How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners

Who else wants to learn how to buy an acoustic guitar for beginners?

It’s no secret that learning how to buy an acoustic guitar for beginners can be confusing.

It’s hard to know where to start if you’re a complete beginner.

Plus, the worst thing would be to buy a guitar that’s not the right one for you.

Today we’ll take a look at some of the things you need to know and try to make it as easy as possible for a beginner to start playing.

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Acoustic Guitar or Classical Guitar?

A beginner may not realize that there’s a difference between an acoustic guitar and a classical guitar.

Often people ask, “Which one’s better?”

Both have benefits and tradeoffs, so it’s not a matter of one being better than the other.

It’s more of a matter of them being different.

how to buy an acoustic guitar for beginners
Image by Aracely Mitsu from Pixabay


Acoustic guitars have metal strings and classical guitars have nylon strings.

This makes a big difference for a beginner.

While classical guitar strings are easier on your fingers, you’ll never get the volume or the tone of an acoustic guitar from a classical guitar.

Additionally, playing acoustic guitar strings will build hand strength and make playing electric or classical guitar easier.

If you’re an absolute beginner, definitely consider a nylon string guitar.

It’s often a great way to get started playing since you won’t have to spend so much time building calluses and hand strength.

Plus, you can get an acoustic guitar or an electric after you’ve mastered the basics.


An acoustic guitar generally has a louder tone that’s bright and projects more volume.

Often it’s the default sound people associate when you say “acoustic guitar.”

A classical guitar has a softer tone that’s more muted and warm.

Unless you specifically have a style of guitar you want to learn to play, the choice is up to you.

Neck and Fretboard

The neck of an acoustic guitar will often have a width of about 43mm at the nut and a fretboard radius of 12 inches.

A classical guitar has a flat fretboard radius and a width of 51mm at the nut.

These measurements can vary, but it means an acoustic guitar neck feels and plays differently than a classical guitar neck.

Also, a classical guitar doesn’t have fret markers while an acoustic guitar usually has dots or inlays.

The wider, flatter neck of a classical guitar is easier to play chords on since you’ve got more room for your fingers.

If you have smaller hands, the neck and fretboard of an acoustic guitar might be more comfortable for you.

Before you buy, it would be best if you went to a guitar or music store and try both so you can see which one feels more comfortable.

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Guitar Sizes

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars come in a wide range of sizes but there are no hard and fast rules.

Each manufacturer has its own design, but generally speaking, the most popular sizes for beginners are dreadnought, parlor, and concert.

Dreadnought-sized guitars have a lot of bass and a lot of volume

But, they can be too large for beginners to play comfortably if they’re not full-grown adults.

Also, since they deliver a lot of volume, they’re not great for playing quietly in your studio apartment.

Parlor-sized guitars are smaller so they’re often easier for beginners to manage.

They’re a popular guitar for playing folk music and have a full tone with plenty of brightness and volume.

Concert-sized guitars are a good tradeoff between size and sound since they are smaller than a dreadnought but still large enough to deliver plenty of bass.

It’s definitely worth taking a trip down to the music store and trying the different sizes out to see which one is most comfortable for you.

how to buy an acoustic guitar for beginners: Classical Guitar
Image by Azad Azahari from Pixabay


Classical guitars come in a few standard sizes.

The basic sizes, from smallest to largest, are 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4.

If you’re an adult, you’ll probably be most comfortable playing a 4/4 sized classical guitar.

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Should I Get a Guitar with a Cutout?

Acoustic and classical guitars are often available with a cutout.

Cutouts allow you to reach the higher frets on the guitar more easily.

For a beginner, a cutout isn’t a “must-have” feature since most playing will be done far above the 12th fret.

Plus, some guitarists argue that a cutout changes the tone of a guitar since you’re essentially removing a chunk of the body.

Unless you really like the look or foresee playing above the 12th fret a lot in your future, a cutout probably isn’t worth it for a beginner.

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: What About Acoustic Electric Guitars?

Acoustic and classical guitars are available with different types of electronic pickup systems.

These systems allow you to plug your guitar into an amplifier the same way you would plug an electric guitar into an amplifier.

If you perform on stage, this can be a useful feature since you get a fully functional acoustic guitar that can be plugged and amplified when you’re playing on stage.

For a beginner though, it’s not a feature that they’ll usually need.

Also, in order to use the pickup system, you need an amplifier, which is an added expense.

