Everything You Need To Know About Buying A Guitar

Everything You Need To Know About Buying A Guitar
Everything You Need To Know
About Buying A Guitar
By Don E. Dawn
© 2006 Don E. Dawn. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.
Table of Contents
Name of Chapter
Page No.
Tracing The Guitar’s History – Part I
Tracing The Guitar’s History – Part II
Your First Guitar: Which One Will You Choose?
Picking Up The Best Guitar
Checking Out The Guitar
Negotiating A Good Deal
The Acoustic Guitar
The Electric Guitar
Amplifiers: What Kind Should I Buy?
Effect Boxes for Electric Guitars
Strings: All You Need To Know About Them
Guitar Accessories
Guitar Cases
Renowned Guitar Makers
Care and Maintenance of Your Guitar
Guitar Damage Control
Vintage Guitars
Where Do I Find The Guitar I Want To Buy?
Learning To Play
The guitar is a versatile stringed instrument that creates music from the sublime to the simple.
You can play a marvelous piece of classical music on it just as easily as you can strum some
well-loved pop tunes. The range and variety of the guitar is as awesome, as the beautiful sound
that emanates from it. It is a six stringed instrument played by strumming or plucking the strings.
The word guitar seems to have evolved from the Greek word “kithara”. Stroking the strings with
a plektron with the tight thumb and forefinger and sounding all the notes made music in the
However the present day guitar does not look much like the kithara. The guitar you see today is
believed to have come from Spain. “Tar” (pronounced as “thar”) means, “string” in Sanskrit,
which may account for the last three letters of the word.
The instrument has a rich and interesting history. It has traversed time, creating loud, soft, and
jazzy music through many eras, to become one of the most popular musical instruments of today.
There have been great guitarists in the past and the greatest guitarists of the present day continue
to enthrall you. The magnificent sounds created by many great artists and musicians makes you
want to own a guitar of your own and learn how to play it.
If you want to buy a guitar: This book tells you all you need to know about it before you buy
one. The instructions are lucid and easy to follow. The book helps you to buy and play the guitar
of your choice, with ease and confidence. The e-book includes chapters on
The guitar’s history
How to choose and evaluate an instrument
How to negotiate, and buy it
How it is made
About strings, amps, tuners and pickups
The different brands
How to play the instrument
The guitar can be played in myriad styles and forms. Practice, perseverance and developing an
ear for music can help you extract the sweetness of sound and richness of quality to the
So what are you waiting for? Delve into the book to get a fair idea of the kind of guitar you want,
shop for it and get going. Your guitar is out there somewhere waiting to be picked up by you.
Chapter 1
Tracing The Guitar’s History – Part I
The Guitar has a rich history, beginning somewhere in 1800 BC - Clay plaques at Babylonia
show figures clutching a long instrument, similar to a guitar, held against the chest, with strings
plucked by the right hand. Archeological finds in
Susa – in the Khuzestan province of Iran
Luristan – in Western Iran and
Assyria – on the upper Tigris river
Authenticate this fact and mark it as the starting point of the evolution of guitar.
In Rome, a completely wooden instrument, which bore a remarkable resemblance to the guitar,
was played in very early times (about 30 BC). It was probably the earliest prototype of the
present day guitar and many more stringed instruments. The instrument was played even in the
Around the same time, Egyptian musicians delighted royalty with music played on a stringed
instrument, similar to the guitar.
Stringed Instruments of the Gods
The first time the guitar was played in a church is believed to be when the organ
broke down when playing a hymn for Jesus Christ in the mass conducted on the
night of Christmas Eve
• The Indian goddess Saraswati is always depicted with her fingers placed on the
veena, a 7-stringed instrument
• The lute, a predecessor of the guitar, was believed to be the creation of the Greek
God Apollo
In the other European countries from 3 AD
The advent of stringed instruments in other European countries was only after the third century
AD. These instruments had a wide neck that ended in a circular sound box. These were very
popular instruments and were played for many years.
A similar instrument was extensively played during the time of the German Reich (Kingdom) of
the Carolingian rulers between 700 and 900 AD. The kingdom included parts of France, Italy,
Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and much of Austria and Germany.
It was a rectangular instrument, with its neck having four or five pegs. It could be plucked either
with your fingers or with a pick. The instrument retained its look and prevalence, right up to the
Around the 14th century, an instrument resembling the Carolingian was played in the Spanish,
French and English lands as indicated in the cathedrals there.
The design of the instrument, resembling the guitar in Europe, is probably borrowed from the
Moors (who came to Egypt and Spain to extend their dominions). It came to be called the
Guitarra Morsica. It had an oval sound box and acoustically placed holes on the soundboard.
Another instrument prevalent during the same time was the Guitarra Latina. This instrument was
believed to have reached Spain from a neighboring country. It was the closest fore runner of the
modern day guitar.
The Guitarra in its varied forms became quickly popular, chiefly due to the extensively traveling
music composer/players called troubadours.
The Guitar’s Early Form
In the 1400s…one instrument – many names
Musicians were playing a variety of stringed instruments now, all over Europe. Each had a
different name, depending on the country where it was played, and it was only in the next
century that some of these became a part of the guitar family.
• Italians called them the chitarra and chitarino
• The English called the stringed instrument gyterne – it was a short necked lute
• The French called it the quinterne – it resembled the mandolin of today
• The Spaniards played the quitare
The number of strings in the instruments was almost the same in most European countries except
in Italy, where both the number of strings and the tuning was different.
The four stringed instrument rises in popularity
About the same time, a four-stringed instrument (with double strings) was popular throughout
Europe and many compositions were written for it.
The Spanish established two tuning systems for this instrument, the first for strummed music
and ballads and the other resembling the tuning of the first four strings of today’s guitar. The
famous composers in Spain were Juan Carlos, Alonso Mudarra and Gardame las Vacas. The last
of these works was written in the late 1500s.
There were many composers, players and exponents of music in France, Germany and Italy of
great talent of these times, whose published and original compositions remain classic works of
art even today.
More strings – When nobility wanted to play music
The five-stringed instrument now rose in popularity. The tuning was basically similar to the
tuning of the first five strings of the modern guitar.
Italians called it the Chittara Battente – the instrument had a vaulted back and a deep
body. It was plucked with a plectrum and had five courses of strings
The French called it the Rizzio guitar, an ornate instrument with exquisite work in ivory,
tortoiseshell and mother of pearl
Juan Carlos Amat of Spain wrote many compositions for the 5-stringed instrument, and
suggested novel methods of playing the guitar
The Spanish composer Luis Milan (1500-1561) played the Vihuela. His book “Libro de
musica de Vihuela de mano intitulado El Maestro” is the first known music book in
Spanish Tablature. (Tablature is a way of transcribing music: it shows the positions of
notes on the frets and strings of the guitar)
The Chittara Battente: This is the first 5-string system version of the medieval guitar. The
back of the sound box of this hugely popular instrument has a gentle curve in the outward
direction. It was finely crafted and quite bigger in size than the guitar you see today. Stripes
characterize the reverse of the sound box.
Until the 1500s musicians strummed the Chittara, but later the string was both plucked and
The Vihuela was played extensively up to the end of 18th century. Luis Milan is the first and
most famous player of the instrument. It was the Spanish variety of the lute. The nobility looked
down upon the 4-string form of the Vihuela. They made it more sophisticated, by creating a six
double-stringed version, almost like the present day guitar, only it was about 10 centimeters
longer, having a dozen frets.
More music - more composers
With the turn of the century, the number of musicians grew. Better forms of recording and
publishing their compositions took shape.
In France
• The French monarch Louis XIV was fond of the guitar too. He was taught by Robert de
Visee, an authority on guitar tablature
• Jean Baptiste Lully (one of the creators of the French opera) was another important
guitarist of the time. He developed the French Overture.
• The famous guitar makers of the time were Renee Vobaum, Alexander Vobaum and his
son Jean. The instruments were elaborately designed.
In Germany
• Jacobus Stadler created the first ever, German guitar.
• Father John of Apsom also created the guitar with the crucifixion scene depicted at the
back of it.
Joachim Tielke created the most splendid guitars of that time. His guitars were
characterized by excellent workmanship.
Some of them had artwork of gold, silver, ivory, mother of pearl and tortoise shell.
Jacaranda wood was used for the guitar.
The composers of this period were Johann Hermann Schein, Samuel Scheidt (who
introduced guitar notation), and Heinrich Schutz.
In Spain
• Francisco Corbera, Francisco Guerau and Gasper Sanz (called “the outstanding man of
the guitar of 17th century Spain”) were the best known composers of the time
• Lucas de Ribayaz composed music for dances based on folk melodies, in 1677
In Portugal
• Doisi de Velasco was the best-known player in 17th century Portugal.
• The king of Portugal King John IV created a library which housed a massive collection of
music, the first of its kind in Europe
In Italy
Judging by the number highly gifted and brilliant composers of this country, it could be
considered the seat of guitar music in the 17th century. When the guitar was plucked rather than
strummed, as it was done in Spain, the Italians called their guitar the chitaria spagnuola.
The greatest known composers were Francisco Corbetta, Giovanni Battista Granata,
Benedetto Sanseverio, Ludovico Roncalli and Domenico Pelligrini
Antonio Stradivarius was the best-known guitar maker of the late 17th and early 18th
century. He is regarded as one of the greatest guitar makers of all times due to the
excellent workmanship of his guitars
The guitar - more popular than ever
In the 18th century…
At the turn of the century the lute was becoming more and more popular. Even Bach wrote many
compositions especially for the lute. But with more compositions came more variations to the
instrument. By and by it became normal for a lute to have not less than 24 strings!
The complicated exercise of learning it compelled the people to turn back to the guitar…more
and more composers started writing music exclusively for guitars.
Composers and their works
Germany: The most remarkable sweep of change in the close of the 18th century was the use of
guitars as a part of a musical ensemble – playing the guitar along with other instruments. The
combinations were usually
• Guitar bass and viola
• Guitar and flute
• Guitar and bassoon
Among the many composers and in Germany, three stand tall. They are
• Johann Pachelbel, Vincentius Lubeck and the great Johann Sebastian Bach composed the
most impressive music for the lute, at this time
• Friedrich Baumbach, Johann Christian Franz, and Johann Arnold created solo music for
guitar playing
The 6-string guitar
The theoretical book on music by Joseph Bernhardt Kaspar Majer makes the first reference to the
six-string guitar. Jacob August Otto used the Italian 5-string guitar as a model to design the first
six-string guitar in Germany, around the same time.
From then on the six-string guitar traveled across the length and breadth of the continent
inspiring melodies to be composed for it. Important among them, are the works of Peter Schall of
The first six stringed guitars were double stringed and it was only close to the end of the 18th
century that the six-string guitar did not have double strings.
In France
• Gerard J. Deleplanque, a Frenchman, made the bass guitar. It was a 10-stringed
instrument, with 6 strings attached to the neck and four outside it. This was later called
the chitarra decachorda, and was still prevalent in the early 1900s.
• Famous French composers of the late 1700s were Trille Labarre, B Vidal, Antoine
Marcel Lemoine (who was a violinist too) and Charles Doisy
• Charles Doisy played and composed for both the five and six string guitars. He wrote the
Folia d’Espagna
Spain and Italy and the other European countries had their share of guitar makers - who crafted
exquisite instruments, and composers – whose works remain great classics even today
The popularity of the guitar in Italy became responsible for the instrument to catch the eye of
musicians in far away South America.
The guitar in far away lands
In the 1900s…
Modernization paved the way for rapid spread of the guitar’s popularity. Now the eminent and
celebrated guitarists could travel to any country for concerts. Vienna was the most renowned
center for musicians to have their concerts.
By the end of the century, St Petersburg, Paris and London joined the choice club of exclusive
cities to host music concerts of world-renowned masters.
