What Should I Look for When Buying an Acoustic Guitar

Buying an instrument can be a quite overwhelming experience. This is especially true with acoustic guitars because there are so many different tonewoods, hardware, and designs.

With the flood of the cheap and low-quality instrument on the market today, the choice is only harder. With an electric guitar, you can always adjust the tone with effect pedals and amplifiers and mask the poor quality of the instrument.

However, when it comes to acoustic guitars, this is not the case. The quality of your acoustic guitar can make a huge difference in your playing experience.

So let’s take a look at some things you need to consider before deciding what is the best acoustic guitar for you and acquiring it.

Choose the body style first

The first thing you ought to consider is the body style of the guitar. This is in most cases done by playing a few different styles and deciding which one fits you the most. It’s an important decision so choose carefully.

The body style does affect the overall sound of the instrument, but the more important thing here is how comfortable is the guitar. You want to choose the one that fits your hand and body and your style.

Now, there are many different body styles such as jumbo, half-size, slim… The most popular style is most definitely the dreadnaught, but even the famous dreadnaught has many different variations.

Possibly the best thing to do is to visit the music store and try out a few different styles. When you put the guitar on your lap, pay attention to how it feels between your arm and body. Is it too big or too small?

Also, pay attention to how your chord hand fits around the neck. Is it comfortable? And last but not least, make sure that the body style of the guitar fits your style.

There is no wrong answer here and it’s important that you choose the body style before you move to sound.

Intonation and action

You can’t really do this when buying an instrument online, but if you are buying a guitar in a store, this is something you must check. Now, both of these can be adjusted so you don’t have to worry too much about online shopping, but this fact is extremely important if you are in a store.

You see, most of the music stores are going to set up a guitar before selling it and if they can’t get the correct intonation and action then the guitar is just not worth buying.

There are two methods for intonation checking. The first way is by playing the chord and then playing the same chord 12 frets higher but without a barre. Both chords should sound exactly the same. If this is the case the intonation is good.

The second method is the harmonics method. You simply play an open string and then you play a 12th-fret harmonic. If they sound identical, you’re good.

To check the action, get the guitar in your eye-level and observe the distance between the strings and fretboard. There shouldn’t be a noticeable difference between 5th and 12th fret. You can bring a ruler if you wish to be very precise but that is really not necessary.

Bring a friend to play it for you

There are two parts of the guitar sound you have to consider. There is resonation and there is projection. The resonation is something you feel when you play it. You can feel the vibration of the wood against your body. Just try out a few different guitars and you will notice the difference.

However, what most people overlook when buying a guitar is the projection. Projection is something you need to hear, you can’t feel it, and this is the reason you need to bring a friend with you.

Sit in front of a person playing the guitar and listen. See if the sound is clear when the guitar is played loudly. See if the sound is loud enough when played softly. Make sure that you like the balance of the treble and bass.

There are no wrong answers, in this case, it’s a matter of personal preferences, but it is important that you hear how your guitar will sound to others when you play it.

Final exam

You never know how long has the guitar been in the store and was it stored properly. This is why you must inspect it very carefully.

First of all, check if there are any cracks or splits. Inspect every inch of the guitar and make sure that there is no such thing. Even the tiniest hairline crack can indicate that there is some bigger problem with your guitar.

Check for the rising or sinking top of the guitar. This can indicate that the guitar hasn’t been stored properly.

Check the joint between body and neck. The joint must be perfect and there shouldn’t be any gap between the body and the heel of the neck. The gap is an indicator of a poor-quality joint connection.

Consider an electro-acoustic guitar

Electro-acoustic guitars are becoming quite popular lately. If you intend to play live in front of a larger audience, this might be an excellent choice.

These guitars are acoustic guitars equipped with a pickup and a preamp. This allows you to plug into an amp or a sound system while keeping the rich acoustic sound. You can still use it as a normal acoustic guitar but it’s not a bad idea to have an option of going electric.


If you follow these tips you should be able to buy your next guitar with confidence even if that’s your first guitar. The guitar is not something you buy every day so be careful and choose wisely.

Buy the guitar that suits your style, is not damaged, and sounds the way you want it. It’s also not a bad idea to stretch a budget a bit if you can and get a top quality instrument.