If you’re playing at home, in a classroom, or around the campfire the natural volume of an acoustic or classical guitar should be more than adequate.

how to buy an acoustic guitar for beginners: Acoustic Guitar

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Know Your Purpose

Taking a little time and thinking about why you want to learn to play the guitar is going to help you to choose the right acoustic guitar for you.

General Learning Vs. Learning Songs

Some people only want to learn to play a few different songs on the guitar and that’s it.

You probably want something you can toss in the backseat of your car and take to the beach with you.

In this case, you’ll probably want a decent, inexpensive guitar in the $200-$300 range, or maybe even cheaper.

If you’re interested in learning about music theory and mastering all aspects of the guitar, you’ll be fine with an inexpensive guitar in the same $200-$300 range.

Keep in mind, you’ll also be looking to upgrade to a better guitar as you get better at playing.

Lessons Vs. Self Teaching

If you’re planning to take lessons, definitely ask your teacher what guitar they recommend.

They’ll be able to help you find the right guitar for the types of lessons you’re taking.

If you’re planning to learn on your own, great!

Take a minute and think about the kind of music you want to learn how to play.

This will help you decide what kind of acoustic guitar you’re going to be happiest with.

If you’re planning to play mostly folk music, you’ll most likely be happier with a parlor guitar than a classical guitar.

If you want to play classical guitar, you’re gonna struggle if you buy a dreadnought.

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Final Things to Consider

After everything is said and done, there are some important things to consider that often escapes beginners.

How it Feels in your hand

If you buy a guitar to learn how to play, but it doesn’t feel right in your hands it’ll be more difficult for you to learn.

This is a subjective thing, but some people who say they tried playing and never made any progress were simply playing the wrong guitar for them.

How it Looks

This is another subjective thing, but if you don’t like the way your guitar looks, or don’t think it looks “cool” you’ll be less inclined to learn how to play.

If you like the look of your guitar, you’re more likely to pick it and try playing it.

Price Vs. Features

Often, beginners overlook a feature in the name of price or pay more for a feature they never use.

When it comes to price, you can spend very little and get a usable guitar.

But it’s often a false economy since things like rough fret ends, improper intonation, and incorrect string height will make learning more difficult.

Plus, correcting these things often requires paying money for a guitar tech to properly set up your guitar, often wiping out the money you were trying to save.

It’s better to play a bit more for a better quality guitar that will be easy to play.

Regarding features, for a beginner, the cost of extra features often isn’t worth it.

For instance, some beginners buy an acoustic-electric guitar thinking they’ll benefit from the amplification only to realize their guitar is loud enough on its own.

This type of scenario is more common with electric guitars, but keep it in mind when choosing your guitar.

Image by antoine delahaye from Pixabay

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Conclusion / FAQ

When looking at how to buy an acoustic guitar for beginners, here’s the bottom line:

  • Think about what kind of music you want to learn to play.
  • Consider buying a classical guitar. It’s easier on your fingers and the wider fretboard will help you to finger chords properly.
  • When it comes to your budget, the difference between a $100 guitar and a $150 can be worth the extra cash.

Lastly, try to stop by a music store and try some of their guitars.

You’ll get a better idea of what guitar is best for you by experiencing them first hand.

  • How much should I spend on my first acoustic guitar?
    • Generally speaking, a budget of $200 to $300 will get you a really good acoustic guitar. If you’re not sure that you will stick with it, or just want to spend less, you can find decent acoustic guitars for as little as $100. See this postthis post, and this post for some acoustic guitar recommendations.
  • Is a more expensive guitar easier to play?
    • Not necessarily. A $300 acoustic guitar will usually have a better setup, fit, and finish than a $100 guitar simply because the manufacturer can spend more on production. A $500 that’s not properly set up will play worse than any guitar that has been set up properly.
  • What does a beginner need for acoustic guitar?
    • A guitar, a tuner and, usually, a pick. Those are the basics, but you’ll probably want to get some kind of stand or case to keep your guitar in.
  • What is the best acoustic guitar size for beginners?
    • The size that’s most comfortable for you to play. If you’re a child, a 1/2 sized classical guitar will be much better than a dreadnought guitar and vice versa for an adult.

How to Buy an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Things to Think About

What is the best acoustic guitar for a beginner?

The best acoustic guitar for a beginner will be comfortable and easy to play.