Those who reached the heights of fame were
• Leonhard von Call – a guitarist who settled down in Vienna and composed many great
• Simon Moliter – a guitarist and a composer
• Franz Schubert, a guitarist-composer is famous for his work – Quartet for flute, guitar,
viola and cello
Mauro Guilani – who established the norm of concert tours. Guilani performed quite
regularly with other outstanding musicians of the time, including Anton Dubelli and Karl
The other famous guitarist composers of this era were Luigi Legnani, Matteo Bavilaqua,
Wenzeslaus Mateigka and Leonard Schulz
Fernando Sor
Perhaps the most brilliant of all composers (with about 300 works to his credit) of this period
was Fernando Sor of France.
• He wrote Telemachus on Calypso’s Isle, an opera, when he was only eighteen.
• He was the first guitarist to be invited to play at the London Philharmonic Society
• He produced three ballets in Moscow. When the Czar Alexander I of Russia died, he
composed the funeral march at the behest of the Czar’s successor.
Guitar makers
The most famous guitar makers if this time were
• Johann Georg Staufer, in Vienna and Johann Gottfreid Scherzer who took over from him,
• Scherzer is credited with making the guitar based on scientific principles. The result of
his work was an instrument well-suited for concerts
The Russian guitarists par excellence
• Andreas O. Sichra invented the seven-stringed guitar, and has written 75 compositions
for the instrument and W I Swinzow was the first to play the seven-string guitar Aksenow
implemented the use of harmonics
• The other composer/guitarists were Marcus Sokolowski and Nicolas Makarow
The Italian maestros
The most renowned names of guitarist- composers in Italy, during this period, were
• Fernando Carulli
• Matteo Carcassi
• Niccolo Paganini
• Zani de Ferranti
Zani de Ferranti traveled more extensively than any other guitarists of his time and finally settled
in the USA. He was one of the first guitarists of international repute to tour and perform the US
The scenario in France
• Napoleon Coste, Johann Bayer, Joseph Kuffner and Johann Kapeller were the greatest
names in guitar in their country
• Rene Francois Lacote and Gennaro Fabricatore were makers of magnificent classic
• Johann Kaspar Mertz specialized in playing an eight-string and 10-string versions of the
Lure of the guitar
Prominent musicians, like Richard Wagner, the most renowned of German opera composers,
wrote music for the guitar to help him compose music. He has also written various
accompaniment tunes for the guitar.
Von Weber, best known for his three great operatic creations – Der Freischutz, Euryanthe and
Oberon, composed for the guitar too. He conducted music when he was only 18.
Spanish guitarists and luthiers of the 1800s
Spain had her share of luminaries in the world of guitar music.
• Dionoso Aguodo
• Julian Arcas
• Francisco Tarrega –his compositions are among the best of the late 1800s
The luthiers of Spain created instruments that most resemble the modern guitar. Acoustics was
considered while shaping the sound box, while the pattern of the bridge found in today’s guitar is
identical to guitars made by Spanish luthiers. The two most sought after luthiers of this period
were Antonio Torres and J. Panermo.
The Guitar in America
Spanish and Portuguese immigrants to the Americas are chiefly responsible for the spread of the
popularity of the guitar in this region. The vihuelas of the 16th century had reached the Aztec
People from different countries brought with them various genres of folk music, which created
an enriched basis for the flourishing of a neo modern guitar culture. The changes sweeping the
European musical scenario influenced the evolution of music here too.
Like their European counterparts, by the end of the 19th century, Americans had many excellent
guitarists, composers and luthiers among them.
The next chapter tells you how the guitar evolved into the most sought after musical instrument
of today…
Chapter 2
Tracing The Guitar’s History - Part II
The most loved musical instrument
In the 20th century…
The guitar rose to the height of its popularity in the 1900s. It became the most accepted
instrument for musical concerts.
Rapidly progressing communications technology provided a great impetus to spreading the lure
of the guitar.
The great guitar exponents of the early 1900s…
Tarrega’s legacy…
• Migual Llobet, the most famous pupil of Tarrega, in Spain, was one of the greatest
guitarists of the early 1900s. He, in turn, taught many great guitar players of the century,
like Maria Lusia Anido and Jose Rey de la Torre
• Andres Segovia, of Spain, who died in 1987, was one of the greatest guitarists ever, and a
close friend of Llobet
• Segovia’s brilliance and tutelage inspired many players and composers. They were
 Narciso Yepes, who evolved into a brilliant concert performer
 Joaquim Rodrigo and Alexander Tansman who were great composers
 Mario Castelnuovo, who composed the first guitar concerto of the 1900s
 Alirio Diaz, who delved into Latin American music for the guitar
Classical maestros from other regions
• Konrad Ragossnig and Karl Scheit of Austria
• John Williams and Julian Bream of England, two of the most outstanding players of
classical guitar of the 20th century
• Eliot Fisk, an American, founded the guitar department at the Yale School of Music. He
is one of the greatest player-composers for guitar of the present day.
Alexander Lagoya and Ida Presti were the greatest classical duet players of the 20th century. The
man and wife team played as a duo for 17 years until the death of Ida in 1967.
It was inevitable that the guitar underwent remarkable changes alongside the ever-increasing
frontiers of vistas of scientific possibilities.
Prominent luthiers of the time across the globe are
Jose Ramirez de Calaretta
Herman Hauser
One of the most revolutionary changes adopted at this time was to use nylon strings for the
guitar. Nylon strings were more durable than the gut strings, easier to tune and sounded better
Guitar’s international reach
There was no stopping the spread of guitar’s usage and the rise in its esteem throughout the
world. The post World War period marked with the arrival of the guitar to the Far East
countries. Japan welcomed this beautiful instrument and reveled in the sweetness of its sound.
Today this country has a great number of excellent guitarists, teachers and luthiers.
Guitar Societies
With guitar becoming the most sought after musical instrument, societies for guitarists and
composers were founded all over the world. The societies take up the following responsibilities
• Arrange for concerts of great guitarists
• Encourage young learners by affording them opportunities for recitals
• Sponsor national and international competitions
• Promote the cause of aspects in guitar playing which deserve more encouragement
Guitar Journals
The Guitar Review of New York and the Classical Guitar Magazine from England are only some
of the wide range of international guitar magazines. The Internet too has its fair share of guitar
magazines. These journals contain articles on all aspects of guitars, profiles of maestros and
useful techniques written by experts.
The Electric Guitar
The electric guitar made its first appearance in the 1930s. Hawaiian guitars were for solo music,
and the guitarist produced the music by running a metal slide on the frets while plucking or
strumming. These were the first instruments whose sound was fully amplified by electricity.
Adolph Rikenbacker, George Beauchamp and Paul Berth founded the Electro String Company
(1931, which made the Hawaiian guitar with a magnetic pick-up. (A pickup amplifies the sound
of the guitar). This was the first electric guitar.
The others guitar companies, which followed, with their own versions of the electric guitar are
The Gibson company
The Fender Company
Les Paul, and many others.
By the 1950s, the electric guitar with an improved tone and magnified sound became the base
instruments for emerging rock bands. The look of the guitar was now modified to suit the image
it generated – as an instrument of the young and modern guitarists. The modified version had
• More colorful appearance
• Thinner at the middle as compared to the classical guitar
The base appeared to have “shoulders” rather than being gently curved
Famous guitarists of the 20th century
Chet Atkins was known as “Mr. Guitarist” and made country music reach the top of the
pop charts
Chuck Berry invented the Rock and Roll guitar; three of his compositions and style of
playing are synonymous with the American youth culture of his times
Charlie Christian was well known for his saxophone like style of playing the guitar.
Though he died when he was 25, he managed to etch his contribution to making the
electric guitar an intrinsic part of jazz music
Eric Clapton invented the contemporary rock guitar style by fusing the Chicago blues
with rock and roll. He is called the best rock guitarist of his generation
Freddie Green was called “Steady Freddie”, was a Swing and Big Band rhythm guitarist.
The tempo and rhythm of his music was almost unparalleled by any other rhythm player
Jimi Hendrix was a left handed guitarist who fused various genres of contemporary jazz
with his music
Robert Johnson was the best known blues guitarist, who was honored by a stamp of the
US Post Office in 1994
BB King is an electric blues player. The BB in his name stands for Blues Boy. He was
never afraid to experiment and had a unique guitar style
Joni Mitchell from Canada made a name for herself as a singer-guitarist because of her
innovative method of alternate tuning. She reached over the conventional framework
usually accepted by her contemporaries and composed music evolved from pop, folk,
country and jazz
Jimmy Page is the guitarist for the band Led Zeppelin. He innovated the effect of layered
guitar sounds.
Wes Montgomery innovated the style of plucking the guitar with his right thumb, instead
of using a pick. He introduced jazz music to many by playing on his splendid jazz guitar.
He died young, of heart attack at the height of his success
Django Reinhardt was nicknamed the king of gypsy jazz guitar. He is one of the greatest
Jazz guitarists of Europe. He is credited with composing innovative fast paced, single
note solos
Eddie Van Halen, originally born in Holland, was responsible for the resurgence of the
metal rock guitar in the 70s and 80s. He perfected the two-handed tap technique for
playing the guitar.
An awareness of the guitar’s history and its legendary players will create a perfect basis for you
to know which type of guitar you want to own and play, as well as the instrument’s rich tradition.
It allows you to learn to play a vast repertoire of fabulous musical compositions of past and
But first, what kind of guitar should you acquire as a beginner? The next chapter tells you just
Chapter 3
Your First Guitar – Which One Will You Choose?
Acquiring a guitar is a very personal choice. You have to buy an instrument that is just right for
you, fits well in your hands and allows you to play with ease. A guitar that sounds and feels just
right for you may not suit another person. So you have so many varieties, brands and designs to
choose from, made by luthiers all over the world.
Probably, the first choice you have to make is whether you want an acoustic guitar or an electric
one. After that you will have to look more closely at the instrument and decide whether you want
a guitar with steel or nylon string, whether you want a six or 12 stringed guitar.
When you know which guitar you are likely to buy, you will have to consider the options of
whether you want one that is brand new or one that is used. Both have their individual
With that decision made, you have a wide range of brands of guitars made within the US and
those made in other countries. Which one would you prefer? Are imported guitars as good as the
ones made in the USA?
These are the features that will help you decide on the right guitar. This chapter will help you
make the choices by telling you how these features define guitars available today.
First of all, however, you should know the main parts that go into making a guitar.
• Body - The large main part with the sound hole
• Sound hole - The opening where the sound is heard
• Headstock – At the end of the neck where the tuning pegs are found
• Bridge –It is in the opposite end of the headstock, found on the Body of the guitar. It
supports the end of the guitar strings. Strings are held to the bridge using a hardware
arrangement like bridge pins.
• Neck - The long strip along which the strings run before they are wound over the peg
• Frets – The neck is divided into these partitions (22 to 24 total) to produce different notes
of the string
• Tuning peg- The other end of the string is wound around this peg found in the headstock
• The top of the guitar, or the other end of the neck where you find the tuning pegs
• Nut – Found at the end of the neck for the strings to rest
Acoustic or Electric
It is important for you to know what kind of music you would like to play before deciding on an
acoustic or an electric guitar. If you want to play classical music or folk music, it is better you
opt for the acoustic guitar. If you want to play rock, go for the electric guitar.
For a beginner, an acoustic guitar is considered more suitable because it is
• More portable than compared to electric
• Lighter
Less expensive
Both the electric and acoustic guitars have many common features.
• They both have six strings
• Both have six tuning pegs to tune the strings
• Both have the same size neck and number of frets
The major differences are found in the body of the guitar.
