Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide

Buying a new guitar is always a pleasure but also a lot of work. In this article, we provide a quick acoustic guitar buying guide to help you.

After all, there is so much to test, compare, and research. Also, there are many brands and models to consider.

The simplest way is to use the research made by someone else. That’s why I wrote an updated list of the best guitars.

But if you otherwise like to know the factors, check the tips that I compiled bellow.

Identifying the Right Guitar

The most important element to choose a great guitar, is to learn what to avoid. Bad and defective instruments usually have common characteristics, and will bring you only problems and headaches, as you’ll see in this acoustic guitar buying guide.

All acoustic guitar have generally the same shape, unlike electric guitars, that come in a large variety of shapes. But still, there are many variations that you need to consider, such as type of wood, color, size, and accessories. Acoustic guitars have great variation based on size, ranging from very small ones to large guitars.

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Buying New or Used

One of the main decisions you have to make is to buy a new or a used instruments. Both types have advantages. I, for example, own a very nice acoustic guitar that was bought used. It is still in great shape after several years.

Of course, like anything else the price will depend on the quality of the instrument. As they say, you get what you pay for, and it isn’t different when buying guitars.

The main advantage of buying a new instrument is that you’ll have the warranty from the seller. If something happens in the first few months, you can go back to the store and get it fixed. That’s not the case when you buy a second-hand instrument.

On the other hand, used guitars have already passed the test of the time, and if they are in good condition, it is unlikely that they’ll have any major problem.

Guitar Manufacturing System

Strat GuitarA big difference between cheap guitars and expensive guitar, is the way they are made. The more expensive guitars are done in a labor-intensive process, where people check every part of the production. This results in general in a better quality instrument, as long as the people building the guitars have enough training and equipment.

On the other hand, cheap guitar are usually the result of mass manufacture. This doesn’t necessarily means that they are bad instruments. Some cheap guitars are really well done.

However, it means that there is not much quality control by humans. This mens that it is more common to find defects in guitars that have not been carefully reviewed by specially trained workers.

Another item that affects prices is the level of training of the workers building the guitar. Very experienced luthiers will charge a lot of money for a new instrument. On the other hand, guitars made by inexperienced workers will be much less expensive.

A Quick Checklist

Here is a quick list for our acoustic guitar buying guide. When buying a used guitar, you can use the following checklist and see how different guitars compare.

  • First, compare the prices. If the guitar is used, check how much it compares to a new one. Is it in good condition? If not, you can get a big discount.
  • Look for small defects, like wood cracks, scratches, splits, dents, chips, and similar. These rarely change the sound, but affect the price of the instrument.
  • Check the paint and lacquer, see if there are failures of bad spots.
  • Now, check fret board and the neck. The first thing you need to see is if it is aligned, or if there are visible warping. You can visually inspect, looking for undesired bends in the wood, You can also  use a leveler to detect this condition. Whatever the case, you need to check is the wood is not bowing in either direction.
  • Make sure that you can tune the guitar. A good instrument is easy to tune. If you have difficulty, this is a warning sign. Another problem is when the guitar sounds tuned, but when you play it down the neck everything sounds out of tune. This means that the neck is bent and is not able to hold the tuning.
  • Play a few chords or songs. This will tell you how easy it is to handle and play the acoustic guitar. Stay clear from instruments that are difficult to play, and that require effort to make chords. It is probably out of alignment or damaged.

Check the Guitar Parts

Another important thing you can do it to check some guitar parts.

  • Now look at the bridge. You need to check that it doesn’t have any visible effect and it is not cracked. A god bridge must be very solid, since the guitar strings will sit directly against the bridge.
  • The next item is the tuning heads. They should be firm, but easy to turn. If that’s not the case, you’ll have problem to tune the guitar and change the strings.
  • Check the distance between the strings and the fret board. This is called the action. If the action is high, the strings will be too far from the fretboard, and it is difficult to play the instrument (especially down the neck). The action cannot be too low either, otherwise you will hear a buzzing noise coming from the strings.
  • Check the size of the instrument. Does it fee to small for your size? Or doesn’t fit too big? Try to find an instrument that is adequate for your height.
  • Finally, consider the general feel of the guitar. Does it seem like a good instrument? Would you enjoy playing it? This is also a very important consideration for a musical instrument.- Is the guitar a comfortable size and shape for your body? Is it easy to hold?