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Looking for Suggestions on a new acoustic ($500 range)

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Postby Redbeard » October 25th, 2011, 6:10 am

Good morning!

I think I am going to get myself an acoustic guitar for christmas.

I have an electric that I enjoy but I have been feeling like unplugging for a while now. When I sit down to putz around I honestly 99% of the time do not feel like dealing with the electronics side. I am even thinking of getting rid of my amp and just keeping my vox amplug for when I want to play the electric.

I have an old acoustic that my father gave me back in the day but its really worn and I dont think it was a great guitar to begin with. I would like to make a fresh start and choose my own acoustic to play with.

The best advice is of course to go play some and see what I like, which I will definitely be doing. But I am interested in getting suggestions and or comments from any of you guys/gals on the boards to share brands / models you've had good luck with in the past.

As for what I'd like to play... I am pretty open. I am interested in learning to fingerpick. I really would like to get into experimenting with some celtic style music. I generally listen to hard rock / heavy metal but one of my favorite artists is Greg Joy who plays all kinds of things. Thinking about fingerpicking christmas songs and that type of music is appealing as well.

That said we need to be able to strum to so... something good all around would be ideal.

Some that caught my eye around that price range:

These two they have down at guitar center so I can try them out
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitars/ ... 0000010000
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitars/ ... tic-guitar

This one they dont carry locally so I cant check it out =\
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitars/ ... tic-guitar

Any advice / opinions welcome!

Have a great day.
"I just curse the sun so I can howl at the moon" ~QOTSA
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Postby Blue Jay » October 25th, 2011, 11:21 am

I think that the Taylor is your best bet, and I have played them all here at the dealer's but won't buy one, because I like traditional Martin, and can get a barely used one from the Taylor dealer when I can afford it.

You might be voicing a guitar to the volume of other instruments in Celtic music, just as I am voicing a guitar to my loud raspy voice now or in the near future. Or you might want really bright stand-alone sounds.

So, I recommend the Taylor. It really is open and airy, bright and sweet, due to it's requisite spruce top, and the full dreadnought body. So... those weren't just words that they used to sell you. :wink:

I have been served well by Seagull Model 6's and Normans for nearly 20 years, and have researched their Canadian builder and his factories, and intend to keep my 1992 Model 6 as a beater.

My main guitars, not that it matters, but for your info, and as a reference are a Garrison, and also a Tacoma which is a real cannon, but in both, I hear cedar. Because they are cedar.

I bought a brand new Norman B15 this summer, because I needed spruce again. It would do, until the Martin became available, for show? B15 is very good though, while Seagull sounds are muted in comparison, cedar is kind of midrangey or a little bit dark. Mr. Godin cut down the size of their upper bout because they were boomy, and wanted crisper, tighter upper register definition, but it doesn't quite make it. Therefore I would never see Seagull as a fingerpicking guitar, or for lively ethnic music.

The Epi Masterbuilt is another that I am familiar with, and have read good reviews. But even at its best, and with the bell shape, if it were a Gibson, it doesn't do loud music well. Gibsons are sweeter and softer too, think: James Taylor sound (no Taylor pun intended) whereas Norman (IMO) and certainly Martin are Neil Young, loud sounds!
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Postby Nuno » October 25th, 2011, 1:34 pm

I've played the Seagull and it is a great guitar. It was a serious candidate when I purchased my acoustic.

And you are right, go and play some guitars :wink:
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Postby s1120 » October 25th, 2011, 2:13 pm

I'm kinda in the same boat. Looking for a 400-500 buck accustic. I've played a bunch of pricy and cheap ones, and some cheap ones sounded good, and some pricy ones bad to me. Seems you just need to play them. I did find a SWEET breedlove that was AWESOME!!!! But was afread to ask the price
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Postby Redbeard » October 25th, 2011, 5:46 pm

I am hoping to get down to check out the taylor and the seagull tomorrow to see what they sound like. I dont know a lot of things to play but I can certainly play some chords and just mess around and see how they feel to me.

