How to choose an acoustic guitar

March 25, 2017 3 min read

How to choose your next acoustic Guitar

Buying an acoustic guitar is a big deal. I remember all the detail of the process and the first strum on each of my guitars. Guitar Gallery’s aim is to give you the best advice even if that means not buying from us. I have listed a few points that worked for me and would suggest them as guidelines. These are only guidelines since I have found 2 guitars from the same manufacturer with the exact same specs to be quite different in sound.

Play as many guitars as possible before making a decision to buy. I wanted to buy a new acoustic guitar and played a lot of guitars over an extended period to find something that blew me away. The process allowed me to learn more about the different wood types, bracing patterns, body sizes, neck types, etc. The guitar needs to feel right and sound right. Missing one of these two components means that it is not the right acoustic guitar for you.

Don’t rush the process of searching for your next acoustic guitar. You will know when you have found your next guitar.

Horses for courses. Not all guitars will work equally well for different applications. A dreadnought or grand auditorium will work well for strumming while small body guitars work better for fingerstyle or light strumming. It is important to understand your requirement when searching for a guitar.

Blindfold testing. We tend to listen with our eyes when it comes to guitars. I have blindfolded myself and got someone to play the different guitars that made my shortlist. You will either find out that you really know what you like or be totally confused. I think ‘totally confused” suggests that you have listened with your eyes. Take someone with who can play the guitars for you while you are listening. An acoustic guitar sounds very different when sitting in front of it versus playing the guitar.

Trust your ears. I knew exactly what my ears enjoyed until I took a ‘professional’ with me to give his opinion. God made us all different and we enjoy different sounds. Go with what works for you. You will play more confidently if you love what you hear.

Budget. We cannot ignore the reality of finances and priorities. I would however say the following. Don’t worry about prices when searching for a new guitar. The process helped me to understand what my ears enjoyed and my hands loved. I am also not saying that expensive guitars are always better than more affordable guitars. My final comment would be to rather wait until you can afford what you really want versus compromising to get something quickly. I have made this mistake once and ended up selling the new guitar 6 months later and buying what I really wanted in the first place. The cost of the cheaper guitar bothered me more than the cost of my dream guitar which I enjoy every single day of my life.
Compare acoustic guitars in the same location before making the final decision to buy. A lot of guitars on their own sounds descent on their own. You can really hear the difference in quality when you start comparing guitars in the same room. Also try to have similar strings on the various guitars that you compare. It is not always possible but I have taken Guitar Gallery guitars to other shops for my clients to compare.

Never select a guitar based on the pickup only. I was guilty of this when I was younger. I am still surprised that some stores rather sell the guitar’s pickup to clients rather than the actual guitar. The reality is that you want an acoustic guitar that sounds amazing on its own. The role of the acoustic pickup is to amplify the natural tone, not to create a new sound. I am not saying that you must buy a guitar without a pickup, but rather make sure that the guitar sounds amazing on its own. The quality of aftermarket pickups (LR Baggs and K&K) are superb and we have a lot of excellent acoustic guitar luthiers in South Africa who can fit it for you. You can also replace acoustic guitar pickups as technology improves, but there is no need to replace a guitar that has an amazing acoustic sound.

Involve your family or close friends in the process. My wife was part of the process towards the end. There is nothing better than sharing your passion with people you love.

Contact Stephan at Guitar Gallery if you need some advice on buying an acoustic guitar.