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!