The acoustic guitar is an incredible instrument that you can use to produce amazing music. There are tons of different options and styles available on the market and shopping for a new guitar can sometimes feel like an overwhelming experience. This guide will help steer you in the right direction towards purchasing a guitar that will be perfect for your musical needs. If you’re looking for a similar buying guide for electric guitars click here!

The Anatomy of an Acoustic Guitar

buying guide for acoustic guitars

Photo by Dominic Alves / for CC BY 2.0

Head

This area is also known as the headstock. This part of the guitar is pitched at a slight backward angle to provide proper tension on the strings so the guitar can make a sound.

Tuning Pegs

Tuning pegs are small, mechanical devices which allow you to tighten or loosen the tension on each string. By tightening or loosening the tension on each string, the pitches the strings produce become higher or lower. These pegs are how you tune the guitar.

Nut

The nut is a small piece of material that’s grooved for each string. Nuts are usually made from animal bone, wood or a synthetic material. On cheaper guitars, the bone may be plastic.

Neck

The neck of the guitar is a half-moon shaped piece of wood that’s mounted to the body of the guitar. This is the area of the guitar that you “play.”

Frets

Frets are pieces of metal which slot into the neck of the guitar. Each fret corresponds to a different pitch on the guitar.

Sound Board

The soundboard is the top of a guitar’s body. This piece of wood resonates and is a vital component of a guitar as different types of woods will produce a different tone, resonance, and volume.

Finger Plate

Also known as the pickguard, a finger plate is a small piece of material that’s adhered to the front of the soundboard. A pickguard is used to protect the wood beneath from scratching that will inevitably occur if you play the guitar with a pick.

Bridge

The bridge is the area of the guitar that the strings attach to the body. Bridges are typically made from a dense tonewood such as mahogany.

Saddle

The bridge saddle is similar to the nut of the guitar. It’s typically made from the same material as the nut of the guitar, and it has slots for each string.

Fixing Pegs

Also known as bridge pins, these 6 “pins” are used to hold the string inside of the bridge. They’re often made from plastic or a synthetic material. On more expensive guitars, they may be made out of wood or bone.

Back and Sides

The back and sides of a guitar are made from thin pieces of wood. This wood is usually different from the wood used for the soundboard of a guitar.

Braces

Inside of the guitar, there is a system of trusses and braces that stabilize the guitar. This part of the guitar is never seen, but it’s an essential element that provides the tone, resonance, and volume of a guitar.

Type of Tonewood

The type of wood a guitar is made from will help shape the tone and overall sound of a guitar. A guitar will usually use at least two different types of woods for the different parts of the guitar.

Spruce

Spruce is a lightly colored, dense tonewood that’s often used for the tops of guitars.

Mahogany

Mahogany is a rich, dense tonewood that’s often used for the neck, back and sides of a guitar.

Cedar

Cedar is an aromatic, lightweight tonewood. It’s often used for the tops of guitars.

Rosewood

Rosewood is a dark brown, dense and durable wood. It’s used for bridges and fingerboards.

Maple

Maple is an extremely dense, lightly colored wood. It’s used most often for the necks and headstocks of a guitar. However, some guitars use maple for the soundboard of the guitar as well.

Nylon vs. Steel

One of the most important considerations you’ll need to make is whether you want a nylon string or steel string guitar. Depending on the type of strings the guitar uses, they can produce wildly different sounds for different types of music.

Nylon String

Nylon string guitars are usually a bit smaller than steel string guitars, and they date back about 1000 years. These guitars are used for classical, flamenco and other world music styles. They’re also a popular choice for beginners because they can be a bit easier to play initially because they’re less rough on the fingers. These days, nylon strings are a partial misnomer, because the three thickest strings are made from metal. Only the thinnest three strings are made from nylon.

Steel String

Steel string acoustic guitars produce the quintessential sound you’re used to hearing in popular music. They can be used for all different types of music, and they’re most popular in rock, pop, country, and jazz.

Who Are You Buying For?

Another important consideration you’ll need to make is who the guitar is for. Whether you’re purchasing the guitar for you or as a gift, you’ll need to evaluate some different important factors so you can ensure you’re picking the best kind of guitar for your needs.

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is what type of music the guitar will be used for. This will help you decide if a steel string or nylon string guitar will be best. Next, you need to consider the skill level of the player. Is the guitar for a beginner, or an experienced player?

For beginners, you may want to consider selecting a kit designed for beginners. These kits usually include a beginner level guitar that’s perfect to learn on, as well as several accessories you’ll need as you learn to play. Next, you’ll need to consider how old the player is. If the instrument is for a child, you’ll want to consider their size when evaluating the right type of guitar to get.

A full sized guitar can be prohibitively difficult to play for children because of its large size. For children, ½ size or ¾ size guitars are available. Your final consideration will be the cost of the guitar.

