Buying Your First Acoustic Guitar

Buying your first acoustic guitar can seem kind of overwhelming. When you start looking you quickly realize that there are so many options to choose from, all of which have varying prices. It can be hard to know what the best deal is. Obviously, if you are just starting out on guitar, you don’t want to drop a ton of money, but you also don’t want to end up with an instrument that is bound to break because it is such poor quality. But rest assured, this doesn’t have to be as daunting as you might think!  Here are some things to consider when buying your first acoustic guitar.

Establish a budget

When you start shopping for an acoustic guitar, you quickly find that the sky is the limit for how much you can spend.  You can spend thousands of dollars on a guitar!  This is why it is important to set a budget.  If you can establish a budget, it narrows down your options very quickly.  Remember, there is a reason why more expensive guitars cost more money, so ideally, you want to spend as much as you can afford without breaking the bank.

Consider buying used

The nice thing about buying a guitar used is that you can get a higher quality instrument for much cheaper than if you were to buy a new guitar for that price.  Check your newspaper classifieds for anyone who might be selling their guitar.  Another option is to check out eBay.  If you have the opportunity to buy used, look into it!

Don’t go too cheap

I would consider any acoustic guitar under $200 to be too cheap.  If you are first starting out on acoustic guitar, it may be really tempting to go with an acoustic guitar that is really low priced.  However, I advise highly against that.  In purchasing a cheaply made guitar, you’ll quickly find that it is very uninspiring to play because of the problems you will face.  You’ll find that the guitar will go out of tune very easily.  You’ll also find that it can just be downright harder to play because the strings will be farther away from the fretboard.  These issues are discouraging to face if you are beginning on the guitar.  So stay away from the First Act guitars at Wal Mart!  Plus, say you start learning the guitar you realize it isn’t your thing, if you have a more quality instrument you’ll be able to resell it used and get a fair amount of money back.

Good brands

While I can’t do a bunch of in depth guitar reviews in this post, I can suggest to you some brands that would be worth looking at.  It’s really important that when shopping for a guitar you read reviews online of different types of guitars.  Keep in mind that this is just a starting place and that there are other options out there that would be just as good.  If you are unsure a certain acoustic guitar is a good buy, post your question in a comment and someone will take a look at it for you.

$200 – $300 budget
$300 – $500 budget
$500+ budget

An important thing to note is that while all of the listed acoustic guitars above are great guitars, if you can, play the guitar before you buy it!  Every guitar will feel a little bit different.  How the guitar plays, feels, and sounds to you should be the ultimate determining factor in your purchase.  If you don’t quite know how to play the guitar yet, have someone at the music store play it for you so you can hear it, or bring a friend along with you who is an experienced guitar player. 

Get a tuner!

This is kind of a side note, but you want to make sure that when you buy your first acoustic guitar that you get a tuner with it.  It’s really challenging and uninspiring to a play a guitar that is not in tune.  Save yourself and your listeners the torture of an untuned guitar!

You do have a lot of options before you in buying your first acoustic guitar, but it doesn’t have to be scary.  Ideally, if you are just learning acoustic guitar, see if you can borrow a friend’s guitar to use at first.  This will give you a better idea if you want to commit to investing in a guitar.  However, if and when you do decide you want to get your own acoustic guitar, set your budget and keep the above things in mind!

I hope this helps give you some sense of direction.  I’ve had a lot of confused people come up to me asking about what guitar to buy.  It’s okay to be confused.  I think it’s better to be asking the question than just impulsively going out and buying any ol’ guitar.  

Here’s a question for those who’ve been playing guitar for awhile… what was your first guitar?  Post a comment below!

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.

Comments

  1. I got a used Martin D-28! Check it out:

  2. I think that you forgot a link! D-28’s are nice!

  3. yep, forgot the link. duh…….. here it is on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNuN1YkIuJY

  4. Looks like a great deal! I really like the feel of the neck on Martin guitars. Really comfortable.

  5. Carolyn

    Brett,
    I am having trouble finding information on the guitar’s you listed as far as if they have steel or nylon strings. I was wondering if you could specify which of the 9 you listed have nylon strings. Also is there a suggestion on which you recommend? I was going to purchase a guitar with nylon strings because a few of the artist I really like use acoustical guitars with nylon strings. Thanks for any advice you or others may provide.

