How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

alexphyd

How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by alexphyd » Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:50 pm

Maybe this is not the right place for this question. I am thinking to buy a concert guitar (which will be expensive) and am wondering: starting with different luthiers/guitar makers, different woods, year of construction, mechanics etc (many variables here:), what pieces would you play, depending on the guitar, to make sure that e.g.

1) they are flawless

2) they have very good sustain/sound

3) they are very playable

4) adapt to the music one prefers (e.g. spruce for baroque?)

5) etc

The question maybe is: what are the characteristics of a great guitar, and how do you make them emerge, provided of course you know how to play?

Oftentimes one cannot take the guitar home to try it, so one must choose with a limited amount of time playing it:(

Thanks!

Cheers,

Alessandro

wchymeUS

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by wchymeUS » Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:32 pm

Funny, I prefer cedar for Baroque music :D

Wel, I've been hunting a new spruce top guitar for a about a year and tried many, many, many, too many actually. One thing I find useful though is to be able to try it with someone else so you get to listen to the guitar and you have someone who can listen and spot weaknesses of the instrument you may not be able to hear by yourself.
Having the possibility to compare guitar is also a plus.
The acoustic of the room also has to match extreme conditions or conditions that for you matter the most. e.g., if you want to play in public then large room with echo is good. If you want to play for yourself only, match your practice room as much as you can.
Consider the age of the guitar as well. A brand new spruce will evolve over time and may be a bit disappointing compared to a brand new cedar top. But if you have the opportunity to try more than one guitar from the same builder, you will get an idea of how it ages.

Falling in love is probably the number one criteria though... follow your heart!

jstroud

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by jstroud » Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:14 pm

I dont think you can narrow it down this way as certain woods luthiers will not sound as you think they should.

1. do they play nice in your hands since everyone has different.

2. pick some pieces that emphasixe different parts of the fretboard to compare and contrast bass and treble notes. something like lagrima, barrios vals8 #4, some bach etc to see how clear they are with counterpoint. caprico arabe for scales and high note sustain. also pick some tunes that have tough bars to see how it feels in your left hand. like vlobos choro #1 tansman danza pomposa etc.
3. i own a cedar that is amazingly bright and have played spruce that are amazing warm and full.
4. play scales from low to high not to see how they sound
5. bring another guitar you know well with you to compare it with.

my two cents

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guitarseller345645
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Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by guitarseller345645 » Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:35 pm

Often, when I play a new guitar in my room with a new set of my preferred strings, it sounds different from when I was testing it out...so much so that I wonder if I had made the right choice :(

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Cary W
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Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by Cary W » Sat Oct 02, 2010 11:00 pm

It's like taking a car for a test drive...push it! See how the instrument responds to slow, gentle music, and also to loud, aggressive playing. A concert guitar should be able to do it all, and of course you need to love the sound...after all the real investment is not the money but the many hours you will spend with it. Of course, take your time before choosing!
Cheers,
Cary
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MikeToot

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by MikeToot » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:18 am

See how the instrument responds to slow, gentle music, and also to loud, aggressive playing.

I'm assuming that Pete Townsend-like windmilling is not what you mean by "aggressive." :lol:

jstroud

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by jstroud » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:48 am

since you live in seattle you ought to go see dake traphagen in Bellingham who makes terrific guitars a 9 month wait tho

Marcus Dominelli
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Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by Marcus Dominelli » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:22 am

If you live in Seattle check out The Rosewood Guitar shop. You can try a bunch of guitars under one roof.

IMO a great guitar is one that will respond to the demands of the player regardless of the musical style. For example, you can dig in hard or play it lightly. It will respond nicely to both free strokes and rest strokes. You can dig in or play lightly, near the bridge or the soundhole and the guitar responds.
I like guitars that have some personality but not so much so that the personality comes through all the time.

I don't care for guitars that work with some techniques and not others, or ones that only suit one particular style of music.
A great guitar should work for a musicaly diverse player, and not hold him/her back.

You'll know it when you find it. Good Luck.

Dominelli Guitars

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rojarosguitar
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Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by rojarosguitar » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:15 am

Hello, maybe you can find a good guitar or, with some luck, a great guitar, in local shop or at a local luthier.

On the other hand with all that information that is available on the internet we somehow get that illusion that everything as at our disposal, that we can get everything we wish.
Somehow this is partly true if you have a lot of money and can order a big bunch of famous guitars or travel a lot.