If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to look for a more affordable option. There are quality beginner guitars available for less than $100. Meanwhile, a guitar of that quality won’t be of much use for a more advanced player.

While professional models can soar into the thousands of dollars, there are quality guitars available for experienced players for only a few hundred dollars.

These considerations will help point you towards a guitar that sounds great, is the proper size and matches the music tastes and interests of the player.

Types of Acoustic Guitars & Prices

As you’re evaluating which type of guitar is right for you, you’ll come across a broad range of different styles, brand names, logos, ratings and features. Below, let’s take a look at some popular options in various price categories. Keep in mind that this is a very basic overview of some different brands and types of guitars available at different price points. For a more detailed list of different brands of acoustic guitars click here.

Acoustic Guitars Under $300

These guitars are typically for beginners. However, there are many decent options in the $300 and under the category that are well made and produce a beautiful sound.

Fender FA100 Bundle

This guitar comes to us from one of the most respected and reputable guitar manufacturers in the world. This model is perfect for beginners and includes everything you’ll need to get started. For the cheap price, it’s nearly impossible to beat.

Yamaha FG700S

Yamaha is one of the largest musical instrument manufacturers in the world. The company makes everything from saxophones to pianos to electric and acoustic guitars. This moderately priced model is beautifully made for the good price and sounds fantastic as well. This model is a strong choice for intermediate level players on a budget.

Ibanez AEG10NII

If you’re in the market for an entry level nylon string guitar, you can’t go wrong with this model from Ibanez. It features a beautiful cutaway body, gold hardware and an onboard electronics system from Fishman. Unlike traditional acoustic guitars, you’ll be able to plug this model into an amplifier which makes this electro acoustic guitar model from Ibanez even more versatile. Amps help accentuate the acoustic tones the guitar produces. (You can plug it into a Rogue amp for a different, louder sound.)

Acoustic Guitars Between $300-$800

This price tier is usually reserved for intermediate and nearly pro-level instruments. They usually feature more bells and whistles than cheaper guitars such as decorative elements, higher quality woods, and parts.

Cordoba GK Studio Limited

The Cordoba brand is a favorite of some of the most popular and talented acoustic guitar players in the world. This model features a cutaway, which makes it comfortable to play even in the upper registers of the guitar. It also features an onboard Fishman electronics system and plenty of beautiful decorative flourishes that are usually reserved for guitars more than twice the price of this model.

Fender Sonoran SCE

It’s easy to see why the Sonoran series is so popular. It’s available in many beautiful finishes, includes an onboard pickup system, and features the signature Fender Stratocaster headstock. This affordable guitar is a great choice for electric players looking for an acoustic guitar, as well as anyone who wants to express their personality through the look of their instrument.

Taylor 114ce

Taylor has emerged to become one of the most well respected acoustic guitar brands in the world. The Taylor brand is well known for the rich, bold sound of their guitars. This model features a classic look, a cutaway, and an onboard electronics system. Unlike some other pickups which produce a thin, metallic sound when plugged in, this Taylor produces a rich and beautiful tone when plugged in.

Acoustic Guitars Above $1000

These guitars are the top of the line instruments that are typically reserved for the pros, hence the high prices. They’re made from the best woods, feature the best components and the best, most rich and nuanced tone.

Martin D-15

The D-15 from Martin is one of the most well-made and beautiful sounding acoustic guitars that money can buy. Martin also has a reputation as one of the best guitar brands. This model features a traditional dreadnought shape and all mahogany construction for a beautiful and nice warm tone. Unlike the guitars we’ve looked at to this point, the D-15 is made entirely in America so that you can expect superior craftsmanship from this model.

Cordoba 55FCE

The 55FCE is a top of the line nylon string guitar designed to meet the demands of professional guitarists. Cordoba pulled out all of the stops with the design on this model. It’s thin line design, and comfortable cutaway makes the 55FCE one of the most comfortable nylon string guitars on the market. Even though it’s considerably thinner than many acoustics, it manages to produce a rich tone that can fill large rooms beautifully.

Takamine GB7C

Looking for one of the best acoustic guitar brands? Look no further than Takamine. This model from Takamine is Garth Brooks signature model. As one of the most famous and best acoustic guitar players in the business, you can rest assured that this beautiful guitar can handle anything you can dish out. This model is packed with performance features and beautiful decorative flourishes. It’s no wonder the GB7C is one of the most popular guitars that Takamine manufactures.

Conclusion

Shopping for a guitar is a fun and exciting experience! Be sure to consider the points above as you decide which guitar is going to be the best option for you. Above all, be sure to take your time, play the different guitars you’re interested in (if possible). Carefully considering which guitar is right for you will ensure that the guitar you end up with is going to provide hours of enjoyment for years to come. If you think you need even more help you can check out our Ultimate Guitar Buying Guide.

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