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You are here: Home > Acoustic Guitar > Guitar Buying Guide & Tips
Tips on Buying a Guitar
  • Setup and tuning: Guitars are shipped with the strings attached, but not tuned. You will need to tune the guitar before you can play it. Normal guitar tuning is E, A, D, G, B, E. You can use a guitar tuner, chromatic tuner, or any other tuning method to help tune your guitar. When tuning, do not over tighten the strings because they will break and are not covered under any warranty. Most guitars have a truss bar adjustment. You can adjust this to your own preference since you will receive it at the manufacturer’s standard setting. Even if you don’t like the sound of the guitar at first, replace the strings because that will significantly change the sound. The strings that come on the guitar are usually standard strings, nothing special.
  • Guitar types: There are thousands of different types of guitars and strings, and the different combinations of these will give you different types of guitar sounds. Generally, certain guitars are meant to work best with certain types of music, so unless you know a specific guitar you want, a good idea would be to get one that fits your style. Generally, larger guitars will get deeper, warmer sounds, and smaller bodies will make more articulate, clearer sounds.
  • Acoustic vs. electric: The style or design of an electric guitar will not affect the sound, this is more dependent on the strings and pickups. The sound of an acoustic guitar varies according to the shape, size, and type of wood from which they are made. An acoustic/electric guitar will sound like an acoustic guitar, but it will have the built-in convenience of electric pickups. Generally, larger guitars will get deeper, warmer sounds, and smaller bodies will make more articulate, clearer sounds, commonly used in jazz.
  • Case: Most guitars do not come with cases. There are some packages that include cases, but if it is not clearly noted, there will be no case included.
  • Accessories: Countless accessories exist for the guitar, but the most necessary ones are a strap, picks, tuner, extra strings, and a case.
  • New Guitars: Your new guitar will not be tuned when you receive it. When tuning, do not over tighten the strings because they will break and are not covered under any warranty. Most guitars have a truss bar adjustment. You can adjust this to your own preference since you will receive it at the standard manufacturer’s setting. Even if you don’t like the sound of the guitar at first, replace the strings because that will significantly change the sound. The strings that come on the guitar are usually standard strings, nothing special.

Guitar Woods Guide
Wood is one of the largest determining factors of a guitar’s sound and longevity. Specific woods used to build guitars, acoustic and electric, are called tone woods. Tone woods have resonant properties that other woods do not. For example, oak is a beautiful and strong wood, but it has no resonant properties, which would not be best for guitar building.

    Alder We find that alder has the richest tone, characterized by lots of fat low-end, well defined mid ranges and a lot of sustain. Alder is a light wood, which makes it more comfortable for lengthy gigs. It is one of the original woods used for solid body guitars. Although other manufacturers use woods like poplar and basswood, they are considered alder substitutes.

    Solid Alder Alder is a fairly light and incredibly resilient wood that is a favorite amongst electric guitar makers. It is a close-grained wood with a naturally light tan color. Alder is mostly used for electric guitar bodybuilding because of its full sound, great sustain and density. It is a porous wood that takes quite well to a variety of finishes. This gives the guitar a richer sound because the solid wood soundboard can vibrate more freely and thoroughly.

    Spruce Spruce is the most commonly used wood on acoustic guitar soundboards. The soundboards on acoustics are generally made of tightly grained spruce. Naturally yellow in color, spruce is a lightwood that has a very high degree of resonance, so it is a perfect match for acoustic guitars.

    Solid Spruce Solid spruce refers less to a difference in the wood than to how it is actually cut for the guitar. Laminate spruce soundboards are built as layers of cross-grained wood glued to each other. Solid spruce soundboards consist of one piece of wood running all the way through. This gives the guitar a richer sound because the solid wood soundboard can vibrate more freely and thoroughly.

    Canadian Sitka Spruce Canadian Sitka Spruce is a harder to find, more expensive variety of spruce. It has a light yellow color and is also used for acoustic guitar soundboards. It gives guitars a bigger more resonant sound, flush with crisp highs. It also improves with age more than other types of spruce.

    Mahogany Mahogany is a moderately dense and very durable wood. It is commonly used for the backs, sides and necks of acoustic guitars. It is sometimes used on electric guitar bodies and necks. Because it is very sonorous and durable, mahogany is also used in banjos, resonators, ukuleles and acoustic guitar soundboards. It is lighter than maple and specifically provides acoustic guitars with great sustain. Mahogany also provides great weight balance between the neck and the body of an acoustic. It is reddish-brown in color and is incredibly strong and resonant, giving the guitar big, beautiful tones.