The Acoustic guitar
An acoustic guitar produces its sound through the vibrating strings. The vibration is taken to the
soundboard by the saddle and bridge on the guitar. The resonance of the sound produced is
amplified many times over, by the guitar’s body. The design and quality of the guitar and its
strings determine the instrument’s fineness.
The Acoustic guitar is considered to be the modern form of a classical guitar. Steel strings in the
acoustic have replaced the gut or nylon strings of the classical guitar. This gives the guitar a
louder sound.
• The acoustic guitar is independent of sound amplification devices.
• The shape of the guitar, the placement and tuning of strings, and the basic design by
itself, afford automatic sound amplification
• However, when you play for large audiences, the sound produced by the acoustic is not
as audible as the electric guitar.
• To facilitate amplification, acoustic guitars are now available with built in pickups
• A pick up is a device that detects the vibrations of the strings and amplifies the sound
There are different types of acoustic guitars to choose from
Baroque guitars
• These are smaller than the normal classical guitar and have a lesser sound
• They have four or five rather than six courses of strings
• They are more suitable for rhythm and for accompaniments rather than solo music
• It is an ornate instrument with exquisite inlays
Renaissance Guitar
• This guitar is also smaller than the classical guitar and has a softer sound
• It may have four or five string courses rather than six strings
• It is better of as an accompaniment guitar rather than a solo
• It is built along simple lines, with no embellishments.
Classical guitar
• It is very lightweight
• An extraordinary range of music can be played on it, from simple folk music to complex
orchestral compositions
• It has six strings made of nylon
• Usually played while sitting
It is used to play classical music
Flamenco guitar is built like the classical guitar, though the sound from it is sharper
Flat top guitar
• Looks just like the classical guitar, but has a larger body
• The neck is narrower than the classical
• It is played with steel strings – producing a louder sharper sound
• It is ideal for playing folk music, blues and old time music
Resophonic guitar
• Looks just like the flat top guitar, with a narrow neck and larger body
• It is played with steel strings
• It has aluminum plates in the body, to boost sound and can be played in concerts without
• It was first made in the 1920s.
• The bridge of the guitar over which the strings pass is attached to a metal resonator
• The resonator is in the middle of the top, which amplifies the sound
• It is also called Dobro guitar, synonymous with the trade name of the Dopyera brothers
who made such guitars
• It has a characteristic sound
• Square necked resonator guitars are played, with a glass or metal slide, with its face kept
• The player sits with the guitar on his lap while playing.
Archtop guitars
• These guitars have a sound hole like that of the violin
• It has a hollow body more like the violin or mandolin
• A louder sound emanates from an Archtop guitar than any other of the acoustic variety
• It is ideally suited for playing country music and jazz
• The back and the top of the instrument have a curved profile, rather than a flat one
Harp guitar
• This is played quite infrequently in the modern music era
• It is a regular guitar, with harp strings added to it
• The harp strings do not have frets, board or numbering
• The number of harp strings in an instrument may vary according to its design and is
usually decided by the guitarist himself
Electric guitar
In the Electric guitar, the vibration of the string is transmitted as electronic signals to an
amplifier and a speaker. The transmission is done by a magnetic pick up, which is placed under
the strings, on the guitar body.
There are two main types of electric guitars to choose from – solid body and the hollow body
Solid body electric guitar
There are many variations of the solid body electric guitar, but they can still be placed in three
broad categories
Glued-on neck guitar
• This has a double pick up coil using four wires
• The guitar has a strong, warm and smooth sound
• It is preferred by pop artists
• The Les Paul and the Paul Reed Smith guitars are good examples of this type
Bolt on Neck guitar
• This has a single pick up coil
• The strings have a treble sound and is loud and distinct
• Preferred by guitarists who play country music and blues
• The Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars designed by Leo fender are good examples of this
The neck-thro-body guitar
• The neck runs through the length of the body, to the end of the body
• The two ends of the string are both connected to the same wooden piece
• It is relatively easier to hold and there is an excellent reach to the upper frets
• It has a good bass and treble level
• Sustain of the body through guitar is superior
• It is expensive and rare
• Such guitars are made by Jackson, BC Rich and by a few Japanese guitar companies
The New Generation Guitar
Guitar makers continued innovating with the design of the electric guitar, keeping in mind the
ever-increasing vistas of popular music. These are the most common of the new generation
• Parker and Godin designed a guitar that had the better values of both the acoustic and the
electric guitar. This was designed in the 1990s. It was called the acoustic electric guitar
The Godin guitar company introduced a pre amplifier within a traditional guitar body
made of wood, to allow for an acoustic sound. It also has other sophisticated
modifications for the discerning player
The Parker Fly is a lightweight guitar with a very different shape of the body, with a
composite layer of carbon, glass and epoxy to strengthen it
A Carbon-Fiber guitar of the 1980s, with a small body and no head stock, made by
Some musicians play a double-necked guitar, which has both six and 12-string variations,
enabling them to play both accompaniment and solo music!
Hollow body guitar
• It has sound holes in it, making it both an acoustic and electric guitar
• This was the first variation of the acoustic guitar when it was amplified electrically
The guitar has a thick tone
It is more suited for Blues, Jazz and Fusion music
It was popular in the early rock and roll era
At present the solid body model is more popular
Because of the lessened demand, these guitars cost more than the solid body versions
It has an open and large vibrating chamber for sound
This results in a feedback of the sound when playing on a loud volume
Some guitarists (like Ted Nuggent) specifically play with this sound effect
The electric Archtop guitar is suited for rock and roll music
Those played in rock and roll have an additional tremolo arm for the guitar
The tremolo arm is a lever attached to the bridge of the electric guitar, capable of
shortening or elongating the strings
The tremolo arm is also called the whammy bar/tremolo bar and is capable of altering
sound to a greater extent than any other device
Elvis Presley was one of the first greats to use a whammy bar in his guitar that was made
by Scotty Moore in the 1950s
The 12-stringed guitar
All the guitars mentioned above had only six strings. What is special about the 12-stringed
• The 12-stringed version is available both in acoustic and electric guitars
• It was invented by the Gibson Guitar Corporation
• The strings are made of steel
The music which emanates from this instrument is louder and gives you feeling that two
guitarisits are playing, instead of one
Big Joe Williams is famous for his blues music on a 12-string guitar
The guitar is more suited for playing rhythm, blues, folk music and rock and roll
As individual strings cannot be easily plucked the 12-string guitar is used more as an
accompanying rather than solo instrument
Famous 12-string guitarists are David Bowie, Jon Bon Jovi, George Harrison (of the
Beatles), Neil Young, Paul Simon and Jimmy Page
The Bass Guitar
The Bass guitar has usually four and sometimes five strings. It may have a fretless neck. The
tuning is made one octave (a distance of eight notes) lower, than the strings of six or 12-stringed
guitar. Its strings are thus heavier and thicker.
The instrument is used for defining the bass, or for rhythm. In some rock groups, the bass player
is like the drummer, maintaining the pace of the music.
The bass has a limited versatility for playing tunes; solid body electric bass guitars are quite
The cutaway guitar
The cutaway shape of a steel string guitar allows for greater reach to the higher pitched frets,
which are closer to the sound hole. The cutaway is achieved by cutting off a section of the
bottom of the guitar’s body.
Though the cutaway allows you to play the higher notes with more ease, it will reduce the
loudness, as there is less space now for air resonance. (Guitar soloists prefer cutaway guitars.)
Classical guitars are not as common with the cutaway option.
This guitar is available both in acoustic and electric models. Electric guitars are available both in
single and double cutawaty designs. Single cutaway guitars have the cut on one side, while
double have cutaways on both sides of the instrument.
The strings
The string you need for the guitar depends on the kind of guitar you will buy. The Electric Guitar
uses magnetic alloy strings to enable a good “pick up”
Nylon Strings
• The Classical guitar uses a nylon filament string of which the first three strings are of
black plastic or clear looking, while the lower three strings are a nylon alloy combination.
• They are not metallic strings, though they appear to be. A beginner may find it more
difficult to string this type of guitar since it requires a knot to be tied at the bridge end.
• Nylon strings vibrate more rapidly than steel and they can be easier on your fingers to
• Because of the different types of necks, Nylon strings are not used on a steel string
acoustic guitars and steel strings are not put on a classical guitar.
• Ozzie Kotani and Keola Beamer played the popular Hawaiian slack key music on the
nylon stringed classical guitar.
Steel Strings
There are light/medium and heavy guage steel strings available
Light strings are easier on the fingers while the medium strings may produce better or
louder sound
Pop music guitarists prefer to play on steel string acoustic guitars
Eric Clapton usually plays a steel string acoustic guitar, played a classical nylon string
guitar on the song “Tears from Heaven”
Heavy guage strings are not suitable for a beginner(The pickguard is a thin plate attached
to the soundboard of the guitar, using glue/adhesive. It prpotects the finished veneer of
the guitar from scratches and greater damage)
Other metallic strings
• Bronze guitar strings available in the market are actually a brass alloy material over a
steel string.
• Phosphor bronze sound louder and last longer but pull harder on the bridge than a bronze
string of the same gauge do.
• A steel and silk combination string has a mellow tone for soft playing, but it does not last
long. This string resembles the bronze string in appearance
It is hoped the above information on guitar strings will help you choose which one you want for
the guitar.
You can now get down to the actual buying of the guitar. Do you want a new guitar, an old
guitar, or a used one? Which one would be better for a beginner?
Guitars – Used and New
New guitars can be found in many the innumerable guitar stores and music shops and also
available online. There are so many guitar makers who can give you just the guitar that you had
in mind…. But yet… there are some who adhere to the belief that used guitars are better than
new ones… What is so special about these guitars?
When opting for a used guitar, make sure all the controls work smoothly, the frets are in good
condition and undamaged, the strings are at the right height and not too far or too close to the
frets, there are no dents or grooves below the strings. Even if one fret is at a different height
because of a groove your guitar can sound out of tune.
The new guitar
You are the first owner and the new
instrument will be in perfect condition and
perform well
A new guitar needs to be played for many
years to achieve a mellow sound.
A new guitar has a clear warranty from
the buyer
A new guitar is expensive, especially if
you buy a very reputed brand
A good inspection is needed if you
purchase a new guitar
The used guitar
There may be some damage, or nicks and
A used guitar sounds more mellow with age,
especially a rosewood or mahogany one
There is no warranty and there is no telling how
long it will last or when it will need repair
The used guitar can be less expensive
An old guitar has to be inspected in great detail to
check for damages, cracks and sound quality.
It is a good idea to take a guitar expert, or someone you know that is an experienced guitar
player, along with you when you set out to buy your first guitar. They will be able to play it, rate
it, and give it a good inspection, before you buy it.
Imported Guitars
There is a huge range of guitars made in the US for every kind of musician, whether you are a
beginner or an expert. You can find one that costs just right and allows you to play the music you
want to.
There are imported guitars too. Countries other than the U.S. make well-constructed guitars.
Both inexpensive and highly expensive (from highly renowned manufacturers) models are
For instance, the foreign-made guitars of popular models of the US are available. The sound and
general make up of the guitar, ranges from good to extremely good in quality. For instance,
Korea makes models of Paul Reed Smith guitars; the Japanese and Mexican-made Fender guitars
are excellent specimens of the famous company.
There are lesser-priced imported guitars without international brand names. These are
economical buys for young and aspiring guitarists.
Some of these guitars use plywood for construction. Though this may not provide the
mellowness of sound that you hear from a pure mahogany or rosewood guitar, plywood guitars
are hardy and tough. They are light, less prone to cracks and make great guitars for to take on a
picnic or camping.
The tone of a plywood guitar cannot match that of a maple or spruce bodied guitar, which is deep
mellow and pleasant. If you are particular about very superior tone quality, avoid the plywood
You now know what guitar you would like to buy. The next chapter tells you what to look out
for, when buying your guitar.
