I often get asked what is the best beginner acoustic guitar to buy. So I decided to travel around Manhattan and try a bunch. In my research I found that brand didn’t have much to do with the quality of the instruments. Price range really determined playability and quality. People don’t realize that a lot of beginner guitars are made in the same factory and often just have different names stamped on them. Depending on the name you may actually may pay more for the same guitar!! Ah, the brilliance in marketing.
To me there are categories of quality. You have your $100 very basic guitar. Sometimes you’ll see these being sold in packages with a tuner a few other goodies. You can absolutely learn on one of these, but chances are it will be a little harder to play. In-fact, this is one of the biggest factors finding the best beginner acoustic guitar for you. In general as the price goes up so does the playability. Quality control is not the best on cheap guitars. This is why I recommend buying local and not from a major chain. A small local business is more likely to help you if something is defective.
In the $200 range of guitars they get a little more playable and the finish might be nice or have more color options. These will be fine for learning but don’t sound much different from the $100 guitar.
The $300-$400 range is going to have a change in quality. This is really where I think the first quality transition is. In this price range you can find the best beginner acoustic guitar for your needs. You’ll have the opportunity to have some nice features like a pickup installed to allow you to play through a guitar amp or PA. You will start to hear a difference in tone. The sound will not be as brittle or harsh as the $100-$200 range.
The $300-$400 range requires a little more commitment to purchase. The $100 guitars are so popular because often people want to try out guitar without too much of a commitment. If you’re certain you want to learn guitar I suggest you jump right to the $300-$400 range as you will give yourself more time to grow with it. In this range it’s not just the best beginner acoustic guitar but the best intermediate acoustic guitar.
Another thing to consider in the playability department. They don’t spend much time putting together beginner guitars. Because of this the string height is usually pretty high which makes it harder to play. If you do happen to buy a $100 dollar guitar and find it un-playable because the strings are really high you can take it to a tech and they can lower the action. This requires them to put a new set of strings on it, plus there is a bench fee. By the end it will cost you around $50 extra for the best beginner acoustic guitar that meets your needs. But it’s worth it to make your playing experience more enjoyable and less painful.
The tech will sand down the saddles and possibly lower the nut. It’s also good to ask your sales person if the best beginner acoustic guitar you’re considering purchasing has a truss rod. The truss rod is a metal rod that run inside of the guitar neck. Wood moves with temperature and humidity changes, you adjust the rod to compensate for the movement. This is not a user serviceable part tho. It should only be adjusted by a professional. I don’t recommend getting a guitar without a truss rod as it’s unlikely to be the best beginner acoustic guitar or a great long term guitar. The neck will eventually move and the guitar will become hard to play. Without a truss rod it’s not an easy problem to solve and it would cost more then the guitar is worth.
All guitars in the $300 and up range will most likely have a truss rod. But if you don’t know much about guitars it’s always best to ask.
Sometimes when you buy a acoustic guitar package the guitar is boxed up. If you’re buying from a store make sure to inspect before taking home. Take the guitar out of the box and check it for cracks or any broken parts. Before you make your best beginner acoustic guitar purchase turn all the tuners just a little to make sure they work. Shake the guitar gently to make sure nothing is banging around in there. Make sure all the accessories are there in the box that are included in the package.
Make sure to talk to the sales person about their return policy and guarantee. Always get a receipt and keep it in a safe place.
If you have any questions about buying your first guitar feel free to contact me.