  6. Carolyn,

    All the guitars I listed actually have steel strings! Yikes, I should have said something about that. I’m glad you asked.

    I could give you some recommendations for some nylon string guitars, but my question for you would be what are you looking to spend on a guitar? If you’re unsure, let me know, and I’ll give you some ideas in all sorts of price ranges. :D

    I too love the sound of nylon stringed guitars. What artists do you listen to?

  7. Carolyn

    Brett,
    Peter White is my favorite artist. He uses nylon stringed guitars. A few other artists I like use both steel and nylon. But I think I would like the sound of nylon the best, at least to start. I am considering spending between $300-$500 for an acoustic guitar. The lower side of that of course would be ideal if the quality is excellent. :) I also have somewhat small hands/fingers. I’m not sure if finding a guitar with a smaller neck may be more comfortable for me. If you could recommend some in that price range I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks for your response and help.

  8. Carolyn,

    Since you said that you have smaller hands/fingers then I would definitely be looking at guitars with smaller or thinner necks. For the price, Yamaha makes some great guitars with thinner necks. Check out their CG171 series. Here’s a couple:

    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Yamaha-CG171SF-Flamenco-Guitar?sku=511105 ($350)

    I know that this one was made specifically with a thinner neck:

    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Yamaha-?sku=512444

    Some other comparable nylon guitar brands in that price range are La Patrie, Rodriguez, and Ibanez.

    Nylon guitars are excellent if you are wanting to learn the fingerpicking/fingerstyle stuff like Peter White (who is fantastic!). They aren’t really made for any heavy duty strumming. :) If you are wanting a strumming guitar, I’d recommend a steel stringed guitar.

    Let me know if you have any other questions! Hope this helps you some!

  9. Carolyn

    Thanks! I am going to go check some of these out tomorrow. I called around and found some locally at different shops. I am more interested in the finger picking style rather than strumming. I’ll let you know what I decide. Thanks again for your help!

  10. You’re welcome! Sounds great. Definitely let me know what you decide!

  11. Carolyn

    Brett,

    Quick question. Do you think I should consider a cutaway? Or is that something for more advanced players?

  12. Sure. A cutaway shouldn’t really be thought of as exclusive to advanced players, I don’t think, but the likelihood of you playing that far up the neck as a beginner is rare. That’s not to say it would be unfitting for a beginner to have a cutaway (my first guitar had a cutaway!). However, as you get better and grow, you might find in the future that you are really appreciative of a cutaway. For many it really is a matter of personal preference. If I was in your position, I wouldn’t see it as crucial. It is a nice plus, but not something I would worry too much about.

    I would say, if the guitar you are looking at has a cutaway, great! If it doesn’t have a cutaway and you still love the guitar, don’t worry then that it doesn’t have a cutaway. Again, it really does come down to personal preference and what you foresee yourself doing on the guitar.

  13. Carolyn

    Brett,
    I ended up purchasing the La Patrie Concert. After looking at several manufacturers, I found the quality of the La Patrie’s to be excellent for the money. I also loved the sound. I was able to purchase the guitar, a deluxe gator case, and a korg ca-30 tuner all the exactly same price as the lowest price I found online including tax. I am very pleased! Now I just have to figure out where to start as far as playing. Any suggestions? Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it. I also like your website! I look forward to seeing what new information is posted on your site!

  14. Awesome! Congrats! Sounds like you scored a great deal. You’re all set up!

    As far as where to start with playing, I would definitely recommend looking for a private classical guitar teacher in your area. You can check local colleges, schools, music stores. Obviously, that can be an investment, but it’s a good one, I think, if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to it.

    Another option is to just start looking online for lessons. Look for “classical guitar lessons” or “nylon guitar lessons.” However, if you are just starting out, while there are a lot of great resources for free, it can be hard and a little bit overwhelming to find the information you need that will be relevant to where you are at and give you a good foundation and start to learning guitar.