Chapter 4
Picking Up The Best Guitar
As a first-time buyer, you will have two major priorities when picking a guitar. You have to
choose a guitar that is
Perfectly suited for your particular need
Is sustained in quality and durable
The features you will have to look out for, to pick up the guitar best suited for you, are
Comfort while playing
Special features
Fret and string quality
Placement of controls
The guitar that allows you to play it easily and feels good in your grip can be said to have a high
level of playability. This is the single most important feature of the guitar to be considered.
If the guitar does not feel good in your hands then it is not the right guitar. You should be able to
run your fingers over the frets smoothly and play the notes clearly. There may be some minor
adjustments, however, which can be taken care of by the dealer.
Bruce Springsteen plays the fender Telecaster. John Lennon played an acoustic guitar made by
Gibson and Robert Johnson played a Les Paul guitar.
Great guitarists play great guitars. Fender, Gibson and Les Paul and similar well-known brands
of guitars are enormously expensive and magnificent in performance. But this does not mean that
a beginner like you cannot afford a good instrument. Well-made, new guitars that have a
splendid tone and sound are available for less that $500.
If this amount were also heavy on your pocket, then it would do well to plan the purchase in
advance. This way you can save enough money to acquire a guitar with just the qualities you
seek in it.
For a beginner, guitars costing $200-$400 are available. For this amount
• A pretty good instrument with a well-constructed design
Many good quality, imported brands are available in this range
A simple guitar that can help you learn music easily
If you are ready to spend a little more, i.e. about $300 to $700, you can have a guitar
• With a much better design and build
• You can perform with
• Long-lasting
For the higher price range of $700 and more there is a whole range of excellent instruments
available, which can be played by a professional for a long, long time.
These guitars have
• Excellent build and design
• Parts of the most splendid quality
• A superb finish
Next to playability, this is the most important aspect of the guitar you want to buy. Check to see
whether the guitar has
• Uniform sound level
• Clear distinction of sound with movement of fingers
• Audible and pleasant tones
• Sufficient loudness for an acoustic guitar
• The first three qualities should hold good for an unplugged electric guitar also
Comfortable to hold
Guitars come in different sizes, neck shapes and string count. Hold the guitar and play it, to
ascertain whether you feel comfortable playing it.
The size
• Are you able to reach the sound hole with your right hand while sitting to play the guitar?
(Read that as left hand for left-handers)
• Is the guitar of the right size for you? Big guitars (like the dreadnought) will not suit you
of you are small in build. Opt for a smaller size
• The slightest discomfort you feel will be evident when you play; you always must be
totally at ease when you are ready to play
The neck
• The width of the guitar neck may be narrow or wide
• Electric guitars necks are narrow, steel stringed have broader necks, while classical
guitars have a neck width broader than the other two
• Generally, players with larger hands can play a guitar with wide necks more easily than a
small-handed person.
• Narrow necked instruments are more suitable for you, if you have small hands
The strings
• The strings must be raised to the right height over the frets. This is called the action of the
• Strings at a lesser height allows you easier playing, while strings a little further away
requires more effort and action
• What kind of action do you want in the guitar?
While the above parameters will help you choose the right guitar to play, certain special features
will ascertain that it is indeed your best choice.
Are Looks Important?
• A nice-looking guitar will be more appealing for you to play
• If your search for a guitar ends with choosing between an attractive guitar and one with
the same features but dull in comparison, which should you take?
• Maybe the handsomer guitar is more expensive, but it is a better choice, because a lasting
possession should look good too.
Special features
• Do you want a guitar with a whammy bar? This is more expensive
• A guitars made of plywood or one has laminated wood work is less expensive than a
solid wood guitar and so cost less compared to the latter
• The guitar may have devices for greater pick up and amplification. Do you need them?
• There may be other in-built electronic options, which, while making the guitar more
expensive, may be an unnecessary addition
• Make sure you specifically need the features when you buy a guitar equipped in such a
manner. Maybe as a beginner you are better off without them
Placement of controls
• Does your hand brush against the controls, altering them while playing?
• A guitar with controls positioned in a manner that affects them while you play, it is not a
good buy
• Are the tuning pegs easy to operate, sitting just right in the hole?
• If tuning pegs are too thin the string may loosen up while playing, or if they are thicker
than needed, stringing the guitar becomes difficult
• Make sure that the controls are smooth, easy to operate, effective, and out of your hands’
way while you play
Guitars for the young musician
• Guitars make great gifts for aspiring musicians who want to start early
• Right now there are many brands in the market that make excellent guitars, which sound
just fine, are not encumbered with superfluous devices and not too expensive
• Remember these guitars are not “toy” guitars. Don’t make the mistake of getting your
child a “toy” guitar. He will soon outgrow both the instrument and his interest in it!
• Also, don’t make the mistake of getting too big a guitar for the child. If he is not able to
reach over to the fret placed in the other end –it becomes a impossible for him to play it
• Make sure that the guitar is not too heavy for the child
Quite often parents and children disagree about how the guitar should look. Your
daughter may want that smart looking electric guitar shaped like a battle axe while you
prefer to get her a more sedate looking acoustic one.
Discuss the priorities of the purchase (appearance of the guitar is directly proportional to
the motivation to play it!) before deciding on the model for your son/daughter
A Music Book
A guitar purchase is incomplete for a beginner, if you do not buy a music book with basic guitar
theory and some easy and elementary music along with it.
A Music book should contain
• Elementary guidelines to music
• Tablature for simple tunes
• Music written for popular songs
Depending on your level of playing ability you can choose the best music book. It is usually
available from the guitar dealer, or can be ordered separately.
Besides this, as you progress as a guitarist, your can keep a separate music book, where you can
transcribe songs of your choice for further reference.
The appropriate guitar
A crucial facet of the guitar is its suitability for playing various styles of music. Decide on the
type of music you play and choose the right guitar. For instance, you would not opt for a
classical guitar to play heavy metal music.
Some guitars are more suited for some styles and genres of music.
Acoustic and Electric
Acoustic and Classical
Acoustic and Classical
Acoustic and Electrical
Semi Acoustic and
Heavy Metal
The Traveler’s Guitar
Sometimes, you may have to travel with your guitar, within or outside the country. It may be on
a holiday, for a musical competition, or even for a picnic. For guitarists who travel frequently,
there are companies that sell a Traveling Guitar. These guitars are
Compact, without compromising on length, scale, tone and sound
Solid and unbreakable
Does not lose its tone due to change of temperature and climate
There are some models with additional features to ensure the instrument does not encumber you
The guitar can be dismantled to fit into a small carry bag/case
It has provision for head phone, so that you can practice silently while waiting
Traveling Tips
• Just before you pack the guitar, loosen the tuning pegs and keep the strings slack. This
ensures that the string will not break due to weather changes
• Preserve all the packing material that comes within the case, when you first buy the
guitar, so that you can pack it in the same manner when you travel
• Some guitarists prefer to pack the guitar in its case and then place the guitar case/bag it in
a solid body trunk which may contain clothes, as an extra precaution
For the left-handed guitarist
Guitar makers have not ignored the market for guitars sought by left-handed players. Are you
one of them?
Unlike the right-handed guitarist, you will strum, pluck the string with your left hand and play
the fingers of your right hand. These guitars are designed in a way that the controls do not come
in the way, when playing.
You can
• Search the net for information regarding dealers. For instance, Southpaw Guitars of
Texas, deal with left-handed guitars. You can access their website for more information.
• Ask a guitarist friend about guitar dealers in your home town or nearby who sell left
handed guitars
Once you have the access to the guitar, you will have to choose the right instrument based on the
criteria mentioned in this chapter.
There are many ways to further check the guitar, to know whether you have picked one. The next
chapter tells you how to check the guitar for price, action, sound, tune-ability and so on
Chapter 5
Checking Out The Guitar
The previous chapter has helped you form an idea about the kind of guitar you want. This
chapter will tell you how to check the guitar in a shop for its playability comfort and sound and
how to check out on its price.
The guitar is one of the most affordable musical instruments. It is easy to learn and play. For its
evident popularity, there are a corresponding number of guitar makers who offer plenty of
choices for a buyer, whether a professional, or a beginner.
You are now poised to make that trip to the guitar dealer for your instrument.
(If you are a complete novice, borrow a friend’s guitar and learn to play a few notes and a
simple song. This will help you check out the guitar you buy.)
Plan your budget
• When you buy a guitar, some accessories are inevitable. Here is an approximate and
conservative estimate of what they will cost.
 The guitar case or bag ($25)
 Amplifier and cord – for the electric guitar ($60)
 Guitar Stand ($20)
 Music Stand ($15)
 Digital Tuner ($20)
• Decorative inlay work on fret boards, expensive wood used for the body and more
options for sound amplification can raise the price of guitars. Without intruding on the
sound quality, these factors will make a guitar noticeable and attractive
Finding A Dealer
It is time now to set out in quest of that guitar you always wanted. First of all, you have to find a
Consult your musician friends about their guitars. Get to know why they bought that
particular guitar
Research thoroughly about guitar brands by reading guitar magazines, guitar price guides
of dealers in your area, and surfing the net.
Look for reputable dealers only, because you can always go back to them for
 Servicing
 Minor repairs and adjustments
 More accessories
Reputed dealers usually turn out to be guitar enthusiasts themselves, and will gladly help
you choose an instrument, according to your taste and budget
A reputed dealer will not ask you to pay more than the market price for the instrument.
Choose the dealers you will visit and take your guitarist friend along to help you buy the
At the dealer’s
Reach the dealer with a pretty fair idea of the kind of guitar you want and your budget. The
dealer will show the instruments that are within your budget and of the type you want.
There may be a number of guitars appropriate for you, in different models, brands and price
ranges. Try playing a few of them, before you select the instrument. Play instruments that are
priced above and below your budget. This way you get to know the kind of tone and playability
for the price you have in mind.
Check out the instruments you may buy in the following manner
Look at the construction of the instrument.
 Are the frets smooth
 Is the neck straight – If the neck is not well set, the strings may be too highly
strung or too low near the frets
 Is the neck balanced and level, without any raised or dipped area (A slight hump,
where the neck joins the body, in an acoustic guitar is allowed)
 Is the body balanced
 Is the nut in the right position or is it too high
 (If the nut is high, playing the guitar require more effort. This can be corrected by
filing the grooves holding strings to a lower level. However strings positioned too
low will produce a buzz when you press them down on the fret board)
Tune the guitar
 Do the tuning pegs turn round smoothly
 Does the peg remain firm after you have fixed the tuning
Slip the guitar strap on your shoulders and hold the guitar in your comfortable playing
 Is it heavy
 Is it balanced
 Can you reach the frets with ease
Test the bridges
 At times, guitars with bridges made of plastic (painted black to appear like ebony)
are sold off as beginner’s instruments
 Apply a slight pressure on the bridge and fret board with your fingernail. Does it
feel soft to your touch – If yes, then discard the choice
If you want an electric guitar
 Plug it to an amplifier
 Listen for crackling or droning sound
 If the sound is because of a defective cord, replace it with a new one and play
 Are the controls placed at convenient locations for you to manipulate
 Do the controls work well
 Is the amplifier of good quality- Even good guitars sound quite terrible if the
amplifier is of mediocre quality
Play a song
 Does the guitar sound good
Are the strings too hard for the touch?
Can you press the strings on the frets with ease
Is there a buzzing sound when the string touches a fret
Is the neck wide enough to enable clarity of sound
Is the sound deep and pleasant – This indicates good design
When you run your playing fingers up and down the neck, is the sound clear and
smooth, devoid of buzzing
The extras
 What warranty will you get for the guitar – A 5-year warranty should be fine
 The guitar always is sold along with its case. Besides this, some dealers may add
a few accessories to your purchase, free of cost.