But if that is not the case the free choice is somehow an illusion. Most likely our choice is very limited. It's a bit 'accidental' what you will find at the local shop or luthier.
Many of the great guitar makers rarely have even a single guitar in their workshop if you don't happen to come around when they have just finished some, because they build only on order, have long waiting lists, and when the guitars are ready and the finish is cured, they send them to their customers. Also they will be very hesitant to let you play a lot on a brand new guitar that is made for a specific customer. Somehow it's the right of the customer who placed the order to play the guitar from the very begining and se how it develops.


When I was in Granada looking for a guitar many years ago, A. Marin didn't have a single guitar to try, and a waiting list of more than one year. All the local luthiers I could find had guitars in their shops, but they wheren't that great - that was probabely the reason why they still had them there. I finally got one from Rene Baarslag - the only one he had on his bench. It was there only because somebody who ordered it didn't show up on time to pick it up, and he wasn't inclined to wait if this person maybe will come or not. I still have this guitar. I had a very long break in playing, but now this guitar is blossoming and grows with my (dilettante) playing. Obviously that was the one instrument and maker I had a kind of connection with.

As I wrote elsewhere here in the forum, maybe a good idea is rather to find a local luthier with a good reputation, try to communicate your wishes and have the guitar build by someone you can have a human relationship and communication with. It might be not the best guitar you could theoretically get in this world, but it could be an instrument that is embedded in relation and so in a positive attitude. It could develop nicely along with your playing.

Just a point of view...

best wishes and succes in your search
Robert
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Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by Intune » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:47 pm

Since you're not committed to any one luthier, it would be wise to visit a large guitar shop and compare different makers' instruments head to head, as has been suggested earlier. If you can, bring along another guitar player so you'll be able to hear the instruments from the audience perspective, not just the player's side. You'd be surprised at how different they can sound.

Good hunting!

Intune
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Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by riffmeister » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:54 pm

alexphyd wrote:The question maybe is: what are the characteristics of a great guitar, and how do you make them emerge, provided of course you know how to play?
Easy to play in the left and right hands. Tunes easily and intonates well. Strong 1st string all the way up the neck. Good volume and well-balanced in all registers, both up and down the neck and across strings. Responds well to right hand timbral changes. Good sustain. No dead notes. Beautiful to look at.

GuitarVlog

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by GuitarVlog » Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:22 pm

When seriously shopping, I often brought one of my own guitars to do a comparison. This gives a common point of reference for all guitars that I try out and helps equalize the effect of the shop's acoustics.

The guitar you bring with you must be one that you are very familiar with. You must know its qualities and its faults. You must understand how it responds with certain pieces and what you feel is "lacking". Being aware of those, you may gain a better understanding of what you want in your new guitar.

Bill Doyle

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by Bill Doyle » Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:33 pm

Obviously the sound is important, but that changes over time and from place to place. Perhaps my ears are not as sensitive as those of others, but I find that most guitars of high quality sound great (there are some major differences... ie. flamenco vs classical sounds) ... the environment and the strings make as big a difference as the guitar itself. The thing I really care about is playability. When testing guitars, I pick some music that is giving me problems in parts. I then play the difficult parts to see if a particular guitar eases the playing. In this way, I have found guitars that love my particular hands... pretty important.

jstroud

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by jstroud » Sun Oct 03, 2010 9:37 pm

excellent point what goes is it if it sounds great but you cant play it like the old rameriz 664's

alexphyd

Re: How to try different classical guitars when buying one?

Post by alexphyd » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:16 pm

I am starting thinking that the idea of speaking to local luthiers is probably a good one (I doubt I will ever visit Australia, let alone have the money for a Smallman for that matter:)
It is indeed true that waiting lists are a real problem: sometimes I think there is potential space for many good luthiers, people will happily continue paying lots of money, as long as they don't need to wait for few years.

Going back to the subject: have you ever found a shop where they let you take the guitar home and try it at leisure?that would be ideal, even though, as suggested, the place where you play is important.
As for what to play, I have often heard players play some Flamenco like piece packed with notes, which made me wonder whether one should truly "push" the guitar, rather than concentrate purely on the sound.

Pieces that I played on guitars in a shop: Bach (minuet etc), Sagrega's el colibri, Villa Lobos first two studies, Asturias, some Tarrega: it still takes me ages to make up my mind. A good part of my trying is spent playing single notes or just the open strings (apart from thorough check for buzzing, all the frets, the board, etc etc)...

Yes, going with another player is a very good idea (or in general have someone play it for you)!
I find it hard to compare guitars e.g. one I have at home is a (studio) Picado special, beautiful (unique) sound but I would not compare it to a concert one (in terms of sustain and volume for sure), but I guess you meanif you already have a high quality guitar (do professional players own a roomful of them or what?:)

Ale

ps: this forum is great!:)

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