    There are though different online guitar courses that give a comprehensive view (beginner to advanced) on playing guitar. These eliminate the need to search for the “right” information when it is all right at in front of you. One of these is the Jamorama guitar learning kit which I reviewed here. I highly recommend it after having an inside peek at it myself. They even have one more specific to acoustic guitar here. They use a ton of videos and other media in their course on top of hundreds of pages of written lessons. You can learn a ton through these, but one thing is, I don’t believe they will be that specific to nylon guitar. Even so, since the foundational components of guitar playing, such as chords, scales, etc., are the same, you can still learn a lot. Plus, it’s much cheaper to get a comprehensive course online than to go with a private teacher.

    It also kind of depends on your previous musical background and what type of learner you are. Those are some different options I would look into though. Feel free to bounce more of your thoughts back at me and I’d be more than willing to share my thoughts with you. Hope this helps some! Again, congrats on the new guitar!!!

  15. cool! another guitar player is added to the fold! good luck Carolyn with your new axe!

  16. Carolyn

    Thanks guys! Just started to learn my chords! I’m trying to make a goal of being able to play a couple Christmas songs for my family this December. Hopefully I will be able to!

  17. Carolyn – Sounds like you’re off to a good start! That’s a great goal. One that I think is very attainable. Best to you!

  18. I agree on the point about price. Buying a really cheap Guitar as youre first purchase can actually do you more harm than good. Like trying to get blood out of a stone. You will lose the inspiration to continue learning if it’s a real piece of junk. Spending a bit more is worth it.

  19. savannah

    Hi, I’ve been really inspired to play the guitar and i was wondering if a ibanez AEL20E acoustic-electric with onboard tuner(349.99)would be a good guitar? Also, what are the necessities I would need to get started. The more info the better. Thank-you!!!1

  20. Savannah, that’d be a great guitar to start out on. The necessities you’ll want to get with it might be:

    – tuner (however, you might not if the guitar comes with an onboard tuner)
    – strap
    – extra picks
    – capo
    – 1/4″ guitar cable (if you plan to plug in to a PA or amp)
    – extra strings

    I would consider those things as the most essential.

  21. i started playing on my grammas old 1970 hundo 2 classical guitar i was sick of that thing i just bought a estaban electric acoustic guitar for 120 bucks it got great reviews but was it worth? and what kind of steel strings would you recommend im so used to nylon. thanx dude

  22. Kaylee, the Esteban might be okay as a practice guitar. I know some folks have reported that the quality on those guitars can be a bit lacking. For strings, check out this post I did. It might give you some ideas. http://www.guitarfriendly.net/best-acoustic-guitar-strings/

  23. thanks do you have any idea what kind of capo would you recommend and what kind of things were ppl complaining about the guitar

  24. Melissa

    I’m really disappointed to read this post. :( I’m a single mother, so ANY guitar is a high luxury to me. I was looking at some very inexpensive ones, thinking they would be a great started. My spirits have been somewhat broken by this article! With some saving, I will be able to buy a decent guitar some day.

  25. hey melissa i knw moneys tight i was raised by a single mother so i feel your pain but if your starting out get what u can afford dont listen to everything u read make sure u rly like playing before you go all out in the spending department kay dont feel bad :)

  26. Melissa

    Thanks kaylee :) I am considering just settling for my price range for now, but it’s still hard to tell what I’m looking for. I’m petite, so I’m looking for a small body and narrow neck acoustic. How do I know if the guitar is dreadnought or not? It seems the majority I see are. I don’t have the convenience of going to a music store and testing them out, I’ll most likely buy online, so I really need to know what to look for. If someone could advise me, I’d appreciate it!

  27. Melissa, that has to be a tough situation to be in. What is your budget? Even if you could wait to save for an acoustic around $200-$300 you could probably find a decent one. You can always opt to get a cheaper guitar now, but my advise would be to wait to save a little bit more. Real cheap guitars (e.g. $50-$200) tend to be poorly made. They are prone to not holding tune very well, hence they don’t sound very good, and can be difficult to play. Saving for a decent guitar is well worth it even if it means waiting a few or several more months. Plus, if you invest in a fairly decent guitar, if you end up wanting to sell it down the road you can get a better return on it. Another idea possibly, do you know of any friends or coworkers who might be willing to lend you there guitar for the time being?

    You might also want to check out an acoustic guitar buying guide I wrote up over here, especially the last section with some beginner buying tips: http://www.guitarfriendly.net/acoustic-guitar-buying-guide/

    Kaylee, I have a Keyser capo and a Shubb capo. The Keyser is the easiest to use, but the Shubb is great for electric guitars because you can adjust the tension (how much it squeezes the strings).

