Buying A Guitar
There are many things to consider when buying a new classical guitar. For instance, whether or not you are a beginner or seasoned professional will determine just what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend.
If you're a beginner to intermediate player there are many excellent online dealers that carry a good range of brands at reasonable prices. I've recently added a Guitar Store page on my website which carries merchandise from Musiciansfriend.com which I'm very happy with.
These online stores "live and die" by their reputation and so can't afford to have mediocre instruments or service. As we all know, news travels very fast on the web and they'd soon be out of business if they tried to "pull a swifty" on anyone.
You can pretty much trust that their instruments will be good and you can view pictures of them online so don't be afraid of buying a guitar online if you're looking for that sort of convenience.
If your heart is set on going to a "bricks & mortar" store to seek out an instrument, actually getting it in your hands to get the feel, then there are a few things you should know before you go.
The most important thing is of course the sound of the instrument. Is it a sound that you are happy with and feel comfortable about.
The different types of wood that classical guitars are made from will give each instrument its own peculiar sound but in general, guitars with cedar tops produce a more "warm' tone whereas spruce tops are likely to be more "focused" or 'concentrated".
I've been asked in the past to accompany parents of some of my students to help in the purchase of a guitar. If the instrument is new then these things aren't so important but I still check them anyway.
So, one of the first things I always do is check along the neck of the instrument by looking down from the nut to the end of the instrument. That is, I physically pick up the guitar and hold it out from my body so that the headstock is pointing towards me. Then I look along the length of the neck to see if it is straight. There should be NO bowing of the neck at all.
I also look behind the bridge of the instrument to see if any area of the top is buckled or bowed. I would strongly advise anyone NOT to buy an instrument that was showing any signs of these defects. It's just not worth it in the end.
The third thing I do is to hold down the strings from the second fret to the twelfth fret and see if the string length touches all the intervening frets. There will be a problem with craftsmanship if you have any significant variation here.
I then check the sound of the instrument to see if it has the qualities that I'm after. They are: projection; quality of tone and; comfort i.e. is it the right size for me or whoever we're buying the instrument for.
Children, especially younger ones, will obviously need a smaller guitar than adults and it depends on the size of the student. Classical guitars usually come in half, three-quarter, five-eighth and full size.
If you've covered all these areas you'll usually come away with a decent guitar that will last you many years of happy playing.
If you're a more advanced player or have the money and inclination to buy something a little better, you know, that DREAM guitar, then you'll have to invest a little more time, money and testing to achieve it.
Sharon Isbin, writing in the Classical Guitar Answer Book , suggests these areas when purchasing that "dream guitar": Beauty of Tone; Dynamic & Timbral Contrasts; Clarity & Speed of Response; Sustain; Balance; Resonance; Intonation; Projection; Condition.
Phew! Talk about attention to detail! But if you're after an instrument of quality and it's worth the money then it's worth the time and effort to research.
I hope this has been of help in purchasing an instrument.
Trevor Maurice is an Australian, living in beautiful seaside Maroubra, in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
He's been involved in playing guitar (mainly classical) for longer than he cares to remember and has also taught the instrument for many years. He is teacher trained, having a Diploma of Education (Majoring in music)
He has also taught Primary (Elementary) school for many years and had a long-held dream to build a quality website for the classical guitar that is of use to anyone even slightly interested in this beautiful instrument. He has now made that dream a reality with the highly rated...
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