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Selecting an Acoustic Guitar for Beginners

Playing the guitar is a fantastic activity for people of all ages. The beauty of playing guitar is that it’s a skill anyone can learn and enjoy for a lifetime.  It’s also something that can be done socially, or alone.

The advantage of playing an acoustic guitar versus an electric guitar lies in the simplicity. Unlike an electric guitar which requires amplification and a source of electricity, an acoustic guitar can be played just about anywhere you wish. Also, there’s just something rewarding and magical about the pure and authentic sound of a well-crafted acoustic guitar.

Breedlove has pulled together an overview of acoustic guitars for beginners or folks learning to play the acoustic guitar. We’ll examine various factors that contribute to the quality of an acoustic instrument, such as design, materials used, body shape and tonewoods – and get some feedback from a professional musician regarding what makes a good acoustic guitar for beginners. 

Read on for tips on design, build, setup, materials and even tips from session musician Andrew Wells. 

Great acoustic guitar for beginners: Design, Build, Setup and Materials

Many factors come into play when selecting a new acoustic guitar as a beginner.  The design, build, setup and materials used in the build of an instrument will highly influence its overall quality.  We will discuss some of these below.

Design: Not every guitar design is created equal. Just like any handcrafted object, the initial design has a tremendous impact on the quality of the final product. At Breedlove, our highly skilled staff and craftsmen in Bend, OR design every instrument. Additionally, even our entry-level instruments benefit from the research and development in the Breedlove shop. For instance, you'll find our Breedlove bridge truss and graduated tops in many of our beginner guitar options.

Build: The build quality and build process of an instrument have a significant influence on its playability, sound and overall quality. Every Breedlove instrument, from our entry-level Discovery series to the Exotic Series, is crafted with precision and the highest quality – assuring an enjoyable playing experience every time you pick up your Breedlove.

Setup: The setup of an instrument is a critical part of the build process of an acoustic guitar, and ensures the instrument will sound and perform perfectly. Additionally, during the setup process, a technician will establish the action of a guitar. Having the right action is necessary because instruments with higher action are very challenging to play. Breedlove instruments undergo a factory set up by our quality control team before shipping out to our dealers. Inspection involves roughly 35 different assessments

Materials: All of the materials used in the construction of an instrument, from the tuners to the tonewoods, influence the overall sound performance of the instrument. For example, quality tuners are important to keep an instrument in tune, and tonewoods are essential to creating unique tone and sound.

Tone: A good instrument has an even, balanced tone that is desirable to the player and audience. The tone is influenced by the tonewoods used in the build, the body shape and the quality of the construction.

Choosing the right tonewood and body shape for a beginner guitar

1) Tonewood: It is crucial to consider quality and type of the tonewood when buying an acoustic guitar. Take a moment to learn more about the tonewoods used to craft Breedlove instruments .

2) Body Shape: Instruments are available in a variety of body shapes. We offer instruments in the following shapes: Jumbo, Dreadnought, Auditorium, Concert and Parlor. Click here to watch a video about the different body shapes. While there is not a “go to” body shape for a beginner guitar, we recommend playing a variety of shapes and determining what feels best for you. You’ll want to consider how the instrument feels and sounds as you play it. Is it comfortable? Can you access all the strings and positions on the fretboard comfortably? Typically a smaller body shape, like our Concert or Parlor, are more comfortable for beginning players but you might find multiple body shapes that feel comfortable for you. If so, you can continue to refine your selection by identifying an instrument with the sound and tone you're wanting.

Other than the sound quality and playability, it is also very important to keep the instrument’s appearance in mind. Some players desire the natural beauty of exotic tonewoods (like the Pursuit Concert Ebony), while others are drawn to instruments with color work (such as the Pursuit Concert ABSB or the Discovery CESB). Sometimes, the vibrant colors add to the inspiration of an artist. The instrument should not only sound good, but also reflect the style of the player.

3) The Neck Profile: Breedlove guitar necks feature a slimmer neck profile, which enables comfortable play, even with smaller hands. Breedlove craftsmen often say, “No neck feels better than a Breedlove neck.” They may be a bit biased, but industry insiders agree. Having a superior neck on your instrument will make learning to play easier and more comfortable.

What are good strings for beginner guitar players?

The strings for guitar vary in thicknesses for different guitars and playing styles. The thickness of a guitar string can range from .008 to 0.56 inches. String gauge has a high impact on the playability of the instrument. There are different factors that come into play when deciding which strings to choose. The light gauge strings are usually easier to play, but the sound they produce can be less dense can also break easily – which is a consideration for beginners whom may not be experienced with tuning an instrument. Heavy strings can produce more robust sound, but can also be slightly difficult to play. They require a bit more effort and strength to play.  At Breedlove, we use D'Addario EXP 16s on many of our beginner guitars.

Tips from a professional musician

Andrew Wells grew up in Los Angeles, California and started touring internationally at the age of 15. By the age of 17, he'd ended up on sessions recording for diverse artists ranging from TLC to Demi Lovato. Not long after and with several major label tours under his belt, he was acquainted with Cody Simpson and has spent two years touring as his lead guitarist. During that time, Justin Bieber and Simpson recorded a duet album together, and Andrew was asked to play guitar alongside Bieber's longtime musical director/guitarist, Dan Kanter.  You can also find him out on the road with Jessie J.   We asked Andrew a few questions about how to pick a good beginner guitar, and these are the tips he provided:

Q. When did you learn to play the guitar, and what was your first instrument like from a playing perspective?

A. I started playing around the age of 8. My first instrument was actually a really cool candy apple red Squier with two humbuckers that I wish I still had.

Q. How does the quality of your instrument influence how you learn to play?

A. I think it makes a significant difference in how you learn to play, but quality aside, what makes the biggest influence is that it's an instrument you want to spend hours playing. It's all about what instrument makes you the most excited to make music.

Q. What is a good style or type of instrument to learn with? What attributes does that instrument have?

A. I'd recommend starting on a smaller acoustic that has relatively lower action. Starting on a larger bodied acoustic with thicker gauge strings that are an inch from the frets can be quite intimidating. Just like the last point, it has to inspire you through all of the tedious hours learning different chords, positions, etc.

Q. What advice do you have for new players who are just starting out?

A. The advice I'd give is not to give up when you're a week in and realize that you have months of your fingers hurting before you can play anything that sounds remotely listenable. I planned on quitting at that point and if I didn't have someone giving me that same advice, the entire course of my life would be radically different and a lot less fun.