Guitar Shopping Experience With A Noob


Just another guy, really.
I went to GC with a friend who wanted advise on what guitar she might buy. Perhaps someone here might benefit from my experience.

We spent a goodly amount of time there (enough to have to politely ward off employees no less than four times) and the one she liked the most was a $329 parlor guitar (I can not recall the brand.) I was not surprised she chose that one- IMO, the parlor shape evolved in an "organic" way, and no amount of market research and computer-aided design is going to do as well as the entire 19th century guitar world tweaking and tweaking until they found what worked, and IMO the parlor is a near-perfect design for balanced tone, and I believe that as most parlor players were perhaps women, that might have had an effect on it's design, and on her preference- although she did not know that factoid when she picked it out. There was only ONE parlor on the entire guitar wall, which was a little disappointing. I like Seagulls and often recommend them, and own several dreadnaughts, but the only Seagull there was a dreadnaught, and she did not much like the tone, balance (or really, lack thereof,) or size of dreads, so we didn't even take it off the wall.

Then, I brought her into the Martin/Taylor room. She could not believe one could buy a guitar that cost upwards of three grand. I gave her the standard "You can't see the improvements/but they are there in sound and feel/diminishing returns/justifiable if one is a pro/yada yada yada" talk, but it was obvious it was not really registering- all she could see were eye-popping price tags. Then I got inspired. I found a Martin (Eric Clapton signature model) that was closest is size to the parlor she nearly fell in love with, and making sure she could not read the price tag, I put it in her hands and had her "play" it. She listened to the guitars well, and admitted that the "new" guitar did sound a bit smoother and did play better, too. Then I showed her the $3100 price tag. She was still blown away, but she also began to see how the price might be justified.

I did a pretty darn good job of helping her pick out a guitar- she did the picking, I just edified and advised. It is easy to say "Well, the vultures in GC would not have been nearly as truly helpful," but that is true, and one of them proved it. She had told me her budget might be $500 (I was impressed she didn't say something irritating and useless like "as little as possible,") and he had over-heard her. He interjected (tastetfully, though) that the guitar he thought she should buy was a Baby Taylor- with a price tag of... $499. she did not care for that guitar nearly as much as she did the parlor. She impressed me- she was patient, listened well, and had realistic expectations. I do not fully trust my judgement of budget guitars- my experience with guitars has made me somewhat jaded, but her much more unbiased opinion allowed her to evaluate the guitars on their own, individual merits, not on things like brand, country of origin, and price (to an extent.) I was even mildly impressed with the staff at GC- they did not lurk too much, and the pressure for them to get customers to buy the more expensive gear is probably pretty intense, so the guy could be forgiven for wanting to push her purchase to her limit.

Conclusions I can draw from the experience, some which I already knew but it was good to confirm them:

1. It takes time to pick out a guitar. Take your time, enjoy the experience. You can't rush good.
2. Mass-merchandiser employees may not give you the best advise, but they may not be the devil incarnate.
3. Perhaps brand is not as important as we "experts" want to believe.
4. The most popular size/shape (dreadnaught) is sometimes NOT the best guitar for someone.
5. Lots of stuff is made in China. Many good reasons to NOT buy China, but maybe some good ones, too.
6. Buy on tone and feel, not price. Within reason.
7. Properly guided, a beginner or even a total neophyte can make a good choice.


Ask her what brand it is, assuming she bought it! I've never seen any guitars advertised as 'parlor' guitars, seems like the old-time term for a smaller body style, like a Grand Auditorium?
I prefer dreadnoughts myself, but last year tried out a ton of different guitars in the under-$500 range before settling on the Fender I found. At GC it's sometimes hard to make a good 'sound' judgement call because of other players in the room, so better to wait and go back and try them all again at a quieter time.


Nice story. The only, and I mean only, acoustic guitar that I've ever liked was an old Harmony parlor guitar I had for years and years. It was little and easy to play and sounded good enough for the minimal amount of acoustic playing that I do. Unfortunately somehow the neck delaminated and split in two a few years ago and that was it. In the trash it went.


New member
Ask her what brand it is, assuming she bought it! I've never seen any guitars advertised as 'parlor' guitars, seems like the old-time term for a smaller body style, like a Grand Auditorium?

It usually refers to "0" or "00" sized 12-fret guitars. One size down from the Grand Auditorium.

Telegram Sam

New member
I find the field of acoustic guitars available to be very complicated.
I might like to get one one day, but what a process figuring out which one.


Just another guy, really.
Come to Atlanta, Sam, spend a couple of hours in GC or Sam Ash with me, walk out with the guitar that suits you, and buy me a steak dinner.