 Ask the dealer about it
Buying it cheap
Quality always has a price tag. Inordinately expensive guitars are not always the best. Both facts
being true, what then is the middle line for you to pay the right price for the instrument?
What you should not do is – buy a cheap guitar. A cheap guitar compromises every feature of the
instrument for maintaining a low price tag. Moreover, there is little or no chance of good after
sales service for the price you pay.
The guitar is to be a source of entertainment, relaxation and an excellent mode of passive
recreation. Spend sensibly, without wasting or scrounging on the money and get yourself a fine
Beginner’s Tip
If you have no particular make in mind, go for the classical guitar, with nylon strings.
The simple design affords easy playability, and the nylon strings do not hurt your fingers.
It is a versatile instrument, on which you can play classical, jazz, folk, pop and Latin music.
Chapter 6
Negotiating A Good Deal
A reputed guitar dealer will not cheat you into buying a guitar you do not want. But the price of a
guitar is usually negotiable.
Most people would rather not negotiate. They find it easier to pay the quoted price and buy what
they want. But it is not as intimidating as you think. Follow a few ground rules and walk away
with the best deal you can hope to get.
Find out the general market price of the model you prefer
Check out with friends and on the internet about the best deals for the instrument
Decide on the higher limit of your budget, so there is mo compromise in the quality you
Take a guitarist friend along to check the instrument you buy, thoroughly
Before you approach the guitar dealer, you can practice negotiating for an item a couple of times.
For instance, you can negotiate for a piece of furniture that interests you. If the price is too high,
you can avoid the purchase. This attitude will come to your aid in an important deal. You will
not be taken for a ride or be overcharged.
When you meet the salesman
Your attitude
• Be friendly and casual
• Don’t over react to the prices quoted
• Don’t appear over enthusiastic to buy from him (For instance, if he claims the guitar to be
“a classic” or have “great playability”, show polite interest)
• Give the impression, that you may walk away, if the sale does not interest you
• Don’s appear to be in a hurry to see the deal through
The dealer’s attitude
• Avoid a dealer who appears aggressive; you do not want to be coerced into buying from
• Avoid a dealer who is persuasive and is bent on selling a guitar to you, even if it does not
meet your approval
• If he appears hostile, suspicious, evasive or unwilling to part with information you solicit,
approach another dealer
• State your preferences clearly and suggest a price. The dealer will respect you for being
knowledgeable about the instrument
• Since he wants to make the deal, he will be friendly too and suggest options
• Check whether his prices are reasonable
Ask the dealer as many questions as you can. Keep them short and to the point. (For an online
purchase, call the toll free number for your enquiries.) Ask about
• The guitar you want to buy – its make, brand name, durability, sound, tone, playability,
versatility, and so on
• Price comparisons with other shops and other brands
• The quality of the materials used to design of the guitar
• The possibility of returning the instrument or exchanging it
• Warranty period
• Anything that does not appear clearly mentioned in the warranty
• After sale service, repair and supply of accessories
A reputable dealer will answer your questions willingly, as he recognizes a genuine buyer in you
Before you buy
• Pick and check the instrument you want to buy
• Read the warranty thoroughly, including the legal jargon, so as not to miss out on
significant information
• Ensure once more that there is provision of return/exchange
• Check the packing of the instrument, if it shows wear and tear, find out why
The Price
The guitar’s cost price is marked higher to a sale price. What is a markup price? It is the amount
added to the cost price that includes profits and overheads for the dealer.
Sometimes the markup is excessive. You do not have to pay this inflated price. You should
negotiate to ascertain you get a reasonable discount on the selling price of the guitar.
There are better chances of a good discount, if you adopt a casual and unhurried manner, while
in the shop. On the contrary, if you appear impatient and eager to finalize the sale, an aggressive
dealer may push you into buying a guitar you don’t want.
Tactics to get a discount
• Play several guitars as if to imply you want a cheaper guitar, than the one you have in
• Cheap guitars allow small commissions for the dealer. So he will attempt to sell you a
more expensive guitar for an attractive price, or an expensive guitar with freebies like
 Guitar strap
 Guitar lessons
 Wood polish
 Guitar strings
 Picks
• If the guitar is already on a discount, you will have a hard time persuading the dealer to
lessen this price
• Instead you can ask him to include some accessories as a bonus, like guitar strings or a
How much discount?
What price should you quote to get a reasonable discount? The markup is usually about 10% to
20% higher than the guitar’s cost price. For a start, ask for a 15% discount on the sale price. This
way you will be paying approximately about 5% to 10% more than the cost price.
Recent research would have told you of another shop where such a discount is possible. Mention
the shop’s name to this dealer. Try to persuade the dealer to agree to the price you quote.
Bargaining may be novel experience for you, and with time you will learn to do it effectively.
Once you quote the price, be firm about it, without sounding too mulish. Be prepared to walk out
of the shop if you are not satisfied.
When the dealer accepts your price, (or you allow for a slight increase in your budget), the deal
is finalized. Request for a bill, warranty and all the accessories you should receive with the
guitar. Pay for it and take home an instrument you always wanted.
Beginner’s Tip
Keep all the bills, manuals, warranties, and other documents you receive with the guitar
in a separate file. In case there is a complaint, it becomes easier to approach the dealer,
if the documentation of the sale is available.
Chapter 7
The Acoustic Guitar
What makes it work?
Acoustic guitars have metal strings running over a hollow body. Sound emanates from the guitar
due to resonance and vibration. The tuning of the strings determines the extent of vibration
allowed when then strings are plucked.
The hollow body, acoustically, increases the loudness of sound and enriches it. The amplified
sound can be heard from the round hole you see in the guitar, which is called the sound box. The
hole is, by and large, round in shape, but there are guitars with holes of different shapes too.
There are about 150 different components within the guitar that contribute to the creation and
enrichment of the sound in the acoustic guitar.
How it is made
The foremost parts of the acoustic guitar are its top, neck, sides, back, fingerboard, frets and nut.
The top of the guitar is made of a soft wood like spruce or it may be laminated. (Lamination is
preparing a thin sheet of wood, by gluing several thinner layers of it, as in plywood). The inner
surface, of the top of the guitar, is reinforced with bracing made of wooden strips, to provide a
rich tone to the instrument.
The neck of the guitar is constructed with maple or mahogany. The neck must withstand the
tension of the string and provide a hold for your fingers when you play the guitar. The neck
glued, bolted or screwed to the body, through a slot.
The head of the guitar is at the top end of the neck. It is also referred to as headstock or peg
head. The tuning pegs are attached to the head. For guitars that have no headstock, the tuning
pegs are built behind, into the bridge
The sides and the back: Hard woods like maple, mahogany or rosewood are used to build the
sides and the back. This keeps the guitar strong and durable with a good tone.
The Fingerboard is a separate piece of wood that is glued on to the neck. It is usually ebony or
rosewood. On the fingerboard are dots made of metal, wood or pearl to help you play the notes.
Frets are thin metal strips, laid in the fret board. When you push down the string, directly over a
fret, the string touches the fret, setting a vibration into the string, allowing you to hear a
particular note. An acoustic guitar has 18 to 21 frets (standard)
Nut, made of bone or plastic has tiny grooves on it for the strings to pass. It is placed where the
fingerboard and the head are joined. It allows the strings to be spaced out uniformly, allowing
only the portion of string between the nut and bridge to create the sound.
Strings are the sound makers of the guitar. Each string has one end attached to a tuner (also
called (tuning peg or tuning key). When you turn the tuner, it tightens or loosens the string. The
tighter the string is wound, the higher is the pitch of sound.
The Bridge is where the strings end on the opposite side of the headstock. It is a saddle like
construction, made of tough plastic, wood, bone or a tough synthetic material. The bridge sits
glued to the top of the guitar. In steel sting guitars, the strings end under the bridge, where they
are anchored down.
The bridge has a saddle, in most guitars. The saddle is the place where the vibrating part of the
strings ends. The position of the saddle (its height) can be adjusted to achieve more precise
alterations to the pitch. It is made of synthetic material, bone or ivory.
The Truss Rod is the adjustable metal rod which is found along the inside of the neck, or at the
headstock. The neck can be made curve back, by tightening the rod, or a curved neck can be
sstrightened by loosening the truss rod. This allows for the guitar to
• Maintain sound and pitch
• Manage increase in tension of the strings; this helps the neck maintain its alignment
The nylon strings of the classical guitar do not increase the tesion on the neck of the guitar, as
metallic ones do. For this reason, classical guitars are made without the truss rod.
Sizes of acoustic guitars: The standard acoustic guitar is ideal for adult guitarists. The beginner
and parlor guitars are for smaller people. There are Jumbo and Dreadnought size guitars.
The Dreadnought guitar, (first made by CF Martin & Co. in the 1930s) gets its name from the
World War I battle ship of Britain. It has a very loud sound and a formidable bass. (Bass is the
lowest pitched sound of the guitar.)
The Jumbo guitar was first made in the 1930’s and has a body size of 20 inches. It has a great
volume potential, and is an ideal instrument for solo or ensemble concerts.
Wood options for tone and durability
The most essential and crucial factor, when designing the guitar, to create the basic tone
characteristic of the instrument, is the wood used. No two woods sound alike, and tonal quality
has been evolved by consistence use of woods that have contributed to rich, pleasant and
distinctive tones.
To hear the tonal influence that the body is giving to a guitar, turn the guitar around while
playing and listen to the back of the body - you will hear a higher percentage of the body tone
with less string, fingerboard and neck influence
The table below tells you the woods used for different parts of the guitar
Guitar Part
Wood used
Sides and Back
Fret board
Inside lining
Spruce, Cedar, Koa, Mahogany, Walnut
Mahogany, Maple
Rosewood, Mahogany, Maple, Koa, Cherry, Walnut
Rosewood, Ebony
Ebony, Rosewood
Basswood, Walnut
Beginner’s Tip
Turn the guitar over while playing, and place your ear close to the back
of the guitar’s body. You can have an idea of what kind of tone the body
of the guitar especially imparts to the instrument.
Tonal quality of woods
Tone is the quality or character of sound. It is the tone that makes one guitar different from the
other. When you pluck the guitar’s string, a vibration is set up. This vibration triggers of many
smaller vibrations. The combined sound of the smaller vibrations is called the overtone.
Though most guitars have tones and overtones, every guitar will have its own combination of the
two, making the sound quality of each guitar, quite unique.
Sitka Spruce
• This is the standard wood for the top
• It is the wood chosen for the top of Martin Guitars
• It always has a consistent quality
• Sitka is more common than Red Spruce.
• It sounds good for a light touch
• It allows for a powerful tone with high clarity
Red Spruce
• It has a creamy shade
• Has been rare since the 1940s, before which Martin Guitars used it for the top
• It allows more resonance
• The overtone is more composite than Sitka
• It is ideal for steel string guitars
• Red Spruce tops are capable of excellent loudness and richness of tone
• First used in 1922 for the guitar top
Is tough and durable
In the neck and bridge, mahogany contributes a warm, soft tone to the guitar
In the sides and back, they contribute a softer sound than rosewood, has a good overtone
and accounts for a good emphasis on bass
When used for the top, it contributes a subdued, solid tone, making it suitable for country
and blues music
Is the ideal top for Travel Guitars
Rosewood: Two types of Rosewood are used to make guitars, Indian and Brazilian.
• Brazilian rosewood is called Jacaranda and smells like fresh roses.
