Picking Your Next Guitar – Body Size & Playing Style (Part 3 of 3)

The body size of a guitar has a direct impact on the sound it produces. A smaller guitar body will produce a brighter, thinner sound, while a larger guitar body will produce a warmer, fuller sound. This is due to the fact that larger guitars have more air volume, which leads to longer sustain and more low-end frequencies. Additionally, the shape of the guitar body also plays a role in its sound. For example, a dreadnought guitar (a very popular style of an acoustic guitar) has a large body with rounded shoulders and a powerful bass response.
To better understand how body size affects the sound, let’s break down the common types of guitar body sizes, starting with smaller to larger body sizes (or sound boxes).

  1. Baby or Parlor
  2. 00
  3. 000
  4. Om or Orchestra Model
  5. As or Grand Auditorium
  6. Ds or Dreadnought
  7. Sd or Slope Shouldered Dreadnought
  8. Js or Jumbo

Small-bodied guitars (Baby, 00, and 000) are typically not as loud as their larger counterparts, but they offer a brighter, more articulate sound. These guitars are great for players who want to be able to hear every note they play clearly. Small-bodied guitars are also very comfortable to play, making them a good choice for players with a smaller frames. Small-bodied guitars are that they are great for projecting focussed sound. They are very bright sounding with distinct highs and lows which makes them perfect for fingerpicking, as each note makes a distinct and clear sound. Examples of small-bodied guitars include the Martin 000c and the Taylor Baby BT2.

Medium-bodied guitars (Om, As) strike a balance between volume and comfort. These instruments are not as loud as large-bodied guitars, but they’re still plenty loud enough for most gigging situations. Medium-bodied guitars offer a warm, well-rounded sound that is great for all genres of music. They are the best of both playing styles – the finger-picking sounds of small-bodied guitars and chord playing in larger-bodied guitars. When paired with some unique woods and construction, they can really emulate the sound profile of both of them. Examples of medium-bodied guitars include the Gibson J45 and the Guild D150ce.

Lastly, the Large-bodied guitars (Ds, Sd, and Jumbo) are the loudest and most powerful type of guitar. They have a deep, commanding sound that is perfect for rock and metal music. These guitars can be quite expensive, so they’re usually only purchased by experienced players who know exactly what they’re looking for in an instrument. They are also more suitable for chord players, who want a resonating sound. Jumbo size is the largest size of the guitar. Often, 12-string guitars are Large-Bodied. Examples of large-bodied guitars include the Gibson Les Paul and the PRS Custom 24.

The size of your guitar’s body plays a significant role in shaping its overall sound. If you’re looking for a bright, articulate tone, then a small-bodied guitar is the way to go. If you want a warm, well-rounded sound, then you’ll be better off with a medium-bodied guitar. And if you’re looking for a powerful, aggressive sound, then you’ll need to purchase a large-bodied guitar. No matter what type of sound you’re going for, there’s definitely a guitar out there that will suit your needs!
And always, trust your ear!

JPS Nagi
Sept. 19, 2022

Picking Your Next Guitar – Choosing Woods (Part 2 of 3)

Timber is essentially the xylem of a tree – cells that transport water and minerals from the roots to the leaves. The structure of these cells has a direct impact on the hardness, density, and weight of the resultant wood. Different species of tree will have different growth patterns which will in turn result in timber with different acoustic properties.

For example, Sitka spruce trees have straight trunks with relatively few branches. The grain is tight and even, resulting in light and stiff timber – perfect for building guitar tops! On the other hand, mahogany trees have a more irregular growth pattern, resulting in timber that is heavier and has a more open grain structure. This makes it less suitable for guitar tops but perfect for constructing the bodies and necks of instruments.

Different timbers will produce different tones when used in construction. For example, instruments built with cedar tops tend to have a warmer sound whereas those built with spruce tend to be brighter. Ultimately, it’s up to the builder (or player) to decide which sonic characteristics are most desirable. Some timbers are better at absorbing low frequencies than others. This means that if you want your guitar to have a warm, rich sound, you should look for timber with good low-frequency absorption. Other timbers are better at reflecting high frequencies, giving your guitar a brighter, crisper sound.

Here is a great example of Breedlove Guitars infographic on tone and frequency response for various kinds of wood.

The table below reveals how different aspects of wood manifest themselves with tone.

Property Impact On Sound
Density The absorption of energy from strings is affected by density and type. “Denser” woods like basswood will absorb more than lighter ones, but still not as much so that you can escape its sound completely even with light gauge instruments such as flute or clarinet; however if playing in dense timbers it may be best to take up your options earlier since this timber does provide less “resistance” which means stronger influence came directly out wood itself rather then being absorbed first before reaching our ears via microphone.
In general, harder woods are more absorbent and thus produce a brighter-sounding mid-range with quicker decay. Mahogany is an example of this trend as it has very little density compared to other species such that vibration ends up being easily dissipated through its fibers making them warmer on audio systems rather than harsh like harder juniper trees might be perceived at first glance when listening without context or knowledge about how different kinds affect tone.
Hardness Hardness is an essential component of a guitar’s sound. The higher the frequencies, the harder and more brittle the material seems to be on its surface – this accentuates those notes by making them stand out from other instruments in comparison with your voice or keyboard playing for instance!
As you can imagine there isn’t always agreement among musicians about what exactly “hard” means so we’ll just go ahead & say that these two terms refer differently when talking physics-related stuff here at Guitar Center.
Flexible Strength Spruce, has been found by scientists and musicians alike as being one the most commonly used tonewoods for violins because it produces clearer audio with greater volume than other woods such as cedar or redwood does; making them more popular among professionals who need those qualities while performing on stage
In order words: Stronger flexible timbers receive energy from strings producing a wide dynamic range–great clarity & projection

