Choosing the Right Acoustic Guitar for You
In order to know which acoustic guitar is right for you, it’s important to understand how differences in construction and components may alter the sound or tone. Someone playing classical guitar music will not want to use the same acoustic guitar as someone playing rhythm in a classic country band.
When you strum the strings of your acoustic guitar, the vibrations travel from the strings through the saddle and into the soundboard. From the soundboard, or top face of the guitar, the vibrations are transferred into the body of the guitar, where the frequencies interact and are amplified before leaving out the sound hole. The interactions of these different parts of the guitar create its unique sound.
Here are a few important questions to consider when choosing an acoustic guitar.
Which Guitar Size/Shape?
Though the basic shape of acoustic guitars haven’t changed much since their invention in the late 1700’s there are now a variety of shapes and sizes available, each with a unique sound.
- Parlor – Smallest available, known for their light yet focused sound. Often used for fingerpicking.
- Concert – Slightly larger than parlor, includes more bass tone.
- Grand Concert – Most common classical guitar style, known for their solid mid-range and balance. They are not as bright as the smaller parlor styles and lack the bass of larger models.
- Grand Auditorium – Similar to the Grand Concert, but with more volume and projection.
- Dreadnaught – Most common acoustic guitar, known for a strong lower register. Many prefer dreadnaughts for the superior way their sound interacts with vocals.
- Jumbo – Largest acoustic guitars, staple in many country music bands because of their great strumming sound and bass response.
Different versions may also be offered in a cutaway design which allows easier access to the higher frets, but may result in some loss of resonance and volume.
We have a variety of sizes and shapes available in our Acoustic Guitar section.
What Type of Wood?
As the vibration from the strings moves through the body of the guitar, the unique characteristics of the wood shape the sound. To be specific, the body of the guitar includes the top, sides and back of the guitar and different woods may be used for different parts. Though a variety of woods are used in acoustic guitar construction, there are only a few that are commonly seen.
- Spruce – Most common wood used in acoustic guitars because of its balanced tone, with bright highs and booming lows. Spruce also interacts well with other woods and has strong volume and projection.
- Mahogany – Known for its warm and quieter tone. Though it is sometimes used for the top board, mahogany is most often used in the side and back boards.
- Cedar – Brilliant, sharp tone.
- Koa – Strong mid-range with a sweet warm tone
- Maple – Bright tone with sharp definition and great projection
In addition to the type of wood used, knowing whether the body is made of solid wood or laminated is also important. Solid wood bodies are generally more expensive, but have a more solid construction and superior tone. Laminated guitars can be a better value, but their tone may not sound as good as solid body models.
Which Strings to Use?
Since everything starts with the strings, their impact on the tone of a guitar is very important. Strings vary based on the material from which they’re made and their gauge or size.
- Phosphor Bronze – Crisp and clear sound with long usable life
- Bronze – Crisp and clear sound, but may rust, unlike phosphor bronze
- Brass – Bright, metallic sound
- Aluminum Bronze – Distinct bass notes with strong highs
- Silk & Steel – Soft tone preferred by fingerstyle players
- Nylon – Mainly used for classical guitars. Many classical guitars can only use nylon strings due to the high tension required for other string types.
The gauge of the strings also affects the tone.
- Light Gauge – More focused treble with brighter tone, often preferred for picking
- Medium Gauge – Offers a blend between light and heavy for balanced tone
- Heavy Gauge – Accentuated bass with greater volume and sustain, preferred for strumming
Check out our selection of acoustic string sets.
Choosing a new acoustic guitar may not be easy, but it should be fun and hopefully this information will help. We’ll be writing more posts on many of the points we touched on here in more detail in the future, but if you ever have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .