Looking to buy a new guitar. Questions about wood!

Looking to buy a new guitar. Questions about wood!

Postby darksun » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:36 pm

Hey all! I'm looking to buy a new guitar. I want a good, mellow, folk / bluegrass sound, but most importantly a nice sound for classical compositions. I'll be starting to play in coffee shops, so I'm looking to get an classical guitar with a pre-amp. However, I've never gone down the road of using an amp with my classical guitar before. Sure, I could just set up a microphone in front of my guitar's sound hole, but I want this to be a versatile guitar; not just for classical playing.

Thus, what types of wood should I be looking at? My old teacher suggested that I purchase the Hermosa AH-10CE, but I'm not entirely sure this would suit my needs.

I am currently using an old Yamaha G-50A (built in '69, awwwwwyeah). However, I just don't like it's sound. It sounds pretty harsh (not harsh as in bad, but harsh as in not mellow), and it doesn't have a very deep bass. What I have been able to find about this guitar's construction is that the top is made from spruce (Yamaha's website states that the top may also be pine, thus I'm not sure which mine is), the back and sides are made from katsura, the neck is nato, and the bridge and fingerboard are babingo. I have no idea what woods the last three are.

Bottom line, I don't want my new guitar to sound like my old one. Any tips on what I should be looking for here?

I am also torn on whether to go with a guitar that has a piezo pickup, or a soundboard transducer. I'm looking more towards the latter though, because it doesn't interfere with the guitar's natural sound as much, and the feedback can be dealt with.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
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Re: Looking to buy a new guitar. Questions about wood!

Postby playingdead » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:26 am

What's your budget?
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Re: Looking to buy a new guitar. Questions about wood!

Postby tcsned » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:03 pm

I don't think a nylon string guitar is what you want if you want to play any bluegrass at all. It's hard to find a guitar that will work for classical and bluegrass since they are such radically different tones. You may try using something like silk and steel strings - that'll mellow the sound of a steel string. Depending on your $$ situation you might look at a mahogany or a cedar top guitar. That mellows out the tone of a steel string guitar.

As to your guitar, I'm not totally sure what Katsura is but I think it's a less expensive, pretty durable wood that's easy to finish. Nato is a cheaper wood often used for necks on imported guitars. Bubinga is very similar to rosewood and is used for fretboards and bridges (you also see a lot of high end basses use bubinga tops). I'm guessing from the model number that the pine top is a laminate. They usually put an "S" in the model if it's a solid-top but in '69 maybe not.

If there's a good music store in your area I would go try a few solid top guitars (both steel and nylon string). If you're nylon string guitar is sounding harsh you might just need something little more resonant - solid woods help with that. I used to sell a lot of reasonably priced solid top steel and nylon string guitars and they can be pretty nice for the money.

Generally speaking guitar woods will color tone like this:

soft wood tops:
Spruce or pine - fairly bright sounding
Cedar - more mellow (typically used on nylon string guitars)

Hard wood tops:
Mahogany or Koa - more mellow, less sustain than softwoods

Back and sides:
Rosewood - deep and strong bass
Maple - midrange punch
Mahogany - bright and cutting

Neck woods:
Mahogany - warmer tone
Maple - brighter tone

Fretboard wood:
Maple - usually finished and bright
(probably more tone from the finish than the wood)
Ebony - bright
Rosewood - warmer than ebony

Caveat - you generally have a mix of bright and dark woods on a single guitar so the tone is more complicated than bright and dark and the manufacturing process also has an effect that can counter the woods. So, it's always better to play the guitar and judge for yourself.
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Re: Looking to buy a new guitar. Questions about wood!

Postby darksun » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:01 pm

Actually, I can play some decent sounding bluegrass on my classical.

Also, I won't get a steel string guitar. I don't like the look or feel of them. It's just not my style! I'll save the steel strings for my electric!

But yeah, I think i'm going to go with a cedar top, however, i'm still somewhat torn because I know that spruce continues to age and develop for many many years after cedar stops aging, however, I may not have this guitar for that long. Also, I wish I could afford a guitar with an ebony fingerboard, but they're all too expensive :(

Btw, my budget is ~$750.

Thanks for the advice man!
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Re: Looking to buy a new guitar. Questions about wood!

Postby mijknahs » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:30 pm

I sold my Martin D-28 and bought a used Martin OM and so glad I did. I love the sound of the OM so much more than the D-28. Much better bedroom tone which is what I mostly use it for.
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