Question:

I’m going to buy a guitar and I need help. What should l buy? I’m thinking acoustic, but don’t know the difference between a 6 or 12 string. What’s a good guitar for beginners?

Answer:

Yeah, once you start looking you’ll find that there are thousands of models of each kind of guitar and it gets confusing real fast.

So first, your question about 6 and 12 string guitars: On a 12 string the width of the fingerboard is slightly wider than that of a six string guitar. While it has 12 strings, it has them paired in what are referred to as courses, so the guitar has 6 courses, which are fingered the same as a standard six string (i.e. you would play the same chord on a 12 string guitar as you would on a six string, only each finger is pushing down two strings).

The paired string on the lower four courses are thinner than their mate and are tuned an octave higher (so the lowest string is tuned to E and its paired string tuned to the E an octave higher — like hitting two E notes on a piano at once). the two higher courses are tuned in unison, the same note in the same octave.

Tuning such a beast is reason enough for a beginner to steer clear when starting out. the wider fingerboard makes it harder for beginners to play. and, the sound is just not all the common in popular music. Perhaps it is better viewed as a second or third guitar purchase to broaden your tonal pallet than an instrument to learn on.

Generally, acoustic six string guitars can be divided into two categories: steel string and nylon string guitars.

Nylon string guitars, also called classical guitars, are made with a small body size that is usually more comfortable to beginners, smaller adults and younger players. however, the neck on these guitars are wider and usually chunkier (thicker), which makes the strings initially harder to reach on some chords for the beginner, particularly those with smaller hands (those who were attracted to the smaller body in the first place).

These guitars, as the name suggests, are strung with strings that are made of nylon which can be somewhat easier on the tips of tender fingers when first starting out on guitar.

While a pick can be used on this style of guitar (as willie nelson does), the guitar is designed to be played finger-style or finger picked. The majority of people who play this style guitar play classical music. it is used in popular music at times, but it is by far in the minority.

The steel string guitar is sometimes referred to the acoustic guitar, even though a nylon string classical guitar is also an acoustic guitar. While the most common steel strings are the large body dreadnaught style, they are also made in smaller (and larger) body sizes and different depths.

The steel string guitar is the most common guitar you see when someone is playing an acoustic in a band or there’s a singer/songwriter taking the stage 99.99999% of the time.

As the name implies, it has steel strings but that shouldn’t be too much of a deterrent to a beginner. With the use of light or extra light strings and proper technique it shouldn’t be any rougher on the beginner’s fingers than a nylon string guitar.

The fingerboard is narrower than that of the nylon string classical guitar making left hand chording more comfortable to those starting out. The neck is typically thinner as well.

These guitars are made to be strummed with a pick, but can be finger picked as well (like jams Taylor so effortlessly does).

Kids and smaller adults may be more comfortable playing smaller body instruments such as Gibson’s L-00 or martin’s 00-18, or 00-28 or other’s makers copies of these designs. Ibanez and Yamaha (among other makers) also have smaller body (and thinner bodied) original designed guitars. if i were looking for a small body guitar these would be the ones i’d check out first.

There is no shortage of larger size acoustics.

For some beginners money is not an issue, but for the majority of us it is. And it really doesn’t make sense to put a lot of money into an instrument until you’re sure you’re going to keep it up, at which point you may want to upgrade. but…

Less expensive instruments often lack inspiring tone. When you get the fingering right and strum a chord, you should be rewarded with pleasing sound. And while some cheaper guitars are constructed to last a lifetime, they may be difficult to play. therefore sticking with name brands that have built their reputation on quality products throughout the price spectrum maybe be the better value than a highly discounted off brand offering from a department store such as…well, you know.

If you can afford it, get a guitar with a solid top. All the better guitars have them for a reason. The strings of the guitar are not really what you hear when you’re listening to a guitar: it is the vibration of the top (the face or soundboard) of the guitar. The strings are what sets the top into vibration. a solid top vibrates more freely than a laminate (which is actually a fancy name for plywood). Solid wood top guitars also age naturally and sound better (and better) with time.

Many guitars, even lower priced student model are now offered with electronics, so they have the ability to be plugged in an amplified (and still sound acoustic). This certainly has appeal, and plugging in may keep the fun factor running high so the interest in guitar is less likely to fade.

And, if you’re an aspiring songwriter who’s thinking of performing your songs at a coffee house, or looking to start a band, electronics are almost a necessity.

But keep in mind that electronics can be added to any acoustic, and the quality of aftermarket electronic can exceed those used as standa
rd equipment.

So, the choice may be: do i want have electronics included in my budget? or do i want the best acoustic i can by in my budget and add the electronics later?

That’s a hard choice.

So, that probably more than you wanted to know, but making an informed choice could more likely lead to an instrument and an endeavor that will give you a lifetime of pleasure.

Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and L2Pnet.com.

Originally posted 2010-08-15 16:38:52.