I just went and grabbed another old guitar from my dads... it has to be 30 years old, its a gibson beater. Its darker wood, maybe mahogany i am not sure. Unfortunately it doesnt have a model marked that I can see so I am not sure what it is... I am going to clean it up a bit and get a new nut for it (the current one is cracked) and some new strings. He has a capo on the 1st fret to make it playable (because of the cracked nut). Hopefully replacing that part will put it in playable state and there isnt further damage.

I hear martin mentioned a lot, but it doesnt seem like you can get a decent one for under a grand so....
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Postby Redbeard » October 26th, 2011, 3:48 am

So I took the strings off of this guitar and cleaned it up a bit, wiped the dust off, gave the guitar a "bath" and its looking much better. Still looking old and worn but it looks like it might have some fight left in it.

That said I am wondering if i can put a little bit of money into this thing and repair it and use it as a hold over until I make a decision on what I am going to get as a new one.

Things that need work:
#1 is that the nut is cracked. When I took the strings off part of the nut came off as expected but the rest stuck in there. There is a little bit of metal on the headstock right above the nut (which is where I would expect to see the model stamped) that is slightly pushing on the nut so I am hoping by removing that the rest will come out. Otherwise I think I will have to pry it out somehow?
Image

#2 The tuning pegs are pretty worn looking and a couple of them even appear to be bent. I dont know if its from dropping it, etc. Would be nice to swap these out but I have not done it, dont know how involved it is.

Image
Image

#3 The bridge pins look like old decrepit (plastic) teeth at this point. This should be a simple switch out to something new assuming the sizes are the same. That said i did notice that it has a metal saddle with screws on either side, I think this is so it can be adjusted. I wonder if this is something that should be swapped out for a bone saddle? I dont know whether the metal is required for some reason.
Image

While I am down there it would be cool to update the pick guard with something new.

Here is the whole guitar. If anybody has any comments on the points I pointed out above let 'er rip.
Image
Image
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Postby Redbeard » October 26th, 2011, 10:13 am

Took it into guitar center and they luckily had all the stuff I needed.

I am going to replace the bridge pins, the nut and the tuning pegs and leave everything else alone. I was going to do it myself but the guitar started talking about filing down the nut and stuff and... honestly I like dinking around with it but dont have so much free time that I can try to figure something like that out right now.

Long story short the dude is installing the stuff for me plus strings and adjusting the guitar for like 70 bucks which I didnt think was bad... im in IT, you cant get a service person out for less than 100 bucks. Anyways. I had to buy the parts too of course which came out to around $100 bucks (the tuning pegs were the most expensive part).

The guy seemed to like the guitar quite a bit and really wanted to hear what it would sound like. Apparently the saddle is made out of (what he thinks is) rosewood which... is that something they used to do? I dont know. We looked up the serial # in some database online and apparently it was made in kalamazoo michigan in 1968. We couldnt tell what model it was. I went on ebay and searched for 1968 gibson acoustic and its either this guitar http://www.ebay.com/itm/VIntage-1968-Gibson-B-15-Acoustic-Guitar-Case-/200665121627?pt=Guitar&hash=item2eb892c35b or something that looks pretty damned near it.

All in all, out around 170 bucks but will get back a playable guitar and buy myself some time to check out the rest of the stuff there.

While he was working on the guitar I went and played some more acoustic. I played both the taylor 110 and the seagul s6. Visually both look and feel gorgeous. I dont know if I was able to tell a difference soundwise between the two but there was somebody else in the room playing as well so I was trying to hear what I could. I also played a Martin DRS1 Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar. I dont know what it was about that guitar but it just felt super substantial and awesome in my hands. I did notice its boom but again I think im not qualified to tell a lot of the difference between the guitars... they all sounded good to me. I dont know.

Anyways. Im rambling now.

Thanks for reading if anybody stuck wtih me =)
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Postby dhodge » October 26th, 2011, 12:12 pm

Sounds like things are going well, both with the old guitar (which will probably play incredibly well once it's done) and with the shopping for the next one.

Do yourself a favor the next time you're there - have someone else play the guitars you're interested in. Could be a friend or could be someone from the store. Just make sure they play very simple things (the sort that you'll be playing to start with). That way you can concentrate on hearing what the guitars sound like. They sound very different to your audience than they will to you, so it's good to check out both sides of listening.

Looking forward to hearing how things are going.

