Acoustic Guitar FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

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Acoustic Guitar FAQ's

Choosing An Instrument

Why do acoustic guitar prices vary so much?

Aside from being a rather common instrument, acoustic guitars come in all sizes, configurations, and materials. There will be ones made by world-renowned luthiers that feature high-quality wood and hardware, which would fetch a good amount of money, like the phenomenal Martin D-41. And there are the cheaper ones, like the Epiphone Pro-1, which are of considerably lower quality and can be bought for basically pennies. There’s a guitar for every price point, skill, and experience level, which is why prices vary so much. 

What are cutaway and non-cutaway acoustic guitars?

Cutaway guitars feature a small notch at the underside that allow you to go to higher frets. Non-cutaway guitars don’t have that, which means it’s very difficult to reach the higher frets on them. Go for a cutaway guitar if you want to play up and down the fretboard without having to worry too much about reaching the highest notes you can get. Or if you’re a simpler guitar player who wants to stay in first-position chords (i.e. open chords) and never want to go past the fifth fret, then go for a non-cutaway guitar. 

What is a solid or laminate acoustic guitar?

Solid guitars mean that the instrument’s top and sides are made from a solid piece of tone wood. As for laminate guitars, they use a laminate of tone wood glued onto cheaper wood. This is what makes them more affordable and able to be mass produced compared to solid top guitars. Solid guitars are pricier because their construction allows for a richer, full-bodied sound that you will never get with laminate ones. Be aware of these two guitar types when shopping for your next instrument. 

How do I choose a good acoustic guitar?

A beginner, as with every other instrument, should not choose a very high-end guitar at first if they’re only looking to learn the basics in the meantime. Modern manufacturing techniques have made it possible to choose a relatively affordable, good-sounding beginner acoustic guitar that’s set up according to most industry standards. All you need is something to practise the basics on anyway, so you can eventually upgrade to a higher-end instrument once your skills improve. 

Maintenance

How should I care for my acoustic guitar?

Unlike a lot of stringed instruments like the cello or the violin, the acoustic guitar is not as fragile. It won’t need as much care and maintenance, but this doesn’t mean you can just leave the guitar uncared for. 

Start taking care of your guitar by making sure that it’s stored in a room with average humidity and temperature. Acoustic guitars are always made of wood, and no matter what quality of wood it is, it will always be susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. And after you’re done playing or practising, always put it back in its case. One last thing: don’t loosen the strings only to tighten them again, unless you won’t be playing for a long time. 

Can I use water to clean my acoustic guitar?

Since the acoustic guitar doesn’t need too much upkeep, you can definitely use a bit of water to clean your guitar. Remember, however, that you can’t use water everywhere on your instrument, especially the strings (unless the strings are made of nylon). Most acoustic guitars have mental strings and wiping them down with water will definitely make them rust. When cleaning your guitar using a damp cloth, always make sure that the cloth isn’t dripping. Just wet it enough for cleaning. Even better, go straight ahead an invest in a proper guitar care kit like one from Music Nomad.

Technique

How long will it take me to learn the guitar?

The guitar is such a common instrument that you won’t run out of study aids for it. The guitar might be a slow-starter (beginners have to learn rhythm first before they can play chords and learn how to shift them), but once that’s done, a novice can begin playing songs in as little as a few weeks. With constant practising, of course. With that, it can be safe to say that it’s easy to learn how to play the guitar, even for a complete beginner. 

How can I improve my playing?

Practise, practise, practise. There is no substitute for hard work, and everybody knows it! And if you think your skills are enough for it, maybe you can try a few tricks such as these:

Palm muting: you mute the strings at the bridge for a muffled sound, which can be used as a dynamic for certain types of music;

Vibrato: you play a note on the guitar by bending it up and down (or left and right, it doesn’t matter) to make the note oscillate and add aesthetics; 

String bending: you bend a string to reach a higher pitch without moving up the fretboard. 

Incorporate these in your playing and you’ll sound better quicker! 

Check out the Ted’s List guides to acoustic guitar techniques and practice for some more inspiration.

Is it hard to play an acoustic guitar?

Compared to an electric guitar, yes. An acoustic guitar often has a higher action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard), which can make it hard to press on the strings to play chords or notes. Also, most of the time, acoustic guitar strings tend to be harder and tougher, and can hurt a beginner’s fingers at first. But other than those issues, the acoustic guitar isn’t hard to learn to play at all once you get past all the hurting fingers and painful barre chords. With enough practice, you can make smooth, flowing music from this instrument much faster than any other stringed instrument out there. 

What is the best way to practise acoustic guitar?

The easiest way to practise is learning how to read and translate chords and tablature. Tablature works a lot like sheet music wherein you have different symbols that tell you which strings to press and play and any given time. You can find out more about reading guitar music here.

Also, here’s one thing you should know: the acoustic guitar is a musical experiment waiting to happen! When you’ve already mastered your basic chords and tab progressions, try to mix and match everything in between and see if you can make something new. That’s the beauty of the acoustic guitar.

General Acoustic Guitar FAQs

Am I too young/old to learn acoustic guitar?

The guitar is such a common instrument and relatively easy one to learn, that you can never be too young or old to make it happen. Older guitar students, however, will have physical advantages that children don’t have (you’ll be able to reach the strings way easier, for one). As for children, there are advantages to learning young too: they’ll be able to master the basics early and be improvising on the instrument well into their teens. Age doesn’t matter when learning guitar, and that’s a fact. 

Are my fingers supposed to hurt when playing?

Yes, but that’s part of the learning curve. You may find that learning acoustic guitar means you’ll have to press on harder, tougher strings with higher action. As you do that, your fingertips may get a bit sore and your hand feeling tired. But over time, you will develop the hand strength and endurance needed to play comfortably! So if your fingers hurt, don’t be discouraged: they just need to get stronger and tougher, and the pain will subside. 

What is an acoustic cutaway guitar, and should I go for it?

A cutaway guitar is, as we’ve explained earlier, a guitar that has a notch on the underside which allows for easier access to higher frets. It gives a player more freedom to improvise up and down the fretboard, such as when doing solos and fingerstyle picking, for one. If you’re learning acoustic guitar with the intention of being a good improviser in the future, then go for a cutaway guitar so you can have that certain level of freedom you won’t get with a non-cutaway guitar. 

Do all acoustic guitars have a truss rod?

Not all, but it’s an integral part of an acoustic guitar nonetheless. The truss rod is a metal rod that runs the entire length of the neck and helps keep it sturdy and straight. If the neck has no truss rod, it will break due to the intense tension of the strings. There might be times when you’d notice a slight bend in the neck (often between the 8th and 12th frets), which a truss rod adjustment will help correct. This is true for guitars that have metal strings. For guitars (mostly classical ones) that have nylon strings, they often don’t feature truss rods as the strings don’t put too much tension on the neck at all. 

What is an acoustic guitar?

An acoustic guitar is a guitar that produces sound without needing electronics (i.e. pickups and tone knobs). They produce sound by making the strings vibrate into a hole that goes inside the guitar’s body, where it resonates throughout the entirety and creates sound. Acoustic guitars come in a lot of variations depending on a lot of things, such as strings (4, 5, 6, or 7 strings), what type of strings there are (steel or nylon) and the body type (cutaway or non-cutaway). 

Acoustic Guitar FAQ's
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