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Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide

The tone of an acoustic guitar is produced by the vibration of the strings, which is amplified by the body of the guitar, which acts as a resonating chamber.

Guitar Diagram

Things to consider when buying a guitar

Budget & Goals-How much do I have to spend/save?                                                                                                                   -

What will I be using the guitar for? – Fun, live performances or recording.                                  

What’s my style of playing? – Heavy or light strummer, fingerpicker, blues, or folk.

Assess Guitar for  -Cracks, dents & bridge separation.                                                                                                                                                -Neck relief.                                                                                                                                                                              -Fret board, do frets stickout or overhang?                                                                                                                                      -“Action”-i.e. is the space between strings and fret board either too low or too high.

                               -Neck size, the thicker your fingers then the wider the neck.

                               -Does the guitar stay in tune?

                              - Intonation – refers to how well the guitar stays in tune between the 1st and 12th frets.


Which acoustic guitar body style? Classic, Dreadnought or JumboGuitar Body Styles

Tonewoods – The wood used for the top of a guitar is either laminated veneer top, which is several woods glued together (usually cheaper guitars), or solid top which is constructed out of a solid piece of wood. This type of top is going to resonate better and is more expensive.

  • Sitka Spruce – allows guitar player the ability to strum very hard, thus being played louder.
  • Engelmann Spruce – when played at softer volumes, the tone will be much richer and clearer than that of Sitka Spruce, this example is from.
  • Western Red Cedar – will mature quicker than spruce. Tonally red cedar has warmer, darker tones and a good bass response.
  • Redwood – although similar to western red cedar, it tends toward a more darker sound. Some say that redwood is a bit comparable to spruce in that it has a bit more of a crisp, bolder and punchier tone than cedar.
  • Mahogany – gives a very clear sound with defined trebles and mid-range. The sound can almost be described as “woody” and “punchy”, which makes it a popular choice for many country blues fingerpickers.
  • Koa – similar to mahogany making it great for rhythm. Sounds best at louder volumes, although it doesn’t produce as much volume as spruce.
  • Bubinga is a wonderful wood in every respect. It has a bright and punchy tone. It is as hard as the rosewoods, but has a finer texture with no pores to fill. It bends easily and holds its' shape.


Back & Sides also affect the overall sound and tone of the guitar:

  • East India Rosewood – built in strong resonance & sustain.
  • Brazilian Rosewood – takes indian rosewood to another level.
  • Mahogany & Koa – not as much sustain as rosewood, but does have high reflective tonal qualities.
  • Maple & Walnut – both tonally transparent allowing the top to take over.


Necks are generally Maple (Poppy sound), Mahogany (Woody sound), or Rosewood (Fatten mid-range)


© Raymond Henderson 2012

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