• Indian rosewood is rich grained and has shades of purple, red and brown
• Guitars made of rosewood have a reverberating quality in their tone
• The tone is rich and distinct
• It has a thicker tone as compared to Brazilian rosewood
• When used in the neck, Brazilian rosewood contributes clearer and sharper notes
• It has a greater bass tone than mahogany, or it is “boomier”
• Indian rosewood is idle for large bass guitars
• Different varieties of maple wood are used for acoustic guitars, like bearclaw, and big
• The higher notes have excellent clarity of tone when the body is made of maple
• Maple necks contribute to a bright tone to the guitar
• Maple can make your guitar sound less resonant, but brittle
Used for top, it has a distinctive tone, preferred by many new generation guitarists
Tone is warm and bright
Tone sustain (the ability for the note to persist after you stop playing it) is superior
Not too popular with luthiers, because repair work is impeded by the soft nature of the
It is highly resonant
The light wood produces an enriched tone
Tone sustaining quality excellent
It is light tan colored with a pink tint
Hawaiian Koa
• It is golden brown colored with an attractive sheen
• It has a low overtone when used for the top
• It has a warm, solid tone, similar to mahogany
• Because it is denser than mahogany the tone is brighter
• It makes an excellent slide guitar, for playing Hawaiian music
• It is well suited for rhythm
• If used for the sides and back, the tone produced resembles that of mahogany
• Usually found in custom made guitars or special guitars
• It has a rich bass sound
• Dark brown with a sheen
• Attractive and not hard on your pocket
• Sounds a lot like maple
• Has a richer mid range sound, than treble or bass
• (Midrange is the middle, Treble is high and Bass is low pitch range of notes)
Bass Wood
• It is a light and stable wood, so is sometimes used for the inside lining of the guitar
• In the neck, it is ideal for bass guitars
• It is a closed-grain wood with colors ranging from white to dark tan
• (Bass guitars have a longer scale and a lower pitch of sound. They may or may not have
• Ebony wood is excellent as bridge material for guitars made of Brazilian rosewood or
• Ebony has a damping effect on the tone.
• It may not set well with smaller guitars which use less resonant woods
Wood is responsible only to a certain extent for the tone of the guitar. The final expression of
music on the instrument is a blend of the excellence of acoustic design and the magic created by
the guitarist’s fingers.
Guitar finishes
The first thing that strikes you in a guitar is its shining appearance, termed as the finish. Finish,
besides making the guitar look attractive, also influences the tone of the instrument to a slight
extent. The finish is an important aspect of guitar making that determines its durability and
looks. Finish is a further key factor in determining the price of the guitar.
It is the polished veneer of the guitar, forming a protective layer on the wood. Lacquer is the
paint or varnish that gives the finishing sheen or gloss to a wooden product. Here are some
pointers to help you identify a good finish on a guitar.
There is an assortment of finishes for guitars. The most common and extensively used are
• Water based lacquer
• Nitrocellulose lacquer
Oil varnish
Catalyzed polymer
Water based lacquer
• It is environment friendly;
• Has been popular for the past 15 years
• Can be sprayed or brushed on
• It is economical
• It is clear and easy to repair
Solvent based Nitrocellulose lacquer
• Used extensively since the 1920s, until newer finishes were used
• Earlier lacquer was synonymous with this type of finish
• Flexible, hard and durable
• Can be brought to a high gloss when cured
• (Curing is the chemical process of toughening or hardening a material)
• Though it can be brushed on, spraying is recommended for a good finish
• The fumes emanated by the vapors, while the lacquer is being prepared is a health hazard
• A vapor mask is worn while preparing the nitrocellulose lacquer
• It is also called French Polish Shellac
• French polishing implies that the finish is applied by hand, to the wood, using a cotton
• Guitar makers use shellac spirit varnish for French polishing
• European guitars in the past were French polished
• It is beautiful in appearance and expensive
• The luster, beauty and texture of the wood are well highlighted with French polishing
• French polish is a versatile finish that can be done to a fine gloss or a dull satin
• It may also appear to have a streaked veneer when you see it in reflected light
• It enhances the tonal quality of the wood
• Cured shellac spirit is thin and flexible for application
• Simple materials like alcohol, oil, shellac, polishing pad and a pumice are sufficient for
preparing this finish, and so it is non-toxic
• The expertise of finishing is more significant, when using this material
• It is a long drawn process as it may take weeks to create the right level of finish
• Shellac may be used under any other finish too, as a sealing agent
• As it is delicate and damages easily, it is not suited for guitars handled casually; however
it can be repaired easily by a skilled luthier
• Keep the guitar clean and avoid excessive handling if you want the finish to last longer.
Oil Finish
• Simplest and earliest known finish
• May be tung oil or linseed oil
• It hardens by exposure to air and does not involve evaporation processes like other
Enhances the natural texture of the wood
Produces a hard and flexible finish
Not as protective as a lacquer finish
Non toxic, safe and easy to apply (5/6 coats needed)
Can be polished and waxed when the final coat dries
Catalyzed Polymer
• These finishes function by a chemical reaction, allowing the liquid finish to solidify on
the wood
• The catalyst (the chemical which speeds up the process) can be a liquid added to the
finish, light or the atmosphere!
• The finish dries very quickly, as compared to some other finishes.
• It can be applied in a thick layer and then polished the way lacquer finishes are
• It is more durable and scratch resistant, not tending to crack with temperature and climate
• The tonal quality of the guitar is not impeded by this synthetic finish
• Defects on the finish cannot be repaired as well as in other finishes as the slightest touch
up on the veneer is apparent in reflected light
To know which finish is good for your guitar, ask the dealer what finish has been used for the
instrument. He may test the finish using solvents. This will tell you what finish have been used
and how well the guitar will sustain its gloss.
Guitar Action
Action actually refers to the elevation of the guitar strings above the fingerboard. Playing
becomes very easy when the strings are closer to the fret board. You don’t have to press the
strings too hard to touch the board. This means the action is “low”. Low action may lead to a
buzzing sound on the fingerboard. This happens because the string also vibrates against the other
frets of the board.
The guitar is said to have high action, when the strings are adjusted to be at a greater height away
from the fret board. Playing becomes more difficult now, as you have to press the strings harder
to produce sound.
“Action” adjustments are made in your guitar to ensure
• You play it with maximum comfort
• Buzzing is avoided
• Decrease of pressure on the playing fingers
• You can achieve the best sound possible from the guitar
Most factory made guitars are set up at high action. It is easier for you to reduce the “high” to
low than vice versa. Raising action may entail replacing the saddle and the nut, where as
lowering it involves only adjusting them to a lower level.
Factors that affect the action of your guitar
• Excess or paucity of humidity
• Continued playing and handling of the instrument
Tension – A Flat top guitar tend to acquire more tension with time, because of its shape
Thickness of the string - If you change the gauge of the string, it will affect the action,
which has to be modified in accordance to the new type of string
Decide on the string you will use and get the guitar adjusted for normal action with those
The guitarist’s mode of playing will also affect action. For instance, the guitar of the rock
or jazz player will surely have a different degree of action in the strings as compared to
the one who usually plays country music or blues
Faulty set up: If one or many components of the guitar have not been adjusted/aligned/set
properly, action will suffer.
For instance, Loosening of the neck, cracks, loose braces, and loose bridge can cause
faulty action
Here are some tips for guitar set up that will ensure the action is at an optimum level
• The right adjustments to the nut slots to keep the string firm, apart, and without slipping
• The shape of the saddle must be appropriate
• Adequate room for the strings to vibrate over the neck
• Frets placed level and perfectly apart from one another, according to the right scale. They
should not have scratch marks or dent on them.
There is no standard Action set up. It will vary according to the design of the guitar and the kinds
of strings they have.
How to make adjustments to set the action for your guitar
• Truss rods can be rotated to bring the strings closer to the fret board (Usually clockwise
turn is required in the exceptional Guild, Taylor and Martin guitars)
• Some guitars have double action rods for the same purpose. The turns can be made in
either direction for adjustments
• Guitars have truss rods that are reached from the headstock, or from inside the sound hole
• If there is a buzz in the sound of the guitar that requires changing the elevation of frets,
contact a luthier
• If the groove on the nut is too light, it makes playing difficult, where as if it is too deep,
your guitar will have an unnecessary twang; get that repaired by the luthier
• The correct height of the nut is checked in this manner
 Fret the second fret
 The space between the first fret and the string, must be just right for a single leaf
of the “yellow pages” book to fit in
• If the guitar does not sound right, even after all these adjustments, it is probably the
saddle being placed at the wrong height. The saddle can be elevated or lowered.
Beginner’s Tip
When buying a guitar, look at the action (height of the strings) and check it
with the bridge height. If action seems high and the bridge low, that means the neck
is set at the wrong angle. Choose another guitar. The guitar you buy should have facility
for bridge adjustment, to raise or lower it.
The Guitar Scale
The word scale has its origins in the Greek word, “scala” which means ladder. The scale is a
group of musical notes put together. There are many musical scales the world over, but Western
music, has two scales, the c-major and c-minor.
Why should you learn scales?
All songs and melodies are written on scales and when you read the scales you too can learn to
play the melodies. The more you play, the more does your ear get attuned to tune variations. This
will help you learn to play the guitar in a handsome manner.
For beginner guitar players, a pentatonic scale is preferred. (Penta – five Tonic – key of / in the
key). There are two types of pentatonic scales, called the Major Pentatonic and the Minor
Pentatonic. Learning these two scales will help you learn most of the music written for the guitar.
These scales are highly suitable for rock, jazz, blues, country and bluegrass music.
A guitar’s scale length (the length of the open string) varies from 24 to 26 inches. To understand
the basic way the scale works this is what you have to do.
Hold the guitar in front of you. You will see dots on the fret board. Each dot is placed on a
different fret.
The picture below represents a section of the guitar. The first dot is placed on the third fret, the
second is on the 5th fret, and the 3rd is on the seventh fret and so on. Guitars have up to 24 frets.
Here only 19 are shown, which are sufficient for you to get an idea about the scale. That is
because every note repeats after every 12 frets. The scale pattern also repeats after 12 frets.
(The numbers below the fret is written here for your reference.)
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
The distance between 1 and 2 is called half step and the distance between 1 and 3 is called a full
The letter represents the string below it. Notice that there are two E’s for the string. The one at
the top is the high E string and is the thinnest, while the one below is the low E string and is the
The highest E string is called the 1st string, B is called the 2nd string and so on and the lowest E
string is called the 6th string. Music scales also refer to the strings by numbers.
The frets are placed on the scale in a direct ratio of the length of the scale. If the scale is longer in
the guitar, there is a greater distance between the frets. The area of the neck between the nut and
the first strip of the fret is called the first fret, the area between the first and second strip is called
the second fret, etc.
Fret Rule
Frets are metal inserts on the neck that help define the pitch of individual notes. When the finger
presses down the string, the raised edge helps define a certain length of the string that will create
a particular pitch (note). There may be up to 24 frets on the guitar. Acoustic guitars usually have
20 to 24 frets.
There are some guitars with as little as 12 frets. There are 14-fret guitars too. In a full sized body,
a 14-fret guitar has a clear and bright tone. (There is an Eric Clapton signature model of this
The distance between two successive frets is called the equal tempered semitone. The placing of
the frets follows a mathematical rule. Each fret is placed at a distance that is “1/18 (one
eighteenth) the remaining string length”.
Joining the neck
The joint of the neck is where the neck is attached to the body. The efficacy of the neck joint is
significant because it
• Affects the tone of the guitar
• Has to bear up the pressure of the strings being attached
The Glued On Neck
Acoustic guitars have been designed with a glued on neck, ever since they were first made. The
guitar body has a mounting point on which a set neck is attached, using a dovetailed joint. The
connection is made with great precision.
The dovetail joint decreases the likelihood of the neck moving out of place. It also ensures that
there is a major gluing area, for keeping the joint as secure as possible.
