Originally Posted by Brian SD
I recently moved out of my apartment in San Diego, and with my apartment went my roommate, and with my roommate went his acoustic guitar. I've been an electric player for years (though nothing fancy, I took lessons for about two years before I went to college), and I'm thinking that before I move overseas, which is in barely over a week, I'd like to pick up a nice acoustic to take with me. Generally speaking, what are the "safe" brands for acoustic guitars? I don't mind spending up to maybe $650 or so, seems like that's around where some of the Takamines and Taylors sit. Most of the music I play is some variation of pop, though I'd like to delve into some classical style eventually as well. Anyway, let me know what your thoughts are on this matter.
Hello, I worked for ten years in a guitar store. I have experience with everything from 1959 Gibson Flying V's ($100, 000 guitars) to the cheapest plywood acoustic. These days, performing music and getting sharp threads is more what I am up to, but I'd be glad to give my $.02 on your guitar purchase. PLYWOOD vs. SOLID WOOD The more solid wood a guitar has, the more it's going to cost and better it will sound (theoretically, at least) FINISH If a guitar has a polyester or polyurethane finish then it is tougher. The poly finish resists scratching and cracking. It's like a smooth plastic coating. The big problem with poly finishes is they choke the sound of the guitar. It will not resonate as well. At the guitar store, for mad scientist experiments we would strip the plastic finish off of cheap guitars, and be amazed at how much better sounding they got (don't try this at home!) The other basic kind of finish is nitrocellulose lacquer. This is almost always the type of finish on high end electrics and acoustics. On the plus side, the nitro finish sounds good, it damps the wood just enough. It also does not have a cheap plastic shine. Most people think it feels better to the touch. Unfortunately, nitro finishes are very fragile. They scratch easily and very often will have small cracks. They are the "old school" way. BIG GUITARS vs. LITTLE GUITARS
Are you a strummer or a finger picker? Do you play more lead or rhythm? A.) Most guitars are the Dreadnaught size, named after a class of battleships. A Martin D28 would be an iconic example. These are good for strumming chords and accompanying singers. A big person can handle these better because of their size. The Dreadnaught guitar is louder with an emphasis on the mid range. There are also Jumbo guitars (think Elvis) that are even more mid rangy and great for strumming. B.) There also exist smaller guitars. like the Martin ooo18 or Gibson LG series. All the major brands have made various sizes at one time or another. Smaller guitars are usually easier to play. They have a more balanced sound and work well for fingerpicking and lead playing. A lot of people use smaller guitars in the recording studio. Most cheaper guitars are not made in smaller sizes, because they sound cruddy. You really need quality for a smaller guitar. My favorite guitar is a 1941 Gibson LG. It sounds great, but it is incredibly rare and it would be hard to find one for $650.
1. Are you going to be traveling a lot with the guitar, maybe playing it on the beach, storing it in the trunk of your car etc.? Get a plywood guitar with a polyester finish. These are the toughest guitars. It will be unlikely to crack, and you won't have to worry about it too much. Don't expect a lot of sound, though it might be adequate for your purposes. You could spend $200-500 for a fun "kick around" guitar. Popular sturdy brands include Yamaha and Ibanez
2. Do you want a professional sounding instrument that is good enough to play in a recording studio, that you are willing to baby, and be prepared for the usual cracks, and maintenance issues? Try to get a solid wood American made (US or Canada) guitar. The tricky thing is your price range ($650) is in that area between a fun cheap guitar and most fine professional grade ones. The good brands are (and have been for many decades) Martin Gibson Guild Other good brands include Larivee Taylor Most top quality American guitars are in the $1000 and up price range... even for used ones, unless you get very lucky. I'm always inclined to go for the best, so at least investigate the higher quality guitars.
Actually, the Seagull S6 guitar (made in Canada) pictured early in the thread is a good suggestion. Those guitars sound quite good for their price (under $500 still, I think) The sound board is solid, and they feature a resonant oil finish. The fit and finish is nice for the money. A slight drawback is that the Seagull Guitars can be a bit fragile, and require more care than a plywood top poly finish guitar.
Hope this is of help! TL