Last updated: August 18, 2021

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The gentle sounds of a guitar make every evening around the campfire an unforgettable experience. But mastering the instrument requires a lot of practice and intuition. Before you get started, you need the right guitar.

To make it easier for you to decide between the countless guitars on the market, we have listed our editors' favourites in our big guitar test 2021.

You'll also find answers to the most frequently asked questions in our guide. For example, we explain exactly what the difference is between an acoustic concert guitar, an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar.




Summary

  • The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world because of its versatility and the fact that it can be used as both a lead and a rhythm instrument.
  • A distinction is made between acoustic and electric guitars. Acoustic guitars are also divided into concert guitars and acoustic guitars.
  • The material and the construction of the individual wooden parts are largely responsible for the sound of an acoustic guitar.

The Best Guitar: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a guitar

What are the differences between an acoustic guitar and a concert guitar?

Acoustic guitars and concert guitars differ in various ways, such as construction and, of course, sound.

The main differences are as follows:

  • Strings
  • Type of construction
  • Bridge
  • Sound

An acoustic guitar has strings made of steel. That is why it is also called a steel-string guitar. The upper four strings are called bass strings. These have a core of steel wrapped with a fine wire.

The lower two strings are made of steel only. On the classical guitar, the upper three strings are made of a nylon core wrapped with wire. The lower ones are only made of nylon

There are several differences in the design between the two guitars. The headstock of the classical guitar is openwork and made with holes. On the acoustic guitar, the mechanics are located behind the headstock. On the concert guitar it is in front of it.

The neck of the classical guitar is flatter than that of the acoustic guitar. It has 12 frets that can be played. The acoustic guitar has a neck that is slightly arched.

The body of the classical guitar always looks the same because it is made according to the classical shape. Western guitars, on the other hand, come in a variety of different shapes. The bridge also makes a difference.

The sound of the Western guitar is bright and brilliant. These advantages are particularly evident in the basses. Due to their steel strings, Western guitars are real all-rounders that you can play in all styles. The sound of the classical guitar is rather dull and warm due to its nylon strings. It is best suited for classical music and flamenco.

The nylon strings of a classical guitar sound rather warm and dull, which is why this form of guitar is best suited for classical music and flamenco. Nylon strings are used on many plucked instruments and are usually played without a pick to make the notes sound more soulful.

How do I change the strings on an acoustic guitar and a classical guitar?

The classical guitar has a bridge through which the strings are threaded and knotted behind it. The knotting is done in a special way that is very complex. This ensures that the strings are held securely. Changing the strings on this guitar is more difficult and time-consuming than on the acoustic guitar.

This is because the latter has small metal balls attached to the end of each string, which make it easier to change the strings. These so-called ball ends are no longer visible, as they are located inside the body. This makes changing the strings on a classical guitar much easier than on an acoustic guitar.

If you are unsure, you can also have a music shop in your area teach you how to change the strings.

Can I rent a guitar?

If you don't want to invest in your own guitar, you can rent one. Here we show you where. Basically, beginner guitars are very inexpensive, but not of very high quality. That's why we recommend renting guitars, especially if you are just starting to play the guitar.

Your first port of call is your guitar teacher or a nearby music school. They offer to rent musical instruments for a few weeks or months at a very low price.

Many online providers offer the service that you can rent guitars from them. You should make sure that you check the references. After all, you can't check the condition of the guitar yourself.

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Decision: What types of guitars are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, you can distinguish between two different types of guitars:

  • Acoustic Classical Guitars
  • Acoustic acoustic guitars
  • Electronic Guitars

With each of these types, the sound and the way of playing them is different. This has certain advantages and disadvantages, which we will explain to you in this article

Depending on whether you like a classic, acoustic sound or you like to amplify the music you play, a different type of guitar will suit you. In the following section, we'll help you figure out which type of guitar is best for you.

Therefore, we will introduce you to the guitars we have mentioned above. In addition, we will clearly present their advantages and disadvantages.

What does an acoustic concert guitar sound like and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The special advantage of an acoustic concert guitar is that you can play classical guitar music specifically with it. This means that it is the perfect guitar for beginners. With the acoustic guitar, the sound is produced solely by striking the strings. This is amplified by the special construction of the guitar. This is how tones are created.

The acoustic concert guitar has a wider neck than, for example, the acoustic Western guitar. It is usually strung with nylon strings, i.e. bass strings with a nylon core. These are usually played or plucked with the fingers only. You should not use a plectrum for an acoustic guitar.

