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Buying Guide: Our Top Instrument Recommendations Part 1

Posted on November 19, 2020

In the market for a new instrument? Here are some of our top picks, straight from the Yousician team! Check out Part 2 here.

Whether it’s a jam session during work (when we could go to the office) or a gig at a local pub, the team at Yousician is always playing something. So, we asked everyone which instruments they reach for most. If you’re looking for the best acoustic guitar or the best beginner electric guitar, we’ve got you covered. Need ukulele recommendations? We’ve got those too!

At the start of each section you’ll see some Things to Know, where we’ll highlight some musical instrument-lingo and specs to keep in mind while making your decisions.

To make your holiday season bright, we’ll be offering weekly Guitar Center gift card giveaways on our Instagram! Make sure to follow us for details on how to enter.

Part 1 will cover Guitars and Bass. Click here for Part 2, covering ukulele, digital keyboards and audio interfaces.

 

Guitars

Here we’ll run through some of our guitar picks, both electric and acoustic. Not sure which is right for you? Read more here on how to choose a guitar.

Things to Know:

Action: The string’s distance from the frets.
Nut height: How high the strings are from the frets at the first fret.
Set up: We strongly recommend that the shop you buy your instrument from ensures it’s set up properly. Generally straight out of the factory, both action and nut height may be just a bit too high. The setup makes a big difference, and can make or break your experience with the instrument.

 

Acoustic Guitars

Things to Know:

3/4 Size Guitar: Slightly smaller guitars perfect for children, people with small hands, or those who want something that travels easily.
Dreadnought: The most common type of acoustic guitar body shape.

1. Yamaha FS800 Folk Acoustic Guitar

In general, Yamaha comes highly recommended from Vellu, our Music Education Lead in Helsinki. “From my own experience, Yamaha is a brand that seems to have the best consistent quality in cheap guitars, so if I need to give clear, simple advice, I would recommend Yamahas.”

“This guitar has a smaller body and a bit shorter scale, making it a better beginner instrument compared to big acoustics.” But don’t let that fool you–this isn’t just for kids. “It sounds like an actual guitar, so no need to upgrade any time soon.”

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

2. Yamaha CGS103A Classical Guitar

This ¾ size guitar isn’t just for kids. This size can also be great for the traveling musician, “This nylon string does the trick. Expect that to be a nice beginner instrument for a year or two.” This acoustic comes with a spruce top, nato neck, back, sides, and a rosewood fingerboard and bridge.

You can find it at Sweetwater here.

3. Seagull S6 “The Original” Acoustic Guitar

“The Original” Seagull is a great mid-priced option that comes recommended from our team. Read the reviews online and you’ll see why – words like “superb,” “above and beyond” and “amazing value” come up time and time again.

This acoustic has a solid cedar with Canadian wild cherry back and sides. It’s tone is described as a blend of “the warmth of mahogany with the crisp definition of maple.”

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

 

Electric guitars

Things to Know:

Stratocaster: An iconic type of Fender. The Stratocaster has two cut-outs around the neck of the guitar, making it easier to reach the higher notes.
Telecaster: Another iconic Fender. Very similar to the strat, with only one cut-out around the neck.
Les Paul: Often one of the other top recommended electrics, made by Gibson.

Want inspiration from the pros? You can find out which guitar your favorite musician plays here with a simple search!

1. Fender Player Series (Stratocaster or Telecaster)

Fender is a classic, well-known guitar brand–you really can’t go wrong with their products. The Fender Player series is a great choice for all players looking to splurge a little. With a guitar from this series, you won’t need to upgrade any time soon.

The choice between a Stratocaster and a Telecaster is really a personal one. They’re both great instruments, and many famous guitarists use both (check out this site to see what your favorite musician played!). If you’re not sure, check out this blind play test video or read a more in-depth comparison by Reverb here.

You can explore the Fender Player series here.

2. Squier Affinity Series (Stratocaster or Telecaster)

The Squier is a Fender brand, which means you’re getting an instrument from the same brains behind the recommendation above. These guitars are a cheaper alternative, but sound great and can last a long time. The Affinity Series comes highly recommended from our team–again, whether you choose a stratocaster or telecaster is more up to your personal preference and how you want the guitar to sound.

Torn between a Fender and a Squier? You can find plenty of tutorials on Youtube on cheap ways to upgrade your Squier to make it sound better. The right amp can also make a huge difference. The person writing this blog has an Affinity Stratocaster and can’t recommend it enough!

You can find the Squier Affinity Series at Guitar Center here.

3. G&L Tribute Series

The G&L S-500 debuted in 1982 as Leo Fender’s own evolution of the traditional double-cutaway bolt-on style of the stratocaster. This guitar features a mahogany body, hard-rock maple neck with rosewood fingerboard.

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

 

Bass

Things to Know:

Solid or hollow bodied models: Refers to if the body is made of solid wood, or if it’s hollowed out.
Scale length: Refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut, not the length of the neck. Sweetwater has a great explainer article here.
Action: The string’s distance from the frets.
String count: Bass instruments can vary in their number of strings, most commonly four- or five-stringed. All of our recommendations have four strings.
Pickup: Pickups consist of a magnet around which a copper wire is coiled. When the vibrations of a bass string disturb the magnetic field of the magnet, small voltage fluctuations in the copper coil are produced. These fluctuations are then transmitted to the bass amp, amplified and translated into sound (source). Bass pickups are different from guitar pickups as they’re made for lower frequencies. You can find a helpful in-depth article here.

1. G&L Tribute LB-100

Premier Guitar has done a great walkthrough of this bass, made in the USA. This bass is a reiteration of the traditional P design introduced 20 years ago.

This model features a rock maple neck, Brazilian cherry fretboard, and solid ash body, with four strings and 34″ scale length.

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

Yamaha TRBX-174

2. Yamaha TRBX-174

Is it surprising to find another Yamaha instrument on our list? This guitar is a well-rounded model that suits many playing styles. This four-stringed bass features a maple neck, sonokeling fingerboard, and alder body with a 34″ scale length.

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

3. Ibanez SR-300

Ibanez Soundgear  series are known for their thin necks that are easy to play, and wide tonal palette, which suits many styles of music. The SR has been around for 25 years, and this iteration is just as great as its predecessors. The price is just right for a beginner model, but has features that ensure you won’t outgrow it fast. This four-stringed model features a maple/jatoba neck, nyato body and a deep cutaway to reach those upper frets.

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

 

We hope these recommendations help you on your musical journey! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for updates and information on our weekly Holiday giveaway!