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What to Look for in an Acoustic Guitar

When selecting an acoustic guitar, it is important to consider its tone, playability, construction, and overall quality.

What to Look for in an Acoustic Guitar


Factors To Consider

Factors to Consider When it comes to purchasing an acoustic guitar, there are several factors to consider that can greatly impact your playing experience. From the body type to the tonewood, playability, sound quality, and price range, each aspect plays a crucial role in determining the right guitar for you. In this article, we delve into these factors and provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you make an informed decision. H3: Body Type The body type of an acoustic guitar is an essential consideration when choosing the perfect instrument. Different body types produce varying tones and offer distinct playing experiences. Some common body types include: 1. Grand Concert (GC): This smaller-bodied guitar is perfect for individuals with a smaller frame or those seeking a more intimate playing experience. It is known for its balanced tone and focused midrange. 2. Dreadnought: The dreadnought is a larger-bodied guitar that produces a powerful, booming sound. It is a popular choice for strummers and individuals who require a strong projection. 3. Auditorium: The auditorium body shape strikes a balance between the Grand Concert and Dreadnought, offering a versatile and well-rounded sound suitable for different playing styles. 4. Jumbo: Jumbo guitars are characterized by their significant size and deep, rich tone. They are ideal for players who desire a strong bass response and bold sound. H3: Tonewood The type of wood used for the top, back, and sides of an acoustic guitar greatly influences its tone and resonance. Here are some commonly used tonewoods and their properties: 1. Spruce: Spruce is widely regarded as the most popular tonewood for guitar tops. It offers a bright and versatile sound with excellent projection. 2. Mahogany: Mahogany is known for its warm, rich tone and emphasis on midrange frequencies. It is often used for the back and sides of guitars. 3. Rosewood: Rosewood offers a balance of warmth, clarity, and complexity. It is commonly used for both the back and sides, providing a full-bodied sound. 4. Maple: Maple is a dense tonewood that produces a bright and articulate sound. It is often used for its visual appeal and clear tonal properties. H3: Playability The playability of an acoustic guitar refers to its comfort and ease of use. Factors that contribute to playability include the neck shape, width, and action (the space between the strings and the fretboard). A guitar with good playability allows for effortless chord changes and smooth fingerpicking. Ensure that the neck profile suits your hand size and that the action is not too high or too low for your playing style. H3: Sound Quality The sound quality of an acoustic guitar is perhaps the most critical factor to consider. It is determined by a combination of factors, including the body type, tonewoods, and craftsmanship. The best way to assess the sound quality is by playing the guitar yourself and listening to its resonance, sustain, and tonal balance. Remember to prioritize a guitar that resonates with your personal preferences and playing style. H3: Price Range Lastly, the price range is an essential factor to consider when choosing an acoustic guitar. Determine your budget before starting your search and be aware that higher-priced guitars typically offer better craftsmanship, tonewoods, and overall sound quality. However, excellent guitars can also be found in lower price ranges, especially for beginners or those on a budget. In conclusion, when selecting an acoustic guitar, it is vital to consider factors such as body type, tonewood, playability, sound quality, and price range. Take the time to research and try out different guitars to discover which one suits your needs and preferences. Remember that finding the perfect guitar is a personal journey, and with the right considerations, you can find an instrument that will bring you joy and inspiration for years to come.

Body Type


The dreadnought body type is one of the most popular and widely recognized designs in the world of acoustic guitars. It was originally introduced by C.F. Martin & Co. in the early 20th century and has since become a staple for many guitarists. The dreadnought features a large, square-shouldered body that produces a rich and powerful sound with a strong low-end response. Its generous size and deep body allow for maximum resonance and volume, making it a great choice for players who prefer a bold and boomy sound.


The concert body type, sometimes referred to as an auditorium or orchestra model, strikes a balance between the smaller parlor guitars and larger dreadnoughts. With a slightly smaller body and a more compact shape, the concert guitar offers excellent projection and clarity, making it suitable for a variety of playing styles and musical genres. Its versatile tonal character provides a well-balanced sound with a pronounced mid-range and a defined treble response. Whether you’re strumming chords or fingerpicking intricate melodies, the concert body type offers a comfortable playing experience with a beautiful and articulate sound.


The jumbo body type is all about big, bold sound. As the name suggests, jumbo guitars feature an oversized body that produces a booming bass response and an expansive dynamic range. With their large, rounded shoulders and wider lower bout, jumbo guitars offer incredible volume and projection, making them ideal for live performances or players who want their instrument to fill the room with sound. The extended bass response and powerful projection of jumbo guitars make them particularly suitable for strumming and aggressive playing styles.


