Last update 6/12/2023
Our acoustic guitar basics guide will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed buying decision when choosing the best acoustic guitar for you. This guide is intended for anyone new to acoustic guitars, including beginners. Much of the information will serve you well for guitars other than acoustics.
Acoustic Guitar Basics
Table of contents
- Acoustic Guitar Basics
- Acoustic Guitar Basics – What makes an acoustic guitar great?
- Sound Quality
- Build Quality
- Your Budget
- Acoustic Guitar Basics- Your Playing Style
- Common playing styles for acoustic guitar.
- Are you seeking a specific tone?
- Do you plan to sing and play the guitar?
- Playing in a band
- Maintenance products
- Acoustic Guitar Basics – Going Shopping: Store vs. Online
- Guitar service and support
- Financing your new acoustic guitar
- Tips for Test Driving Acoustic Guitars
- Dont rush
- Acoustic guitar manufactures
- Acoustic Guitar Basics – Conclusion
Acoustic Guitar Basics – What makes an acoustic guitar great?
Several factors contribute to making an acoustic guitar great. These elements affect the instrument’s playability and sound and influence the player’s overall experience. Here are some key factors that make an acoustic guitar great.
There are no surprises here; the primary attribute of a great acoustic guitar is its sound. The tone should be well-balanced, with clear highs, defined mids, and resonant lows. The guitar should generally have a rich, full-bodied sound with good projection and sustain.
A high-quality acoustic guitar is crafted with precision and attention to detail. It should have solid construction, including tight-fitting joints, sturdy bracing, and smooth finishes. It will have high-quality materials, such as solid wood for the top, back, and sides, contributing to the guitar’s overall tone and durability. Tonewoods are important when it comes to an acoustic guitar and a great sound!
Another important consideration is the playability of the guitar. In saying that, we mean there are super important considerations. The important ones are the action (string height), neck shape, and fretboard radius. Be sure to consider the neck profile; if it doesn’t feel comfortable, you will never be happy with the guitar.
There is no right or wrong within reason when judging a guitar neck (any guitar). It’s very easy to access; you will simply know by playing the guitar. Yeah, you will need to play the guitar; you will develop preferences and will have a pretty good idea from the specs if any given guitar is likely to feel comfortable for you.
- First, let’s discuss the most critical part of the buying process: determining an accurate budget.
- 2. Having a budget or a minimum and maximum spend clear in your mind is step one.
- 3. When dealing with a salesperson, they will most likely ask you about your maximum budget.
- 4. That is a fair question, so be prepared.
- 5. Once the salesperson knows your budget, he or she will show you a range of guitars you can afford.
- 6. The more information you acquire about the type of guitar you want, the easier the salesperson’s job will be.
- 7. The golden rule is to buy the best acoustic guitar you can afford.
- 8. A quality guitar will inspire you to play.
- 9. A lousy guitar will do the opposite.
- New or used. There are some great deals for used acoustic guitars if you look around. A good used guitar might be your best option if your budget is tight.
Acoustic Guitar Basics- Your Playing Style
Having some idea about playing style can also be helpful. Some acoustics are better suited than others for a specific type of guitar playing.
Do you want a versatile or perhaps more specialized guitar for a particular genre or style?
Some guitars lend themselves better to certain styles.
Are you a strummer, mainly open chords and barre chords?
Fingerstyle or Flatpicking.
Do you have a heavy attack or a light strummer?
Where will I be playing your guitar?
What style(s) of music do I want to play?
Are there specific tonal properties you have in mind, such as volume, richness, low-end response, warmth, etc.?
Will you play more often by yourself or with other players/instruments?
Will you be singing with your guitar?
Are there guitarists whose style or tone you would like to emulate?
Do you plan to play lead lines higher up the neck (toward the body)?
Do you plan to do any live performances or recordings?
Common Musical Genres for acoustics?
Bluegrass or flat pick.
Common playing styles for acoustic guitar.
Are you seeking a specific tone?
Are you trying to find a guitar that will emulate the guitar of someone famous, a particular tone? That would be a guitar that has specific specifications.
