Monday 1 February 2010

New Guitar

I bought another guitar last Friday.  But before I talk about that, how do you buy a guitar?

"Play guitars, until you find one you like, then buy it."  Pretty simple huh.  Guitars are like women (my apologies if any women are reading this, substitude man for woman). When you come across a guitar you love, you will just know.  Everyone has a different taste, what one person loves another won't...which is great, what a boring old world it would be if everyone was the same!

For a newbie, buying a guitar is probably even easier.  Decide what you want to do - wailing lead rock/jazz/etc, you'll be a plectrum picker on an electric.  Strumming chords and singing around the campfire, you'll be plectrum or maybe fingerpicker on steel string, maybe nylon.  Playing some tricky fingerstyle pieces, you'll be fingerpicking or maybe plectrum on nylon, maybe steel.  Once you know, go buy what you can afford!

My guitar path was a start on nylon classical style, which then became folksy/chord strumming on nylon, which then became rock/heavy rock/heavy metal on electric, which then became fingerstyle on steel string and has come nearly full circle to fingerstyle on nylon.

Now while I was playing fingerstyle on steel I was never quite getting the sound I wanted, and I spent years trying to work out the problem.  It was the way I played.  I realised I could either change how I played, or go to nylon and keep playing the way I played.  I like how I played (I did try to play to suit the steel) so I set about buying a nylon.

I found what I thought I wanted about two years ago; a good cross-over nylon.  It had a cutaway, narrow neck, thin body with a great 2-way pickup in it.  I've been playing it for over a year.  But during that time I realised that I didn't really want a cross-over nylon, I wanted a proper classical nylon!  It took me a while to realise it.  Having a thick neck again was the main driving force.  For tight complex stuff you need that extra width.  Since buying my new guitar (52mm neck at the nut verus the old 46mm) I have already found it easier to play just from string spacing alone.

Herein lies the problem: classical players play classical guitars.  There are plenty of great cross-over nylons with everything you need; well, my old guitar was already that!  But in a classical you won't get a 2-way pickup, in you want a cutaway then it will probably have a narrow neck.

I looked for a while, and nothing turned up.

So my alternative approach was to buy a good classical guitar and fit my own pickup in it.  I've completely stage 1; I've bought a classical guitar.  No cutaway, no pickup; it's an Esteve 1GR11.  It was kinda expensive, but my mate Rob down at Clef on Hay Street looked after me, lets just say he let it go for somewhere between $AUD2500 and $3000.  A lovely sound and very playable.

Next step is to fit in an B-Band A6T 2-way pickup.  The B-Band in my old guitar is just magic.  The 2-way means an under saddle transducer (UST) and an Acoustic Soundboard transducer (AST).  Under saddle picks up direct sound via the saddle, in-body (AST or condensor mike) picks up all the subtleties of the body.  You mix the ratio to get the sound you want.  B-Band don't use piezo, they use some other technology that they don't really elaborate on.

I _could_ get someone to fit it for me, but since I am actually an electronics engineer, and  have plenty of manual labour skills and the tools, there is no excuse in not doing it myself!

I reckon I've been pretty persistent with my guitars. Some fellas after playing the guitar for a mere 5-10 years will have a collection of 20 guitars.  This latest addition of mine is only my 5th regular "proper" guitar I've bought.  Not bad going for 31 years of playing the guitar!



  1. Sounds like a good one. And pretty expensive, it's getting serious!

    And what do you make of a nylon with cutaway and neck 50mm thick (my guitar)?
    Is that a crossover? Or entirely like a normal classical, but with the cutaway?
    I would opt for the latter. I didn't know there was such thing as crossover, to be honest.

  2. "Crossover" was just a term I threw out there for want of a better term.

    Your guitar sounds a lot like a classical guitar with a cutaway ;) There are plenty of models like that out there, and every single one I looked at had a pickup installed - but none with a pickup I liked - they are all just under saddle piezos. There is so much more to the acoustic sound than what a UST can pick up. However, the UST is definately the fundamental sound; I dislike a purely mike pickup as well so a blend of mike/soundboard pickup with UST is my goal.

    Kinda getting a bit more serious, it's more out of frustration however. I'm turning into some sort of diva "I'm not getting the sound I want!" "I'm not getting the feel I want!"

    I've spent several hours playing it now, the feel is just about right. When I install the pickup, we'll see if the sound is just about right...

    Rule of thumb - each guitar you buy is more expensive than the last one :)

  3. I'm glad you stuck with the nylon strings. The world needs more nylon players!

    Ever tried the solid body versions as pioneered by Chet Atkins? Usaully come with 14 fret neck joints allowing easier access further up. They do lose the percussive possibilities but no feedback EVER on stages - I'm on the Godin ones at the moment.

    Cheers from the East Coast


  4. Hmmm - the thing I notice about your sound seems mainly because you play close to the bridge getting a lot of that "ponticelo" sound. Would love to hear what your new machine sounds like.

    I also have one of those nylon guitars with the strings close together, after deciding I'd like to learn classical guitar - often seems tricky to play cleanly when fingers interfere with adjacent strings. But a wide neck would make other things more difficult I guess?

  5. Yeah, I play close to the bridge because that is more comfortable (slacker right leg playing) and I prefer the tension of the strings there, it's more of a positive feel when I pluck.  I don't like the sound though, it is too harsh.

    I'm finding the wider neck a breeze to play on.  My hands aren't giant but they are big enough, so the extra widthage isn't a physical problem.  It's great to have a bit of space to move; you can be a little less accurate and still get away with it ;)

    I will be installing a new pickup in the new machine once it arrives; I've got a song or two lined up to play for youtube to put it out to the test!


    On Fri Feb 26 12:57 , '' sent:

  6. I imagine finding a good classical guitar is a lot harder than finding a good electric guitar. I took classical guitar lessons at school. I still love to play. Hopefully, one day I will buy a beautiful classical guitar.