The auditorium body type, sometimes referred to as a small jumbo, is a versatile option that combines elements of both dreadnought and concert guitars. With its slightly larger and more rounded body shape compared to a concert guitar, the auditorium guitar produces a well-balanced sound with a strong mid-range and a clear treble response. It offers a comfortable playing experience, making it suitable for both fingerstyle picking and strumming. The auditorium body type is a popular choice among singer-songwriters and players who want a versatile guitar that can handle a wide range of musical styles.


The parlor body type, also known as a parlour or 0-size guitar, harkens back to the 19th century when smaller-bodied guitars were the norm. These compact guitars have gained popularity in recent years due to their unique charm and vintage appeal. Despite their smaller size, parlor guitars can deliver surprisingly rich and balanced tones. They offer a focused sound with a warm and intimate character, making them perfect for fingerstyle playing and more intimate settings. The smaller size also contributes to their excellent playability, making them comfortable for players of all sizes.


Tonewood is one of the most critical factors to consider when choosing an acoustic guitar. It refers to the type of wood used in the construction of the guitar’s top or soundboard. Different types of tonewood produce different tonal qualities, resonance, and projection. In this section, we will explore the characteristics of various tonewoods commonly used in acoustic guitars: Spruce, Cedar, Mahogany, Rosewood, and Maple.


Spruce is a widely favored tonewood for guitar tops due to its excellent resonance and tonal clarity. It offers a balanced sound with a bright and punchy character. Spruce tops are known for their responsiveness, making them ideal for fingerpicking and playing styles that require a quick response. This tonewood is often used in high-end guitars and is highly valued for its versatility.


Cedar is known for its warm, rich, and mellow tone, making it popular among fingerstyle players. It produces a more focused sound with a quick response, making it perfect for softer playing styles. Cedar tops have less headroom, meaning they are more sensitive to the player’s touch and produce a more immediate, intimate sound. This tonewood is often preferred by players who prioritize a more nuanced and expressive playing experience.


Mahogany is widely recognized for its warm and woody tone, emphasizing the midrange frequencies. It offers a balanced sound with clear articulation and excellent note definition. Mahogany tops provide a strong and punchy tone, making them suitable for strumming and rhythm playing. Moreover, this tonewood tends to produce a pronounced sustain and a focused sound that complements vocal accompaniment.


Rosewood is a highly desired tonewood used for the back and sides of acoustic guitars. Its rich, dark, and complex tonal characteristics make it a favorite among players seeking a full-bodied sound. Rosewood offers a wide dynamic range, with a strong bass response and sparkling trebles. It imparts a lush, harmonically-rich sound that enhances both strumming and fingerpicking styles. Additionally, rosewood’s inherent beauty adds an aesthetic appeal to the guitar.


Maple is known for its bright and focused sound with excellent clarity. Its tonal characteristics are often associated with a pronounced treble response, tight lows, and a balanced midrange. Maple tops produce a quick attack and a more articulate sound, making them suitable for genres that require precision such as jazz or country. The tonewood’s pronounced figure and beautiful grain patterns add a visually striking element to the guitar’s appearance. To summarize, the choice of tonewood plays a crucial role in shaping the sound of an acoustic guitar. Whether you prefer the bright and versatile sound of spruce, the warm and delicate tones of cedar, the balanced and punchy characteristics of mahogany, the full-bodied richness of rosewood, or the bright and focused tonal qualities of maple, understanding the tonal characteristics of each tonewood will help you select an acoustic guitar that best suits your playing style and preferences.


Neck Shape And Width

The neck shape and width of an acoustic guitar play a crucial role in its playability. The neck shape determines how comfortable it feels in your hand, while the width affects how easy it is to fret the strings. When choosing an acoustic guitar based on playability, it’s important to consider these factors. The neck shape can vary from thin to thick, and each has its pros and cons. A thin neck provides faster and more effortless playing, making it ideal for those with smaller hands or those who prefer to play intricate fingerstyle patterns. On the other hand, a thick neck offers more stability and can provide better sustain. It’s a matter of personal preference, so it’s recommended to try out different neck shapes to see which one feels the most comfortable for you. Similarly, the neck width impacts how easy it is to press down the strings and form chords. A wider neck allows for more space between the strings, making it easier to avoid accidental muting or touching adjacent strings. However, it can be a bit challenging for those with smaller hands or shorter fingers. Conversely, a narrower neck provides less space between strings, which can be beneficial for players with smaller hands or those who prefer playing fast-paced solos.