Advantages
  • Perfect beginner's guitar
  • Percussive sound
Disadvantages
  • Low volume, especially in the trebles
  • Great difference in quality

Most people who start playing the guitar do so on a classical concert guitar. The reason for this is that the guitar is particularly easy to play due to its softer nylon strings.

Unlike an electric guitar, the acoustic concert guitar has a percussive sound. This makes it the perfect companion for sing-alongs around the campfire. However, if you play the acoustic concert guitar in a band with other instruments, it is not very easy to pick it out. The reason for this is that it is rather quiet, especially in the higher registers.

Expertise is required when buying an acoustic concert guitar. The guitars on offer differ greatly in quality. This is because, as we mentioned in the previous paragraph, many people use the guitar as a beginner's guitar. If you want to make music professionally, you should seek advice and choose a high-quality model.

In our test, the ABC guitar scored best. This is an all-round guitar. Acoustic concert guitars are suitable for beginners and professional guitarists. They have a clear sound, are user-friendly and perfect for evenings around the campfire.

How does an acoustic acoustic acoustic guitar sound built and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The acoustic acoustic guitar is a special type of acoustic guitar built specifically for Western music. It also differs from the acoustic concert guitar in its design variety. With the acoustic guitar, the sound is produced solely by striking the strings. This is amplified by the special construction of the guitar. This is how tones are created.

The acoustic acoustic guitar has a narrower neck than the acoustic concert guitar and its neck is narrower. It is usually strung with steel strings.

Advantages
  • Size Design variety
  • Holds tone long (longer sustain)
  • Easy to change strings
  • Also available with 12 strings
Disadvantages
  • Relatively loud
  • Requires more power
  • Harder to play due to steel strings

Most guitarists begin playing on an acoustic classical guitar. Once they are advanced, many switch to the acoustic acoustic acoustic guitar. This may be because they come in different designs and versions. This allows you to choose individually how you want your guitar to look.

The acoustic concert guitar has a longer sustain, which means that it can hold the tone longer. It also has advantages over the acoustic concert guitar in the way it can be played. The strings of the acoustic guitar are closer together, making it easier to change strings. The acoustic acoustic guitar is also available in versions with 12 strings.

In contrast to the classical guitar, which is well suited for the campfire because of its quiet playing, the acoustic guitar is rather loud. Its sound is harder, and not as percussive as that of the concert guitar. The steel strings of the acoustic acoustic guitar have a disadvantage. Because they are very firm, you need a lot of strength in your fingers to grip the strings.

What does an electronic guitar sound like and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Electronic guitars, or electric guitars, are played in combination with an amplifier. The volume of the electronic guitar can therefore be adjusted.

Whereas with acoustic guitars the tones are produced by the hollow body of the guitar, this function is taken over by the amplifier with the electronic guitar. Because the hollow body is not decisive, electric guitars can have many different designs.

Electronic guitars offer another feature. If you connect a distortion device to the guitar, for example, you can play a variety of special sounds with it. In terms of sound variety alone, there are disadvantages to the electronic guitar.

Advantages
  • Forgives mistakes
  • Strong sound
  • Many special effects possible
Disadvantages
  • Tones are swallowed up
  • Unnatural sound

The electronic guitar has a strong sound. This makes it more forgiving if you make small mistakes while playing. That's why many guitar beginners have recently started playing an electronic guitar.

In contrast to an acoustic guitar, whose sound tends to be drowned out by other louder instruments, the sound of the electric guitar can also be heard against many other instruments. Because of this, many musicians in the field of metal, jazz or rock rely on this guitar.

Here you can let off steam. In connection with an amplifier and distortion, you can produce a variety of special tones with an electronic guitar. This results in a greater variety of sounds that can be produced with this type of guitar.

With an electric guitar, you are able to play music of different genres, such as rock or heavy metal.

Unfortunately, with the electronic guitar, it can sometimes happen that notes are swallowed. Its sound is not as fine as that of an acoustic guitar. It is also inferior to the acoustic guitar in terms of the authenticity of the sound and is therefore probably not the best choice for evenings around the campfire.

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate guitars

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate guitars. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular guitar suits you

Basically, these criteria are decisive:

  • Material
  • Size
  • Setting
  • Lacquer finish
  • Bridge

In the following paragraphs we have summarised for you what these individual criteria really mean and how you can classify them.

Material

The material of the guitar is probably the most important purchase criterion. Depending on which woods were used for the construction of the guitar, it differs significantly in sound.

Because the wood is such an important criterion, you should first think about how much you want to spend on your guitar. High-quality woods such as mahogany can quickly skyrocket in price. That is why this wood is usually only used for professional guitars.

