I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for almost 20 years now and the acoustic sound is one of my favorites. It’s clean, natural and pleasing to the ears.
Acoustic guitars are a great starting point for most beginner guitarist. They offer incredible tone and don’t require additional equipment like amplifiers and cables. The problem is that there are literally hundreds of options for acoustic guitars at music stores, so what’s going to give you the best “bang for your buck”?
Below is a helpful comparison chart of the Top 5 Acoustic Guitars for beginners followed by a guide to help you choose what’s right for you.
Top Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Beginner Acoustic Guitar Buyers Guide
When it comes to acoustic guitars, there are still many variables that you need to keep in mind as you look to purchase either for yourself or someone you love. To make this easy to consume, I’ve broken up these different characteristics as such:
- Size of the guitar: full size, jumbo, or 3/4?
- Type of wood: it affects the quality of your sound
- “Action” of the guitar: how easy is it to play the guitar?
- Guitar finish: does it look shiny or natural?
- Electronics: can you plug it into a sound system?
- Brand: buy name brand or not name brand?
Size of the Guitar
As you shop around for the best budget guitar, size should be one of the first things you think about. Is this guitar for a child? A grown man? Somebody with fat fingers?
Acoustic guitars have many different-sized bodies (thin-body and jumbo being the extreme) and there are even some acoustic guitars that are miniature in size for kids. You first need to determine what size is needed for the height of the person.
The size of the guitar also affects the sound it creates. A larger-body guitar as a more full sound with more bass while a smaller, thin guitar will tend to lose much of the bass, making it sound a bit higher in tone.
Type of Wood
Once you’ve narrowed down the size guitar you want, the next step is to figure out what your budget will allow you to purchase. The majority of what makes the prices of guitars so different is the quality of construction and type of wood.
Most guitars are made of three different woods: one for the top (usually a spruce), the back & sides (usually the same wood) and the neck/fretboard (usually rosewood). For the purposes of a beginner, a simple spruce top with maple back and sides will produce a great sound.
One more key characteristic of woods is whether it is a laminate or a solid wood. Less expensive guitars use what is known as a laminate wood while the more expensive guitars use a solid piece of wood. The solid wood produces a better sound and is a better investment but most beginner guitarist won’t be able to tell a difference at first.
Guitar Action or Playability
The action of a guitar is usually defined by how far the strings are set from the neck of the guitar. The closer they are (without actually hitting the frets and buzzing), the easier it is to play since you don’t have to press your fingers down so hard.
Generally speaking, the more expensive the guitar, the better the action or “playability”. Some beginner acoustic guitarist begin on a guitar with poor action and either get discouraged and quit or build up their finger strength quickly.
Others invest more money up front to begin on a guitar with better action. You can usually get your chords to sound better in a faster amount of time in this way.
The type of finish on the guitar has absolutely no affect on how it sounds, so this is all a matter of preference! Some people prefer a glossy finish (so that it shines) while others like more of a natural, flat look.
There are also some specialty finishes that will set your guitar apart from all the others. One of my favorites is what as known as the “sunburst” finish that is darkened around the edges. If you prefer, there are some guitars you can buy that are solid color finishes, the most popular being black and red.
If you plan to be playing as part of a band or foresee any need to plug your guitar into a sound system, you will likely need to buy an acoustic-electric guitar. These are guitars that are the same as every other acoustic guitar except that they have the option to be plugged in directly.
As a side benefit, some electronic components actually come with a tuner, like what you see to the right.
Most beginner guitarist won’t have the need for electronics but it’s nice to have available. If you decide against electronics now (to save money, perhaps) and then find you need to plug in later, there are what is known as soundhole pickups that you can purchase that will do the trick.
Name Brand? New or Used?
When it comes to buying a beginner guitar, it’s tempting to want to buy used. I would recommend against that, only because beginner guitars are already cheap and there are so many unseen problems with used instruments that could get you in trouble.
When it comes to name brand, take a step back and remember why you want to buy a guitar. What fits your style best? What has the best playability? Name brands (Fender, Yamaha, Takamine, Epiphone, etc) are reliable options that offer great value for beginners. Don’t get disappointed with a no-name guitar that sucks!