What Makes a Good Guitar – An Ultimate Guide

What makes a good guitar? When you’re buying a guitar there are lots of things you want to look for that’ll tell you if it is a good guitar. You want to make sure you’re getting a good guitar that is perfect for you. It can be overwhelming trying to find one that is good quality, is a good cost, and has a good tone.

We’re here to help you learn what those things are and find a good quality guitar that is best for you. Lots of people ask things like, What type of wood produces the best tone, or Is there special hardware I need to get for my electric guitar, or even How do I know when a guitar is priced so high to the point where I am being ripped off? All of these questions will be answered below as we explore what makes a good guitar.

What Makes a Good Guitar and What Should You Look For?

Tone – Type of Wood

The most common wood for guitars to be made out of is spruce. It is good quality and produces a great sound. Two other popular woods used to make middle end guitars are ash and mahogany both which make a similar sound to spruce.  But if you would prefer something a little more high end you can look into maple and rosewood which have a difference in tone.

Now these are just ones that produce a good sound. The most important thing you want is for the wood to be durable. One of the most durable woods that guitars are made out of is mahogany. You also want it not to be super heavy. The lightest wood is basswood, but because of its abundance it can be found for cheap.

In the end, the best wood for guitars is spruce. One thing that is important as well is that for the top, solid wood provides a rich sound which is why it is used more often than laminate.

 

Cost

The best quality acoustic guitars can cost from between 300 – 800 dollars, with an average of 500 dollars. Electric guitars on the other hand cost from between 150 – 500 dollars with an average of 300 dollars. Smaller guitars, including ones made for kids, can be priced from 75 dollars to 200 dollars.

Starter kits that come with the guitars and accessories have a price range of about 100 dollars to 500 dollars. These are some of the most reasonable prices for acoustic guitars and electric guitars, but if you have the money, you can get the highest quality guitars for over 1,000 dollars!

While you can buy them at any price point, it might not be wise to buy a cheap guitar that does not sound as good, and will not last. Instead you should just spend a little more and buy a good quality guitar that will last you. 

 

Strings

Although there are only two types of strings, it is very important to get high quality ones. While nylon strings are softer on the fingers and easier for beginners, as they are supposed to be easier to play, they are only good for certain genres.

You can get a guitar that has nylon strings and eventually switch them for steel strings but some guitars aren’t made for the strings to be switched interchangeably. And since steel strings will make a louder, harder sound. So it might be easier to get a guitar with steel strings and stick with them from the beginning. Or you can just stick with nylon and switch them after you get used to playing. It’s all up to you.  

String Gauge 

The gauge (size of the string) of the strings is something that makes a good guitar. For acoustic guitars that have smaller bodies it’s recommended to use a lighter gauge. A lighter gauge should also be used for those who like to fingerpick and bend the strings frequently. 

For a larger body guitar, then heavier gauges are recommended as those guitars are able to sustain heavy strumming. 

 

Neck

The neck is as important to a guitar is it is to a human body. The neck helps give guitar that recognizable sound and helps guitar players control that same sound. Electric guitars usually have a neck width of a little smaller than 1.7 inches (4.3 cm). Acoustic guitars have a neck width of between 1.7 and 2 inches (4.3 to 5 cm) wide.

A smaller neck makes it easier to play fast and make chord changes but makes it harder to avoid unintentionally muting strings. Most guitar necks also have a truss rod in them to help lessen or greaten the string tension, which can be located in the sound hole and adjusted with an Allen key.

 

Hardware

Whether you’re getting an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar, you want the hardware to be good quality. Hardware such as pickups, wiring, volume controls, and more need to be in great condition in order to produce the perfect sound. Some people might think that they need special hardware for their guitars to produce the best sound, but truthfully, just simple pickups and other hardware will make a great sound. 

The great thing about the hardware on an electric guitar is that you can make modifications. More often than not the hardware on a guitar is something that is upgraded to enhance the sound and therefore increasing the way your guitar sounds. 

Hardware you can update:

  • Tuner knobs
  • The Nut
  • Electronics
  • Pickups 
  • Bridge 

Now upgrading the hardware can get pricey so it’s best to do your research. One site that has been a go to of mine for a while is Guitar Fetish. They offer some good quality products at some very reasonable and affordable prices. 

 

Fret Buzzing 

Although it can be fixed, fret buzzing can totally throw off the sound a guitar produces. It is caused when the frets are uneven, there is excessively low string action, and when the neck is back bowed. The action on a guitar is the distance between the fretboard and the string. This will determine how much pressure you will need to put on the strings when playing. 

