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Saturday, 26 July 2008

Featuring: Acoustic guitars- plus downloads

This guide explains the different types and sizes of guitar available and gives general tips on what to look for when buying a new guitar.

There are many different makes of acoustic guitar in each price range and, as a general rule, the build quality tends to be comparable within a given price range.

The first thing you need to decide is what type of acoustic guitar you are looking for.

The Different Types Of Acoustic Guitar

The Steel Strung Acoustic Guitar
This is a very common guitar used by all styles of guitarist at all levels and is extremely versatile for playing in a wide variety of musical styles. It may come in several different shapes and styles.
The Dreadnought guitar is probably the most commonly used type of guitar for styles such as rock, pop and blues, having a large body and producing a full, rich tone.
The Jumbo guitar is similar in style to the Dreadnought but has an even larger body making it ideal for big sounding chords with great low-end tones.
The ‘Parlour’ style acoustic guitar generally has a smaller body and a sweet, rich tone and is often used for folk styles and finger picking. Its smaller size may make it preferable to Dreadnought or Jumbo models if these feel too bulky to play comfortably.

* Steel Acoustics are the most popular of all the acoustic style guitars, and have been used by everybody from The Beatles to Coldplay
* The Dreadnought’s larger body is suitable for teenagers and adults
* Steel Acoustics are versatile and let you play many types of music: including jazz, rock, pop, folk, blues and Latin
* Steel strung guitar packs are available from under £50 and so represent a “great value” first instrument

The Classical or Spanish Guitar
The classical or Spanish guitar has a distinguished musical history with some of the best classical-style guitarists hailing from Spain and Latin America. The instrument’s distinctive sound and feel is largely determined by its nylon strings, the top three being clear nylon, the lower three being wire-wrapped. Nylon strings are easier to press down than steel ones, making them particularly suitable for young children, especially on a scaled-down instrument. Some of these guitars are small enough for children from 5-6 years upwards. Classical or Spanish guitars are not generally used for more popular music styles, but can be a great starting point if a full size, steel-strung acoustic is too daunting.

  • They come in small sizes, so they’re great for young beginners
  • Softer strings make playing easier
  • Starter packs are available from under £40

The Electro-Acoustic Guitar
If you intend to play in a band with drums or other amplified instruments—or play live through a PA—you should consider an electro-acoustic guitar. These are essentially acoustic guitars with a pickup under the bridge. The pickup translates the vibrations of the strings through the bridge into an electric signal which can then be amplified. This is easier than rigging up a microphone in front of the guitar and transmits less extraneous sound. Electro-acoustics tend to have a less rich sound when played without amplification because the sound board cannot be too resonant otherwise feedback occurs when it is amplified. Volume and tone controls are usual.

  • Suitable for playing on stage with a live band
  • Best for amplification
  • Suitable for teenagers and adults, not young learners
  • Volume and tone controls are usually included and some have a built-in tuner

Acoustic Guitar Features Explained

Headstock –the part of the instrument where the machine heads (the rotating keys that tune each string) are fixed

Neck — the long wooden section with the fretboard Make sure it is straight — not warped or twisted —and comfortable to handle.

Fretboard – the flat or cambered face of the neck with the frets

Frets —metal strips set into the fretboard at calculated intervals so as to create specific notes when plucked strings are pressed against them

Nut –a small strip of material set into the guitar where the fretboard meets the headstock . It determines the height of the strings at that point and has grooves to space the strings correctly

Soundhole –hole in the soundboard of the guitar, designed to let out the sound produced inside the instrument.

Bridge – supports the strings on the soundboard and helps transmit their vibrations into the body of the guitar where the sound is generated

Guitar Sizes

For late teen or adult players, buy a full-size acoustic guitar. For younger players consider smaller sizes.

½ size guitars are good for children between the ages of 5 and 9.

3/4 size guitars are are suitable for players 8 to 13 years old.

These are necessarily approximate age guidelines but they offer a starting point. Comfort is all-important...

When Trying A Guitar In Store…

If you are a beginner, it helps to have an experienced player with you when buying. If this is not possible, our sales assistants are there to help. Try out the guitars one after another, and listen for differences in tone and volume. Does it rattle at high volume? If so the action may need adjusting. (The action is the height of the strings above the fretboard). If the action is too high, the guitar will be difficult to play and painful on the fingers after a while. If it is too low, you will hear a buzzing as the strings rattle against the frets. Test each fret to listen for buzzes and rattles. Everybody will have a preferred action height so make sure you get what is right for you and always ask questions if you are unsure about any aspect of the guitar you are trying out.

Making Your Choice…

When you have decided which style of guitar you are comfortable with, hold it in the playing position. It should feel well-balanced when you play it. Strum a ringing chord and listen to the quality of the sound and individual notes. This is a very subjective thing, but it should be pleasing to your ear. If you are in any doubt about the sound or feel of the guitar then don’t hesitate to try out another couple until you find the right guitar for your individual needs. If you make the right choice then you can play the same guitar for many years so it’s well worth spending the time to get it right.


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