Almost all guitars have a top made of spruce. This serves as the basis, so to speak. Less expensive guitars, i.e. those in the price range of 50 to 200 euros, do not use such high-quality woods. For these guitars, the soundboard is usually made of ribbed wood. The back is often made of nato wood.

The choice of wood also has an influence on the sound of the guitar. Less expensive guitars, for example, tend to sound dull. If high-quality wood is used for the construction of a guitar, it has a full-bodied sound.

Size

Besides the wood, the size of the guitar is the most important purchase criterion. The size of a guitar should be adapted to the guitarist.

Many guitarists are of the opinion that the guitar should be like a new body part. There is some truth in this. After all, guitarists play their guitar almost every day and often for years or even decades. That's why the size of the guitar should be comfortable for the guitarist.

Naturally, children's guitars are smaller than those for adults. Children should therefore not be bought their own guitars. Because children grow very quickly and thus quickly become too big for the guitar. The same applies to children as to adults: the guitarist should feel comfortable with his instrument.

This includes being able to grip all the strings comfortably. If this is not the case, tension will result. Furthermore, a guitar only sounds good if it is played correctly. And this includes that all strings should be grippable.

It is essential that the size of the guitar fits the guitarist's body. You should be able to comfortably grip all the strings on a guitar. (Image source: pexels.com / freestocks.org)

Adjustment

In the previous paragraph we explained why a guitar should always be adjusted to the size of the guitarist. Here you will learn why the adjustment of the guitar also plays a big role in the sound.

When you invest in an expensive guitar, it is usually individually adjusted by the instrument makers. This is one reason why professional guitars are often so expensive.

Guitars that are priced in the mid-range are usually not adjusted during construction. Here, this usually happens in the music shop. Therefore, you should be present when you buy the guitar. This will ensure that your new instrument is adjusted to your needs.

Very cheap guitars are usually not adjusted at the factory. If you want changes, you have to contact the manufacturer's customer service. In most cases, however, you should do it yourself and adjust your guitar yourself.

Lacquer finish

Not only a question of appearance. Here we explain why the finish of your guitar is a criterion you should consider when buying. The varnish of the guitar is often called finish. And this finish can vary greatly depending on the guitar.

The varnish that is applied to the guitar has not only visual purposes. Besides the unique design that you can give your guitar, it also fulfils another function. Depending on how much or little varnish is applied, it dampens the tones more or less.

The varnish can change so much that the same guitar model sounds brighter than one with fewer layers of varnish. The more layers of varnish are applied to the guitar, the more the sound of the guitar loses its brilliance.

Bridge

The strings of the guitar are anchored to the bridge on the neck of the guitar. This can be made of different materials.

Guitar strings made of nylon are attached differently than those made of steel. The former are knotted with a special technique. The latter are pulled through the drilled holes with a so-called ball end - small metal balls at the end of the string. A second possibility is to put the steel strings into the neck of the guitar with pins and fix them.

The bridge can be either plastic or bone. Some bridges are straight throughout. Others may be offset at an angle. Since the bridge is fixed, it cannot be used to adjust the pitch individually.

Acoustic guitar in wood look
The material, the size and the construction of the individual wooden parts are largely responsible for the sound of your acoustic guitar.

Interesting facts about a guitar

How long have people been playing the guitar?

Instruments similar to the guitar have been around for about 5,000 years. The precursor of today's guitar first came into use during the Renaissance.

A relief from the Hammurapi Temple in Babylon proves that people have always wanted to make music. It dates from 1792 to 1750 BC and shows an instrument that resembles the lute. Drawings from ancient Egypt also show that people played guitar-like instruments at that time. The precursor of today's guitar is the Spanish vihuela.

Where can you buy dummy guitars to smash?

Smashing guitars is a popular practice among concert guitarists. The tradition in question began during concerts in the 1960s. Since then, many musicians smash their expensive professional guitar on stage at the end of the concert. Of course, this has a great effect.

However, this practice can be expensive, which is why you can have so-called dummy guitars made by any manufacturer. These are cheaply made guitars that look like brand guitars. The only difference is that they are not playable and often cost only a few euros.

The most expensive guitar ever sold at auction belonged to Bob Dylan.

In 2013, a guitar owned by Bob Dylan was auctioned off. The Fender Stratocaster, with which he played a concert at the Newpork Folk Festival in 1965 that went down in the history books, was sold for the equivalent of 700,000 euros (965,000 dollars).

Christie's, the auction house in New York, said that never before had a guitar fetched such a high price. In 1964, when Dylan bought the guitar, it cost the equivalent of about 200 euros.

Image source: Unsplash.com / Alexandre St-Louis
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