The action of an acoustic guitar refers to the height of the strings above the fretboard. Low action means the strings are closer to the fretboard, making it easier to press down and play. High action, on the other hand, means the strings are further away from the fretboard, which can result in a more challenging playing experience. Finding the ideal action for your acoustic guitar is crucial for a comfortable playing experience. Generally, a medium action is recommended for most players, as it provides a good balance between ease of playing and avoiding unwanted string buzzing. However, the action can be adjusted to suit individual preferences. If you prefer a lower action for faster playing or a higher action for more volume and resonance, it’s best to consult with a professional luthier to make the necessary adjustments.

Fretboard Material

The material used for the fretboard of an acoustic guitar can significantly influence its playability. Common fretboard materials include rosewood, ebony, and maple, each with its unique characteristics. Rosewood is a popular choice due to its warm and balanced tone. It has a smooth surface, making it comfortable for players to slide their fingers along the fretboard. Ebony, known for its dense and smooth texture, offers a bright tone and excellent durability. Maple is another option, providing a bright tone and a smooth playing surface. The choice of fretboard material is subjective, and it’s important to consider both the tonal characteristics and how it feels under your fingers. You may want to try out guitars with different fretboard materials to determine which one provides the most comfortable playing experience and the desired tonal qualities for your preferred musical style.

Scale Length

Scale length refers to the distance between the nut and the bridge of an acoustic guitar. It determines the length of the vibrating string and has a significant impact on playability. The scale length can vary from shorter (around 24 inches) to longer (up to 25.5 inches) options. A shorter scale length generally offers less string tension, making it easier to bend and play notes. It can be beneficial for players with smaller hands or those who prefer playing styles that involve a lot of bending and vibrato. On the other hand, a longer scale length provides greater string tension, resulting in more sustain, volume, and clarity. It’s favored by players who play fingerstyle or strumming techniques that require more precision and stability. Finding the right scale length for your acoustic guitar comes down to personal preference and playing style. If possible, try out guitars with different scale lengths to determine which one feels the most comfortable and suits your musical preferences.

Number Of Frets

The number of frets on an acoustic guitar can impact the range of notes you can play and the overall versatility of the instrument. Most acoustic guitars have either 20 or 21 frets, but there are also extended-range options available with 22 or 24 frets. If you primarily play open chords and basic melodies, the standard 20 or 21 frets should be sufficient. However, if you enjoy playing complex solos or exploring higher positions on the fretboard, an acoustic guitar with more frets can provide you with additional range and flexibility. Consider your playing style and musical preferences when choosing the number of frets on your acoustic guitar. Keep in mind that having more frets may slightly increase the size and weight of the instrument, so it’s important to find the right balance between playability and comfort.

Sound Quality

When it comes to choosing an acoustic guitar, one of the most important factors to consider is the sound quality. The sound of an acoustic guitar is what truly sets it apart from other instruments, and it is what most players prioritize when making a purchase. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of sound quality that you should look for in an acoustic guitar, including projection, tone, resonance, balance, and sustain.


The projection of an acoustic guitar refers to its ability to produce a loud and clear sound that can fill a room or a concert hall without being plugged into an amplifier. A guitar with good projection will be able to cut through other instruments and be heard even in a crowded environment. When testing the projection of a guitar, listen for a strong and vibrant sound that carries well and doesn’t get lost in the mix.


The tone of an acoustic guitar is perhaps its most distinctive feature. It refers to the character and quality of the sound produced by the instrument. Each acoustic guitar has its own unique tone, influenced by factors such as the choice of wood, body shape, and construction techniques. When evaluating the tone of a guitar, pay attention to its warmth, clarity, and overall pleasing sound. Look for a guitar that resonates with you and matches your musical preferences.


Resonance is an important aspect of sound quality that contributes to the richness and depth of an acoustic guitar’s sound. It is the ability of the instrument to vibrate sympathetically with the strings, resulting in a fuller and more vibrant sound. A guitar with good resonance will produce a balanced and harmonious tone across different frequencies. When strumming or picking the strings, listen for a guitar that resonates well and sustains the sound for an adequate amount of time.


The balance of an acoustic guitar refers to the even distribution of sound across the different frequencies. A well-balanced guitar will have a clear and distinct sound for both the low and high notes, without any particular frequency overpowering the others. This is especially important when playing chords or complex fingerpicking patterns. When testing the balance of a guitar, make sure that each note is audible and that no frequencies are too dominant or weak.


Sustain refers to the length of time a note continues to sound after it is played. A guitar with good sustain will allow the notes to ring out and resonate for a significant amount of time. This is crucial for creating expressive and melodic passages. When testing the sustain of a guitar, play a note or a chord and listen for how long it continues to ring. A guitar with good sustain will allow you to sustain notes without exerting unnecessary effort.

Price Range

When searching for the perfect acoustic guitar, considering the price range is essential. Understanding the different price brackets can help you make an informed decision based on your budget and requirements. Below, we will explore three main price ranges: entry-level, mid-range, and high-end, along with the features and benefits you can expect in each category.

