First acoustic for an experienced player


I find myself playing a ton of acoustic guitar at college - but it's never mine, because I don't own one! I'm sick of having to borrow other peoples' (... bad) guitars and was thinking of investing in one of my own.

I consider myself pretty good, and I'd like to buy something that's gonna stay with me and my family for a long time. I learned after going through a few lower-level electrics (the kind people say "just as good as XXX for 1/2 the price!!!" about) that I'd rather just bite the bullet, look around and save, and buy something I'm not going to regret having a while later.

So what should I be looking for, brand and characteristics-wise? I played a variety of used acoustics recently (Martins, Taylors, Gibsons) and noticed that even between same-model guitars the sound can vary quite a bit - why is that? Why do some play/bend easier than others when the scale lengths and everything else is the same? Why do some guitars have that nice full woody tone while others sound thin and plasticy? What woods should I want for the top and sides?

Let's just put it this way: I know electrics. I do not at all know acoustics. Help!

Lawn Jockey

What is your budget?

What style of music.....strumming, fingerstyle, both?

What scale length?

Do you want all solid woods or is laminated back & sides OK?

McPherson. I have a bunch of really fine electric and acoustic guitars. If you are an accomplished as well as an experienced player, the McPherson is the holly grail.


...So what should I be looking for, brand and characteristics-wise?...
There are so many possible variables here that the more you can tell us, the better the likelyhood that our recommendations will fit your needs. Lawn Jockey's questions were good, and here are a few more:
1. Have a price bracket in mind? That makes ton of difference.
2. Are you open to buying a used guitar, or do you prefer a new one. Buying used can extend your buying power a great deal. It's not uncommon to be able to pick up a practically new, used guitar for around $1,000 that originally sold for several hundred dollars more.
3. Have you tried enough acoustic guitar body shapes and sizes to have a preference? How 'bout string spacing at the saddle and nut?
4. Do you require a factory pickup system, or would you add that later?
5. What will be your playing environment? Some woods seem to "cut through the mix" a bit better than others.

TGP is a great place for electrics, with a secondary emphasis on acoustics. The Acoustic Guitar Forum is pretty much the opposite. Good folks over there, too!



You need to play a bunch and find one that works for you. Martins, Taylors and Gibsons all have their unique characteristics and tonal signatures. Find the one that you like the best and go for it.

Playability is a function of many factors, including scale length, string height, string gauge, type of string. So yes, identical guitars can play and sound completely differently.


I would say put your money into the wood - not onboard electronics. Ya can always add that stuff later.

Other than that - if ya want a guitar with a low action and light guage strings buy a newer instrument. Many older guitars, especally the big boxes, tend to sport heavier tops and bracing and need the higher action and heavier guage strings to drive the top to get the best out of them.


OK... since you want a guitar that is going to stay in the family for a while, you'll be looking at $2000-3000 or more in price and solid woods.

Just like electrics, acoustics come in a variety of categories. There are guitars built by individual luthiers - Olson, Charis, Greenfield; built in small shops (under say 500 guitars a year) - Lowden, Goodall, Huss and Dalton, Collings, SCGC; and factory guitars (who often build 1000's a year) - Taylor, Gibson, & Martin. In each category there are a variety of quality levels and price points and many more examples than I gave.

IMHO, you get the most bang for your buck in the small shop guitars. You get a little of the economy of scale that the factory guitars have while retaining much of the personal touch that the individual builders supply. Many of those guitars are amazing in build quality, choice of materials, and sound quality. It is almost impossible to find a dog from the quality small shop companies. You may not care for a certain signature sound, but the guitars will still be very well built and do what they were designed to do. The best of the factory companies build some great guitars, some mediochre ones, and some dogs.

While different woods do give different sound characteristics, that is mitigated somewhat by the designs and skills of the company. Many companies have a signature sound which you will hear regardless of the woods chosen. This is especially true in the small shop and individual builders' guitars. You will also find less variation from guitar to guitar than in the large factory guitars where there is much less attention paid to the individual pieces of wood. In those guitars, you get incredible consistency of build - the wood parts are all cut to the exact same specs - but for acoustic guitars that can allow for significant variation in sound. Two pieces of spruce may be very different in stiffness so if they are cut to the same thickness one will be much stiffer than the other and the guitar will sound different. A small shop or individual builder would adjust for that stiffness while building so one would have a thinner top than the other but the resulting sound would be very similar.

So, find a sound family that you like, a company that feels good to you and play a number of guitars until one speaks to you.

As was said, I would recommend against factory installed electronics. Those change of the years and your amplification needs may change s I think you're better off adding what you want to a guitar later in a relatively non-permanent installation - ie no big hole in the side of the guitar, something which is usually only seen in factory guitars. Small shop and individual builders will add pickups for you but rarely will they cut a hole in the side of a guitar unless that hole is a soundport.

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