Choosing a Budget Steel Acoustic Guitar

Learning to play the guitar is a rewarding pastime; the guitar is fantastically versatile and is reasonably accessible to newbies, but will take a lifetime to master. Much like anything that is good in life, the best things come to those who work at them. Unless you're amazingly naturally gifted (and you're probably not), for the first year or two you're going to be playing some pretty simple tunes, badly. But after this comes all the riches, rewards, wine, women and fun of being a guitar legend.

Choosing a Budget Steel Acoustic Guitar

The first thing you're going to need is a guitar - duh. When you're choosing a guitar, you first should think about what kind of music you want to play. If you want to play classical guitar you'll need a classical acoustic guitar, if you want to play face-melting riffs in front of crowds of screaming fans like the gods of old, you'll need an electric guitar, but if you want to sound like a 60's troubadour a steel acoustic guitar will be more down your street.

Budget is going to be of concern whether you are purchasing the guitar yourself or your parents are footing the bill. It pays NOT to go for a low-end guitar. Many people fall into the trap of purchasing the cheapest guitars 'in case you don't like it', and this actually ends up causing you to indeed not like it. A cheap guitar is going to sound terrible, and will end up rotting away unused in your basement. You don't need to break the bank; just choose a low-mid or mid-range guitar and even your terrible playing will at least sound a bit better.

If you're planning on getting a steel-string acoustic, they come in around six different sizes. The smallest are 'backpacker' style guitars, but if you're not planning on travelling with your guitar, then choosing a Grand Concert, Grand Auditorium or larger will have a better sound. The largest sizes are Jumbo and Super Jumbo.

A bigger steel-stringed acoustic guitar does not mean a better guitar -it just means a different sound. They tend to be a lot more bass to them, with much more low-end. Smaller guitars will be brighter, janglier, and will not be so loud.

If you are on the short side, one of the larger guitars will probably feel too big - choose an acoustic guitar that is well made, comfortable for you, and has a sound that you like. Whereas one person will consider a guitar to be 'tinny', another person will think of it as 'bright'. Remember you're the one who is going to have to spend every night playing a tortured version of Three Blind Mice on it, so choose the one that you like the sound of.

Ensure that the guitar is well-tuned when you test it out; if not you won't be hearing it at its best. If you need to, ask an assistant to be sure, and if you can't play a thing ask them to strum a few simple chords for you so you can hear what the guitar sounds like.

Cheap steel guitars have laminated wood tops. This means that the front size of the guitar is not made of solid wood, so the sound will be more 'dead'. It's also true that a solid wood guitar will take time to mature, and a good guitar will actually sound better and better with age. This is not true of the cheaper laminated wood top guitar; it will sound the same 10 years later from when you purchased it.

The back and the sides of the guitar also benefit from being solid wood, but this cost comes at a premium, so don't expect it on anything less than a $1000 acoustic guitar. Different woods for the top result in different tones. Spruce is the most common in steel acoustic guitars.

If you buy a new acoustic guitar that isn't junk, it's worth first going to a local luthier to get the guitar properly set up. This includes things like a restringing and neck adjustment, and can make your guitar easier to play and keep it well maintained. It usually costs less than $30, unless you choose to get nut replacements etc. (rarely needed).

The best choice for budget steel acoustic guitars is perhaps a Fender, or a Yamaha. Ibanez also make solid budget steel acoustic guitars. If you want something a little different than Washburn make good budget acoustics (although their budget electrics are spotty at best). Finally Seagull is another brand worth checking out if your guitar shop holds it in stock. Smaller brands cannot really be recommended simply because the budget acoustic guitar market is full of duds barely able to hold a tune.

Following the steps above should leave you in a position to be sounding like John Denver before you know it, and not stuck with a terrible sounding guitar that will live forever in the loft of your house.

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by Richard Sutherland; Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 08:44 AM [10984]

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