The action on a guitar is measured at the 12th fret. On an electric guitar, it should be around 1.6mm from the high E string and 2.44mm on the low E.  For an acoustic guitar, it should be around 2.0mm on the high E string and 2.8mm on the low E string. This will give you a clearer tone and allows you to strum chords without creating a buzz. 

If the action is high then the way to fix this is by loosening the truss rod. The truss rod is a steel bar or rod that runs inside the neck. You can adjust this with an Allen wrench. This will then allow your guitar’s action to be at the appropriate height.   

 

Intonation or Tuning

Another thing you want is a guitar that is easy to tune and will stay in tune. If you don’t have a tuner, there are apps to help with that, or you can have someone else tune it for you. You want the sound to be good and often guitars can get out of tune faster if you play them a lot, so it’s a good idea to tune them at least one every month. 

 

Size 

Size is another important thing. You don’t want a guitar that’s so big so it  looks like a cello next to you, but you don’t want one that’s so small to the point where it looks like a ukulele. Usually acoustic guitars are around 38 inches (96.5cm) long and electric guitars are around 36 inches (91.4 cm).  Guitars will also tend to way around 8 – 11 pounds. There are also smaller guitars made for kids and smaller adults.

They include:

¼ – These guitars are good for ages 2 to 5 and have a height range of 29 inches to 39 inches (75 to 100 cm).

½ – These guitars are good for ages 5 to 8 and can have heights from 39 inches to 49 inches (100 to 125 cm).

¾ – These guitars have a height range of 49 to 65 inches (125 to 165 cm, and are good for ages 8 to 12 years.

Full Size – These guitars are for ages 12 and up and can be 65 inches (165 cm) or taller.

 

Different Types of Acoustic Guitars

 

Now we are going to talk about different types of acoustic guitars. Though there are many different cuts, styles, and tones of acoustic guitars, we have narrowed it down to the three main ones. It should also be noted that the below applies to acoustic-electric guitars as well. 

Classical GuitarThis guitar is quite popular among beginners and those who use fingerpicking a lot. It allows you to play almost any tune with a balanced sound.

DreadnoughtThough in a sense it is similar to the classical guitar, the dreadnought produces a bigger sound making it better for rock music and performances.

JumboThis is a mix of the two above. It has a big sound and looks like a classical guitar making it a mix from both worlds.

 

Different Types of Electric Guitars

 

There are lots of different types of electric guitars as well. With different shapes, tones, and styles, some of the most well known and best selling include:

Stratocaster A Stratocaster is a double-cutaway guitar that has an extended top “horn” shape for balance. 

TelecasterA telecaster is a solid-body electric guitar with a flat asymmetric single-cutaway body that usually has two single coil pickups. 

Les PaulA Les Paul has a solid mahogany body with a carved maple top and a single cutaway, and two pickups with volume and tone controls, but other variations do exist.

SGA SG has a solid mahogany body with a rosewood fretboard with a double cutaway at the top. 

 

Other Things To Keep In Consideration

You want to know what type of music you will be playing before you purchase a guitar because there are different materials, designs, and tones that are better for a certain genre than others. You also should keep in mind that the best way to shop for guitar is in person. This gives you a chance to see if it is the right size for you, pick a good design and most importantly, check the playability.

Your Style of Play 

Your style of play is another intangible factor. If you have a heavy strumming hand or enjoy a heavier style of music then guitars that are better for higher gauged strings would be more ideal for you. If your style of play is softer and lighter then a guitar that is better suited for that style of music and has an optimal sound with lighter gauge strings then that is something to consider. 

Comfortability 

Another aspect for what makes a good guitar is something of a more personal note and that is comfortability. You’ll know the right guitar for you when you look at it and when you start getting comfortable with it you will create a relationship with it. As crazy as that sounds, that is the truth and what I have found with my guitars.

I know them so well and they know me. Once you’re comfortable with the guitar then you will feel confident in your playing. You will know what your guitar can handle and what it cannot. 

You will see some guitarists or musicians who have just used one (or not many) guitars during their career. One of the reasons is they are comfortable with the guitar and it makes them feel at ease while playing. 

 

What Makes a Good Guitar Conclusion 

In the end, there are a lot of things that make a good guitar. We hope we were able to pin point what you should exactly look for. Now that we’ve talked about size and cost, strings and neck, you can go get the guitar that is meant for you. Whether you’re a full time player, or are wanting to play a guitar just for fun, this should help you find a guitar that is just right for you. We hope you enjoyed our guide to what makes a good guitar. It’s a fun, exciting, and fuels one creativity.  

 

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