Best Guitar Buying Tips
Best Guitar Buying Tips | Looking to buy a new classical guitar or acoustical, before you buy a guitar these tips are a must for your information.
- Best Guitar Buying Tips Part 1
- Best Guitar Buying Tips Part 2
- Best Guitar Buying Tips Part 3
Best Guitar Buying Tips will give you a shopping list of qualities and pitfalls to look for with either acoustical or classical guitars. Since electric guitars depend much less on woods and construction techniques and more with electronics, we will not be considering electric guitars of this page.
The first thing I do is to give the guitar a good thorough inspection. Look for any cracks, warps in the top or back or any other deformities that may be visible. Also check for scratches and dents. Look both inside and outside of the guitar.
Additional Best Guitar Buying Tips are, sight down the neck from the nut (peghead end) to the saddle (bridge end). The neck should have a very slight cup or downward bow. This is called string or Neck Relief and is desirable for a guitar that is to have great playing action.
If the neck is either dead level or bowed upward, you will need to adjust the neck. Refer to our article on Guitar Truss Rod Adjustment for information on making these adjustments.
Also is there a neck truss rod adjustment? Some rod adjustment nuts are located under a plate in the headstock. Others are located inside the guitar, where the neck joins the body. The strings may need to be removed completely in the latter if you do not possess the proper tools.
Can't find a truss rod adjustment? You then will be faced with a Neck Reset, which is quite an expensive repair job.
Classical guitars should not have an adjustment rod as it would be a detriment to the sound of a classical guitar. Classical guitars typically have an ebony strip of about 3/8" wide running down the center of the neck for additional strength and this is what you should look for.
What happens with the classic guitar neck is that the Ebony center strip joins with the thickened Ebony fingerboard for additional strength. Also there is not nearly as much tension on a classic guitar neck as on a steel string. Couple That along with a widened neck on the classic gives way to no additional reinforcement needed.
As for acoustic guitar necks, some really great guitars are built with aircraft aluminum or high strength steel neck reinforcement and thus there is not a need for the adjustment rod.
This is usually a technique reserved for high quality handmade custom guitars though as it is very important that this reinforcement be installed very carefully and accurately.
Now look at the saddle and bridge. The bridge should level and straight on the top. Another Best Guitar Buying Tip: The bridge should not be too thick and the angle of the strings should be up at a 10 to 20 degree angle for best tone for a classical guitar and somewhat less for a steel string guitar . Also make sure the saddle is not too high.
As for the nut (at the peghead end of the fretboard) and the saddle (within the bridge), look for either bone or ivory. Best Guitar Buying Tip? Plastic is a no-no because plastic is an insulator and does not enhance the sound. The ultimate material is ivory, but use has been all but discontinued because of the endangerment to the ivory sources of elephants etc. Try to stay away from ivory, unless it is a recycled product.
One of the most over-looked Best Guitar Buying Tips is to never buy a guitar with any type of metal in the bridge. If the bridge has two mother of pearl decoration dots on either side of the bridge, this is a sure sign that metal screws are holding the bridge down.
Also never allow any metal for or in part of the saddle for adjustment purposes. Best Guitar Buying Tip: Metal will completely ruin any tone the guitar may have.
The fretboard usually comes in two types of wood. Rosewood on the less expensive guitars and Ebony for the top quality guitars. Ebony is much harder and will wear a lot better than Rosewood. Be careful of this one because many factory guitars were known to stain Rosewood black to appear much like Ebony.
You can usually pick this out by the fact that ebony is a more closed-grain wood and rosewood is open-grained and even if black you can detect the grain pattern. Any quality classical guitar will have an Ebony fingerboard.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - Which type of solid wood for back and sides is best? That is strictly a personal preference as the tonewood is a very important element that affects the volume and tone quality. You will see mostly Mahogany, Indian Rosewood, Maple, Cocobolo and some Walnut and Koa. Typically the Rosewoods and Koa will give you more volume and brighter tones and Walnut and Maple will be warmer in tone.
Best Guitar Buying Tip -Top tonewoods will vary greatly too. A popular acoustic guitars is Adirondack Spruce or Sitka Spruce with lesser use of Englemann Spruce, Cedar and Redwood. I have played some incredible guitars made entirely from Koa, including the top. These will mainly be custom guitars from Hawaiian luthier's.
