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Choosing a Guitar: Five Considerations

Thinking about buying an acoustic guitar?Deciding on which guitar to get can be very difficult, especially if it is your first guitar.

But even if you had owned a guitar before, choosing a new one can be equally challenging because there are a lot of factors you have to consider, like:

What the guitar is for

What kind of music do you want to play on your guitar? It is necessary to be clear about what you are going to use the guitar for, or you might end up spending money for a guitar that does not fit your purpose.

If you will be using the guitar for mainly classical music, then you must get a classical guitar with nylon strings.

Your skill as a guitar player

If you are a beginner, it would not be wise not to go all-out on an expensive guitar. You would mostly be practicing, you might want to get a classical guitar whose nylon strings are easier on the fingers or a reasonably priced steel string guitar. As always, it is very much down to personal preference and the style of music you are looking to play.

The guitar’s make

You need to know how the acoustic guitar is built in order to see how the various parts can make a difference in the way the guitar sounds – something you would want to pay attention to when buying a guitar.

Here are the different parts of the guitar and their functions:

The headstock

This is the part that is fitted with tuning pegs, which are used to adjust the tension on the strings. This tension is what creates the different pitches.

The nut

This is a strip of plastic, bone or graphite that is grooved to hold the strings and that they stay properly lined on the fret board.

The neck

This is the long piece of wood that connects the headstock to the guitar’s body. On the topside of the neck you will find the fret board, also called the fingerboard, which are usually made of ebony or rosewood.

The fret board is divided into sections by frets, thin metal strips fixed on the wood to indicate where the notes are played. The back of the neck is rounded, to adapt to the groove of the fretting hand.

The heel

This can be found at the base of the neck; it provides support for the back of the neck, so it does not bend or break.

The body of the guitar

Composed of the soundboard at the top, the sides and the back, the body has a hollow chamber inside.

The curves on the upper part of the body are called the upper bout, while the lower curves are referred to as the lower bout. The part between these bouts is called the waist.

On the top lies the sound hole, where the sound is projected. The sound hole is aligned with the guitar’s waist and starts where the fret board ends.

Below the sound hole lies the bridge, where the strings are mounted through bridge pins. On top of the bridge lies the saddle – a thin strip of plastic or bone–which cradles the strings and sets them in place.

The guitar’s style and sound

Acoustic guitars basically follow the same design and construction. However, they vary largely in terms of sound and playability. The sound is influenced by the following:

The size and shape of the guitar

The larger the soundboard is, the louder the sound. However, you must not sacrifice your comfort, especially if you are a beginner guitar player. You must also take into consideration how comfortable you would be with the size and shape.

The top of the guitar

The top of the guitar is either solid – meaning it is made up of one solid piece of wood, or laminate – made of several layers of wood stuck together.

A solid top always sounds better than a laminate top, because solid wood vibrates better, thereby producing a richer and louder sound.

The length and width of the neck

Although the size of the neck does not affect the sound, it can greatly affect how comfortable you are in playing the guitar. If your hands are rather small, it would do you well to look for a guitar with a smaller neck diameter.

The strings used

While it is easier to play the classical guitar because it has softer nylon strings, you might want to think about getting a steel-stringed guitar (even if you’re a beginner) if you wish to start playing rock, pop or country music.

This is especially recommended if you do not really want to spend money on two different kinds of guitars (if you’re really not into classical music).

The kind of wood used

Different woods give out various tonal characteristics, so the wood should also be a consideration in your choice of a guitar.

Some of the most common types of wood used are spruce, rosewood, maple, mahogany, ebony, cedar and walnut. Each of these have their unique characteristics and are used for making different guitar parts.

Your personal choice

It helps to know the different things you need to look for in a guitar, but above all else, you must choose the guitar that you like the best. Are you comfortable with handling it?

Do you like the way it sounds? Do not settle for a guitar that “will do” for the moment. Since you will be spending money, find one that responds to the way you play it – whether you are sitting or standing.

Before going to the music store, make sure that you know what you want in a guitar. By being prepared, you will be less overwhelmed and will make the best decision – one that is worth your money and will give you enjoyment for a long time.