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Beginner’s Guitar Buying Guide

So, you or your child have settled on learning to play guitar. They or you may have watched countless hours of YouTube videos of classic or modern guitar heroes banging out tunes, and this has driven you to try your hand at it, too. Or perhaps, your decision was made after seasoned consideration and guidance by a professional music instructor. Regardless of how you chose the guitar, now it’s time to pick your instrument.

The choices can be overwhelming! Guitars are popular instruments and the various types are truly baffling, especially to a novice. The team at Rock Island Sound can help you find the perfect beginner guitar, and this guide is a valuable resource.

Know Your Budget

It’s easy to drop a serious load of money into a guitar, but is that what you need to do for a beginner instrument? Of course, you want the best guitar for your money. Purchasing a sub-standard instrument that produces a lousy sound will lead to you or your child quitting before really getting started. But each person must know the budget they have to invest before beginning the shopping experience.

The team at Rock Island Sound recommends getting the most guitar for your money, regardless of budget, instead of spreading your money across an instrument and extras. Fancy shoulder straps and the like will not enhance your skills. Sink your budget into an actual guitar and focus on learning to play it. You can invest in additional equipment later, as needed, and as your skills improve.

You can expect to pay between $350 - $800 for a quality beginner guitar with a solid wood top for better sound. Bump that to $1200 - $1400 for a solid wood instrument (no laminate) with considerably better sound quality. Any higher is a serious commitment that can get you a pro-level instrument you will play for decades.

Review the Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars

Most guitar makers feature a line of beginner models that are simple in design, construction, and use. They come in all sizes, shapes, and designs. Bigger is not always better, and the most popular may not necessarily be the best fit for you. The best way to choose your beginner acoustic guitar is to take plenty of time and play several.

Common beginner guitars include:

  • Martin D-28 Dreadnought

  • Fender CD-60S

  • Martin LX1E Little Martin

  • Yamaha FG800 Dreadnought

  • Yamaha NTX1

  • Yamaha AC5R

  • Gretsch G9511 Style 1

  • Crossroads C-GS200E

  • Guild Westerly Collection Jumbo Junior

If you’re a true beginner looking for an instrument to learn on, ask a team member at Rock Island Sound to play these or other selections while you listen from a few feet away, directly facing them. The sound will be different than when you are playing it yourself, but you will get a good feel for its sound. The team member can also show you how it fits and teach you a few simple chords so you can strum a bit yourself.

Spend the better part of the time you have allotted trying out and listening to different guitars. This is where the most important choice is really made. Other factors like price point, wood, and setup are much simpler. Finding the best guitar fit shouldn’t be rushed.

Choose the Best Wood

Many entry-level guitars are made entirely from laminate wood, which does not age or mature and sounds relatively flat. We encourage beginners to go for at least a solid wood top with laminate sides for the better sound quality. Again, if it sounds rough, you won’t play it long. If possible, your first guitar should be solid wood for richer sound and more resonance.

Any popular guitar wood is fine for your beginner guitar. Common woods used in guitar construction include:

  • Spruce

  • Rosewood

  • Cedar

  • Maple

  • Mahogany

A team member at Rock Island Sound can share how each type of wood contributes differently to the sound it makes. As a beginner, this will not matter as much. Just choose the best quality guitar you can afford on your budget.

Get a Professional Setup

The beginner guitar you choose must be comfortable to play or you won’t be playing it long. A team member at Rock Island Sound can talk with you and help check for things like fret buzz, an action that seems too high, light or heavy strings, intonation, and tuning. Try and choose a guitar that seems to set up well and doesn’t have problems.

Of course, we can make neck adjustments, perform bridge work, or other professional repairs on any guitar if you just have to have a particular one that needs some work. Your Rock Island Sound team member can explain more. Be sure to try out the guitar again after any adjustments are made before finalizing your purchase.

Are you ready to shop for a new beginner guitar? Contact us and set up a time to meet with a team member for professional assistance.

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