Not to be understated is the type and quality of top bracing used for the guitars. Classical guitars are more strongly influenced by bracing patterns than their american cousins the acoustical guitar. Classical guitars usually use some form of fan bracing in many different patterns and it is fascinating how much this can change the voice of a guitar.
Best Guitar Buying Tip: Acoustic guitar tops are most typically based on the "X" brace pattern. These braces are the main structural elements for the top. You will see many variations on this theme, but most acoustic guitars are some form of the "X" bracing.
A great variation to the acoustic top bracing is what is called scalloping. This process cuts curved or scalloped portions out of the bracing to enhance the tone. This can also compromise the structural elements of a guitar.
Classical guitar backs and sides will mainly be constructed from Rosewood and Koa along with some Cocobolo and the less expensive models using Mahogany and Walnut.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - East Indian Rosewood and Koa will give the guitar more volume.
Some very high quality classical guitars do line the inside of the guitar sides with cyprus, most notably the Spanish Luthier Jose Ramirez being one of those. This gives his guitars an incredible volume boost.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - Quite often the highest quality acoustic guitars will have wood purfling at all the guitar edges rather than the more typical plastic or celluloid of production guitars. Any quality classical guitar should have wood purfling. I personally feel that it adds a bit to the overall quality of sound for a guitar, so look for this on most handmade custom guitars.
Neck woods for acoustic guitars will range from Mahogany, Maple and some Walnut. Most necks will be built from a sold piece of wood.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - My personal preference is to use at least 2 pieces of wood, laminate them and oppose the grain so warping is almost eliminated.
I have built acoustic guitars with 3 and 5-piece necks and they did not budge. This is usually a method reserved for handmade acoustic guitars.
Quality classical guitars should be 3-piece laminated neck construction. Usually you will see Cuban Mahogany, which is light weight and very strong, laminated on either side of a strip of ebony. Less expensive classical guitars will be solid wood construction, usually of mahogany.
If everything checks out so far, lets move on to checking the intonation. Good intonation will give you true notes, in proper tuning, all the way up and down the fingerboard.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - Start out by playing Harmonics at the 12th, 7th and 5th frets on all strings. Don't know how to play harmonics? Check out my Guitar Lessons section. The harmonics should sound loud and clear and ring for a long time.
Next check harmonics of the 12th fret and immediately strike the string with you finger on the 12th fret. Make sure to strike the string softly. How do the tones compare? They should be in tune with each other and there should be no perceivable difference between the 2 tones. If there is and there are relatively new strings on the guitar the scale length could be slightly off. Not a good thing! This could be a bridge problem or saddle Problem
Play every fret all the way to at least the 12th to 14th fret on each string. Play rather hard and notice if there is any buzzing or unclear notes. If there is, it could a high fret or frets, bowed neck or the action could be too low.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - If you see the wood grain curve around the soundhole to the underside of the top - it is solid wood. Now for the back and sides. This can be quite simple. First inspect the grain of the back through the soundhole, then check out the same area of the back at the guitar exterior. The grain should be exactly the same. Do the same for the sides.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - Wondering how to tell if you are playing a solid wood guitar or a plywood guitar. Here are the secrets for finding out. For the top, look at the edges of the sound hole. It is very evident that you can see the plys of wood at the soundhole edge.
If you see the wood grain curve around the soundhole to the underside of the top - it is solid wood. Now for the back and sides. This can be quite simple. First inspect the grain of the back through the soundhole, then check out the same area of the back at the guitar exterior. The grain should be exactly the same. Do the same for the sides.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - For really fine guitars, those being typically reserved to the many great custom-made guitars, place your fingers inside the soundhole and feel the braces for the top and the underside of the top itself.
These braces should be silky smooth and this is a great asset in sound improvement. Do the same with many factory produced guitars and you a likely to get a wood sliver in your finger.
One final thing. When you strum the guitar and play a familiar song do you get those goose bumps? You should and if you do this is likely "your" guitar.
Best Guitar Buying Tip - If you decide to buy a guitar online, check out the return policy of the supplier. Most will allow you to keep the guitar anywhere from 10 to 45 days and still offer a full refund. This gives you a solid "out" in the event you don't like the guitar or are dissatisfied for any reason.