When you enter into the 6 string world it is very probable that you will start with an acoustic guitar. If you are just starting to strum or if you are a grizzled veteran, the options available can be overwhelming. Here we give you the key advice you need to buy a beginner guitar or something a bit more exotic.
1. What will I be doing with my guitar?
Knowing what and where you will be playing is key. Answer the following questions and write down your answers. This way you will be able to research more easily which guitar is for you.
What music do you play? What is the sound you want? Playing in public or in your bedroom? Do you have big or small hands? What’s your budget? Do you need to carry it around?
There are two types of strings, each with a different sound:
Nylon chords will give you a soft and melodic sound that is great for folk, latin and classical guitar. Nylon strings give you more sound control but do not sound as loud and do not have as much sustain as steel strings.
Steel strings are tough on the fingers! But, they have a strong sound that is great for jazz, blues, rock and country. Don’t worry, your fingers will toughen up after a few weeks of rocking out.
3. Wood: types and sounds
Ebony, Indian rosewood, cedar, ovengkol, mahogany and spruce are all used in guitar production. All of these woods have different looks and sounds. Some are more expensive than others and some are specifically for classical guitars such as cedar and spruce for tops.
4. Guitar body
This is the part where the wood selection most impacts the sound. When the body is made of solid wood it means that the guitar will be more expensive but the sound will be richer, louder and clearer. Laminated bodies are much cheaper but do not produce the same quality of sound. Laminated guitars are more resistant to humidity and can take a bit more punishment that high quality guitars made of solid wood.
5. Guitar body: styles, shapes and sizes
Classical guitars are generally smaller and have a higher pitch, larger guitars such as the dreadnought have a much bigger body and generate a lower frequency response. All manufacturers have their own styles and shapes. Try before you buy.
6. Finger fury
If you are going to be playing very high notes and fingering like a flamenco expert, it is worth investing in a cutaway. The cutaway enables you to go much lower down the fretboard.
7. Electric guitars
You only really need an electric if you plan to play in public, or annoy your neighbours! Remember that you will also need to add the cost of an amplifier to your budget if you wish to go Jimi Hendrix and rock out in Valhalla. There are ways to amplify your acoustic: buy a semi acoustic, have a mic/pickup fitted to your acoustic, or put a normal voice mic in front of the sound hole as you play.
Guitar necks should be rigid and comfortable enough for you to get your hand around. Most acoustic necks will be stuck to the guitar and not screwed in as with electric guitars. Make sure you can comfortably handle the neck if you have small hands.
9. Price and quality
A cheap guitar does not mean that it will sound bad or disintegrate within 6 months. Stick to your budget and try before you buy. Any quality guitar shop will spend time with you to make sure you get the guitar that’s right for you.