Ok, so you love the sound of an acoustic guitar? Great! In this section of our Buyer's Guide, we're going to show you some of the different shapes, sizes and types so you can buy the best acoustic guitar for you.
A question we get asked time and time again is 'what's the difference between an acoustic guitar and a classical guitar?'. And, it's a good question, as technically they are both acoustic instruments. However, there are a couple of fundamental differences which you should know about as it could influence your instrument of choice. So, let's start by talking about the differences between these two types.
One of the main differences is that Classical guitars use Nylon plastic strings (the thickest three are just wrapped in silver), where as acoustic guitars use steel metal strings (top four are wrapped in bronze). Classical's sounds soft & smooth, this can be heard in Spanish and classical guitar music. Steel strings are much brighter, louder and are much more modern. Classical's are much easier on the fingers for beginners so we would recommend this type to children. The steel-strung type much more popular and 'in fashion'.
Keep reading below to see classical & steel guitars in more depth.
Like we mentioned above, this type of guitar has Nylon plastic strings and thus has a very mellow sound. It's easy on the fingers and is generally used for playing classical guitar music without the use of a plectrum. The fingerboard on this type of guitar is also quite a bit wider than on a steel strung which makes them great for fingerpicking styles.
For children aged 8-11, we would recommend a 3/4 size package
as they are easy on the fingers which makes it easier for them to learn. The fretboard is not as wide as a traditional classical and they include all the necessary equipment ready to play right out of the box. A lot of guitar teachers recommend these for their students. For people aged 11 and over we would recommend a full-size version.
So why should you buy a classical guitar? Well, if you are buying for a child that's just starting then this is a great option. Or, if you are into Spanish or Classical guitar music then this would be the type to go for. If you want to play modern chart style music then we would recommend a steel-strung acoustic guitar instead.
So, now we enter the realm of the Steel String acoustic guitar. We start with one of the most classic, recognisable shapes, the Dreadnought. This is often referred to as the Country & Western guitar, a classic American acoustic guitar that is widely used in the USA.
With a deep body, square shoulders and fat hips, they have quite a large shape. The size can sometimes make it hard to get to grips with for beginners, younger players or smaller players. However, with a big size, comes a big sound and they have a very balanced, fantastic tone that you can only get with this size of guitar or bigger.
Why should you buy a Dreadnought? If you want a big sound with plenty of life and character and don't mind the instrument being big then this would be a great choice. These guitars are also a number one choice for recording as they allow a very full, well-balanced sound. Or simply, if you love Country music or American acoustic music and want to keep it authentic then go for this type.
Some artists that use this type of guitar are: The Eagles, Coldplay, McFly
Jumbo acoustics are exactly that, Jumbo! If you think bigger is better in terms of sound and size then this could be the guitar for you as they don't get bigger than this! They make great recording guitars and provide a rich sonic tapestry for a solo artist who is looking to fill a room. For the average Joe, they may be just too cumbersome to lug around and to play on, but that may be worth it for the sound and they are a big statement on any stage. Some of the most popular brands for Jumbos are Gretsch. With stunning detailing and slick looks, you can see why these have such a presence about them.
View Jumbo Guitar Department
Folk guitars, the guitar of the moment, the singer songwriter's best friend! This type of acoustic guitar is smaller than a dreadnought and is much easier to hold and play. The ideal shape for smaller players, younger players or beginners over 11 years old. They're not as deep and as boxy so they're very comfortable to play.
The Folk shape guitar is very popular at the moment. A very large percentage of acoustic players, famous or not, use this type. Firstly they look much cooler on stage and they're just a bit more modern and up-to-date than a dreadnought.
One of our most popular models, pictured below, is the PRS SE T50. A simple straight forward folk guitar that's easy to play and comfortable to hold. A fantastic choice for your first acoustic guitar. Some brands we offer are Martin & Tanglewood.
Just look at anyone busking in town, playing on TV or on YouTube and nine times out of ten they'll be playing a folk guitar!