Peace
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Postby Redbeard » October 26th, 2011, 3:58 pm

The guitar is ready tonight but I cant get out to guitar center til tomorrow. Cant wait to see how it turned out.

As for the new guitar, would you care to put forward any personal biases David? I am all ears =)
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Postby dhodge » October 26th, 2011, 5:36 pm

I'm not sure my biases are any more valid than anyone elses!

In the $500 range you've got quite a lot of possibilities. Especially if this other guitar works out and you can take the time to fully explore the possibilities in the used guitar market. And while everyone has his or her favorite brands, not to mention those brands that we might not particularly care for, a guitar (as most musical instruments) is a very individual instrument, each with its own personality. Anyone who has read my posts or columns here at Guitar Noise knows I am very partial to the La-Si-Do family of instruments (Seagull, Godin, La Patrie) but I have played some that have not felt all that friendly.

Because of teaching, especially my group classes, I hear a lot of different brands of guitars. Currently in those classes the guitars in your range that are standing out in terms of sound quality are (in no particular order) Seagull, Alvarez, the lower range Breedloves, Baden (which I'm sure my student got a "second" - slight blemish in the finish and very slightly dinged up at the store which led to a surprisingly reduced price), Luna (no lie - one of my male adult students has a mini-jumbo or a grand concert or something, which in incredibly beautiful) and (again a surprise) Recording King.

You really never know unless you try them out. If I wasn't left handed I may never have ever tried a Seagull but when I lived in Chicago it was one of the three left handed guitars at one store. You want to find the one that simply feels like an extension of yourself. And if you find several, then you get someone else to play so you can listen. And if you can, listen without looking at which one is being played. You might find yourself surprised.

Finally, if you're definitely buying one to explore fingerpicking rather than bang-it-out strumming, you want to try out more folk-style bodies (also called "auditorium," "concert" or "OOO" styles) rather than dreadnoughts (if you're not up on body styles, check out the article here: http://www.guitarnoise.com/lesson/the-shape-of-your-acoustic-guitar/). They just seem to have a much more balanced sound for fingerpicking than the dreadnought does. Of course, this is just my opinion.

Also (and again, just my opinion) cedar tops seem to give more warmth to finger picking than spruce. But cedar tops scratch a lot more easily than spruce. That's also the usual knock against Seagulls, by the bye. They don't put a lot on the finish so they do tend to scratch. You'll see how beat up mine is in the second picture, far left!

Hope this helps. But don't stop going out there and trying them out!

Peace
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Postby rparker » October 27th, 2011, 8:04 am

That old Gibson ought to sound sweet. It sounds like a great reclamation project. I've heard people say that a guitar sounds great after it's aged a bit, but I've not kept an acoustic guitar for more than a few years. No first-hand knowledge.

I do agree with everyone that you gotta go and play them in person. I've also seen same brand and model of guitar side by side, but one set up much better than the other. The strings were easier to fret which helped to make it play quicker for me, which made it sound better. Kind of a vicious spiral down if it's not set up well.

Happy hunting, and good luck with the project. I hope the tech does a good job for you. :)
Roy

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Postby s1120 » October 27th, 2011, 8:46 am

That Gibson looks real nice!! I wonder if that might just fill the bill for you when its done. New isnt always better!!
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Postby Redbeard » October 27th, 2011, 11:54 am

I just picked up the guitar and took it back to my dad so he could check it out.

If I dont see him playing it in a day or two I might go and long term "borrow" it to mess around on :)

I will take pics of how it looks with the new parts when I grab it!
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Postby Nick » October 27th, 2011, 3:44 pm

I'd always go with an old guitar that's playable over a new one, but if I was looking at new:

Blueridge - (I love these)
Seagull
Recording King
Breedlove
Epiphone Masterbuilt

Then again, I'd probably buy used on ebay and get an old Washburn Harvest series or similar
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Postby Cat » December 22nd, 2011, 1:11 am

Go out and try heaps of them...but don't look at the brand or know what they cost. Just look at guitars. When one feels just tright...and you'll know it...buy it...forget what it costs. It's someone's business to make a guitar that you can live with...and quite obviously they are pretty good at it. Pay 'em!
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