When I bought my first guitar 15+ years ago, I had no idea what to buy.
Several guitar purchases later, I now have a good handle on what guitar to buy depending on your situation.
So what acoustic guitar should you buy as a beginner?
- The 1/2 Size Yamaha Classical Guitar if you’re purchasing for a child ages 6 – 9 for <$120
- The 3/4 Size Hola! Music Guitar Bundle if you’re purchasing for a child ages 10 – 12, an adult with small hands, or an adult looking for a smaller, travel guitar for <$120
- The Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar if you’re looking for an inexpensive, great sounding, full-size guitar without any accessories for <$110
- The Fender FA-125CE Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Bundle if you’re looking for an inexpensive, full-size, and highly-versatile instrument that can plug in for amplification along with all the accessories a beginner needs for <$200 (one step up from the Jasmine S35).
In the following sections, I’ll discuss the nuances of which guitars to buy as well as which guitars to buy for more advanced skill levels.
Less than Full Size Guitars for Beginners at <$150
Two of the most common reasons aspiring musicians feel intimidated by the guitar are:
- The instrument seems, big, bulky, and/or difficult to maneuver.
- The strings are difficult to press down.
These hurdles have simple solutions.
You can solve the second problem by:
- Using super-light guitar strings that are easier to press down like these
- Playing with nylon instead of steel strings which are standard on a classical guitar and many less than full size guitars like the 1/2 Size Yamaha Classical Guitar mentioned above
- Taking your guitar to a guitar shop and asking them to lower the action (reduce the distance between your strings and your fret board)
But buying less than full-size instruments comes with one major downside.
If you eventually want a full-size instrument, you’ll have to buy a new guitar.
That’s why it’s important to know that, if you’re thinking about a less than full-size guitar, you can likely buy one size guitar larger than I recommend above.
A child ages 6 – 9 can most likely play a 3/4 size guitar just fine.
And a child ages 10 – 12 can most likely play a full size guitar without a problem.
At age 12, I had no problem playing a full-size guitar.
The only reason you might want to stick with a half or 3/4 size guitar is if the individual you’re purchasing for is particularly small or you’re fine with buying a second, larger instrument when the time comes.
Full-Size Guitars for Beginners at <$200
If you’re on a tight budget and you’re only interested in purchasing a guitar (no gig bag, learning materials, etc.), the Jasmine S35 Acoustic Guitar is a great buy.
However, if you’re willing to spend $90 more, you can buy the more versatile Fender FA-125CE Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Bundle.
This guitar is more versatile because:
- You can plug the guitar into an amplifier and play live if you want.
- It comes with a strap, gig bag (a soft fabric case), strings, tuner, picks, online lesson access, and an instructional DVD
- The guitar is a “cutaway” meaning you have greater access to the fret board
I’m a big fan of electric/acoustic guitars because you never know when you might want to plug in and play for others or have an amplified sound when playing with friends.
I also like cutaways because I don’t like feeling like my access to the fret-board is limited, especially when using a capo.
Guitars for Intermediate Players at <$500
So what acoustic guitar should you buy as an intermediate or serious beginner?
- Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Bundle if you’re looking for a higher-end beginner/intermediate package for <$300 that will last you for years to come.
- Little Martin Acoustic Guitar if you’re looking to break into the Martin guitar family for <$350 by buying a less than full size guitar.
- Taylor GS Mini Mahogany GS Mini Acoustic Guitar – if you’re looking to break into the Taylor guitar family for <$500 by buying a less than full size guitar.
I’ll discuss each guitar/package in turn.
Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar Bundle
This Fender is a solid mid-range instrument that several people have reviewed very highly.
It’s an acoustic/electric meaning you can amplify it and
cutaway so you have maximum access to the upper fret board.
It also comes with:
- a hard case which is a necessity for traveling with a guitar
- a tuner, strap, strings, picks, polishing cloth, and instructional DVD
This package features a great guitar that will last a lifetime and everything else to get started as a serious beginner.
Martin LX1E Acoustic Guitar
Many consider Martin and Taylor guitar brands to make some of the highest-quality guitars available.
And while they’re typically more expensive than $500, you can get the Martin or Taylor listed above for <$500 because they are smaller instruments.
Many intermediate guitarists would love to have a Taylor or Martin but aren’t aware of models available for much less than $1,000 let alone $500.
But if you’re willing to buy a smaller instrument (as you can see from the video above), you can buy into this family of guitars for a very reasonable price.
I love Martin guitars and almost always prefer them to Taylor guitars.
I also love playing less than full-size instruments because they’re easier to play with their smaller fret boards and easier to press down strings.
Taylor GS Mini Mahogany Acoustic Guitar
Though I mentioned above I’m partial to Martin guitars, I can’t deny that Taylors have a great sound.
You can get a sense for this guitar’s sound and size in the video above.
Either the Taylor or the Martin would be great gifts the intermediate guitarist.
Guitars for Advanced Players
It’s can be challenging to buy a guitar for an advanced player.
Usually, advanced players have their eyes on a particular guitar.
They also may want to play the exact instrument they plan to purchase before they buy since higher end instruments have more variability in their sound.
So getting just any expensive guitar probably won’t be what they want.
However, with Amazon gift receipts, you can absolutely purchase a high-end guitar that they can then return/exchange for a different one if it doesn’t suit them.
I discuss some higher-end guitar options below.
Plus, it has all the features I look for in an instrument including:
- a cutaway design
- a pickup so you can plug in and play live
- and two strap buttons on the body (so you don’t have to attach the strap to the neck near the nut of the guitar which adds unnecessary strain to the neck)
It’s also a beautiful instrument with that classic Martin look.
This is an excellent full-size, performance-ready instrument and you can have it for less than $700!
Taylor 114ce 100 Series
This Taylor is a little more pricey than the above-mentioned Martin (as is often the case when comparing these brands).
And it produces an absolutely beautiful sound.
Even if this or the Martin above will always be out of your price range, try playing it at your local guitar shop if they have one.
Guitar Hybrids for Advanced Players
You still have options if you’re buying for an advanced guitarist or are an advanced guitarist yourself.
Guitar hybrids are great purchase options for advanced guitarists that don’t require breaking the bank.
What are guitar hybrids?
Guitar hybrids are instruments tuned the same or similarly to the standard tuning of a guitar but have one or more features of another instrument.
For instance, guitar hybrids include:
- the banjo-guitar which has the body of a banjo but the tuning and number of strings of a guitar
- the guitar-ukulele which has the body of a ukulele but six strings like a guitar and is tuned like a guitar but up a 4th (as if you were to capo the guitar on the 5th fret) to ADGCEA
- the mandolin-guitar which has the body of a mandolin but six strings like a guitar tuned like a guitar but one octave higher
These are great purchases for advanced players because these instruments give them a new sound with the same familiar guitar fret board.
Plus, they aren’t as expensive as high-end guitars and many advanced guitarist don’t already have a guitar hybrid.
If you’d like to learn more about these instruments, I discuss them in my article about guitar-like instruments.
How much should I spend on my first guitar? If you’re a true beginner who’s not sure about your commitment to the guitar, expect to spend at least $100 to get a decent guitar that plays well. Guitars for intermediate players are typically between $200 and $500 and guitars for advanced players are usually $500-$1000+.
How can I make my acoustic guitar sound better? You can:
- Take your guitar to a guitar shop and have them lower the action and make any other recommended adjustments. You can also just ask for a “set up” or them to do a standard set up of your guitar. This simply means making recommended adjustments and insuring the instrument plays the way you want it to.
- Use high quality guitar strings. My favorite are elixirs like these.