It’s also important to find the design of your acoustic guitar attractive.

Acoustic guitars come in different shapes and sizes.

Finding the right acoustic guitar will take some experimentation.

First, try a dreadnought-sized acoustic guitar.

If a dreadnought is too large and uncomfortable, try a parlor-sized guitar.

Going to a guitar store and trying out different sizes can be a big help here.

In a guitar store, you can pick up the guitar and test whether it’s a comfortable shape and size.

But remember, there’s no one “right” guitar for everybody.

There’s an acoustic guitar out there that feels perfect for you.

Once you’ve found an acoustic guitar that’s comfortable for you, it’ll be easier to focus on learning.

If the size is wrong for you, it will make learning to play more difficult.

Learning to play on the “wrong” sized guitar can still be done.

But if you can, buy a guitar you find attractive and that’s comfortable to hold.

And don’t let anyone tell you you’re buying the “wrong” acoustic guitar.

Instinct plays a big part in choosing your acoustic guitar.

If you don’t love your first guitar, you might be less inclined to play it.

Are there any disadvantages to starting with an acoustic guitar?  

The thicker strings must be the biggest “disadvantage” of starting with an acoustic guitar.  

It takes more finger and hand strength to play acoustic guitar strings compared to electric guitar strings.  

Also, acoustic guitars can’t be played very quietly.  

This can be important if you’ve got neighbors you don’t want to disturb with your practicing at 3 a.m.  

With an electric guitar, you can use headphones with an amp or even practice unplugged.  

Acoustic guitars also have a thicker body than electric guitars.  

The thick body of an acoustic guitar projects your sound.  

Some people find the depth and size of an acoustic guitar difficult to get used to.  

A large-body guitar can be difficult to learn on and make it much more difficult to stick with it.  

Playing an acoustic guitar gives you a bright and “acoustic” sound that doesn’t jive with styles like heavy metal.  

You can change your sound a bit by changing the type of strings you’re using but overall, the characteristics of an acoustic guitar’s sound can’t be adjusted in the way you can change the sound of an electric guitar.

What are the advantages of starting with an acoustic guitar?

The fact that it’s easier to play when the mood strikes you gives an acoustic guitar a big advantage.

They’re very light, which makes them easy to carry around with you.

Since you don’t need an amp to play, it’s easy to play whenever you’d like.

There’s no setup necessary, no adjustment of amp setting or pickup selection.

You can play your acoustic guitar whenever you feel inclined.

Acoustic guitars have a very consistent sound that’s used to play a wide range of music.

If you can play an acoustic guitar you can play any other type of guitar.

If you build up your hand strength on an acoustic guitar you’ll find playing electric guitar a whole lot easier on your fingers.

Without a doubt, the acoustic guitar is the most versatile type of guitar you can buy.

As a beginner, it’s a good bet that you’ll stick with learning to play your guitar if you have an acoustic guitar handy.

Plus, acoustic guitars can be your least expensive option.

With an electric guitar, you need to buy your guitar and an amplifier before you can get started.

With an acoustic guitar, you just need your guitar(and maybe a pick) and you’re all set.

Why is the size and shape of my first guitar important?

A comfortable size and shape will make it much easier for you to learn to play your acoustic guitar.  

If your first guitar is difficult to hold, it will be difficult for you to learn to play.  

It’s like learning to ride a bike on a bike that’s too big for you.

You can do it, but think about how much easier it would be to learn on a bike that’s just the right size for you.  

If you’re a normal-sized male, say over the age of 13, a dreadnought-sized guitar should be your first option.  

If it feels too big, you can try a parlor-sized guitar.  

If you’re a petite woman, start with a parlor-sized guitar.  

Manufacturers produce guitars in different sizes but dreadnought and parlor seem to be the most common sizes available.  

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking all acoustic guitars are the same.  

Smaller-sized guitars won’t have as deep a sound as larger-sized acoustic guitars.  

Often, beginners will have a specific acoustic guitar sound they’re looking for.  

If the sound they’re looking for is the sound of a dreadnought guitar, they’ll be disappointed with the sound of a parlor guitar.  

Yet another reason the size and shape of your first acoustic guitar is important: The sound and tone you’re after.  

If you’re after a certain sound, it’s easy to search for video reviews of different sizes of acoustic guitars which should help you narrow down your choices.

Is it a good idea for a beginner to buy an acoustic guitar with a cutout?  