    Maple Maple is a strong and extremely dense, heavy wood. It is excellent for guitar necks and bodies because it can handle an inordinate amount of string tension. Maple has a bright and crisp tone and is used on flamenco guitars as well as some electrics. It has a wide variety of exotic grains that show up quite well when finished. Flamed maple is a very popular and brilliant looking exotic type of maple. “Flamed” refers to the rippling, or curls of the grain of wood that run across the body. Flamed maple in generally “book matched,” which means that the body is made of two half pieces of a single cut piece of maple. This gives the guitar even weight, look and tone throughout the body.

    Nato Nato wood, also known as Eastern Mahogany, is a reliable, strong wood used on guitar necks. It is a value-priced wood used more for beginner instruments. However, it still embodies all of the properties of more commonly used mahogany.

Roundneck vs. Squareneck
Don’t be a square, unless you are a slide player! Many of our resonator guitars come with a roundneck or squareneck option. The roundneck is the most common style found on most guitars. The squareneck is used for slide playing, since the nut sits higher and the strings set a greater distance from the fingerboard.


What is a resonator guitar?
The history of the resonator dates back to the early 1920’s. This was an era when the resonator was a favorite among blues musicians. Resonators are also known as resophonic guitars and are characterized by a shaped cone for amplification, instead of a soundboard like on an acoustic guitar. The shaped cone is nestled underneath the bridge of the guitar. The bridge is connected to the cone so that when the strings are hit, the vibrations run through the saddle and then into the bridge, which resonates the cone. The cone acts like a built-in speaker and the body acts as a speaker cabinet. This made the resonator, a pre-cursor to the electric amplifier, one of the loudest stringed instruments available in its time. The sound produced by these specially shaped cones and bodies is very bright and snappy with great sustain and a slight attack. Resonators are still favored today by blues and country musicians as well as a new generation of players. All of our resonators feature excellent construction, design and plating and are known for their distinct projection and ethereal tone.

How To: Changing Resonator StringsThe strings on a Resonator Guitar help hold the cone in place and prevent it from slipping. Adjusting all the strings at the same time will misplace the cone, which will cause a buzzing sound when played. When you do change your Resonator strings, it is best to only change one string at a time, paying particular attention to not upsetting the cone.

ACOUSTIC GUITAR
First and foremost, make sure to have your guitar on a stand or inside of a case when not in use. This protects your guitar from damage from as little as scratches to cracks and dents in your guitar. Make sure to play with clean hands because anything on your fingers will transfer to the fingerboard and strings. Also wiping down the strings and body after each session with a soft cloth will remove oils and dirt. When changing your strings, make sure to clean off the fingerboard to remove such oils and dirt.
Temperature can affect your guitar. Make sure not to keep it in extreme temperature, this could lead to cracking in the wood. Humidity is another thing to watch out for. When it is really dry, the top of a guitar could move inward and also cause the neck to move forward. Likewise under humid conditions the opposite could occur. Your string height will change on your instrument.


ELECTRIC/BASS GUITAR
First and foremost, make sure to have your guitar on a stand or inside of a case when not in use. This protects your guitar from damage from as little as scratches to cracks and dents in your guitar. Make sure to play with clean hands because anything on your fingers will transfer to the fingerboard and strings. Also wiping down the strings and body after each session with a soft cloth will remove oils and dirt.When changing your strings, make sure to clean off the fingerboard to remove such oils and dirt.
Temperature can affect your guitar. Make sure not to keep it in extreme temperature, this could lead to cracking in the wood. Humidity is another thing to watch out for. When it is really dry, the top of a guitar could move inward and also cause the neck to move forward. Likewise under humid conditions the opposite could occur. Your string height will change on your instrument.
It is very important you check all the hardware on your guitar regularly. Make sure switches swing back and forth with ease. Pick ups should be dust free. Check screws to make sure nothing is loose.



GUITARS

Humidity & How It Affects Your Instrument.

