How to Buy A Handmade Acoustic Guitar - Part 1

How to Buy Handmade Acoustic Guitars - Part 1

Most Are A Testament to Fine Building Techniques and Artwork, But Are They Worth it?

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Handmade Acoustic Guitars:

Handmade acoustic guitars have made a lot of progress over the last 40 years. Demand was pumped into this market in the 70's and 80's when the big instrument makers such as C.F. Martin and Gibson were faced with stiff competition from the infusion of Japanese guitars.

American Guitar Makers Lowered Their Standards in the 1970's

In order to keep their market share, these American companies lowered their standards and the quality of their instruments plummeted.

Charis Guitar

Curly Maple Handmade  Acoustic Guitar

This introduced a ripe market for small luthier's (stringed instrument makers) to supply a quality of handmade acoustical guitars to a quality-starved pool of musicians.

Most Handmade Acoustic Guitar Shops Are Very Small

There were a few larger makers that produced largely handmade products, but the truly fine makers were typically the one to three man shops that hung their hat on the quality of their handmade acoustic guitars.

Custom Fretboard Inlay

Custom Pearl Inlay - Martin Custom Guitars

Try to Overlook the Ornamentation

It is easy to get taken away by all the "eye candy" that many of these instruments possess, but try not to let that distract you from your task of searching out a quality instrument.

I too was drawn to "show off" what I could do with a custom handmade guitar by designing and installing elaborate mother-of-pearl vines in the fretboard, abalone purfling and soundhole trim and fancy headstock artwork.

But it really didn't make the guitar sound one bit better or play any better. In fact, I believe my less ornamental custom handmade guitars sounded a bit better.

So if you want to buy-pass all of the "fluff" you can save yourself quite a bit of change and get an incredible handmade acoustic guitar for a very reasonable price.

Buy an Acoustic Guitar OnLine? Absolutely! Give These Great Retailers A Try: Musicians Friend:  
Guitar Center:  
American Musical Supply:  

If you plan on having a handmade acoustic guitar made especially for you, here are some things to consider.

Consider A Wider Neck For Fingerstyle

Classical Guitar Head Piece

What is your playing style, flatpick or fingerstyle? With fingerstyle guitar playing, consider a wider string spread at the bridge for more finger accessibility. Also consider a wider neck at the nut if you will be doing a lot of difficult passages and chord combinations in combination with open strings. Also if you have long fingers you will want to consider a wider neck.

Size of Body Affects Volume & Tone

What sound do you want to obtain? Want a lot of volume? Choose a larger body guitar for a deeper sound that projects better, such as a dreadnought shape. Also depth of the body will affect your tone. A deeper body gives more bass, and thinner more treble tones will be projected. Cedar and redwood tops will give more bass and a warmer tone. Spruce will be louder and a bit sharper.

Top With Scalloped Bracing

Handmade Acoustical Guitar

Many Handmade Acoustics Have Scalloped Bracing

Bracing can greatly affect the sound of a handmade acoustic guitar too. Many of the best sounding guitars have scalloped top bracing. This compromises the structural capabilities of the top if not carefully done right, but gives you an amazing boost in sound. Use medium gauge strings or light gage strings on these guitars for long-lasting trouble-free service.

Click HERE for Part 2 of This Article