Choosing an acoustic guitar might seem like an easy task, right? There can’t be too many things to look out for, as it is with electric guitars for that matter. No Tune-o-Matic bridges, Floyd roses, single pickups, and active humbuckers. Just the guitar and you. It couldn’t be simpler!
You’ll realize that you are mistaken immediately after you go inside the guitar store or land on a guitar website. There will be too many to choose from, and for the untrained eye, they’ll seem the same. So, before you’ll get overwhelmed with the choice and end up buying a high-end guitar for $3000 or a violin, let us show you a brave new world of intermediate acoustic guitars.
Before diving into the ins-and-outs of acoustic guitars, you need to decide what the guitar will be used for and what style you are looking for. Is it for playing at home, gigs performances, or even a studio recording? What style do you play? Is it classic, folk, jazz, blues, pop, or rock genre? Yes, you can do it all with an intermediate guitar. If you are looking for playing at home and play classic and folk, focus on acoustic and most classical models. Though if you intend to perform, and are into pop and blues, acoustic/electric might be a better choice.
After choosing what you need to guitar for, it’s time to dive into details. Most importantly, remember that you are looking for an intermediate guitar. This means better tonewood, quality strings, maybe a different shape, style, size, and volume characteristics. It shouldn’t be cheap, but also not crazy pricy. Here is what you should look for.
Before anything, decide if you want the guitar to be purely acoustic or acoustic/electric. Traditional acoustic guitars are what they are: tonewoods, strings, frets, and your technique. For beginners or those who intend to only play at home, look no further. However, if you plan to perform on stage, or want to record yourself, you need an acoustic-electric guitar. These guitars come with build-in pickup and preamps and can be connected to the amplifier. Pretty much every acoustic guitar type has an acoustic-electric version.
First up, is what guitar style you want. And yes, it depends on the strings. The thing is, on acoustic guitars, strings are unchangeable. Thus, you cannot put nylon strings instead of steel. Nylon strings have a softer touch and sound. Mostly used for classic or folk genres (like Spanish // flamenco). Steel strings have brighter, bolder, crisper sound and suitable for blues, jazz, rock, and most other genres. I usually prefer steel strings for intermediate and advanced guitars, though it totally depends on your style of play.
As an intermediate player, you should pay greater attention to the tonewood because it has the ultimate effect on the produced sound. Guitars are typically made of 2 types of wood with different choices for soundboards, tops, backs, necks, and sides.
Thus, Spruce – the standard acoustic tonewood for soundboards – gives the guitars a well-balanced tone, sound range, and articulation. With aging, it develops bright, warm undertones. Lightly softer Cedar is another common soundboard wood with greater responsiveness and produces a mellow yet complex warm sound. Mahogany is used for almost every guitar part, though mahogany necks and bridges are most popular. Mid-range tones are more vibrant and natural, with deep lows and warm highs. Rosewood is a popular choice for fingerboard and necks, gives richness to the undertones and articulation to the lower notes. While transparent Maple gives less of the tone on its own. Yet, when used in pair with Spruce or Cedar, it adds clarity and brightness to the resulting sound. A great choice for bands and gigs performances.
The price of the guitars comes from the used tonewoods, guitar style (if it’s acoustic/electric its price is obviously higher), craftsmanship, and, of course, the brand. I’d say for intermediate guitars say you should aim at roughly $500-$1000. Choose premium woods (Spruce, Rosewood, Mahogany) and check if there any handcraft involved (it usually makes it sound better). And bear in mind, the guitar shouldn’t be too pricy to sound great. Chances are, there is a great sounding guitar for just $400, so always try it out.
When looking at intermediate guitars, I’d recommend looking at the overall leaders of the market. You are looking for quality tonewood and craft. The giant and titan of acoustic guitars – Martin – is one of the most prominent and respected brands. Many know them as creators of dreadnought body style, and producers of high-quality and premium acoustic guitars. However, they have more affordable options yet exceptional options. Another great brand Taylor has a vast range of quality modern acoustic & acoustic/electric options. Guitars may lean closer to the pricy side (still within $1000), but their quality is worth every dime. Canadian Seagull not only creates great quality instruments. Most of their guitars are handmade (beginner and intermediate guitars included). Besides, they are also environmentally friendly brands (isn’t it nice of them). All of the wood is sourced from sustainable sources, and produced entirely on sustainable energy. Electric guitars giants Gibson and their subsidiary Epiphone also produce exceptional acoustic guitars for any pocket.