Guitar Buying Guide

Tips and info to help you pick the right guitar

Published November 21, 2018 by Nathan H

Buying a guitar for the first time? Choosing an instrument can be intimidating, exhilarating, frightening, and wonderful all at the same time. With so many options available, it can leave you overwhelmed and content to just play the radio. You’re not alone! We’ve all been there and are here to help you navigate your way through this crazy maze and find your way to the guitar that works best for you. First, let’s go through a few basics so you can better understand the available options when browsing. Then, we’ll present some recommended models for you to consider.

Jake with a Fender
Taylor Acoustic

Common Acoustic Guitar Body Styles

Dreadnought - By far the most popular, this is the typical body style that most people picture when they think of an acoustic guitar. They have a large body with the most versatile sound. Found in nearly every genre of music, the dreadnought acoustic guitar has been a standard for a long time. A musician like Johnny Cash is pretty much synonymous with the dreadnought. Click here to shop.

Folk & Concert - These two body styles are a bit smaller than the dreadnought and are mostly used in folk, Americana, and by singer/songwriters. They are also great for smaller players who find the dreadnought to be to bulky and obtrusive. Folk and concert guitars can have a smaller sound than the dreadnought, but are generally good for fingerpicking and work higher up the neck. Artists like Paul Simon or Taylor Swift would be more likely to play one of these guitars. Click here to shop.

Parlor - Originally designed to sit in the parlor or family music room, these models have substantially smaller bodies and fewer frets. They’ll have a rich sound, but are best used as a solo instrument for songwriters, not necessarily in a band setting. Click here to shop.

12-String - A 12-string guitar basically doubles the strings to create a much larger sound. These guitars typically have a fatter neck to accommodate the extra strings and take extra strength and dexterity to hold down chords. We would not recommend these guitars for beginners, but it’s definitely one to add to the collection down the road. Click here to shop.

Classical - Also known as a nylon-string or Spanish guitar, these are not used very often in most pop/rock music. They are characterized by their delicate sound, strings (nylon as opposed to steel), and wider necks. While nylon strings can be easier on the fingertips when starting guitar, classical guitars are not built for strumming with a pick and will not achieve the expected sound you would hear on most recordings. Click here to shop.

Acoustic-Electric - This category takes one of the straight acoustic guitars we just talked about and adds in a pickup system. A pickup allows a guitar to plug directly into an amp, PA system, or recording device. If you plan to play outside of your home at all, you’ll want to invest in an acoustic-electric. Click here to shop.

Electric Guitar Basics

Body Style - Unlike their acoustic counterparts, body size and shape have little to no effect on the sound of electric guitars. You will, however, see a variety of styles and looks. Selecting a body style is largely personal preference.

Pickups - The pickups in an electric guitar are responsible for taking the sound of the strings and converting it into an electric signal, which allows it to be amplified and heard. There are many pickup styles and variations that have their own characteristics. As a beginner, though, this isn’t something you need to worry about too much, but it can differentiate models.

Amplifiers - An amplifier is an absolutely essential part of an electric guitar rig – it's the other half of the sound of an electric guitar. Depending on the model, an amp can do a variety of interesting and fun things with your sound.

Popular Models/Style - Here are a few of the most popular guitars that you'll see on our website. While there are many options available, most will follow one the following basic designs.

  • Stratocaster: This is a popular style that a lot of rock and roll musicians have played over the years, including Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Weezer. These are extremely versatile guitars and have a pickup style that suits many genres and sounds. You will see this style in Fender, Squier, and Yamaha Pacifica guitars.

  • Telecaster: These guitars are typically known as country instruments, especially traditional country, but have made their way into rock and even funk. The pickups will have a brighter, cleaner tone. Famous artists who have played Telecaster-style instruments are Merle Haggard, Bruce Springsteen, and Prince. Fender and Squier are terrific options on our site for Telecasters.

  • Revstar Loosely based off the Les Paul design, these guitars feature dual humbucker pickups which can provide a vintage and full vibe. Revstar models are very versatile guitars with an original look and incredible build quality. Read more about these unique guitars in this article.

