If you’ve been following the progress and adventures of my recordings on the Elijah Few blog then you`ll know that thus far I’ ve had to do battle with some extremely unversatile firewood. Yes, I`m talking about acoustic guitars and I`m going to try and outline what you should be looking for in your search for acoustic guitar satisfaction and it applies to any guitar, whatever your price range. Dan receives alot of questions in customer support regarding these matters so I`m going to outline a strategy to help make the right selection.
Apparently “a bad workman blames his tools” and to some extent this is true, but a good workman will select his tools wisely. If all you have available is a plank then that’s what you have to use, and I’ve been there myself and still managed to muster a half decent sound…In the picture below one of these guitars is an old plank, the other a mellifluous heaven of tone:
The kind of tone you are looking for should be along these lines – smooth, rich and highly natural; bright, lively and warm with an entirely even response across the strings. A breeze to play, with a low action, and when simply strumming an E chord resonates with rich, manuka, gently oscillating overtones.
If this kind of language baffles you some, then here is my strategy for discovering exactly what I mean and finding the right guitar for you. Begin at your local retailer by selecting guitars that fall somewhere near the most expensive available in the store – these will be guitar brands such as Martin, Taylor, Gibson or Guild.
Don’t be shy, because it`s all about sound. Play them and get a good feel for the different sounds that each produce. You will notice that different materials used for the soundboard, upon which the bridge sits, will produce different sounds. Simply try strumming an E chord on each model and place your ear on the top of the body.
Also pay close attention to the high, mid and low tones that each model produces – in an expensive model these should harmoniously blend together and there will be no noticeable loss of volume, attack or tone from string to string.
Consider the feel of the neck profiles as well, and how they sit within your hand. The action of the strings, the gap between the fretboard surface and the strings, should be low, but with no abolutely buzzing anywhere. Play up and down the neck and spend a bit of time getting to know each instrument. It`s a good idea to give each guitar a name that relates to how it sounds – molasses, coffee, warm, bright, hollow, rich, liqourice, etcetera. It`s all about the sound and the feel of the guitar – you should know which one you prefer almost intuitively – trust your instincts and use your HANDS and YOUR EARS – never use your eyes.
Narrow it down to your favourite one…Next start comparing and playing the guitars from your price range against the expensive guitar you most liked. Try and find one that most nearly matches the qualities you had admired in the more expensive model. You will have to make a compromise somewhere but hopefully you`ll be on your way. Better still sleep on it and go back the next day and spend some time playing the model you chose the day before just to see if it sill sounds good to your ear.