The exception
There are only a few exceptions to the glued on neck in an acoustic guitar. One of them being the
custom built Taylor guitar that had a special bolt on neck. In a special arrangement, the bolthead of this guitar fits into the body. All other bolt-on-neck guitars are usually electric
The neck of the nylon guitar joins the body, at the midpoint of the string length, which is at the
12th fret. The fingerboard is wide, about 2.4 inches near the body. The steel string guitar has the
neck joint at the 14th fret. This will allow for a greater length in the fingerboard.
Bracing provides better tonal effect in the guitar. It increases the toughness of the top of the
guitar, without interfering with its vibration. Without a brace, the guitar will sound quiet. The
bracing helps to spread the vibration through the area of the top.
Scalloped bracing
• Wood is shaved off from particular areas of the braces.
• This weaken the top of the guitar, to a small extent, just above the shaved off are.
• Doing so will help the top of the guitar vibrate freely at that point
• The scalloping should be optimum, just enough to weaken the top for vibration, without
weakening its overall strength
• Steel string guitars have scalloped bracing Scalloped bracing can function well for strings
of medium to light gauges
• Without scalloped bracing, the guitar will have a more evident midrange and treble notes.
• Two main braces are placed in an “X” shape
• The X is placed below the top, in the area between the bridge and the sound hole
• There are other braces, to support the main braces.
High X-bracing
• The simple X-bracing is about 2” below the sound hole
• The high X-bracing crosses the sound hole about 1” below it
• Due to this, the bridge is placed almost on the bracing.
• This will help transfer the vibration of the braces to the top of the guitar, more efficiently
Sound Hole
How does sound travel in an acoustic guitar? When the string is plucked, its vibrations are
carried to the bridge. The saddle sends it to the soundboard. The soundboard and the body,
together, amplify the sound, which is heard through the sound hole.
The soundboard is thus the most significant part of the body of the acoustic guitar. It is a
wooden piece on the guitar’s body that is mounted to mechanically amplify the sound of the
strings. In the soundboard is the sound hole. There is usually one large round hole in the acoustic
guitar. Some guitars though have an F-shaped or small pairs of holes of to the side of the
Beginner’s Tip
When performing, if the mike is directly pointed to the sound hole
the guitar will sound very boomy and full.
Pickup – does my guitar need it?
Most guitarists, who play the acoustic instrument, opt for a pickup as it amplifies the sound. The
pickup is a device that transforms vibration, of the strings of a guitar, into electrical signals.
Performances and recording are both improved greatly with a pickup, as it senses and amplifies
the different tones at varying lengths of the string. If you plan to perform with an acoustic guitar,
a pickup should be added for better reach of the music in a big hall/stage performance.
There are different types of pickups available for acoustic guitar. Sometimes two pickups are
placed in a guitar, one is close to the neck and the other is close to the bridge. When you buy a
guitar, look for the provision made to use a pickup in it.
There are single and double coil pickups. The single coil produces a bright tone, but may the
sound of the guitar may be subjected to interference, in a large hall, or other performing venues.
The Humbucker pickup, made of a double coil, has a less bright sound, but the interference (in
the form of a hum) is reduced.
The different types: Magnetic Sound hole Pickup
The vibration of the string is sensed through a magnetic field
If the guitar is played loud, this pickup is a good choice because there is no feed back
from it
Because it is placed at the sound hole, the pickup is easy to install
These pickups have a wire running on the guitar’s top and can be seen easily
This does not appeal to some, as they prefer a more subtle sound enhancer
Sound hole pickups are inexpensive, except in the case of high-end brands.
Some brands may not have a volume control
Pickups can be bought for $100 or less.
Pickups are made by brands like Lawrence, Sunrise, Dimarzio, Dean Markley, EMG and
Seymour Duncan
Contact pickups
• Can be installed outside the guitar temporarily or permanently inside the guitar
It is placed on the soundboard
The temporary variety is quite easy to install, you can have or remove it when you want
The permanent type is installed inside, and is connected to a strap jack
It is inexpensive
Some of the available brands are Barcus Berry, McIntyre, and Fishman.
When the soundboard shows resonance, the contact pickup tends to be driven to the
Piezo Pickup
• An accepted choice for acoustic guitars, because of the ease with which it can be installed
• It is mounted under the bridge
• Some believe that the sound amplification of the piezo pickup does not make your guitar
sound like an acoustic one
Under the Saddle Pickup
• A popular pickup installed both in expensive and in beginner guitars
• They are inexpensive and easy to install
• Highlander, and Fishman are some of the reputed companies that make these pickups
• It is made out of a strip of piezo electric crystals, lined under the guitar’s strings
Sound Hole Pickup
• When a special mike is placed in the sound hole, you have the sound hole pickup
• It amplifies the guitar’s sound and transmits it to the speaker, through a cable
• Remember to buy a sound hole pickup that fits into the sound hole of your guitar
• The microphone picks up and amplifies the sound of your guitar
• You run the risk of the mike giving an unwelcome feedback
• Setting the mike for the high volume of your choice can be tricky
Acoustic electric guitars:
• These guitars are designed with a built in pickup and an equalizer for sound tuning
• These guitars are more expensive than the acoustic guitars
• Ideal for loud volumes
Adding a pickup later
As a beginner, you may not want a pickup, just when you buy the guitar. Later, with practice,
you may feed the need of one. In such instances, the sound hole pickup is a very practical option.
This pickup slides easily inside the sound hole or the pickup can be clipped to it. There are two
ways you can deal with the wires attached to it.
• The wire can be taped on to the top of the guitar. But with time, dirt collects under/above
the tape, it becomes sticky or sometimes damage the finish of the guitar
• It can be attached to the guitar along with an endpin jack. The endpin can act both as an
output jack for the guitar and an endpin for its strap
Why does an acoustic guitar need a battery?
If you buy an Acoustic guitar with a pick-up it will come with Pre-amplification device or
preamp build in. The preamp will have a volume control and usually some form of simple
equalization or tone control. This electronic circuit needs a battery to function. The battery is
usually located inside the preamp but can also be found mounted somewhere inside the guitar. It
will turn on and off by a switch on the preamp or as on most guitars when you plug the guitar
cord into the guitar.
This “conditioning” will provide a better acoustic quality to the guitar’s sound when it is finally
amplified. Preamps for acoustic guitars are available in a variety of types.
The Direct Box
If you are playing the acoustic guitar live on stage you will need a Direct Box. This device takes
the output from the pickup of the acoustic guitar and boost the signal to send to the PA system or
mixing board.
There are simple-design direct boxes, made up of a transformer, and there are the more
sophisticated ones with a lot of electronics. There are two kinds of direct boxes, the active and
the passive. A battery powers the active direct box, while the passive direct box consists of a
transformer that does not need a battery. The active box will do a better job at amplifying the
signal from the guitar.
The aspects that go into the design and sound quality of an acoustic guitar are not too dissimilar
to the aspects concerning its electric counterpart. The next chapter looks into the significant
features of an electric guitar
Chapter 8
The Electric Guitar
When you pick up the acoustic guitar to play, the sound can reach only your ears, if it is not
amplified. The instrument completely depends on pickups and amplifiers, to be heard well.
You can add on a device like the effect peddles and leads, to alter the tone to your liking.
Requiring a power supply too, to maintain the effects, the electric guitar is more expensive than
its counterparts.
The electric guitar works on this principle: the vibration of the strings are mixed and amplified,
using microphone contacts placed at different points. This allows a range of tonal qualities in the
There are three basic body styles: Solid body, semi- hollow and hollow body guitars. You can
choose the solid body guitar, as a beginner, because of its amplification and good sustain. A semi
hollow-body guitar sounds like an acoustic and needs a higher level of amplification. Hollow
body guitars, used for jazz tend to have a greater feedback.
How they are made
A glimpse at the designs of some famous electric guitar models
The essential design of an electric guitar hasn’t changed significantly for the past half a century.
It truly speaks a lot of the foresightedness and innovative design concepts of the pioneer makers
of this amazing instrument.
Electric guitars appear in a variety of models and colors. It is easy to be influenced into buying
an attractive instrument for its brilliant color. Choose a guitar more for its playing style than
appearance. For instance, if you play Pop, ragtime, blues or folk music don’t pick up a guitar,
with a limited range of playability, because you like its “cool” fluorescent colors.
Leo Fender made the first successful electric guitar. The instrument evolved with time and there
were many greats who chipped it to refine, modify and create instruments, so varied in forms and
so versatile to play.
Here a look at some of the path breaking designs of an electric guitar, made by the greatest guitar
companies if the US. Other guitar companies make some of these models, too. For instance, the
les Paul guitar, originally made by Gibson, are now made by the Gibson, Fender and Epiphone
companies, to name a few.
The Telecaster
Leo fender created the telecaster guitar in the 1950s, along with his associates Bill Carson and
Freddie Tavares. Relatively inexpensive, the present day instruments blend the classic design of
the original telecaster present day innovation, making it even more versatile
Designed to play country music, it is welcomed by guitarists of all genres. Country music
exponents like Albert Lee love the versatility and sound of the instrument; It has a pleasant
“honk” sound built in, specially to play this kind of music
It has a smooth tone and great playability, unique to its design. It was originally called the
Broadcaster, but became the Telecaster when televisions became all pervading. Franz Ferdinand
and Bruce Springsteen are some top guitarists who play the instrument
It is a solid body guitar with a bolt-on neck
The body wood is Ash or Alder
The neck is of maple wood
The fret board may be rosewood or maple
It has a fixed bridge with two single coil pickups
First made in blonde color, today it is available in a variety of colors
The Stratocaster
The first Stratocaster (designed by Leo Fender) came into the music scene in 1954. It was the
first guitar with an eminently successful whammy bar. The Stratocaster is considered more
versatile than the Telecaster.
It has a superb tonal quality and sounds exceptionally good, no matter what music you play on it.
The Strat is played by guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray
It is a solid body guitar with a bolt-on neck
It has a maple neck and an Alder/Ash body
The fret board is of maple or rosewood
It has a well synchronized whammy bar
The original Stratocaster pickups had a “hum” in the feedback. The later models
improved it by
 Three Lace Sensor pickups
 5-way pickup selector switch
 Great facilities for the whammy bar tuning
As a beginner, you can
 Get a more inexpensive model of the Stratocaster and improve its sound quality by
adding superior pickups, later on
 Buy a string winder, when you buy a Strat so you can string the guitar efficiently and
 If you want the “honk” like sound in your guitar too, then you can have a bridge/neck
parallel pickup wiring, custom-built into your guitar
The Les Paul guitar
From the legendary Gibson factory, built in the early 1890s, came a marvelous innovation, called
the Les Paul electric guitar. Les Paul was a legendary jazz player of the 1940s. Unsatisfied with
the electric guitars of his time, he got to play with, he tried his hand at making changes in its
designs for greater playability
In 1952, Gibson agreed to make a guitar designed by him and called it the Les Paul guitar. Top
guitarists like Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Slash, and Paul McCartney play it
Undoubtedly, one of the most suitable guitars for rock and Blues, the Les Paul has a marvelous
adaptability for all genres of present day music. The popularity of Les Paul is evident when you
see so many bands playing it, on the MTV/Top of the Pop programs on television
The Les Paul is a solid body guitar with glued in neck
It has a maple/mahogany body and a mahogany neck.
The fret board is of rosewood/ebony
It has two Humbucker pickups, a fixed bridge and two controls each for volume and tone
The woods make Les Paul heavier (you can get accustomed to that pretty fast), which
make its tone and sustain quite incomparable
Due to its surprisingly easy playability, Les Paul is also called the “fretless wonder”
The guitar is expensive, but always worth more than its price for its sheer versatility
It comes in three models, Standard Custom and Deluxe
Did You Know?
The great Les Paul, now 91, still plays at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York,
once a week. He often remarks “ When I introduce myself to people,
they are always surprised to learn that I’m not a guitar and I’m not dead!”
