How to choose an acoustic guitar

The choice of a guitar is always a delicate and personal question: the musical instrument will accompany you for a long time in your exercises and in your performances.

So, how to choose an acoustic guitar?

The variables to be considered are many and all of them have their own importance; let’s examine them in detail.

A guitarist budget and his needs

The first factor to consider when you have to choose an acoustic guitar is to set a budget based on your money and on your needs.

If you have to learn to play or if you are a beginner, you should not spend too much money. You can choose an economic model; I also advise you to ask for help to a more experienced friend or to a professional: they can give you a good advice and they can appreciate the instrument peculiarities that you can not yet distinguish.

Moreover, if you are looking for a tool to learn to play you should consider buying a classical guitar instead of an acoustic one because of its wider neck, the less stringy strings and other differences that you can find in this guide.

If instead, you have to make a professional use of your guitar for public performances and concerts, you should choose a higher quality model and you will need a bigger budget.

In any case, an economic acoustic guitar is not necessarily of lower quality and buying a more expensive guitar does not guarantee you the possession of an excellent instrument: there are famous brands that have basic models in materials of lower value and there are less famous brands that offer fine woods at a lower price.

Choosing an acoustic guitar paying attention to its details

I do not advise you to choose an acoustic guitar on the internet: it is better to well observe the instruments details; furthermore, if you will need assistance, it will be easier for you having a physical store to refer to.

In any case, the advice is to observe the instrument, play it and listen its sound to get an idea of the guitar quality and to understand if it has the characteristics you are looking for.

You must first evaluate the neck, preferring a model that makes you feel comfortable. Then you have to evaluate if this does not present anomalous curvatures and that it is perfectly aligned with the harmonic case. If you want help to choose it, read this article on the guitar neck.

It is also necessary you determine the fretboard radius you prefer, and you have to examine the same fretboard, making sure that all the frets are well aligned and that no one protrudes differently. You may find interesting these articles on the fretboard and on its radius.

Another aspect to consider is the presence of cracks or lesions on the harmonic case: in case of small defects, you have to avoid buying the instrument because over time the imperfections can worsen and affect the sound quality. Even the guitar case must be carefully evaluated.

The advice is to choose a guitar that has a solid cedar or spruce wood table and a case of a harder type of wood, such as mahogany or rosewood. You can find more information on luthier woods in this article.

The instrument tuning machines must also be evaluated: having often to tune the instrument and having to replace the strings periodically, it is essential that the tuning machines are of a good quality and that they are fluid in the movement to facilitate the strings adjustment.

A good rule is to replace the guitar strings when you purchase the guitar because the mounted ones may already be damaged. It is also advisable to choose strings that have the characteristics suitable for the type of music you will make.

To choose an acoustic guitar model

In this guide on how to choose an acoustic guitar, let’s now analyze the various models and their differences.

In the macro category of acoustic guitars there are several models:

  • the 12-string guitar, a guitar with 6 pairs of strings, of which the first pair is tuned in unison and the remaining pairs have an octave of difference;
  • the swinging guitar, which has 10 or 14 strings and is named in this way because of the sonic characteristics that are given to it by being played with a rhythmic hand movement, without a plectrum;
  • the resonator guitar or resonator guitar, which contains vibrating cones in the harmonic case that give it a strong and metallic sound;
  • the acoustic bass, which has four strings.

But the most widespread model that is usually identified as acoustic guitar is the folk guitar.

How to choose an acoustic folk guitar

Come scegliere una chitarra acustica?

The folk guitar has an eight-shaped harmonic case to amplify the faint sound of its strings: the narrow part enhances the treble while the wide part enhances the bass. There are many folk guitar variants:

  • the so-called Standard with shape and size similar to the classical guitar;
  • the Dreadnought, which takes its name from an English warship, has larger dimensions that enhance the low tones and is designed to accompany other instruments in the country music and to be played with the Flatpicking technique;
  • the Jumbo was designed for the accompaniment but is played with the fingerpicking technique; it has the lower part of the case enlarged which gives it a deep and baritone tone.

Then there is a classification invented by Martin, which has a numbering that makes it possible to distinguish different dimensions:

  • the double zero – 00 is similar to the classical and it sounds towards the higher frequencies, it is usually used in the blues;
  • the triple zero – 000 which is bigger than the previous one and similar to the Dreadnought;
  • OM, very similar to 000 but with a longer scale;
  • the quadruple zero – 0000, or model M, is similar to the Jumbo, but with a more elongated body and is also called Auditorium Model.

In general, the harmonic case shape determines the balance between treble and bass:

  • a balanced 8 determines a balance between treble and bass;
  • a greater amplitude in the upper part determines a sound oriented towards the treble;
  • a greater amplitude of the lower part determines a predominance of the bass.

In conclusion, to choose the right acoustic guitar model you must understand what are the characteristics you are looking for in the instrument, you must compare them with your budget and you have to think if you need a tool for beginners or for professional use. You must also well observe the instrument state and its peculiarities: playing the guitar will make you understand if it is comfortable for your style and if its sound meets your expectations.


[Photo credits: Brett Jordan, Larry Jacobsen]