreadnought which is perfect for both techniques, plectrum, and fingerstyle
  • Grand Symphony (GS): big body as a dreadnought and it’s perfect for play with a plectrum

Having all these points clear, we can continue to the next step

Characteristics of The Best Guitar For Beginners

I don’t want to make things complicate, so I’m going to try to do a small resume about the designs and features that you need to know before buying a best acoustic guitar for beginners:

  • Cutaway: It is a rounded cutout that the guitars have from the 14th fret, and it is useful if you want to get to the highest frets. I recommend you to buy a guitar with cutaway if you are going to use the others frets if you won’t then buy one without it because the cutaway will take some sound from your instrument.
  • 12 or 14 free frets: the guitars with 12 frets have the major box and for a lot of guitarists think that one with 12 frets sounds better than the one with 14. But you have to keep in mind if you have 12 frets in your guitar it will be hard to get to a higher fret. If you ask me, I prefer a guitar with 14 frets even if you want to play blues with it. Because if you see a picture of video with a bluesman like Skip James you’ll notice that he played instruments with 14 frets due to this, we can say that it affects more the sound and static of the instrument than the musical style.
  • Shooting (Vibrating length): if you don’t know what it is, it’s the distance from the nut to the bond of the bridge, and there are two types of shooting, long and short. There isn’t a standard for any of them, but most of the time a long shooting has 64,77 cm and the short one 63,24cm, this difference of one cm makes the guitars with long shooting harder than the ones with the little shooting. If you ask me which one is better, I can’t get into a decision. The short shooting is more comfortable when we want to play a musical piece with difficult passages, and I used to prefer the long shooting, but lately I’ve noticed that I feel more comfortable with the short one. So I would recommend trying two instruments, one with the short and other with the long shooting and then you can decide which one is better for you.
  • The width of the nut: if you have played a classical guitar and now you want to try an acoustic one, let me tell you, it will be hard. The width of the nut in an acoustic guitar is 43mm and due to this; we feel like there’s no place for our fingers, but it isn’t something that you can’t get used to with the time. Now, if you still prefer a wider nut, there are a few acoustic guitars which have nuts with 48 mm and give you the feeling that you’re playing a classical guitar and for a fingerstyle, they’re more comfortable. I have a Recording King, and it has 48mm in the nut, and yes, the difference from one with 43mm is huge.
  • Electronic elements: believe or not, this is an important fact to keep in mind. When you are going to buy your guitar is better if it already has the pickup and brings a tuner, this will save you a lot of money and the most important, the pickups from the fabric are better, and you don’t take risks if it is installed correctly and the tuners are more efficient. You will save approximately $300, and you will receive a good guitar even when you’ll need to spend a little more.

Solid or Laminate? Which is the best beginner guitar?

An expert guitarist knows the difference and appreciates when an instrument has substantial rings, backgrounds, and cover but why? Well, there are differents options in the material of the cover (Sitka, Engelmann, Adirondack, among others) which in combination with rings and backgrounds in mahogany, koa, lignum vitae and others. It can give the guitar a lot of possibilities in sound, colors and bells, something that a laminate one can’t. if you have a guitar with a laminate cover, it will work good enough, but the difference between it and the solid is tremendous.

When we talk about solid wood we refer to the sounding board, usually the neck is made of solid wood, so we don’t have to worry too much about it even when it’s a cheap instrument.

The guitars with solid wood sound better but they are more delicate and let’s not forget, more expensive. When I say, delicate I talk about the temperatures and humidity and these factors can make the fingerboard shrink, but the most common problem is that the bridge will unglue a few millimeters or even all of it. If you want to buy a guitar with solid wood, then you will need to give it a lot of care and attention.

If you are not sure about getting a solid guitar, but you don’t want a laminate one, then I think I have a good option for you. There are a few brands which make guitars with solid cover but the rings and backgrounds are laminate, and the sound of those guitars is amazing, and you can have them for a little price. Are you going to buy one like this? Art & Lutherie, Seagull, and Norman are brands which most famous models are made with these materials. I have a Norman as my second guitar and new it costs 350$, but I bought it on eBay for 95$, and I’m triumphal with it. Others brands like Vintage has their guitars made with Sitka on the cover, and the rest of the body is laminate, and they have good critic especially for the high quality of the instrument for a really low price.

If you are just starting to learn how to play the guitar you don’t need to spend a fortune on an instrument, $200 can be enough to buy a good instrument and with the time and when you have more money you can invest in a better guitar.

So, let’s resume it, you have to avoid the guitars that don’t have solid wood and the laminate covers.

We need to think about what are we going to use the instrument as well, if you are going to play the guitar in performance or concert then you should save some money on the solid wood and buy one with rings and backgrounds laminate but with a good solid cover and buy a pickup later

If you are going to use it in your house and for learning, maybe a Chinese guitar which is the cheapest one but with solid wood is your best option but you can use one with the solid cover, and the laminate box is viable too.

For an expert guitarist that is starting in the acoustic music, you need to go for an instrument with solid wood in all the aspects. If you don’t want to spend too much money, I recommend an Alhambra series 1 or 2, a Marting series 15, the Guilds made in China or maybe a Larrivéé Recording Series 03. The Recording Kind is the guitar made in China, but they’re getting a lot of prestige due to the good materials used in the manufacturing, and the sound is incredible.

Choose A Particular Guitar Model For Beginners

In this part is where you start to work and the only thing that I can do is advise you a few more things on buying the best acoustic guitar for beginners. Before running into a particular model, try to see what is available in the market. And when you find something that caught your eye search for it, not only some sentences or which materials were used, look for its brand, where was it made and all the characteristics that we talked about but the most important – Try It Before You Buy It. I know this can be a little bit careful because nowadays most of us buy through the internet, and we don’t take our time to go to a music store and try the guitar before we decide to buy it or not.

Now, most of the time when we are going to buy our guitar or any instrument, we aren’t sure what kind of wood was it made, which is the width of the nut, if it has the pickup and many others stuff, then be patient, try to read some reviews or forums.

A forum is a huge place where we’ll find a lot of opinions about the instrument, they will be active and negative as well, but when the guitar, in this case, is excellent, most of the comments from the people will be positive, but I still recommend more the reviews.

The reviews will help us to have an objective idea of the instrument after it was analyzed for a person who most of the time is someone with knowledge of the topic. But it doesn’t mean that you will read only one and take with closed eyes what he or she says, look for reviews with a high rating and where the person looks like he/she knows what is talking about.

I hope this information will help you in your journey finding the best acoustic guitar for beginners and without anything else to say, good luck in your choice!

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