In the hands of a master, the acoustic guitar is a living
breathing soul, with individuals in the audience enraptured by
the complex qualities of its six strings. An acoustic guitar is
generally used by learners because it produces a cleaner sound.
and is more portable, making it ideal to transport to private
lessons and parties.
An acoustic guitar is arguably the best to learn on, choosing the
right one is easy, once you know how. For a novice player, the
most important thing about choosing the right acoustic guitar is
to find an instrument with which they are comfortable. Acoustic
guitars come in three standard sizes, usually defined as parlor,
standard, and jumbo.
Perhaps one of the most common acoustic guitar is the classical
guitar. During the 1970’s most beginner guitar players started
with a Yamaha G-50 guitar this instrument was a high quality
full size classical nylon strung guitar for under one hundred
Today, the six-string, steel string acoustic guitar is
the most popular for beginners. Steel strung acoustic guitars are
featured on almost every pop recording as they provide a clean,
high frequency to help make the recording “sizzle”. The recent
MTV “unplugged” series featuring well known established artists
such as, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Sting brought a
revitalized interest in the acoustic guitar.
Apart from pop music, acoustic guitars are the instrument of
choice for many country and folk and bluegrass guitarists. If you
want to hear the steel string acoustic guitar in full flight I
recommend listening to guitarist Tony Rice.
Acoustic guitars almost always have six strings. In recent times
the steel string guitar has become available with optional
cutaway and electric pickups.Some solo performers prefer to use a
twelve string, steel sting acoustic guitar for it’s full rich
The type and quality of wood used to construct the acoustic
guitar is the most important factor in determining sound,
durability, and appearance. A solid wood acoustic guitar
is made from thin pieces of wood (under 1/8th of an inch thick);
and because the wood is so thin it has a great deal of surface
area and therefore it both gains and loses moisture very quickly.
The sound of an acoustic guitar is largely air, once a string is
plucked the resulting vibrations are transferred to the top of
the guitar via the bridge saddle and bridge. The acoustic guitar
top essentially acts as an air-pump moving the air inside the
Buying a first guitar is an important step for the beginner
guitarist. That’s why I encourage you to bring along someone you
know whose been playing the guitar for a while. Start with a
realistic budget, read the following information then make a trip
to your local guitar store to get an idea about the price ranges.
1. Make sure your guitar is set-up for you
A good acoustic guitar is a work of art and needs to be made with
precision.A low action acoustic guitar is advisable as it would
be easier on the hands. Of course, there is no doubt about the
fact that an acoustic guitar is a little harder to play than an
electric guitar.However with a good set-up, (commonly referred to
as the Guitar’s action adjustment) from a competent repair person
will get you off to a good start.
2. Check the frets for rough edges
Frets are the metallic bars which when pressed upon with the
strings generates a particular note. Check out for rough edges on
the frets as they are likely to leave bruised fingers with you.
3. Full body acoustic guitar or cutaway?
Unless you are going to do a lot of high note lead playing go for
the standard full body guitar, remember the top of the guitar
functions in a similar way to that of the soundboard of a piano.
The greater the total size of the guitar the richer more natural
sound of the acoustic guitar.
4. Solid top or laminate?
All other factors being equal, it is my opinion that a well made
“solid wood” acoustic guitar is almost always more tonally
appealing than a well made laminate guitar. A “solid wood” guitar
will melody as it matures with age whereas a laminate top
guitar’s tone will remain the same.
5. Nylon or steel string guitar?
This is a question of application and the style of music you want
to play. A nine year old would benefit from a 7/8 size nylon
string guitar whereas a steel string acoustic guitar is more
generally suited to music heard on the radio. The nylon sting
guitar has a wider neck which makes many of the chord shapes
difficult to reach for the beginner.
Before you front up to the salesman make sure that you are clear
on the style of music you want to play on the guitar. I would
encourage you to listen to some recordings by Andres Segovia for
a fine example of nylon string classical guitar tone. Segovia is
widely regarded as the finest exponent of this style of guitar
In contrast to the nylon string acoustic guitar sound, I would
recommend listening to a great album called “Tone Poems” this is
an entirely acoustic album featuring the sounds of vintage
acoustic guitar and mandolin. Tony Rice on acoustic steel string
guitar and David Grisman on mandolin.
Acoustic guitar strings come in various grades, such as heavy,
medium, light, and extra-light. I recommend string gauge
1st-.011, 2-.015, 3rd-.022, 4th-.032, 5th-.042, 6th-.052 for
acoustic steel strung guitars. The lower action and light gauge
strings on the guitar are easier for beginners to learn to play.
Although the price may be slightly above what some might be
willing to pay for a first guitar, it should be considered an
Ultimately it comes down choosing what sounds good and is in your
price range. Try as many guitars as you want to, even if they
are outside your budget (so you get an idea of what to look for
in your price range). In other words tell the salesman (show me
your best solid top acoustic guitar) and give him/her your price
range. You can find a fine beginner acoustic guitar for under