Guitars are without a doubt the most versatile music instrument since time immemorial and buying your first one is an amazing experience. However, I cannot assure you that it will be easy since you will have so much to choose from, and the number of options might be daunting. Some might not even know where to begin, but I’m not judging, my task here is to give you that clue.
First, have got to make sure that you are choosing a guitar that suits your style. If unplugged acoustic sounds are what you like, then the acoustic guitar is perfect for you. If electronic guitar players inspire you, then you might want to get an electronic guitar.
If you are not sure, a list of artists or bands whose style you would like to emulate might help. If it is predominantly electric, then go electric. If it is acoustic, go acoustic. If it’s half-in-half, you could have it both ways with an acoustic-electric guitar. It is, however, recommended that beginners start off with acoustic guitars, which is why they will be the focus of my review.
In my review, I have gone through all the basics that a beginner should be familiar with, from different top materials, the anatomy of an acoustic guitar, different body types and much more. When you are through, you will have a pretty good idea of what you want, and ought to be looking for in an acoustic guitar.
Some of the basic characteristics that almost all guitars share are as follows. Generally, they have 6 strings. All guitars have a body, and this is the bulky part, a neck, the long and skinny part and a headstock at the far end of the neck where the strings are attached to the tuners. For all guitars to play properly and sound on pitch, they need to be tuned using the tuning pegs on the headstock.
On the top side of the neck, there is the fretboard or fingerboard, over which the strings are routed. Small metal ridges are pressed into the fretboard to make it easier to play on pitch. These are called frets. They also delineate individual notes along the fretboard.
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Atop the fingerboard just below the headstock is a slotted piece of material known as the nut. The strings are routed through slots in the nut and terminate at the bridge which is located at the far end of the body. So when you strum the strings, they vibrate between the nut and the bridge and this vibration translates into sound.
The type, quality, and combinations of different types of woods used in a guitar’s construction help determine its tone. Many inexpensive guitars for beginners are built with laminate tops, made from several layers of wood pressed together. This type of wood does not mature with age, and the tone is not as pleasing as that of solid wood. Intermediate guitars have solid wood tops with laminated back and sides. The best acoustic guitars are made of solid wood which produces a crisp, articulate sound.
Guitar tops are commonly made of cedar or spruce, while standard woods for the sides and back are maple, rosewood, and mahogany. All these woods are known for having excellent tonal properties.
The size of an acoustic guitar’s body will also influence its sound. Larger instruments with jumbo or dreadnought bodies produce more volume and tend to have warmer and rounder tones that accentuate the bass notes. Smaller guitars usually have a brighter sound that accentuates their treble and middle ranges.
This is not to say, however that bigger means better. What might appeal to someone else might not to you, so my best advice is that you pick one out, give it a few strums and try something else with a different, size, look, feel and sound. Doing that will offer you an idea of what kind of guitar you are most comfortable with.
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Although most common acoustic guitars have steel strings, classical guitars use nylon strings. The sound produced by nylon strings is softer and mellower. They also have wider necks with more spacing between the strings, which can make landing your finger in the right place much easier.
Steel string acoustics, on the other hand, are more practical and will not limit your tone when taking next steps in your progression as a player. The learning curve may be slightly longer on getting the fingering right, but when you get past that, a steel string acoustic electric guitar can take you through a wider range of musical genres and diverse playing styles.
Since you are just starting out, there are a few essential accessories that your playing experience just won’t be complete without. You will need picks for plucking or strumming the strings, a tuner to help you tune each string accurately to a proper pitch, a strap to secure the guitar to your body, a few replacement strings for when they get old and break and finally, a hard shell case or a gig bag for protecting the guitar when it is not in use or when in transit.
Research and Budget
I always recommend doing lots of research available online, and from expert guitar players. When you read widely, you will be able to make decisions form an informed point of view, and might help narrow down your options.
For beginners, I would also recommend that you go for a budget friendly guitar with good features, and not splurge on a pro-level instrument that might be difficult to play and turn you off the idea of learning to play. Then you can upgrade as you get more experience.
So there you have it. I hope my in-depth review will help all you first-timers out there. One last thing to note is that clear, more natural finishes are the best bet. While sunbursts and other unique colors have their appeal, know that a heavier finish may hinder the sound. So as you go shopping for your first acoustic guitar, take note of all this, and everything should be just fine. Enjoy!