When choosing the right timber for your guitar, it’s important to keep in mind what sound you’re trying to achieve. If you’re not sure what sound you want, we recommend trying out a few different types of timber until you find one that you like. Here are a few of my favorite timbers for building guitars.

Spruce:
Easily the most commonly used top wood for acoustic guitars and classical guitars. When compared to Cedar (another commonly used soundboard timber), spruce is lighter and possesses greater flexible strength resulting in a wider dynamic range and bright, responsive tone.

Cedar:
Cedar (a member of the Mahogany family, sometimes referred to as Indian Mahogany) is a softer wood than spruce and as a result produces a warm tone, darker, and more complex sounding in comparison.

Walnut:
A medium-density tonewood. Walnut produces a warm, airy, woody tone similar to African mahogany with fewer overtones and more of a focus on the prominent mid-tones. It has a very even dynamic range, meaning it doesn’t accentuate one frequency band over another, resulting in a very balanced sound.

Mahogany:
Mahogany is a great all-rounder when it comes to acoustic properties. It has good low-frequency absorption and good high-frequency reflection, which gives it a warm, balanced sound. Mahogany is also relatively soft, which makes it easy to work with.

Maple:
Maple is another great all-rounder, but it tends to lean more towards the brighter side of the spectrum. Maple has good high-frequency reflection and fair low-frequency absorption. This gives it a crisp, clear sound that is great for all styles of music.

Rosewood:
Rosewood is one of the most popular choices for guitar builders thanks to its rich, full sound. Rosewood has excellent low-frequency absorption and good high-frequency reflection. This makes it great for genres like blues and jazz where a warm, resonant tone is desired.

There are many different types of timber available for use in guitar construction, and each type has its own unique set of acoustic properties. Most hardwoods are unsuitable for soundboard construction. The density of the wood requires too much energy to resonate and has a dull-sounding box, except for Mahogany. Softwoods are not suitable either because they simply wouldn’t have the strength to handle the tension from the guitar’s strings, except for Spruce which is commonly used for acoustic guitar soundboard. The woods used in the construction of the neck, the back, and the sides contribute to the sound of the guitar.

When choosing the right timber for your guitar, it’s important to keep in mind what sound you’re trying to achieve. Set some time aside, play as many guitars as you can, and always trust your ear!

JPS Nagi
Sept. 13, 2022

Picking Your Next Guitar – Tone, Response & Body (Part 1 of 3)

My biggest challenge was to find a guitar with the sound I wanted. When I started, I would explain the type of sound I wanted was louder and bass-ier. As I played with the guitars at multiple stores, I realized I preferred a guitar that was brighter, louder, and more resonant.
In this article, I am sharing how I came to trust my ear, and look at other aspects of selecting the guitar – Tone, Frequency response, and Body Style & Construction. Before we talk about how to select a guitar, let us understand each of these aspects.

Tone
The first thing you should think about when choosing an acoustic guitar is the tone. When we talk about tone, we’re referring to the overall sound of the guitar. Different woods produce different tones, so it’s important to pick a guitar that has the right tone for your style of music. For example, if you want to play country music, you might want an acoustic guitar with a brighter, twangier sound. Or, if you’re into folk music, you might prefer a mellower tone. There are lots of ways to test out an acoustic guitar’s tone before you buy it. You can listen to audio samples online, or even better, go into a store and play the guitars yourself. Pay attention to how each one sounds and see which one feels right for you.

Frequency Response
Another important factor to consider when choosing an acoustic guitar is frequency response. Frequency response is basically how well a guitar can reproduce different frequencies of sound. Some frequencies are going to be more important for your style of music than others. For example, if you play a lot of chords, you’ll want a guitar with a good low-frequency response so that all of the notes in your chords sound clear and distinct. On the other hand, if you do a lot of lead playing with single-note melodies, you might want a guitar with a good high-frequency response so that your notes have a nice “sparkle” to them.
Once again, the best way to figure out whether an acoustic guitar has a good frequency response is to either listen to audio samples or go into a store and play the guitar yourself. Listen for things like clarity and balance across all frequencies—you should be able to hear all of the notes clearly without any one frequency being too overpowering.

Here is a great example of Breedlove Guitars infographic on tone and frequency response for various kinds of wood.

