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Here is the situation:

  • I have a good electric guitar (Godin Montreal) in the basement that I like to play on. It's especially convenient in the evening because I can play with a headset without waking up the family.
    • But sometimes, I just want to pick an acoustic guitar upstairs and practice as I walk around the house and watch the kid, without isolating myself from the rest of the family.

I am looking into buying a guitar for that purpose. The following --- hard to reconcile --- qualities would be useful:

  • Inexpensive: I might be moving around with the guitar, and it will be in the vicinity of children and other people. So I cannot --- nor do I want to strive to -- guarantee its safety like I would with my nice electric guitar (it might unfortunately take some little hits from time to time). So I guess no more than $250 would be a good target.
  • Comfortable: I am hoping having that guitar easily "grabbable" will encourage me to practice a little more. But I am afraid I won't do it if the guitar is uncomfortable to play. For instance, I currently have a Washburn Rover hanging out in the living room. I like it for backpacking, but it's awkward enough to play that I rarely want to grab it at home.
    • Gentle sound: because the idea is to play with the family around, I don't to annoy the hell out of everyone. So I am looking for a smooth and gentle sound rather than a loud and shiny one.

For the comfort factor and the gentleness of the sound, I am thinking a classical guitar would be the best match, but I am open to other suggestions.

What types of guitars (not asking for brand) should I be looking at and what features would fit well with my goals for the living room guitar?

  • If you're looking for people to recommend specific guitars, that's off topic here. Regarding the volume, learning to play quietly is a good skill to have. – Todd Wilcox Oct 8 '17 at 21:29
  • I edited to allow for re-open. OP never specifically asked for brands but it could have been interpreted that way. A price point mentioned is a way to more clearly define one's definition of inexpensive because to some anything under $1000 might be "inexpensive" to others .... – Rockin Cowboy Oct 10 '17 at 16:01
  • Note that none of the answers posted so far are about recommending specific brand of guitar but more along types of guitars and other considerations revolving around the poster's needs and goals. – Rockin Cowboy Oct 10 '17 at 16:03
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Your use case seems perfect for the Parlour style of acoustic guitar. It's smaller than a big dreadnaught size and they're often considered to have a more delicate, sweeter tone. Perfect for lullabies.

Another thing I do with my acoustic for a sweeter tone is to use flatwound strings (actually tapewound atm) which reduces the squeeky fingertips noise.

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You can get a classical guitar made in China for about $100. I've had mine for a few years and while it's not concert quality, it is sturdy, it sounds good at home, and allows me to practice regularly in exactly the way you describe above. You can probably find something similar by visiting a few guitar stores and trying several guitars until you find the one that sounds and feels right to you.

Edit: If you need extra quiet sound, an unplugged electric guitar is surprisingly good and you can find something acceptable within your budget.

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I keep a couple of acoustics handy around my house as well for similar reasons. I have one on a guitar stand beside my desk in my home office so while I am waiting on a computer program to open or waiting on a download I can grab it and play a bit.

I keep another one on a stand next to the sofa and I will pick it up when I am relaxing in the living room.

I have found that a guitar that is comfortable to hold, comfortable to play and sounds nice will be picked up and played more often than one that is too cumbersome, too uncomfortable to play or sounds dead.

I know what you mean about the Rover - it's not comfortable to hold and because you have to fight to keep it in playing position - it is not comfortable to play either.

A parlour style guitar as Droog mentioned might fit the bill because they are generally smaller and comfortable to hold and sound nice. Keep in mind a typical parlour guitar will join the body at the 12th fret and the bridge is closer to the bout putting the soundhole in a different position. But a decent well made parlour style guitar will usually run you over $200.00

Some of the smaller 3/4 size guitars made by Martin and Taylor are quite comfortable to play and sound really nice. The smaller guitars made by Yamaha and Fender will not sound very inspiring. But again, the 3/4 size guitars that sound nice will run you over $300.00 US.

I have occasionally run across some really good sounding Chinese made guitars that you might find used for a really nice price. I have one made by Great Divide that I purchased new for under $150 and it literally is one of the best sounding acoustics I own. It's the one sitting beside me as I type this. It has a concert style 000 body so it's comfortable.

I like to look at used guitars in the local guitar shops because sometimes you find a really nice guitar that is heavily discounted because it might have some minor damage. I picked up a nice Guild Jumbo once that had a hairline crack in the back but it sounds great for a $150 guitar. I've had it for about 7 years and the crack has not changed and it still sounds great. I picked up a Gibson acoustic with a cracked neck and had my luthier glue and clamp it back together - then sold it for double what I paid to another musician friend.

If you have little ones running around and you find a guitar you like to play, you are going to want to keep it safe most of the time. I recommend a wall hanger positioned high enough so that the kids can't reach it on run into it.

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You can buy one similar to this for around $10.00 US.

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Or you can make one similar to this one that is in my office at home. YouTube videos abound to describe various ways to make wall hangers for guitars for under $5.00.

Suspending a guitar by the headstock exerts no pressure on the neck so it will not warp the neck the way leaning it against a wall would. The only thing to be aware of for any acoustic guitar that is stored on a stand or hanger in a room - is that air that is too dry (as you might find in winter heating season) or too damp (as might be found in some basements or cellars) can have an adverse affect on the guitar and cause shrinking or swelling of the wood.

The ideal humidity range for an acoustic guitar is between 45 and 55 percent relative humidity - but anywhere between 40-60 percent should be fine. An inexpensive digital hygrometer to keep tabs on the humidity level would be good to have in the room your guitar lives in. The one pictured below costs less than $10.00 US.

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I wish you luck in your search and much enjoyment from whatever instrument you select.

  • Or... I have always had guitars in each room at ground level specifically so the little ones could grab them and play. – Doktor Mayhem Oct 9 '17 at 10:29
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    @DrMayhem - Absolutely! Great point! I believe every parent should encourage and facilitate artistic expression of all types in their children. If more kids these days played guitars instead of video games, I believe we would be living in a better world. Of course, I would select a different guitar to leave around for the kids than my favorite couch player. – Rockin Cowboy Oct 10 '17 at 16:05
  • @DrMayhem I edited the question to allow for re-open since the posted answers are not revolving around brand or specific product recommendations. – Rockin Cowboy Oct 10 '17 at 16:07
  • I agree - your edit helps make that clear, and evidently this is answerable. Thanks. – Doktor Mayhem Oct 10 '17 at 20:52
  • One of the guitars I have in the living room for anyone to pick up is my Hohner G3T with a small practice amp. A bit expensive, yes, but actually quite difficult to damage, compared with an acoustic – Doktor Mayhem Oct 10 '17 at 20:53

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