Do you want to play up the neck (the dusty end)? Then consider a cutaway guitar. A cutaway will allow you to play right up the neck.
Where will you play your guitar most of the time?
- Suppose you plan to play at home most of the time, perhaps in a casual sitting on the lounge or even a recliner.
- You might consider the size of the guitar; small may be the better fit. You may not need the significant volume of a bigger guitar.
- Suppose you are planning to play with a group of friends. In that circumstance, you may need to consider a more prominent guitar to give you more volume.
- Suppose playing live, such as in an open mic setting. Even the loud volume of a Jumbo Acoustic may not be enough. It would be best to have a guitar cut through the noise. In this type of situation, an acoustic-electric would be the best choice.
“If you can’t play it on an acoustic guitar or a grand piano, then it’s not a song.” Christopher Cross
Do you plan to sing and play the guitar?
Consider a guitar that will complement your voice. A guitar constructed whose back and side are built from rosewood. It may be a good choice in this instance.
Rosewood is said to create a pocket of space for the vocals.
Rosewood has a scooped midrange, which is approximately where the human voice sits.
We recommend trying different guitars to see which compliments your voice the best.
- If you are planning to play instrumentals primarily.
- Be sure the guitar has the sonic capability to fit your playing style. Are you planning to record with your guitar?
- A guitar with a pickup built-in might be a consideration. However, we believe the optimum way to record an acoustic is to use a mic.
- A smaller guitar may be worthwhile if you plan to do a lot of recording.
- A smaller guitar will have a smaller sonic footprint.
- A larger-bodied guitar can use a lot of space in the recording mix.
- Every day suitable playing situations for the acoustic guitar
Playing in a band
- Open mic
- Family gatherings
Don’t forget to allow for accessories in your budget when buying your guitar, especially if it’s your first guitar. The standard accessories are as follows:
- A high-quality hard case or gig bag.
- A capo
- Guitar picks
- Spare strings
- A guitar strap
- An electronic guitar tuner
- A high-quality guitar stand
Sooner rather than later, some maintenance will need to be done to your guitar. Changing the strings when required will revitalize the sound of your guitar. A few simple guitars will be required to do the job.
- A pair of side cutters.
- Some assorted screwdrivers
- Cleaning clothes and guitar polish.
- A big tip is always to wash your hands before playing your guitar. Furthermore, some people tarnish the guitar strings more than others due to sweat.
- It’s a good habit to keep two clean cotton rags, one to wipe the guitar body and another to clean the strings and only the strings.
Acoustic Guitar Basics – Going Shopping: Store vs. Online
Buying your acoustic guitar from a brick-and-mortar store is always the best option; buying from a store allows you to try different types of acoustic guitars and make comparisons.
This might sound obvious, but look for a store with a wide selection of guitars.
Another advantage of a brick-and-mortar store is the help of an experienced and knowledgeable salesperson. Furthermore, if you are lucky and have more than one store in your area, try them all.
Buying online means purchasing the guitar without playing it. Perhaps you have played the guitar you like and decided to buy it online because it’s a great deal. However, if you choose this option, be sure you know where you stand. If something isn’t right, read on.
Guitar service and support
Always check the vendor’s return policy if you need to send the guitar back—both for an in-store purchase or online.
“I even played bass for a while. Besides playing electric guitar, I’d also get asked to play some acoustic stuff. But, since I didn’t have an acoustic guitar at the time, I used to borrow one from a friend so I could play folk joints.” Mark Knopfler
Financing your new acoustic guitar
Financing your new guitar might allow you to purchase the guitar of your dreams right away. It is also a way of buying guitar accessories with the guitar. Furthermore, the vendor might cut a good deal.
As always, don’t exceed your means when taking out a loan. Financing is a personal decision that only you can make. Don’t rush into a decision!
Tips for Test Driving Acoustic Guitars
Note: Try to remember to bring a favorite pick with you. It should be fun when it comes to trying many different acoustic guitars. However, many feel a little overwhelmed and nervous playing guitars in a store, as with everything else in the acoustic guitar buying process. Think ahead.
Work out a playing sequence that will allow you to evaluate the guitar thoroughly. You can play simple songs or chords up and down the neck: melody lines or fingerstyle. Whatever you choose to play, play the same thing on every guitar you try.