Entry-level ($100-$300)

If you are just starting your journey into playing the guitar or have a limited budget, the entry-level range is where you should explore. Guitars in this price bracket offer decent quality craftsmanship without breaking the bank. While they may lack some advanced features found in higher-priced models, they can still provide a reliable and enjoyable playing experience. Here are some key features to look for:

  • Solid Construction: Even at a lower price point, it is important to choose a guitar made from quality materials such as laminated wood or select tonewoods. This ensures a better tone and durability.
  • Comfortable Neck: Pay attention to the neck shape and size, as it significantly affects playability. Look for a guitar with a comfortable neck profile, allowing for easy chord transitions and extended playing sessions.
  • Decent Sound: While entry-level guitars may not offer the same level of richness in tone as higher-end models, they can still produce pleasant sounds. Opt for guitars with good intonation and acceptable projection.

Mid-range ($300-$1000)

If you have a bit more flexibility in your budget and are looking for a guitar that offers better craftsmanship and sound quality, the mid-range price bracket is worth exploring. Guitars in this range tend to strike a balance between affordability and performance. Consider the following features when shopping for a mid-range acoustic guitar:

  • Quality Materials: Look for guitars with solid wood tops and backs, delivering a warmer and more resonant tone. The choice of tonewoods, such as mahogany or rosewood, impacts the overall sound quality and projection.
  • Superior Craftsmanship: In the mid-range, you can expect better attention to detail in the guitar’s construction. Look for well-finished frets, smooth fretboard edges, and solid bindings, all of which contribute to enhanced playability.
  • Enhanced Sound: Guitars in this price range often offer a more refined tonal balance, with improved clarity and dynamic range. They may also come equipped with onboard electronics for easy amplification, making them suitable for stage performances or recording.

High-end ($1000 And Above)

For experienced players or professionals who demand the utmost in craftsmanship, sound quality, and playability, high-end acoustic guitars are the pinnacle of excellence. Instruments in this price range are carefully crafted using premium materials and traditional techniques. Keep an eye out for the following features when considering a high-end acoustic guitar:

  • Master-grade Materials: High-end guitars often feature solid tonewoods selected for their exceptional acoustic properties. These guitars may have rare and visually stunning wood options for the top, back, and sides, providing a beautiful aesthetic as well as superior sound.
  • Impeccable Construction: Craftsmanship in high-end guitars is usually second to none. Each component, from the bracing to the nut and saddle, is meticulously chosen and expertly assembled for optimal sound production and longevity.
  • Unparalleled Sound: The sound quality of high-end guitars stands out from the rest. These instruments produce rich, complex tones with superb projection and sustain. They offer exceptional dynamic range and responsiveness, allowing you to express yourself fully as a musician.

Considering your budget and playing level, now you have a clear understanding of what to expect in the different price ranges of acoustic guitars. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate player, or seasoned enthusiast, finding the right guitar within your desired price range ensures a rewarding musical experience.

Frequently Asked Questions Of What To Look For In An Acoustic Guitar

How Can You Tell A Good Quality Acoustic Guitar?

To determine a good quality acoustic guitar, examine its construction, materials, sound, and playability. Look for solid wood tops, well-built body, balanced tone, clear projection, and comfortable neck. Quality brands like Martin, Gibson, and Taylor often guarantee reliable craftsmanship.

Which Acoustic Guitar Is Best For Beginners?

The best acoustic guitar for beginners is the one that suits your preferences and budget. Look for a guitar with a comfortable neck, good sound quality, and affordable price. Consider options like the Yamaha FG800, Fender FA-115, or Epiphone DR-100.

What Is The Most Important Part Of An Acoustic Guitar?

The most important part of an acoustic guitar is the soundboard, also known as the top. It is responsible for amplifying the vibrations of the strings, creating the instrument’s unique tone. Its construction and choice of wood greatly impact the guitar’s overall sound quality.

What Gauge Should I Use For Acoustic Guitar?

Use light gauge strings for easy playability and less finger pressure. Medium gauge for a balanced tone and versatility. Heavy gauge for richer, fuller sound and strong finger pressure. Gauge preference may vary based on personal playing style and musical genre.

Find one that suits your needs and comfort.


Finding the perfect acoustic guitar involves considering various crucial factors. Keep in mind your playing style, budget, and desired sound quality. Pay attention to the body shape, tonewoods, and craftsmanship. Test out different guitars to ensure comfortable playability and check for any potential flaws.

Remember, investing in a high-quality acoustic guitar will greatly enhance your playing experience and musical journey. Happy strumming!

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