How to choose your acoustic guitar?


Choosing your acoustic guitar, a generic term for steel strings guitars, classical (nylon strings) or gipsy (steel strings) is no easy task for beginners, as many factors come into play. First of all, it will be imperative to make a personal assessment: what is my level of practice, what are my musical tastes, my needs and requirements, my budget?

Once this initial reflection has been carried out, you will be able to use the guide below to move on to a more technical analysis of the various selection criteria (type of strings, format, wood, etc.) in order to select the guitar that suits you best.

With the diagram below, first familiarize yourself with the syntax of the art that is guitar making; let's analyze the anatomy of the instrument.




Steel or nylon strings?


A guitar with steel strings or a classical guitar with nylon strings doesn't sound the same at all, and handling is also very different.

NYLON STRINGS


Nylon strings are generally softer to play and to the touch than steel strings, which are thinner and harder and require a period of adaptation (the time for calluses to form at the end of your fingers in contact with the fingerboard). On the other hand, the neck of classical guitars is usually thicker and therefore it is more tiring to practice on than steel-strings guitars.

In terms of tone, the nylon strings are more intimate and allow to approach classical music, flamenco, Latin (Bossa) and typical French popular music (Brassens) styles, possibly a bit of Jazz.

STEEL STRINGS


Guitars with steel strings sound generally brighter and more powerful. They can be considered more versatile; you will be able to approach with the same happiness: Folk, Country, Rock, Blues, Jazz, French Song...



Acoustic or electro acoustic?


It seems obvious that the investment in an electro-acoustic can be considered as a purely functional purchase because there is not much interest to amplify your guitar in the context of a domestic use.
So if you don't play as a group and especially on stage, dedicate your entire budget to pure acoustic guitars; for a similar price, the instrument will be of better quality and will sound better with probably more depth and expressiveness.

However, if you must own an electro acoustic guitar, you should know that all manufacturers generally offer their flagship models in both versions.

The difference between acoustics and electro-acoustics


The acoustic guitar uses its hollow body to amplify the vibrations of the strings and produce a sound. The sound power comes from the box.

An electro-acoustic guitar has small sensors that detect the movement of strings and translate it into an electric signal. The sound is much louder.

To be able to play these two types of guitars at the same time without the more powerful electric sound completely covering up the acoustic sound, we generally use electro-acoustic guitars. This is the case when playing live, for example. The electro-acoustic guitar is therefore an acoustic guitar to which a miniature microphone connected to an amplifier and loudspeaker is integrated into the box. This makes it possible to obtain the sound of an acoustic guitar with the power of an electric one.



Solid wood or laminated?


A guitar can be made entirely or partially of solid wood or laminated wood. For Most entry and mid-range guitars only the soundboard is made out of massive wood.

Solid wood guitar


A guitar with a solid top is obtained by gluing two symmetrical pieces, previously cut out according to the so-called "butterfly" technique (the board has been sawed in its center).
- Advantages: the guitar will evolve and generally improve over time.
- Disadvantages: structural fragility which forces to be careful with its instrument.

Laminated wooden guitar


A guitar with a laminated table is made up of superimposed sheets of wood glued together, the top sheet usually consisting of more noble woods, to at least guarantee a decent aesthetic.
- Advantages: the manufacturing costs are lower and the guitar is stronger.
- Disadvantages: the sound is "stuck", no evolution possible over time.



Acoustic guitar sizes


This theme could be the subject of a book on its own. For more than a century, manufacturers have developed and offered countless variants to meet the demands of guitarists in various musical registers.

However, things changed radically around 1920, when the guitars had to be rethought to tolerate the high tension generated by steel strings instead of the traditional and softer gut strings (later replaced by nylon strings).
In this area, the Martin guitar brands with its 00,000 and Dreadnought 14 frets, or Gibson with its unmistakable Flat Top Top Rounder J-45 or Super Jumbo J-200 models, are pioneers in the field of steel-strings guitar construction.

Classical Guitar


Classical guitars with nylon strings are distinguished by their relatively compact body size, making them accessible to the greatest number of people. The neck has twelve reachable frets out of the body, is rather wide, with a flat touch. It is the reference type for classical, Brazilian, jazz and French music.

Dreadnought Guitar


Named after the Royal Navy warship, the Dreadnought guitar format is the most popular and widespread guitar format, designed to enhance the bass frequencies and volume of the instrument, allowing acoustics to be heard in an orchestral context. The Dreadnoughts are the perfect rhythm guitars, especially when playing with a pick; their neck, with a slightly rounded touch, has fourteen frets out of the body.

Jumbo Guitar


Invented by Gibson to compete with Martin's Dreadnought, the Jumbo guitar format is also widely acclaimed. Its wide body gives it an excellent power-projection ratio and its sound depth is heightened. In order to keep the frequency balance consistent, this template is generally associated with maple essence whose density ensures quality trebles and mid-highs sounds. The Jumbo guitars are therefore also remarkable rhythm guitars.

Parlor guitar


Also known as Grand concert, 00 or Double-Oh, the parlor guitars are directly inspired by classical guitars. Having reached their peak at the end of the 19th century and up to the 1950s they were used by many Blues, steel strings and finger-picking guitarists.
Parlor guitars are generally appreciated for their brilliance, pleasant ergonomics and surprising power given their small ;size. The Martin guitars in line 00 are their best representatives of it.