Body Style and Construction
Besides the tone and frequency response body style & construction play a very important role. Acoustic guitars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small parlor-style guitars to large-bodied jumbos (or Dreadnaughts). The type of body you choose will have a major impact on the instrument’s sound. For example, smaller-bodied guitars tend to have a tighter, more focused sound, while larger-bodied guitars have a richer, more resonant sound. The size of the sound chamber (part of the body size & construction) affects your playability. You’ll want to make sure that the acoustic guitar you choose is comfortable and easy to play. A large-bodied Dreadnaught guitar would have you reach out for strumming and may not be comfortable for long playing sessions. A guitar with a low action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard) and smooth, comfortable fretboard edges will also add to the playability. Do you need a narrow or wide neck; typically, beginner players do better with narrower necks since they’re easier to maneuver around; at the same time if you have larger hands, then consider a wider neck.

A great example is Taylor’s V-Class Bracing which helps make the guitar louder, and sustains the notes longer, with better intonation of each.

Another aspect of construction is the different materials used in construction – laminate, highly compressed laminate, carbon fiber, and real wood. Other than real wood, man-made materials are easier to maintain and do not get affected by temperature and humidity. Real wood requires more caring, and, in my humble opinion, also sounds better. Man-made materials are generally budget-friendly (except for some exotic carbon fiber guitars). Real wood guitars can be expensive; even higher if there are no joints in the body.

How to pick your next guitar

  1. Avoid boxed guitars from departmental stores or online stores. You do not know what you will get. It’s a gamble.
  2. Set some time aside to visit local stores and play the guitars. Go visit the local guitar stores, and play the guitars, even if you do not know how to play the guitar, just strum the strings and hear how the guitar sounds. Your ear is going to be the best judge of what you want.
  3. Have a budget. You can buy a guitar from $50 to $2,00,000. And you will always end up buying a guitar higher than your budget. According to the local guitar store Salesperson, typically folks end up spending 20-25% more than their budget. Be aware of that. When you go visit the guitar stores, share your budget range with the Salesperson, they will help you find the guitar you like.
  4. Consider a pre-owned guitar. A very budget-friendly option, look at local listings or visit local stores that carry pre-owned guitars. In general, a pre-owned guitar can have two advantages. First, if it has been played, then the material (especially wood) has opened up and will sound better than the same model brand new. Second, more than half of the guitars listed online are well taken care of. You may end up buying a nicer guitar for a much lower price.
  5. Avoid guitars with bundled accessories. Stores would generally tell you that a particular guitar bundle includes a stand, a tuner, a case, etc. Do not fall into that trap. All the accessories will cost you under $100 (maybe slightly higher with a hard case). Stores will sell you an inexpensive guitar by bundling all this and charging you a lot more.
  6. Custom Guitar. One can always work with the local craftsmen and get to design a custom guitar. Custom guitars do not need to break the bank, there is a whole range of getting a guitar built the way you want. You can get exactly what you want along with embellishments to truly and uniquely yours.
  7. DYI Kits. Yes, there are kits available, and you can customize, pick the right components, and woods build one yourself. You need to put in some elbow grease and it is recommended for those who have intermediate woodworking, painting, and finishing knowledge.

In conclusion, with so many factors to consider, choosing the right acoustic guitar can feel like a daunting task – but it doesn’t have to be! By keeping body style, construction, tone, frequency response, action, and playability in mind, you’ll be well on your way to finding an instrument that’s perfect for your playing style. And always trust your ear.

JPS Nagi
Sept. 6, 2022

The Mysterious Death of Pyotr Tchaikovsky

I am starting a new series - anecdotes from the lives of some famous people. Small snippets that I have collected over time. These are musicians, scientists, inventors - many that you know. Here is an mystery surrounding the death of famous Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

According to official reports, Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) died in his brother Modest’s apartment on November 6, 1893, just days after drinking contaminated water and contracting cholera. But rumors soon circulated that Tchaikovsky committed suicide after a homosexual affair threatened his reputation.

The rumors first surfaced because Tchaikovsky was not treated like a cholera victim. Health laws demanded, for instance, that the body be quarantined and sealed in a coffin as soon as possible. But a composer colleague reported viewing Tchaikovsky’s body at Modest’s apartment while choirs sang requiems and throngs of people looked on. Conflicting medical reports added to the suspicion that friends, relatives, and doctors were hiding the truth to shield Tchaikovsky’s legacy.

An unofficial account of Tchaikovsky’s death suggests that he’d become involved with the nephew of a powerful duke. Incensed about the affair, the duke denounced Tchaikovsky to Czar Alexander III, who convened a “court of honor.” The court, many now believe, sentenced Tchaikovsky to death by suicide, probably by poison.

Homosexuality was illegal in Imperial Russia. It was tolerated if accompanied by discretion, but public exposure could carry harsh consequences. Although Tchaikovsky’s closest friends and relatives knew he was gay, they guarded this knowledge carefully. The composer confided to his brother Modest, for instance, that his sexual desire for other men brought him inner torment, but only later did Modest characterize these illicit passions as the driving force behind his brother’s music. He claimed, for example, that unrequited love for a former classmate inspired Tchaikovsky’s rapturous adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. That same classmate would eventually serve as a judge on Tchaikovsky’s court of honor.

Copyright 2010
JPS Nagi