Opting for the right guitar often comes as an exciting but daunting task. With so many relevant factors, potential buyers are often baffled and have a wide array of questions;
the list goes on and on…
First things first – you typically have to choose between an electric and an acoustic guitar.
Acoustic guitars are the ones requiring no amplification as they feature a sound hole providing enough acoustics for the sound to resonate on it’s own. Like electric guitars they have steel strings but are usually thicker in gauge and more suited to strumming and or fingerpicking.
Electric guitars require amplification and therefore require a guitar amplifier. Although they are capable of producing sound when unplugged, the sound is not nearly as audible as an acoustic guitar. You can also buy an acoustic guitar with it’s own set of electronics, allowing you to plug it into various amps and sound systems. You often see these guitars on the concert stage as they are able to produce an “acoustic sound” at a higher volume.
Nylon String Guitars
Nylon string guitars are good option for beginners as the strings are not as hard on the fingers as steel string guitars. They are traditionally used in the classical and Spanish music and also ome in 3/4 and 1/2 sizes which are great for kids. The neck spacing is wider on a nylon string guitar so the size of your hands could influence your decision. In the end it’s a personal choice and I suggest you play a nylon string in the shop to get a gauge for how they feel and sound in your hands.
The Guitar’s Action
Choosing a guitar with a good action is probably the most important factor for anyone who plays the guitar or is buying a guitar. The action is the height the strings sit above the frets and will determine how easy or hard the guitar is to play. If the action is too high the pressure it takes for your left hand fingers to make contact with the strings will be greater, therefore making it more difficult to play. This can also lead to tuning problems when you play a chord or note. If the action is too low the strings will buzz against the frets. A good action is somewhere in between and guitars that are well made usually come set up with a playable action. You should be able to apply just enough pressure with the tip of your finger (left hand) to get a clean sounding note.
Low Versus High Action
A guitar’s action can vary in height, and its just something you need to be aware of when your buying one. You may be learning on an instrument that is not set up optimally, which makes it difficult for you to play and progress.
In the diagram below the strings are climbing in height as you go further up the neck. This can cause tuning issues as chords will not intonate correctly and sound out of tune.
If you are buying a second hand guitar, the action and the condition of the neck is something to keep in mind. Most necks on guitars have a truss rod which is hidden inside of the neck. This can be adjusted to determine the amount of bow or straightness and can also play a pivotal part in the guitars action.
A qualified guitar technician will be able to sort this out for you or accommodate an action to suit your playing style.