What type of entry-level guitar is best?
Many instructors believe the nylon-string Classic guitar is the best guitar for the beginner. Nylon strings are much easier on the left-hand fingers and as a result, you'll get longer periods of practice time in the beginning. It's important to mention here that callouses will develop as a result of practice making it easier to play the steel string guitar usually within the first 2 months of regular practice.
pictured above an Alvarez Yairi classic guitar
Classic guitars are called "classic" because they are the only guitar style that doesn't change. Much like the violin, the classic guitar's relative dimensions are the same from one manufacturer to another. This being said, however, most people start with the standard six-string dreadnought guitar (with steel strings.) Dreadnought acoustic guitars don't vary too much in size and the steel strings provide the distinct sound heard so much in pop, rock, bluegrass, country and folk music. Beginners should shy away from the twelve-string guitar as it requires the player to press down 2 strings at a time in groups. This can be a little challenging for the beginner.
There are so many materials; which ones sound the best?
This is where the beginner has to make a somewhat uneducated decision. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The best way to decide is through experimentation. Some guitarists prefer a lighter tone while others would rather a guitar that will make your stomach churn. When buying a new acoustic guitar, your materials selection will normally be limited to spruce, rosewood, and mahogany. Many of the finest, most expensive guitars in the world are made from these types of wood although exotic woods such as koa, paduak, and walnut are usually more prevalent in a higher-priced instrument. If you seek a light tone, you might want to test guitars with a mahogany back and sides. If you're seeking a heavier sound, you'll want to try those with a rosewood back and sides. Most guitars in the entry-level realm have a spruce top. Whether laminated or not, you'll want to find one that has a solid spruce top rather than a two-piece. The solid tops tend to remain durable through time.
How should the guitar feel?
The answer to this question is easy. The guitar should feel good to the player. Try to find a guitar that has a relatively low action (the amount of height between the strings and neck). A high action can be a very discouraging thing for a new player. Also, try to find something that will stay in tune. A guitar that loses pitch can be very aggravating to a beginner because his/her ear hasn't become familiar to a properly tuned instrument. A good electronic tuner is never a bad thing to throw in with a new acoustic guitar. This will help reduce the amount of time wasted while tuning and increase practice time.
How much should I spend?
Many decent, entry-level guitars will fall into the $200-$500 category. I once played a $300 guitar that had a better sound than a $3500 guitar.