There are a number of important factors to consider when choosing your first steel string guitar (flat top), so before you rush for the best looking guitar at a super cheap price, think about your purchase and how it will see you through your learning journey and if it will hold its price.
After considering more than two dozen different guitars, I decided to buy the Seagull S6 Original (link to check the price on Amazon). For me, it’s the perfect balance of price and quality. It has many of the features of the higher end guitars and its appearance is one of understated elegance. I’ve been really happy with it and have recommended it to everyone I know interested in learning guitar.
The most important takeaway from this article, I believe, is that I strongly encourage you to not purchase a sub $200 guitar. I bought and tested cheap guitars (I still own one to encourage the children to play with) and they just aren’t very good. The cheap one I own is made from laminated plywood, has too high an action (distance between strings and fretboard) and sounds nowhere near as rich and inviting as a circa $500 guitar.
What To Look For In Your First Steel String Guitar
Obviously, you’ll want a guitar that meets or exceeds your most basic expectations but what other factors should you look for? Here are some things to consider:
- Construction. Choose a guitar that has a solid top, that is the top of the guitar is made from one single piece of wood. Cheaper guitars have a laminate top and sides and the most expensive guitars are fully solid i.e. the sides, as well as the top, are from a single piece of wood. So picking one with a solid top means it is in between the two and it will last through from beginner to upper intermediate at the very least.
- Comfort. Pick a guitar that feels good in the store. The Seagull S6 has a wider nut than most guitars (wide fretboard) and whilst this is great for beginners, some may find it too wide. Fortunately, Seagull makes an S6 slimline (link to check
priceon Amazon) but whatever guitar you choose make sure it feels comfortable in your hands.
- Brand. Pick a guitar with a solid brand and a history of making great guitars. In our complete buyers guide we run down all the best brands, if you would like to learn more about this. At the price point, I recommend of circa $400, you should pay close attention to Yamaha’s, Takamine’s and Seagull guitars.
- Resale value. It’s not that well known outside of guitar playing circles that well made, decent brand guitars hold their value extremely well, in fact, some of the upper-end guitars are a decent investment. It you bought a decent Seagull or a Yamaha then the likelihood is you will keep these for a long time if not for all your guitar journey. If not however and you want to sell when you get to the upper intermediate territory then it is unlikely you will lose much money if any at all.
- Price. I recommend not buying the cheap guitars under $200 because I simply haven’t found one that I consider to be well made, but you don’t have to spend
a $1,000 either.
Why I Chose the Seagull S6
Pretty much every review you will read across the internet about the Seagull S6 gives it an excellent review. The guitar is the winner of several awards and is known to punch above its weight at the price point it is at, which is the $400 range.
The reviews I’m talking about aren’t the ones that internet marketers have just ripped from Amazon and have sites dedicated to reviews only (although they recommend it whilst also sitting on the fence, a common tactic). No the ones I’m talking about are from forums, personal recommendations and genuine guitar players of all levels who recognize the quality of the S6.
When I dug a little deeper it wasn’t hard to find out why either. Apart from the fact that the guitar has a solid top, the S6 is also 100% North American made. It is made from start to finish in Canada (La Patrie, Quebec). Whilst most guitars are made in Asia and shipped to the US this means that the quality of construction of the S6 is second to none at this price point.
This also means that the factory setup is excellent and it has not had to travel thousands of miles before being
I love the way the S6 Original has a wider nut (wider fretboard) than most guitars. Rarely found on guitars at this price point it means that you have a little extra room to move your fingers around. When learning to play guitar this is sooo invaluable, it should not be understated, because you will be subject to touching strings you shouldn’t when forming chords. Having more room for error means that is a great deal less frustration when learning.
Some people wonder how they can fix the price this low but the truth is that they use local renewable resources. The top is cedar and the sides are cherry which are all locally grown.
The guitar is not perfect, however. Some think the headstock is too narrow and some have complained about the frets being flat when they received the guitar (whereas they should be crowned – this can be fixed by a luthier if necessary). At this price point though these are small fry and really do not detract from the quality that you are getting.
All the reviews I read about the sound of the S6 gave stellar marks for fit, finish, cleanliness, sustain, harmonics, woody tone, balance across the range, factory setup, loudness and responsiveness.
The more I read the easier my decision became. If experienced guitarists and beginners are like are singing the praises of this guitar then I knew I had found my guitar.
I urge you to buy one if you are seeking your first guitar, at the very least go and try one at the store, you will not be disappointed.
Still not convinced, listen to it here.