If you find an acoustic you’re interested in, have someone play it for you while listening in front of the guitar. It’s often surprising how different it might sound when in front of it while it’s being played by someone else. Have the person playing the guitar play the same thing you have been playing, if possible.
Plug it in
If you’re checking out an acoustic-electric, ask if you can plug it into an amp. If you own an amp, think about bringing it with you.
Test drive some guitars, take a pen and paper, and make plenty of notes. It doesn’t take long to become confused about your thoughts for each guitar that you try. Write some pros and cons for each guitar.
Only go to the guitar store when you have plenty of time. Don’t rush. Sometimes it is best to leave a day or two in between “roadtesting guitars.” It may be difficult to decide which guitar is best from all the different types of acoustic guitars you have tried. It may be best to try them again the next day or so after the first.
Etiquette | In-store Do and don’t
Some of the points below might sound laughable, but trust us when we say they happen.
- Don’t lean a guitar against the wall or some other prop.
- Do use a guitar stand or a hangar.
- Please don’t ask for a pick and then put it in your mouth.
- Do bring your picks.
- In the case of acoustic-electric, do not plug it in and play it loud when the store is full of people.
- Don’t plugin with the volume turned down or the amp on standby.
- Don’t leave an amp on after you have finished.
- Do turn an amp on when you are finished.
- Do play in an isolation room if the store has one.
- Don’t be rough with the guitar.
- Do be respectful and careful with the guitar.
- Don’t play with dirty hands.
- Do wash your hands before playing the guitars.
- Don’t wear a buckle belt or anything else to damage the guitar.
- Do wear clothing that will not damage the guitars.
- Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions.
- Do ask all the questions you need to.
Acoustic guitar manufactures
There are way too many acoustic guitar manufacturers to list them all here. However, here are just a few.
The Epiphone is widely seen as a budget guitar builder. They do, however, build fine acoustic guitars.
Fender is well known for its electric guitars, especially the Stratocaster and the Telecaster. Furthermore, they have an excellent range of different types of acoustic guitars.
Gibson Guitars is perhaps one of the best-known guitar manufacturers globally. Some of their electric and acoustic guitars are legendary.
Guild Guitars is a premium brand that targets intermediate and advanced guitar players.
Larrivee is an all-solid wood, professional-quality guitar.
Martin Guitars is a very well-known premium acoustic guitar builder. They have many iconic guitars.
Guitar manufacturers Ovation and Adamas Guitars are well known for their round-back guitars. Furthermore, It’s a feature that gives their guitars a very recognizable shape.
Seagull Guitars builds high-quality instruments. They are known to be premium guitar builders.
Taylor Acoustic Guitars is a well-known acoustic guitar brand. They offer a very comprehensive range of quality instruments.
Yamaha is a well-known company that sells very high-quality musical instruments. Their acoustic guitars are no exception.
Guitar advice Team member Ivan Avicolli plays a demo on his Yamaha AC5R acoustic guitar.
Playing a high-end guitar will give a point of reference for comparing guitars. Furthermore, always play another guitar whenever possible, even the occasional cheaper guitar. It won’t take long to learn the differences.
“My foundation is acoustic guitar, and it is finger-picking and all of that and sort of an orchestral style of playing. Lead guitar came later, more out of the necessity to do so because of expectations in a particular situation.” Lindsey Buckingham
Acoustic Guitar Basics – Conclusion
Buying an acoustic guitar, regardless if it’s your first, is another to add to the herd. Enjoy the journey of trying out as many guitars as you can. We can’t emphasize the next point enough but don’t rush. The right acoustic will become obvious; it will speak to you. Chances are you will play some guitars that are out of your price range; that happens to us all.
The law of diminishing returns applies to guitars as it does with most other consumables. The more you pay, the less you get. With that said, buy the best guitar you can afford.
Transparency disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. This commission comes at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that I believe are helpful and valuable, and we never let the potential for a commission influence our recommendations.
“Gibson Les Paul.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Nov. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson_Les_Paul.
Taylor Guitars, https://www.taylorguitars.com/.