Buying new music gear can be fun–there have been very few times that I felt more excited than when I buy a brand new guitar, amp, pedal, or other piece of gear. But along with the excitement can come a lot of other feelings: confusion, frustration, and anxiety over whether you’re buying the right thing. With the price of instruments and gear often so steep, it can be a little nerve-racking to think you might not be spending your money well!
Luckily, with a few simple guidelines you can arm yourself with the knowhow to get an awesome piece of gear for years to come. Today, I’m going to be talking about buying an acoustic guitar. There are literally hundreds of guitars to choose from, so how do you know which is the right one for you? Here are three things to ask yourself when shopping for an acoustic:
What is my price range?
The range of prices for acoustic guitars can run from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars. That’s a pretty big difference! With that in mind, you can narrow down your choices greatly by specifying what price range you can afford, and what you’re willing to pay. Prices vary depending on several factors, including what kind of wood the guitar is made out of, whether or not it has pickups built into it, where it was made (USA-made guitars tend to be more expensive), and the quality of its construction. You’ll find with most music gear that you get what you pay for, and acoustic guitars are no exception. More expensive models will generally sound and play better and last longer, because more care has been taken in their construction. But be careful what you’re paying for, because some guitars are expensive because of fancy inlays and designs or because they are limited editions.
Just remember that it will probably pay off to invest a little bit more money in your acoustic guitar if you have the means–but just because a guitar is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for your needs, so be sure you know why a guitar has a high price before you buy.
How does it sound?
Beginner guitarists will inevitably have a less developed ear for the natural tones of an acoustic guitar. But that doesn’t mean you won’t know a good sound when you hear it. Guitars will sound different because of their various constructions. Some woods, like mahogany, sound darker and mellower than others, like a spruce guitar which will sound brighter. Guitars with large bodies will have a distinctly different sound (and volume) than those with smaller bodies. Not all guitars have the same shape, and this also affects the sound. Even two guitars of the same model can sound slightly different from each other.
It is always the best idea to hear a guitar for yourself to decide if you like it. Go to a music store and play several different types to hear the differences firsthand. If you can’t play guitar yet, have a store employee play for you and just listen. If the guitar has a built-in pickup, plug it into an amp to hear how the electronics sound. The rule of thumb here is simple: if it sounds better to you, it’s the better choice. There’s no objective “better” or “best” when it comes to the sound of acoustics. Some people love Taylors, and others swear by Martins. Neither is right or wrong, they just have their personal preferences.
How does it feel?
Last, but certainly not least, is how the guitar feels. How does each body shape feel in your lap? Does the guitar feel like something you could play comfortably for hours? Is it easy for you to press down on the strings and play the type of music you like to perform? Test the guitar out all over the neck to see if the action is ideal and it is in tune everywhere. While you are holding the guitar, give it a good look over to see if there are any visible construction flaws. You’re going to be playing this guitar a lot, so you’ll want it to be the most comfortable model you can find.
Now you’re ready to get out to the store and choose the best acoustic guitar for your needs. Just remember these three rules of thumb and you’ll be well on your way to the guitar of your dreams. Then you can lay down some demo tracks and send them to Studio Pros to get a professional full production for your next album!