It’s unnecessary for a beginner to need an acoustic guitar with a cutout.  

A cutout means part of the guitar’s upper bout has been “cutout” to allow easier access to the higher frets.  

It’s a popular design that’s available on many acoustic guitars.  

If you like the look, and it sounds fun to play the higher frets, by all means, go for an acoustic guitar with a cutout.  

But if you’re going to pay extra money for one with a cutout, it’s not worth it for beginners.  

By the time you reach a point where you need to play the higher frets, you’ll want an intermediate or advanced guitar. 

For a beginner, the mysteries of the higher frets won’t be relevant for a while.  

Beginners will often spend the first year learning to play on the first 5 frets.  

If you’re learning the notes on an acoustic guitar, they’re the same after the 12th fret.  

If you’re already well versed in playing the electric guitar you might prefer an acoustic guitar with a cutout.  

It’ll help you to transfer your skills over to acoustic.  

Once you’ve mastered the first 12 frets of the acoustic guitar you’ll be more than ready to figure out the frets above the 12th.  

Is it a good idea for beginners to start with an acoustic/electric guitar?  

Experimenting with features and sounds can be one of the most fun things about learning to play the acoustic guitar.  

It’s unnecessary for beginners to start with an acoustic/electric guitar.  

An acoustic/electric guitar is designed to be plugged into an amp like you would do with an electric guitar.  

It’s great for performers and professionals, but for beginners, it’s a feature they won’t use.  

If the price is the same for an acoustic/electric one, there’s no technical reason not to buy one.  

An acoustic/electric guitar works just like a regular acoustic guitar.  

Just be aware that you won’t need to plug your new guitar into an amp any time soon  

One small benefit to talk about: acoustic/electric guitars sometimes have a built-in tuner.  

This is a convenient feature, but not a reason to choose an acoustic/electric over a simple acoustic guitar.  

A beginner won’t benefit from any of the features an acoustic/electric guitar has.  

Is it a mistake to buy the cheapest acoustic guitar available?  

Even with good quality controls, it can be a false economy to buy the cheapest acoustic guitar available.  

You have many high-quality acoustic guitars available at very reasonable prices to choose from.  

The savings you’ll see by going with the very cheapest acoustic guitar may not be worth it.  

If your guitar hasn’t been properly set up or hasn’t been correctly built, you could end up spending more money getting it set up properly than you saved.  

Beginners should expect to spend at least $100 on their first acoustic guitar.  

You might be able to get away with paying less, (I own a wonderful dreadnought guitar that I got for $65!) but $100 makes a good baseline.  

Also, don’t be tempted to spend more than $300.  

For more than $300 you’ll get a guitar with a nicer finish and better wood, but you won’t get an acoustic guitar that’ll make you a better player.  

Plus, I’ve seen $300 acoustic guitars that needed more of a setup than a $100 acoustic guitar.

Will my new acoustic guitar come ready to play right out of the box?  

Once you’ve purchased your new acoustic guitar you might need accessories like a pick, strap, and extra strings.  

For the most part, you can expect your new acoustic guitar to be playable right out of the box.  

It’ll need to be tuned, but that’s about it.  

A setup might be necessary if your guitar doesn’t play correctly.  

It can be a bit expensive to get a setup done at a guitar store.  

If you purchased an acoustic guitar for $100 and a setup costs $100, you would have been better off just spending $150 on a better acoustic guitar.  

These days the high quality of lower-priced acoustic guitars means you should be able to get started playing right away.  

It’s worth it to pay a little bit more to ensure you get an acoustic guitar that’s ready right out of the box.

What can cause my new acoustic guitar to be so difficult to play?  

The action on your guitar needs to be set up correctly in order for your guitar to be easy to play.  

The action refers to the vertical distance between the strings and the fretboard.  

We’re talking millimeters above the fretboard.  

If you have a badly cut nut or the saddle isn’t set up properly, the strings will be too high or too low.  

Both cause problems that beginners may have trouble overcoming.  

If your strings are too far from your fretboard, you’ll need more force to fret notes.  

You’ll end up having to press down harder than you need to.  

If your strings are too close to your fretboard you’ll get an annoying buzzing sound called fret buzz.  

If your strings are super close to your fretboard, you may not even be able to play the higher notes on your fretboard.  

How do you know if you need to adjust your action?  