Grand Auditorium Guitar


The Grand Auditorium style sacralized by the 000 Martin guitars (cf Eric Clapton Signature) is a middle ground between the Grand Concert and the Dreadnought, with narrower hips than the latter, making it easier to handle. Many Grand Auditorium guitars have a convex back to increase body volume without affecting comfort. The result is a very balanced sound like a parlor guitar, but with a higher volume and a significantly enhanced bass response. It is a very good compromise that can be adapted to all uses: domestic, stage, studio.

Gipsy Guitar


These guitars are characteristic of the gipsy style with a particular sound. Most often equipped with a cut-off shape to facilitate access to the treble, there are only two variations: small or large "mouth" (soundhole). Large mouth guitars are usually reserved for rhythmic playing, while small mouths are adapted to solo players.



Glossary: guitar wood species


Each species of wood has its own sound signature and clearly influences the identity of the instrument.
Without going into too technical considerations, it is good to know that the most important factor taken into account by the designer luthiers is the speed with which a wood transmits energy and vibrations. Depending on the element of the guitar for which it is used (table, back, ribs, neck, easel), this will have more or less effect.
In addition, the same species can have different levels of sound and visual quality, which explains in part the great disparity of prices between apparently identical instruments.

Mahogany ( density 0.55 to 0.80):


Mainly used in the manufacture of acoustic guitars as well as electric guitars; it composes the back and sides of most steel string acoustic guitars, all price ranges combined.
It is a wood that gives a particularly warm sound with a remarkable sustain. Its bass are whole, its middle tones solid and its treble velvety.

Cedar (medium density 0.56):


Originally used by Spanish guitar manufacturers as part of the classical guitar, cedar has grown in popularity over the last thirty years, chronically used in the making of steel string guitar soundboards. Less dense and softer than spruce, it is a soft wood that has a round and velvety sound but nevertheless balanced, with overtones* equally distributed on the spectrum rather than concentrated on bass and treble (*overtones are over-frequencies added to the fundamental frequency and bringing a distinct character to the instrument).
It is also aesthetically very attractive (grain and hue).

Wild Cherry (density 0.58 to 0.61) :


At the crossroads between Mahogany and Maple with an emphasis on midlles, Cherry is an excellent choice for the back and ribs of mid-range guitars. It is particularly used by Godin (acoustics Seagull, Art & Lutherie, Simon & Patrick) which is renowned for the remarkable value for money of its works.

Cypress (medium density 0.45) :


An unusual species of wood, mainly reserved for flamenco guitars.

Ebony (density 1.03 to 1.19):


Ebony is an extremely dense,"top-of-the-range" wood that is often used for keys and for bridges. It has natural compression and shine that brings precision to the sound.

Spruce (medium density 0.47):


Spruce is the go-to species for the manufacture of acoustic guitar soundboards (also used in the production of violins or mandolins). Its stiffness to weight ratio induces an optimal velocity of sound.

Sitka spruce (medium density 0.43):


Spruce superior strain, the Sitka Spruce, thanks to its fundamental overtones (overtones are overfrequencies added to the main frequency and bring a distinct sound to the instrument), has a powerful and direct sound capable of maintaining clarity when the guitar is played with intensity (in contrast, an overly muffled attack can leave an impression of finesse in the sound).

Maple (density 0.55 to 0.84):


This wood is used to make handles, keys and electric guitar tables. In the acoustic context, it is most often the back and ribs.
It is a rigid and fairly dense wood that conducts vibrations particularly well, with a crystalline character and high-mid presence, suitable for band playing (fits well in the mix) and electro-acoustic models (less sensitive to feedback).
It is also appreciated for its beautiful flamed (flamed), wavy (quilted, curly) or speckled (birdseye) veining.

Palissandre or Rosewood, medium density 0.85):


The Rosewood is a must in the design of the highest quality acoustic guitars. Denser and heavier than Mahogany (also very common wood used in the manufacture of acoustics), this species has a rapid diffusion, a wide range of overtones (overfrequencies higher than the fundamental frequency that complement and enrich it), solid and complex bass frequencies, and a crystalline and limpid mid-high frequency.

Koa (medium density 0.55):


Koa is a superb alternative exotic species mixing the aspects of mahogany with the crystalline sound of maple. Because of its density, a new guitar in koa will tend to sound a little bright and "tight", but the more it is played, the more its sound will open up, become richer and softer.

Ovangkol (medium density 0.85):


African parent of the Rosewood, the Ovangkol with its flattering aesthetics has the main characteristics of rosewood with middle tones noticeably richer and treble present but less prominent than those of maple.
It was successfully spotlighted by Taylor.

Sapele (medium density 0.55):


Sapele is an excellent wood substitute for Mahogany and has its long sustain and essential frequency range, with extra shine.


VNow it's your turn to play. Take the time to integrate this fundamental information but in the end, let yourself be guided by your sensations and your "feel" because there is nothing more subjective than to choose your guitar!



Learn to play guitar


You have different options to learn to play the acoustic guitar. You can obviously learn to play by yourself (Youtube is your best friend) or take lessons with music schools online. If you think that a teacher is a best option for you, you can either take private classes at home or group classes.


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