Acoustic guitar for absolute beginner
December 7, 2011 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for an acoustic guitar (Yamaha, < $200) on which to learn to play?

My sister is looking at two guitars in particular:
Yamaha F325 and Yamaha FG700MS

Do you recommend either of these or do you have any other recommendations for guitars and/or books for beginners? She read up on Seagull but they're out of her budget. Oh, and she's in Toronto. Thank you all.
posted by methroach to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My recommendations on acoustic guitars for absolute beginners is -

1. get one that seems intact, not warped or discolored anywhere that is noticeable. You could bring a knowledgeable person along to check out the guitar you are getting if you are buying it somewhere in person vs. mail order.

2. use your ears. Some people go "i know nothing about guitar, I can't tell one from another" and in that case, unless you have a truckload of cash lying around to buy a super fancy Taylor or somethin' - it won't matter a whole lot how good you can tell it sounds until you are better and are used to telling what sounds good to you. Based on this, I would go, then with

3. Getting a used one. I have often been told that good guitars will get better sounding with age if they are properly cared for. I'm not sure I've ever believed that, but I do know that a used nice acoustic guitar can be easily as good or far better than a brand new guitar of equal dollar value.

Personally I would never buy an acoustic guitar online because there's a good chance I might not like it once I got it, and have to send it back, which is a p.i.t.a. I would just look for used ones on craigslist or go to a Guitar Center and strum it a bit. Most Guitar Centers nowadays usually have a relatively soundproofed room you can toy around with acoustic guitars in.

I bet you could find a used Seagull if you look around. In fact I think I see one on Toronto craigslist right now, along with at least 5+ others posted in the last couple of days. : )

happy hunting!

p.s personally, I have an old Guild, and I love it, but it was considerably pricier than her budget allows.
posted by bitterkitten at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My first guitar was a Yamaha acoustic--purchased almost 20 years ago--and I still play it frequently (this morning, in fact). I'm not sure which model it was, but Yamaha does make some good guitars (no view, though, on those particular models).

If there is a reputable guitar shop in your/her area, I'd consider getting a used guitar. Guitars are like cars, and you overpay buying new. Since you probably won't have a personal basis for examination, get the reputable shop to help you find a good one from their inventory. You can buy a better guitar used than new at your price point.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2011

Best answer: If she has any friends who play guitar, she should ask them for help in selecting one. Yamaha does, AFAIK, make pretty good low-end/beginner guitars.
posted by thelonius at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2011

The Jasmine by Takamine (less than $100 on Amazon right now) is a pretty great beginner's guitar at an unbeatable price.

If you buy online, make sure to throw in an extra set of strings.
posted by Bourbonesque at 9:01 AM on December 7, 2011

Best answer: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say don't buy a guitar you haven't played (ok: held) and felt comfortable with. Some things to consider: does it sound good, and does it stay in tune (the latter is perhaps the most important for beginners). With those rules in mind the brand / model doesn't matter. I second the 'get a used guitar' and 'hang out with your local guitar shop guys' recommendations.
posted by zomg at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2011

Craigslist is good for a musician who knows what they want, but not so good for a starter. You have to visit someone's place and then you are forced to make a decision on the spot. Not ideal in this case. Also, a used instrument isn't a great bargain in itself unless you have some experience and a clear idea about what you are looking for. For a student instrument I would recommend a new Yamaha.

I would recommend Long and McQuade or Steve's Music in downtown Toronto. You have a selection of guitars to choose from, you can take your time deciding, you can go home and think about it if you want, and they also have books which the staff can recommend. And if there is a problem you can return or exchange it.

As Thelonius says: Yamaha makes nice-sounding inexpensive starter acoustic guitars.
posted by ovvl at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2011

I understand that Seagull is out of her range. I played those Yamaha instruments side by side with the Seagull S6. I own the Seagull.
posted by plinth at 11:13 AM on December 7, 2011

Best answer: I've had several Yamaha acoustics and loved them. A few years ago I bought this to keep in my truck: AJ 100
I changed the strings and it's the best inexpensive acoustic I've owned.
posted by jara1953 at 11:19 AM on December 7, 2011

I found a used Seagull S6 on Craigslist for $180 (USD) in San Diego. If your sister has a friend who can help her evaluate a used guitar, Craigslist would be a good option.
posted by millions of peaches at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2011

I know you stated that you want an acoustic guitar, but within a month of first learning on my father's Gibson acoustic, I switched over to a cheap (electric) Squier strat; it was just so much easier to handle/play. Perhaps just consider it.
posted by lobbyist at 11:39 AM on December 7, 2011

The APX500 is really good. A bit out of your price range brand new, but watch for used ones or discounts. The Takamine Jasmines are also good.

Seconding what everyone else says: Don't buy it without playing it (or at least seeing it). Acoustics come in different shapes and sizes and some are way easier to play than others. I sold a $600 Takamine at a loss and switched to a $300 one because it happened to fit me better and I could play it without shoulder pain.

If you can find a decent music store (even Guitar Center is OK) check some out, hold them, and listen to them (if you can't play, salesmen or other customers are always happy to show off their playing.)

Good luck!
posted by mmoncur at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2011

Best answer: I bought an Epiphone with a solid top for about $200 price to learn on 3 or 4 years ago from Long & McQuade and it sounds great. My guitar teacher at the time agreed. It was very similar if not the same as this model.

And remember to save a few dollars for a case and humidifier.
posted by samhyland at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2011

Seconding Bourbonesque's recommendation to get a Jasmine by Takamine. If you want to buy a new guitar online and pay under $200 then that's probably your best bet.

If you don't mind getting a used guitar then look on Craigslist, there are usually plenty of used guitars in your price range.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2011

I just started playing in August and had the same budget. There is a local music shop where I live that hosts live music weekly and sells new and used instruments. I went in, strummed a few in my price range, had the shop owner help me decide and ultimately ended up with a new Bristol by Blueridge BM-16 It sounds amazing! My boyfriend has played for 30+ years and loves the sound of my guitar. Like I said I’m a total noob but I think it sounds great too. :)
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 2:26 PM on December 7, 2011

At the low end, playability is a bigger concern over sound quality. The bad thing about inexpensive guitars (and way too many more expensive guitars) is a poor setup from the factory. Almost every sub $700 guitar I come across could use some adjustment in the action, possibly at the bridge, but almost always at the nut. The difference is almost imperceptible visually, but makes even a student grade instrument a joy to play and can even fix some intonation problems. A reputable dealer that specializes in acoustic instruments might be willing to make the necessary adjustments, possibly does it automatically on every instrument fresh out of the box. But some dealers don't bother, and might be reluctant to do it without a standard fee, adding an easy $25-$100 to the price.

You can look on the upside, however. A $100 guitar today is a vastly better instrument than one of 25 or 50 years ago, adjusted for inflation (which would have been around $50 or $15 back then).
posted by 2N2222 at 4:06 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of your answers. She's going to probably get either a Yamaha or an Epiphone, and she's going to look with a friend who plays guitar. :)
posted by methroach at 5:45 AM on December 8, 2011

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