Electro-acoustic guitars are hands down the most popular, best selling acoustic guitar at the moment. They come with a built-in electronic pickup so you can plug it into an amplifier to make the sound louder. This is specifically handy for live gigs where you need to plug your guitar in to be heard over the drummer and lead guitarist!
Even if you don't have a desire to use a built-in pickup at first it can just sit there not affecting the sound of the guitar until the day comes when you may want to plug it in for a gig or to record your latest masterpiece. Most models feature a built-in tuner too which is very handy!
This type of guitar very often features a 'cutaway' body design where the underside of the guitar is cut away to make way for your hand to play the higher frets. This adds to the playing comfort and makes for a very easy going guitar that's a joy to play. It also looks pretty cool! You can see this shape in the picture below.
Very in 'fashion' at the moment, everyone is playing this style of guitar! We sell great brands such as Sigma, Fender, Tanglewood, PRS & Martin
. Click the link below to view our range.
Parlour guitars are one of the smallest shapes you'll find. Originally developed in the 19th century as a cheaper alternative due to less material being needed in the manufacturing process, these guitars quickly became popular and more accessible to players on a budget. The shorter scale-length, smaller body and rich sound makes these guitars excellent for travelling, keeping around the house and even provide a nicer playing experience for smaller players. Below is the stunning Art & Lutherie Roadhouse in Tennesse Red.
Whether you're heading on holiday, scaling the globe or just want a smaller bodied guitar, travel acoustics can be an excellent way to take music with you wherever you go. Many of these will have a much smaller body profile, come with a handy travel bag, built-in electronics and some even fold away, allowing you to take them on a plane as carry on worry-free! Tanglewood makes the stunning TW2 which is an excellent and affordable option. These guitars can also make an excellent option for younger and smaller players who want to go straight into steel-strung acoustic playing. Other guitars include Martins 00 Junior, Dreadnought Junior and the LX1. Ed Sheeran played the LX1E for many years and even had multiple signature models (pictured below).
The 12 string is an odd sight when you first see one. Massive headstock, double the amount of machine heads, strings and bridge pins. They may look like a Dreadnought on steroids but these acoustics sound rather charming and unique. Each string has another string above tuned to an octave, which gives this almost chorus-like effect. 12 strings can be heard on many iconic songs such as 'The Eagles - Hotel California', 'Tom Petty - Free Fallin' and many more. Often they have a large Dreadnought size body and will have a very similar spec. Pictured below is the Sigma DM12E+, arguably one of the best value for money 12 strings.
There are, of course, many more styles and shapes of acoustic guitar. You may come across shapes such as Jumbo, Travel or Parlour. These aren't as popular as the choices above but could be worth looking at. Click to view our entire acoustic guitar range
Below is a direct comparison between Classical and Acoustic guitars:
|Nylon - the 3 lower strings are wound with Nickel/Silver. Lower tension and much easier on the fingers but harder to tune-up as they are more elastic and take more stretching.
|Lightweight and a wider neck - good for exact finger styles, but not designed for chord strumming.
|Complex but subtle tones through lighter construction of the body. Less treble twang with a more soft and mellow sound.
|Easier for fingerpicking and classical style playing. Lower volume and sustain than steel strings make them unsuitable for strumming or rock riffs!
|Popular with Primary School children as they come in 1/2 and 3/4 sizes, very cheap models are common, but we'd recommend spending a little extra to get a good quality musical instrument, not a toy.
|Steel - higher tension, louder and a more full-bodied tone. The strings can be sore for untrained fingers but this will get easier with practice!
|Slightly heavier weight to the instrument, generally bigger-bodied, but the neck is slimmer and easier for strumming.
|Steel strings give a more rocky twang and large body gives a booming, full-bodied volume with heavy strumming.
|Harder for fingerpicking due to tough steel strings but with practice this can be overcome. Better for strumming and lower string height can make it easier for beginners to play chords.
Huge variation in styles and colours. There is a great deal of quality even in the sub £100 market, so you don't need to spend very much to get a very nice guitar!