How to choose an acoustic guitar

So your child has an interest in learning guitar. He states that he wants to learn acoustic, so he can play like Passenger. Maybe jump on a tram to busk when he's good. 

The question I often get asked as a guitar teacher is: what do I look for in an acoustic guitar? 

I started playing when I was 11, and started on a guitar way too big for me. 

Below are some tips that have served me well in my 10 years of performance experience:

1. Size

A topical debate lies on whether to be a 1/2 size, 3/4 size or full size acoustic guitar. 

A great measurement scale is found on the website - Artist Guitars. For reference:

- 5-8 years old - 1/2 size guitar

- 8-12 years old - 3/4 size guitar 

- 12+ years old - full size guitar

If your child is between the ages of 10-12, and has around a year of guitar experience under his belt, it is advised to get a full size guitar. This will help him develop his dexterity at a quicker rate, thereby accelerating his musical growth. In my case, although it was too big, it drove me to learn quicker and reach notes in places only my friends could dream of. 

2. Scale

The scale length of the guitar is the distance between the nut and the bridge of the guitar. By measuring this, you will measure the part of the string that vibrates when plucked. 

Full Size guitar: 24.75" or 25.5" 

3/4 size guitar: 22.75" 

1/2 size: 20.5"

Again, my personal choice here is the full size guitar, as the further the distance the string can vibrate, the better the tone and sound projection. Other things you may consider is how thick the body is, and where your child rests his/her arm. Too big a body may result in a strained right hand. 

3. Strings

Perhaps one of the most important factors in choosing a guitar, strings can determine the tone your child wishes to make with his guitar, as well as playability, feel and comfort. For absolute beginners, it is recommended to start with nylon stringed guitars, particularly with ages 5-8. For those more advanced in their musical journey, particularly for ages 8-12, it is generally acceptable to graduate to guitars with acoustic steel strings.

Some initial discomforts your child may experience with acoustic strings are: 

- Blisters and sore fingers. It is important to commence practices with hand exercises and continue with hand exercises should you encounter any difficulty playing. Learning guitar is not a race, and advise your child to stop and take a break if necessary. 

- Sweaty palms, which lead to greasy strings and easier corrosion of strings. Advise your child to wash their hands before practice if they have touched food, and during practice if they sweat.

4. Output jack

Having an output jack that connects the acoustic guitar to an external amplifier / speaker provides the student with many performance options, such as busking, gigging or practice with a band. It is not compulsory, and if an acoustic guitar is purchased without an output jack, it can save quite a bit of money. 

My personal choice: find one that has an output jack, and plug in! 

Final Recommendations: Value For Money 

If after reading this, you have felt compelled to buy a full size, acoustic guitar that can plug in to an external speaker, it is best to budget ~$150-300 before purchase. Good guitar brands for this price range include: Sigma, Fender, Epiphone and Yamaha. 

My current acoustic guitar is a Fender CD100ce. It fits all the above requirements, and also contains a built-in tuner and equaliser within the guitar. A guitar like this is priced at~$280.  

Where to buy acoustic guitars in Melbourne (surprise locations): 

- Cash Converters - you'll be surprised at the value of guitars in this shop.

- Join Facebook groups such as GEAR TRADE AND SELL - Sound System Studios, or Buy, Sell and Swap Guitars. There are some crazy second-hand deals on these groups - just post an ad. I have bought deals from these groups before, and the gear has always been to an exceptional standard. Just ensure you pay by cash in-person. 

What are you considering to buy for your child learning guitar? Do you have any questions relating to guitar anatomy? Feel free to leave a comment below, and we will write back to you.