  28. Melissa

    Brett,

    I’m looking to spend no more than $200 on a guitar. Even $200 is a reach. I was looking at an Alzarez Rf010. I’ve read great things about this guitar for being so inexpensive. Only thing is, I can’t find any video reviews so I can hear what it sounds like. The other acoustic I’m looking into is the Bristol BM-16 000. Again, no video reviews. What do you think?

    To be honest, I don’t know many musicians. I’m the only one in my family who has taken an interest in music, and the same with my friends. So, I’m very alone in this decision. My inspiration for learning guitar is Elliott Smith. But, I will persevere, you better believe! :)

  29. Melissa

    Alvarez* my bad

  30. Melissa, I’d be more prone to recommend the Alvarez over the Bristol. Although, I don’t think I’ve played the exact model you’re looking at, I’ve played a couple Alvarez guitars and they are good guitars. I’m not familiar with Bristol guitars.

    I see Musician’s Friend has the Alvarez RF010 with a 45-day money back guarantee: http://bit.ly/9Ob9dV

    You can always try it out and see what you think since you can’t find any video reviews. I’ve dealt with Musician’s Friend quite a bit and they are great.

    I admire your determination to pursue your interest in music. Music is good for the soul so I’m glad to hear you’re treading forward with perseverance! It’s a fun journey :)

  31. Melissa

    I am leaning way towards the Alvarez as well, Brett. In fact, the only appealing things about the Bristol are the price and size. After reading your guitar buying guide and comparing the types of wood it’s made of, I was pretty satisfied. I’ve also been reading a lot of forums and a lot of people with low budgets highly recommend this guitar for its sound. I’ve been doing so much reading, I am already dreaming of the specific guitars I will buy in the future!

    I will definitely try out the Alvarez from Musician’s Friend! Thanks a lot!

  32. You wrote about many curious things in this post. I came across this article by searching Yahoo and I must confess that I already subscribed to the site, it is extremely fine ;D

  33. arvind paul

    iam a beginner and a want to buy an acoustic guitar,tell me some guitars model in the price range of around 5k in INDIA.Guitars of brand like givson or hobmer,what is your comment on these.
    thankyou

  34. If I can offer a suggestion for anybody looking at buying their first guitar – if you have a friend that already plays guitar, take him/her with you to find one. The last thing you want to do is find out that the second hand guitar you bought has major problems or even the salesperson at the store sold you a guitar that isn’t right for your needs. If you don’t have somebody who can go with you it makes it hard but if you do have somebody, take them with you.
    I would always recommend this over listening to the storeperson’s opinion. Although most of them are honest, some will try to rip you off. Even getting the storeperson to play the guitar for you can be misleading because a good player can make anything sound good – even a crap guitar. A friend will tell you which guitars aren’t worth your money where a salesperson may not. Just a couple tips based on what I’ve seen with some of my students.

  35. Tara ; )

    Brett, I was looking at the ibanez v50 jampack and wanted to know what you thought about it. I just want something that I can jam out on with my friends, nothing fancy! I know it’s below $200 but like I said, I don’t want anything fancy : ) feedback from you would be greatly appreciated!

  36. Sue

    Hi I am hoping you can help me out. We are looking to buy our daughter her first guitar for xmas, she wants an acoustic but that is all i know! I have seen an Ashton D40SNT & D65SNT on line for sale, can you tell me if these are any good and also what I should be looking out for?

    Thanks!

  37. Jeff

    Brett,

    The wife’s dad plays and she knows several chords as they played together on Christmas Eve. She is looking at acoustic but likes how close the strings are to the fretboard on her dad’s Les Paul electric. Any suggestions on an acoustic in the $300-$500 range with strings close to the fretboard for a beginner that is already pretty good? thanks

Trackbacks

  1. [...] it’s a given that owning a guitar tuner can be quite handy, especially if you are just buying your first guitar.  Did you know though that guitar tuners can range anywhere from $10 to $300 and upwards?  You [...]

  2. [...] Buying Your First Acoustic Guitar [...]

  3. [...] you are a beginner, you might also want to check out some recommendations for good acoustic guitars to buy and some other tips for buying your first [...]

Add Your Comment

*