Ottawa's guitar repair shop

Choosing your very first guitar - Choosing an Acoustic

How to choose your first acoustic guitar:

The thing that makes a high end guitar sound great is the wood selection, bracing pattern and body size. But, as a beginner, your ear is probably quite far away from being able to really appreciate the difference.

Solid wood acoustic guitars a re fragile instruments. You need to monitor the environment in your home, because it can crack if it gets to dry, or come unglued if it's to hot and to humid. Solid wood acoustic guitars normally need seasonal setups, because the tops swell up in the summer (humidity) and raise the action and sink in the winter (lack of humidity because of heating) bringing the action to far down.

So, what should you pick for a first acoustic guitar? Most guitarists will hate me for saying this, but a laminate guitar is your best bet. The laminates used in guitars are typically made of three layers of wood. The total thickness of these laminates are the same, or close to the same thickness as solid wood acoustic guitar backs, sides and tops. Laminates don't sound as good as solid wood, and they never will. But, the great thing about laminated is that they aren't as "moody" as solid wood. Once a laminate acoustic guitar is setup, it's almost as stable as an electric guitar. Therefore, you can spend more time enjoying your learning experience and less time waiting for me to adjust your ever moving guitar.

The second thing you want to look out for is the straightness of the neck and it's adjustability. Typically, you can ask your music store for a 24 hour period during which you can return the guitar after purchasing it if it has a serious defect. I would suggest that you have your new guitar inspected by someone like me. 95% of the time, they're in great shape and very pleasant to play once setup. But there is always that odd 5% that can make you hate playing the guitar.

Does the price matter? I have to say, that in the case of beginners guitars, not always. I own a 150$ laminate acoustic guitar, and it's awesome. The foundation was right and, after a fret levelling and setup, it's a joy to play. I have also had clients return brand new 600$-700$ guitars because they had a horrible defect. So, you need to have your guitar checked