Budget Friendly Models under $200

Yamaha FG800 Acoustic Guitar - This is our best selling guitar and for good reason. Yamaha has been perfecting this line of guitar for decades. FG800s don’t break the bank while providing you an instrument that looks and sounds phenomenal. The craftsmanship on these is what one would expect for a guitar three times its price. They’ll work great for folk, Americana, bluegrass, singer/songwriter, and classic country.

For customers with smaller hands or shorter arms, the FS800 is the corresponding guitar but with the more comfortable concert body. You won't be disappointed with these beautifully crafted guitars.

Key Points:
  • Current model of the enormously popular and celebrated FG line
  • Available in Natural and our Kraft Music exclusive Sunburst finish
  • Traditional Dreadnought body
  • Incredible sound and value
Explore our Yamaha FG800 options

Ibanez PN12E Acoustic-Electric Guitar - Ibanez does an amazing job packing a ton of value into expertly crafted instruments. The PN12E is one of the few acoustic/electric options available under $200 and is an excellent option for a first guitar, especially for folks with smaller hands or shorter arms. The parlor-style body allows for comfortable playing while adding the versatility to plug in to an external system.

Because it is so effortless to play and easy to have handy, this is a good guitar for an aspiring songwriter. Don’t worry about getting an amp right away though, it sounds wonderful on its own.

Key Points:
  • Beautiful Vintage Mahogany Sunburst finish
  • Acoustic-Electric guitar with pickups
  • Small, comfortable Parlor body
  • Perfect for songwriters
Explore our Ibanez PN12E options

Yamaha Pacifica PAC012 Electric Guitar - For a great deal with tremendous value, check out the Pacifica series starting with the PAC012. This Stratocaster-style guitar is perfect for a beginner. These guitars have many color options, are reliable and versatile, and sit at a friendly price point.

Yamaha guitars are built with rigorous attention to quality. The entire Pacifica series has been extremely popular for years, and it all starts here.

Key Points:
  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Features a vintage-style vibrato
  • Sleek and popular design
  • Quality construction, pickups, and hardware
Explore our Yamaha PAC012 options

Fender Squier Affinity Series - Sneaking in at just under $200, the Fender Squier Affinity series has both Stratocaster and Telecaster styles available. With style to spare and incredible design, these guitars deliver on every level. Over the years, Fender has made significant improvements to their Squier guitars, making them a go-to options for players at a variety of levels.

Fender has created some of the most recognizable and popular guitars. Their ingenuity knows no bounds as they provide a quality option for players at the entry level price point.

Key Points:
  • Entry point to a historic brand
  • Attractive and eye-catching finishes
  • Classic designs with easy playability
  • Versatile and ready to rock
Explore our Squier Affinity options

Don't Forget the Amp!

Blackstar FLY 3 Mini Amp - An extremely compact, yet feature-filled amplifier, the FLY 3 is an ideal companion to a first electric guitar. With tons of tone possibilities, onboard delay, and an overdrive channel, this amp also has the possibility to be used with headphones. To jam along with your favorite songs, use the MP3/LINE IN jack to connect your MP3 player, mobile device, laptop, etc. The FLY 3 mini amp starts at just $64.99.

Key Points:
  • Big tone even at lowest volume levels
  • Clean, Overdrive, and Delay options
  • MP3/Line In jack to connect to external devices
  • Battery or DC powered
Explore our Blackstar FLY 3 Mini options

Fender Champion 20 Guitar Amplifier - This amp has a classic look and plenty of power for a first practice amp. There are several effects options, an auxiliary input for those external devices, and straightforward controls. At just $99.99, the Fender Champion 20 makes any beginners dreams come true.

Key Points:
  • 20 watts of power for individual practice
  • Reverb, Delay, Tremelo, Chorus effects
  • Dial in sounds for incredible versatility
  • Classic Fender amp design with silver grill
Explore the Fender Champion 20 Amp

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