It is important to note that your solid top acoustic guitar- like all acoustic guitars – is made of wood and this has certain implications with regard to environmental factors, particularily in the case of solid wood instruments. A minimum of care and due attention to these factors should ensure that your guitar will last a lifetime. Wood changes according to its environment. In high humidity conditions, wood will absorb moisture and expand, while in dry conditions it will shed moisture and contract. Solid wood is especially vulnerable to changes in humidity as it gains and loses moisture more quickly than laminated wood and thus expands or contracts to a greater degree. Acoustic guitars are typically manufactured in an environment with a neutral humidity level of 45 to 55% relative humidity. Relative humidity or RH refers to the amount of moisture present in the air relative to the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold before saturation. The air’s maximum threshold for holding moisture will increase with the temperature. This is why when a room is artificially heated in winter time, the RH will drop dramatically as the air’s capacity for moisture retention is increased without an additional source of moisture being provided. In general terms, a guitar is at it’s most stable when in an environment that is most comfortable for humans, in other words where the RH is between 45 and 60%.

Low Humidity
If your guitar is exposed to an RH level of below 40%, the wood in your guitar will lose moisture, contract and become brittle. This can cause the top to become concave, the fret ends to feel sharp and the action to lower, causing buzzing when the guitar is played. If the guitar is stored for an extended period in a low RH environment, particularily if this is lower than 30%, glue joints may fail, notably causing the bridge to become unstuck from the guitar due to the top contracting. The top itself may develop cracks in the finish and in the wood itself. If you live in a dry area with low humidity levels, we would recommend that you keep your guitar in its case as much as possible whenever it is not in use. A case will insulate the instrument against changes in temperature and humidity. If you prefer to keep the guitar out of its case, we would recommend that you invest in a hygrometer to measure the RH level of the room where your guitar is kept. A humidifier is another useful tool to ensure that this RH level is kept at a safe reading of 47%. If you are subject to travelling/touring a lot with your guitar, a hygrometer and humidifier can be installed in the case with the guitar to keep the RH inside the case at an acceptable level. In such an instance, the hygrometer must be placed on the outside of the case’s inner accessories compartment on the side closest to the guitar’s body. The humidifier should be placed inside the accessories compartment itself.

High Humidity
Conditions of high humidity will have a less potentially devastating effect on your guitar, but are harder to effectively guard against. The maximum safe RH is 65%. Beyond this level, the guitar will expand as the wood absorbs moisture. This will manifest itself in the top and back becoming bloated and convex. With more prolonged or extreme exposure, the bloating will expand to the fretboard, further raising the action and drastically diminishing both playability and sound quality. The expansion of the wood can eventually cause the loosening of glue joints and the undoing of back braces and the bridge. However, glue joints are reparable and unlike with low humidity, there is little or no danger of structural damage. If you live in a humid climate, we would recommend that you keep your guitar in an air conditioned room during the summer months when the RH is naturally increased. In lowering the temperature, air conditioning also lowers the moisture saturation point of the air and the RH with it. Avoid using a swamp cooler in an already high humidity environment. This will only further increase the RH and will spell problems for your guitar.

Avoid any rapid and immediate changes in humidity level, as this will cause the most damage to your instrument. Gradual changes, undergone with the guitar being kept in its case as much as possible, will greatly reduce the potential for damage being sustained by your guitar.

By sticking to these safety guidelines, you will ensure that your guitar provides you with a lifetime of joy and
inspiration!


Guitar Size Chart
Height of the Player Size of Guitar
3'3" to 3'9" 1/4-Size
3'10" to 4'5" 1/2-Size
4'6" to 4'11" 3/4-Size
5' or taller 4/4-Size
The overall length of the guitar is not a good indicator of whether it is the correct size for the student. The only way to know the true size of a guitar is to measure it's "scale length". The scale length of a guitar is measured from the "bridge" of the guitar to the "nut" of the guitar.

Guitar Scale length Chart - lengths can vary slightly

4/4 full size 24.75" or 25.5"
3/4 size 22.75"
1/2 size 20.5"
1/4 size 19"

Guitar Type Size Chart - (common overall lengths)
Scale size Classical (nylon string) Acoustic (steel string) Electric Bass
4/4 full size 38"- 40" 40" - 42" 38"- 40" 43"- 46"
3/4 size 36" 38" 34"- 36" 42"
1/2 size 33" 36" 33" 39"
1/4 size 31" 32" 31" 36"
The overall length of the guitar can vary widely depending on the style and overall design of the guitar. Knowledgeable dealers will list the size of the guitar as 4/4. 3/4, etc. and most will include the actual scale length measurement of the instrument.
NOTE:
If a you on the border of , for example, a 3/4 and 4/4 guitar in terms of your height, it might be a good idea to get the larger guitar. After all, why buy a smaller guitar if you know you will soon out grow it. If you have long arms, you may also need a larger guitar.


If you are starting out, here are the few guitars we recommend: