An instrument that transcends time, that can be traced back to earlier than the 1500s, the guitar is truly a prominent instrument in all of music history. Today's design of the acoustic guitar can be attributed to Spanish musician from the early 1900s, Antonio de Torres Jurado. Don’t forget that though the guitar is seen as a fun and easy instrument that it requires practice, hard work and a passion for music. The guitar is used in so many genres and throughout history in many forms. Some of the genres it features in is country, jazz, pop, folk, Latin, Motown and so on. If you are interested in an instrument that spans a wide array of genres and musical styling then the guitar is definitely one of your top options.
We’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when selecting a guitar. It'll help you:
Choose the right type of guitar,
See useful tips about that type of guitar,
Select the right brand of guitar,
Types of Acoustic Guitars:
Steel String Flattop Guitars:
This is the most common type of acoustic guitar and is the most used.
Steel string guitars are great for strumming or picking but can be hard to play with classical or modern finger stylings as you need to put more pressure on steel strings than you would need to on nylon strings.
3 types of steel string flattop guitars:
Parlor guitars are some of the smallest acoustic guitars and are really good for picking.
Parlor guitars also pick up vibrations easier than others due to their small bodies and do not need forceful strumming to receive a full sound.
An OM guitar is basically a middle ground between a dreadnought guitar and a parlor guitar with regards to size as well as the fact that it can be used for both picking and strumming.
The dreadnought guitar is the most widely available and purchased guitar body shape on the market due to its high rich tone and compatibility when playing in ensembles.
Nylon String Guitars:
Nylon string guitars are often viewed as the cheaper counterpart of acoustic guitars, and this could not be a more wrong perception.
Nylon guitars have a warmer sound than their steel string brethren and also easier on fingers when playing complicated passages.
There are 3 different types of nylon string guitars:
Classical guitars are used mostly to play classical music and are about as small in size as an OM guitar without such severe curves.
Flamenco guitars are made with the intention to play flamenco music.
You can often find a tap plate on a flamenco guitar to help create a rhythmic tapping whilst playing.
This refers to nylon string guitars that are not flamenco or classical in nature and are made to be more accessible for musicians such as with an input to connect to an amp.
Archtop guitars offer a clear and precise sound without offering much of a way to sustain the sound.
Due to the fact that most pieces nowadays can be played by a flat top guitar with a pickup, archtop guitars are not popular guitars. It is suggested that you only purchase an archtop guitar if you want to play jazz or blues style fingerpicking melodies.
Items that Can be Used with Your Acoustic Guitar:
This is a specially designed case to store your guitar in and transport it and any accessories safely.
This is a strap that you connect to the guitar and use to help you play when standing up or moving.
These are small triangular pieces of plastic that come with varying thicknesses, that is used to pick or strum the string on your guitar.
After a lot of playing, strings tend to break and it is therefore wise to purchase and keep spare strings handy for any emergencies.
This is a clamp that one can use on the neck of the guitar to transpose the notes or to avoid using bar chords.
This is a cable that you use to connect your guitar to your amplifier and get more volume.
This is a type of speaker that you plug instruments into amplifying their volume and in some cases change the treble and bass elements of the instrument.
This is a specially designed stand for you to place your guitar on when you are not playing or when you don't need to place it in a case.
This is a cloth that you use to keep your guitar clean and pristine with no smudges or dust on it.
This is a small device that you clip to your guitar and use to help you tune your strings to the appropriate pitch.
This is a pedal you can connect to your guitar using an amplifier, which allows you to use certain effects such as distortion, mirroring, reverb and more.
Tips for Consumers:
Cedar is a soft wood that makes a bright sound.
Cedar is usually used for classical and flamenco guitars.
Cocobolo is typically used for backs and sides of guitars.
Cocobolo is a tropical, Mexican hardwood.
Cocobolo creates a quick, responsive and bright sound.
Ebony is a strong slick wood.
Ebony is mostly used for fretboards.
Granadillo is a rare, denser type of rosewood.
Granadillo is typically used for marimbas and guitar backs and sides.
Grandillo produces a bright clear sound.