It can vary a bit, but you should be able to play chords and notes along your fretboard without too much force.  

Plus, your notes should ring out clearly.

Why is it important to build callouses on your fingers?  

It’s a necessity to have callouses on your fingers if you want to play your acoustic guitar.  

It makes it easier to play since your strings won’t dig into your fingers.  

Learning to play your acoustic guitar will be a lot easier once you’ve developed some callouses.  

After that, you just need to remember to “maintain” the callouses on your fingers.  

This just means you need to keep playing regularly or they’ll start to go away.  

Once you’ve started learning your basics, you’ll find your callouses develop pretty fast.  

So, be sure to practice every day to give your fingers a chance to develop callouses.  

It’s sort of a right of passage.  

Don’t push yourself too hard at the beginning, since you don’t want to hurt your fingers.  

Which gauge of acoustic guitar strings are best for beginners?  

Light gauge strings will be the easiest strings for beginners to learn.  

You’ve gotta give yourself time to build up hand strength.  

It’ll be easier to play if you’re not fighting your acoustic guitar strings.  

Once you’ve got some experience, you can try heavier gauge strings.  

You might find you like the sound and tone of a heavier set of strings.  

But since you’re just starting, give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.  

Most beginner acoustic guitars on the market today come strung with light gauge acoustic guitar strings.  

Chances are, you’re going to be good to go right off the bat.  

But keep in mind, people might suggest you switch to a heavier set because they have a “better” tone.  

For now, stick to light gauge strings since you don’t need to worry about how you sound yet.  

You need to focus on learning your basics.

Is it better for beginners to focus on learning the fundamentals of playing the acoustic guitar?  

You’ll always be playing your basics.  

They’re the foundation of playing your acoustic guitar.  

The basic chords never change and as time goes on you’ll build on what you’ve learned.  

New guitar players often make the mistake of ignoring the basics because they’re not “fun.”  

I made this mistake in the past and my playing suffered for it.

Instead of taking some time to learn the very basics, like the notes on the fretboard or proper playing technique, I skipped that and just focused on learning to play songs I heard on the radio.  

I don’t regret my choice, but now that I’ve taken the time to learn, and even re-learn, some of the very basics, I can see how my development was hampered.

Are hand and finger pain dangerous for beginners?  

It’s common for beginners to experience aches and sore hands and fingers.  

If you think about it, you’re building up muscles in places you may have never used a muscle before.  

It’s like learning to run or play a new sport.  

You’d be sore in strange places if you never played soccer before.  

Same thing with your hands and fingers when you start playing your guitar.  

The danger comes when you keep pushing yourself.  

If your hands hurt and you keep playing you could hurt yourself.  

If you hurt yourself, you’ll need to take time off for your hands or fingers to heal.  

Better to stop playing if your hands get too achy or sore.  

Give yourself a break.  

You may need a few minutes before you can start playing again.  

As time goes on, you’ll build strength and be able to play for longer periods of time.

Why is learning to play chords the best way for beginners to get started?  

The foundation of playing songs on the acoustic guitar is knowing your chords.  

Once you can change between chords, you’ll be able to play songs.  

If you know a handful of basic chords, you’ll be able to play those songs for the rest of your life.  

Playing rhythm guitar requires understanding chords.  

Yes, playing lead gets all of the attention, but I’ve yet to meet a lead guitar player who didn’t know all of his chords.  

Plus, once you’ve learned your basic chords, you can branch out into different styles of music.  

If you’re into rock, you can focus on learning power chords.  

Interested in playing jazz? There’s a whole set of jazz chords you can spend a lifetime mastering.  

No matter what, you’ll never regret learning chords.

What is the best strategy for beginners who want to learn to play the acoustic guitar?  

5 minutes a day is the best way to get started learning to play your acoustic guitar.  

Consistent practice is the most important part of learning to do anything new.  

This way, you’ll give yourself a chance to build hand strength, develop callouses, and master your basics.  

Once you have your basics down, it’s an excellent strategy to continue to do some basic exercises as a warm-up.  

Even after playing the guitar for decades, I still start by doing some very simple exercises to warm up my fingers.  

This ensures that my fingers stay limber, I’m able to stave off any injury, and I’ve also noticed my speed and dexterity have improved over time.  

When I didn’t do a short warm-up, I found my playing would be inconsistent and I’d often stop playing because my fretting hand would sometimes hurt, all because I didn’t warm up.