September 23, 2013 by Don Russo
Solid vs. Laminate Acoustic Guitar
There are three basic levels of acoustic guitars:
1. All Laminate: Most beginner guitars are laminate. This simply means that the body of the guitar itself is made up of all laminate wood and no solid wood. The price point is usually around $100-$300. Some reputable brands are: Ibanez, Fender, Gibson, etc. My favorite all laminate acoustic “bang for buck” guitar is Art and Luthrie.
2. Solid Top: If you get any solid wood at all, get it on the top. The top of the acoustic guitar is the most important for the sound. Solid tops sound better, and they will continue to sound better with age. The general price point for a solid top guitar is $300-500. One of my favorite solid tops is Seagull guitars. They are actually part of Godin, the same parent company as Art and Luthrie.
3. All Solid: This of course is the best option. Basically, the top, back, and sides are all made with solid wood. This creates the best possible resonation and sound. Most solid wood acoustic guitars start in the $1,000 neighborhood. There are many popular brands in this bracket such as: Martin, Taylor, and Guild. I tell most of my guitar students to go for Larrivee acoustic guitars. I’ve played a lot of guitars, but these are definitely my favorite. Their price points are much lower than their competitors.
Important Features or NOT
Pickup: If you are buying your first guitar, a pickup is not necessarily essential. I recommend that you spend more money on the guitar. You can always add a pickup later. For example, don’t waste $350 on a laminate acoustic guitar with a pickup, when you can buy a solid top guitar that sounds better, and add a pickup later.
Satin vs. Gloss: This is really more of a personal preference. I like Satin finishes, because they allow the wood to breathe a little more. The sound difference may not even be noticeable to most people. Some people prefer a shiny look. So, if that is you, go for a gloss finish.
Cutaway or No Cutaway: I teach guitar lessons and I don’t use a cutaway. I find that I can get around just fine on a regular dreadnought guitar. My thoughts are, “why would you cut away from the sound?”. Some people want to get really high up the neck for lead. I say this feature is unnecessary for your first acoustic…maybe any acoustic.
Color or no Color: NO COLOR! haha…no, but seriously. Unless you are dying to have a blue, pink or (insert color) guitar, I would strongly advise going for natural finishes. Color can actually take away from the sound quality.
Where to Buy Your Acoustic Guitar
A lot of department stores are now carrying guitars. I personally recommend going to a local music store. Stores like Sims Music will have a bigger selection, and steer you clear of any lower end models that will give you headaches. Trust me, there are some humdingers out there! I think buying local is best for guitars, because you can actually put it in your hands and play it. Not to mention, you can easily take it back for any issues or service. If you must go online, you can try places like Musician’s Friend. Some people look for bargains on trade sites like Ebay or Craig’s List. One can find great deals, but you must be more careful when buying used.
So, now you armed with more info on buying an acoustic guitar. Pick which level you want, the features you need/want, and buy it from a reputable place. Happy Playing!