Koa is a golden Hawaiian wood.
Koa is used for all sides of the body.
Koa is expensive as it is scarce.
Mahogany is a dense wood with a slow response rate.
Mahogany is mostly used in country or blues guitars as a top wood.
Maple is usually used in the body and sides of the guitar.
Maple has a dry sound that emphasizes high range sounds.
Ovangkol is an African wood that is similar to rosewood.
Ovangkol is usually used for the backs and sides of guitars.
It can be either Brazilian rosewood or Indian rosewood, which look different but have the same overall tone.
Rosewood produces rich, complex overtones that do not get overpowered by bass notes.
Sapele is a highly sustainable African wood.
Sapele is mainly used for guitars backs and sides.
Spruce is considered to be standard for acoustic guitar tops.
Spruce is lightweight, strong with good resonance.
Walnut is a popular alternative to mahogany.
Walnut has a similar density and stiffness to koa.
Laminate vs Solid Wood
It is important to consider what the top of your guitar is made from a price point of view as well as a sound point of view as the type of top determines how much vibration there occurs from the strings to the whole guitar and thereby the sound.
Laminate tops are made from several thin laminated pieces of wood with a higher grade slab on top and six generic slabs pressed below it. Laminate tops whilst cheaper and better for beginners do not vibrate as much as solid wood tops and therefore have a lesser sound.
Solid wood tops can be made from any type of wood, usually, two single ply pieces of wood pressed together. A solid wood top has a better sound than a laminate top as it allows for more vibration, however, it is more expensive and suggested more for professionals.
Parts of the acoustic guitar
This is the small raised rectangle on the body of the guitar, to which the strings are attached.
It is important to make sure that your bridge is adjusted and set properly for proper playing, this can be done personally through online tutorials or through a professional at a musical instrument store.
This is the face of the body of the guitar and can be either laminate or solid wood.
The rosette it often the ornamentation around the opening of the guitar under the strings.
A pickguard is a hard pear-shaped slab of material that is used to protect the wood of the top of the guitar from being scratched by your pick when playing.
Binding refers to the material used to connect the pieces of the body of the guitar together.
This is a button that one can attach a strap to in order to play easier whilst moving about or standing up.
These are dots that can be found on the frets of the guitar that help guitarists find the correct fret when playing music.
The position markers usually mark the 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 17th frets.
An acoustic guitars neck is usually listed as between 12 and 14 frets, this means the frets above the body of the guitar. The more frets listed, the longer the neck and the harder it'll be to reach.
This refers to the gap between the frets on which you place your fingers to play certain notes or chords.
Frets are the raised lines on the neck of the guitar are that indicate where you should play the chords to achieve a certain pitch.
Acoustic guitar strings can either be steel or nylon depending on what guitar you and what sound you wish to have.
This refers to the knobs on the top end of the neck of the guitar, that a guitarist can use to tune the guitar and make sure all strings are in tune.
Headstock refers to the piece wood on the end of the neck of the guitar, to which the tuning keys are attached.
Machine head refers to the metal bolts that connect to the tuning keys. The string is wrapped around the machine head, and the tuning key turns the machine head to tighten or loosen the string.
Different Brands of Acoustic Guitars:
Epiphone has been making musical instruments for any genre since 1873. Going from a small family instrument repair shop to a large worldwide organization, Epiphone is a massive success. With a slogan of “Performance is our passion”, how can it be denied that this company produces fine quality instruments. Their headquarters are currently located in Nashville, Tennessee.
Established in 1883 Washburn, was created by George Washburn and began as Washburn string instruments. Washburns aims to create instruments that provide good quality and faith in the band name. Their headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois.
Founded in 1887 Yamaha produces a wide array of instruments for consumers globally. With the humble beginnings of designing an organ, they now manufacture and produce drums, pianos, horns, guitars and so on. Their headquarters are located in Hamamatsu Shizuoka, Japan.
Fender was founded in 1946 in Southern California by Leo Fender. Fender aim is to change the music world, one guitar at a time. Fender is one of the top guitar manufacturers across the globe. The Fender headquarters can be found in Los Angeles, California.