A friend just asked me for a suggestion about what to look for in a cheap acoustic guitar under $300 — a starter guitar for a beginner. My first thought was “boy, it’s tough to get anything decent at that price point” but after doing some digging I did think of a few things to recommend. So I thought I’d share.
Used Guitars Sound Better Than New
Generally speaking, of course, but to my ears new guitars alway sound so bland — it just doesn’t have any character to the tone. I’ll leave detailed explanation of how wood has to mature and settle to experts, but I just think you’ll get a better value all around in a guitar by shopping used. It’s tough, of course, when you don’t know anything about guitars and don’t know what to look for — but find someone who does and have him shop for a decent used instrument.
The Canadian-made Seagull guitars have been around for a few decades and have built a very solid reputation for making high-value, affordable instruments. I have never owned them but have heard and played a few and so far my experience has been consistent with the word on the streets.
Taylor Big Baby
Once I had a friend, a good guitar player, tell me that he walked into a Guitar Center with cash in his hand and demanded that they bring out every Big Baby they have in stock, and he’ll buy the best one. He played them all and picked one, and by golly I thought it sounded amazing. A new Big Baby is more costly than $300 but a used one can be had for that.
Old Japanese-Made Guitars
I may be biased 😉 but you can find some gems among guitars that are made in Japan. Aria is one brand that come to mind, but there are others. I’m not talking about Japanese brand names, real “Made in Japan” guitars, back from the days when Japan used to be what China, Malaysia and Philippines are today. Another acquaintance of mine had picked up an old Aria classical guitar for $100 at a garage sale and he said it was the best $100 he ever spent. I tried it and I agreed, it was a nice guitar.
Enjoy the Hunt!
I’m turned on by the idea of finding deals and great values, so once I got into the thought of finding the best bang-for-buck cheap acoustic guitar I had some fun thinking of ideas. The fun part of shopping, to me, is always the initial research and fantasizing — because anything is possible then. Enjoy the search, and if you come across other brands/tips to look for in a cheap guitar, please do share in the comments below.
(Photo credits: Seagull – Jason OX4 Taylor – Martin Cathrae )