The Flying V
The Flying V guitar (with a distinctive “v” shaped body) comes from the Gibson Corporation
and is unique in appearance and sound. First made in 1958, it is lighter than the Les Paul and a
sleek modern appearance. The guitar was made popular, by top guitarists like Jimi Hendrix,
Albert King and Dave Davies in the 1960s.
The 1967 model is the standard for the present day Flying V guitars, called the “V Factor X”.
The Psychedelic V of Jimi Hendrix is specially poplar, because of the hand painted designs on it
created by the maestro himself. Carlos, Santana, Keith Richards, Mike Schenker of UFO and
Luther Allison are other renowned guitarists who make great music with the Flying V. (Mike
Schenker also uses a Wah Wah pedal to get a fabulous tone to his playing.)
The guitar has a powerful sound
Can be played while standing
It is specially preferred by heavy metal music groups
The Humbucker pickups are powerful
The whammy bar combines with the pickups to create the right tone for this genre of
The guitar is cable of producing a fluid tone.
It has a glued in neck, made of mahogany
The body is made of Korina or mahogany
The fret board may be made of rosewood or ebony
There are two pickups, one placed at the neck and another at the bridge
It is available in five colors – ebony, natural, white, classic and cherry
One of the most ideal guitars for playing hard rock music is the Explorer. Launched by Gibson in
1958, this guitar has the capability to produce loud and aggressive music, with a punchy sound.
It was known as Futura when it was first made, and was a radically new guitar, both in terms of
sound and design.
“The Edge” (David Howell Evans) of ‘U2”, is probably the most famous player of the Explorer.
He uses the same Explorer he bought more than two decades ago. Other greats are James
Hetfield of Metallica, Allen Collins of Southern Rockers and Khalid Ilahi of the beyond
Shadows bands.
Only a 100 Gibson Explorers were made and the production was stopped, as the
instrument failed to take off. It became a collector’s item. (Eric Clapton owns one of
The Hamer Guitar Company created a tribute for the instrument in 1974.
Called the Hamer Standard, it was an instant success!
Many companies like Jackson, ESP, and Dean Guitars made the instrument, including the
Gibson Corporation too!
Gibson has made different models of the Explorer, including smaller versions called
Studio Explorer
There is a less expensive version of the Explorer made offshore. The body of this guitar
is made of Korina wood instead of mahogany
It is a solid body guitar with a glued on neck, made of Korina or mahogany
The body is made of mahogany or Korina and the fret board is made of rosewood
It has a Tune-O-Matic bridge and two Humbucker pickups
It is available in white, natural, cherry, ebony and Classic colors
There you are. Now you know about some of the greatest models of electric guitars. Based on
the kind of music you are likely to play, choose the guitar that best suits your style.
Beginner’s Tip
If you want a superior model and still have budgetary constraints, you could choose a used
model of any of the above guitars. For instance, the Fender Stratocaster would be a good choice,
because of its tremendous versatility and sheer playability.
Wood choices for Electric Guitars
The tonewoods used for acoustic and classical guitars were earlier used for electric guitars too.
With time, the woods became rare and their costs dear. Electric guitars got made with other
varieties of woods. These woods were chosen for their ability to impart identical tones as the
traditional woods.
Though electric guitars depend more on the pickups for transmission of the sound, the wood that
is used for the body, neck or frets passes on its unique character to the final tone, sound pitch and
sustain of the guitar.
Spruce, both Red and Sitka, mahogany, rosewood, maple, cedar, alder, Koa, walnut, cherry,
basswood and ebony have already been talked about in the previous chapter. Let us look at the
other wood options for electric guitars.
Body woods of electric guitars
• It belongs to the pine family and is found in Asian countries
• It is inexpensive
• The tone resembles mahogany, but is blander
Alder: It suits the Blues and rock music, but is versatile enough for other styles too.
Swamp Ash
• Found in the American swamps
• It is a light wood
• Many models of Fender guitars in the 1950s were made of this
• It has a creamy color with grain patterns of a darker hue
• The tone imparted is warm and bright
• The treble has a bell like quality and good bass and mid range tones
Northern hard Ash
• It is denser and heavier than Swamp Ash
• Due to this, the tone is brighter and with more sustain
• In most other aspects it resembles Swamp Ash
Basswood is suitable for metallic and Rock styles of music. Polyester finishes counteract the
softness of the wood. The softness helps emphasis the higher and lower frequencies of the sound.
Australian Blackwood
• It belongs to the Hawaiian Koa wood family, and resembles Koa to a great deal
• The color may be lighter
• It is just as dense as maple
• The tone is warm and woody like mahogany and clear like rosewood
• It is a very popular body wood for electric guitars because it has the blend of qualities of
maple, mahogany and rosewood, both in sound and form
• Ideal for finger playing and for lead guitarists
• The wood is fast becoming rare, due to which prices of electric guitars made of
blackwood, have plummeted
• A stiff, strong and heavy wood, suitable for the body of a bass guitar
• It is brownish red in color, with a subtle shimmer
• It is used in electric guitars having laminated tops
• It belongs to the rosewood family
• Resembles the Brazilian rosewood that was used to make classical guitars of the past,
though not as expensive
• Grows along the Pacific and is now becoming scarce
• Color ranges from light to dark red
• Harder and denser than other rosewoods; enabling it to reflect sound better than other
• It imparts a strong, loud sound with great sustain and a splendid appearance to the guitar
Koa: It is used in hollow body electric guitars, because of its capability of resonance.
Korina (Limba)
• Resembles mahogany, without being as dense
• Both Black and White Korina are used to make electric guitars
• Black is lighter than white, having black streaks on olive colored wood
• White Korina is hazel in color
• Has a “sweet” tone
• Used in the first Flying V and Explorer guitars
• This Australian wood has a snake-skin kind of appearance
• It has a dark brownish red color surrounded by lighter colors
• It has a warm, rich and resonant tone
• It is ideal for laminating the top of softer woods on electric guitars
• Lacewood provides a warm, resonant tone with a sweet high end. The midrange is not as
strong as with mahogany, but it has a rich character
• It has a punch to its tone, which makes it ideal for playing rock music
• The mellowness of tone allows you to play jazz pretty well too
Mahogany is used in hollow body guitars suited for rock and jazz music. Mahogany tends to
sound better with age.
Maple: An extremely popular wood for top of guitars, maple is used in solid body electrics.
Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music sounds excellent on a maple-body guitar. There are a great
variety of maple woods for guitars. They are hard maple, Soft maple, Figured maple, quilted
maple, Flame maple, Burl maple, Birdseye maple, Spalt maple and Wild maple.
• Padouk is an African hardwood
• It is an orange or purple-red shaded wood that turns brown with time
• The grain pattern is similar to rosewood
Has an oily touch, which makes it easy to play
Has a bright tone like maple and is suitable for jazz and world music
• It is a closed-grain wood in grayish green color
• Similar to alder in density and tone, but the color is less attractive
• Inexpensive and versatile
• It is a heavy and hard wood, with a pink tint
• More warm and resonant than maple in tone
Rosewood: At times, it is used for making the body of electric guitars, though it is the most
popular wood for the fret board. The sound is resonant and warm, suitable for all genres of music
Spruce is soft and lightweight and so needs a strong finish. It has great versatility, allowing for
any kind of music
Walnut: It is used to make hollow body guitars. It adds a distinctive tone to any genre of music,
because of its likeness to mahogany.
• Heavyweight wood
• It has light and dark brown stripes
• Sounds like maple
• Used mostly as a laminate for the top, due to its density
• It is brownish gray in color with a richly contoured appearance
• It is a heavy wood with an oily feel, similar to rosewood
• Versatile enough to play a variety of music
Neck woods
Some woods add a distinctive feature to the tone of the guitar, when used to build its neck.
Neck Wood
Woody and warm tone
Brazilian Rosewood
Resonant and bright
Indian Rosewood
Distinctive and clear midrange
Used in neck for its ability for damping
Bright tone
Basswood (in neck of bass instruments)
Distinctive low end response
The Fret board is a long and thin strip of wood, laminated to the top of the neck. The strings run
above it. The wood used for fingerboard has a significant influence on the playability of the
guitar. The three most common woods used for the fret board are ebony, maple and rosewood.
Fret board
Smooth to touch, bright tone with lengthy sustain
Bright, strong tone, with good sustain
Smooth to touch, clear, warm tone; suits rock and roll music
Finish of an Electric Guitar
What kind of finish do you prefer for your electric guitar? You have a wide range of colors and
types to choose from.
Finish Types
The early electric guitars made by Martin and Co, and the Gibson used the traditional finishes
described in the previous chapter. They are
• Water based lacquer
• Water based lacquer
• Nitrocellulose lacquer
• Shellac (French Polish)
• Oil varnish
The Martin guitar reached the stands with a French polish finish while the Gibson guitars were
ready for sale with a varnish finish.
Both companies changed over to lacquer finish, later on. With time, polyurethane and lacquers
with artificial bases became increasingly popular. The present day finishes are applied heavily.
And need a lesser number of coats.
The heavy coats, which may dull the sound of an acoustic guitar, may not affect the electric ones
in the same manner. Guitars with polyurethane and artificial lacquer finishes, appear to take on a
“plastic” look.
Finish Colors
The brilliant colors of the electric guitar may appear too bright, glossy and artificial to some. Yet
it imparts a “now” look to the guitar, defining the modernity and trend of the players who opt for
Personally, you could choose a solid, bright colored guitar, like a Fender Telecaster or Flying V.
Or you can opt for a guitar that has a natural wood finish, allowing the character of the wood to
show in the finish, like the flame maple topped guitars of Paul Reed Smith.
The colors are varied and many, ranging from a natural to royal blue, from Silver to purple and
from amber to black. The guitars can be solid colored or with a stained effect to the coloring,
with a gloss or with a matt finish, and in a combination of two or more cheery colors.
Did You Know?
The Fender Company also makes “relic” guitars. The relic look is accomplished
by using similar tone woods, chipped paint effect and checked finish. The aim is
to make the instruments appear as if they had been made fifty years ago!
Action facts in electric guitars
Action is defined as the height of the strings above the fret board. The electric guitar has a set of
screws on the bridge, placed there to adjust the action of the instrument. Use an Allan wrench or
a flat-headed screwdriver to make these adjustments.
This is an important adjustment, because even a slight variation, brings in an obvious change in
the pitch of a string, which can make or mar your playing. In electric guitars, you can set the
action, just above the height that causes a “buzz” in the strings. To maintain the correct action,
you also have to
Tighten or loosen the truss rod to maintain the proper height of strings above the fret
The bridge and the truss rod adjustments are done in tandem. Elevate or lower the saddle,
using the saddle adjusters, to avoid the “buzz” and maintain good playability without too
much stress on the strings
For a guitar with a tremolo bridge, check out whether the tremolo has not forced the
bridge to tip forward.
The tremolo stress is adjusted after removing the back plate of the guitar. As a beginner,
get the help of a guitarist friend to show you how to do it, the first time.
Tremolo adjustments may entail adding extra springs
Scale – your guide to playing music
When individual notes of music are grouped in a pattern, they are called scales. As a
novice guitar player, you will learn the pentatonic scale that contains only five notes. The
way you play the notes on a guitar is guided by a series of dots placed on the fret board.
The semitone is defined as the smallest musical interval. In a guitar it can be as the
interval between musical notes produced by pressing down adjacent frets one after the
However, Blues and jazz music use a scale in which the semitone is even smaller than
this interval. The Blues semitone belongs neither to the major nor the minor scale, giving
it a separate identity.
The mode is a series of notes placed together in a fixed order, on which the music is
based. In jazz, many modes and scales can be used within the same song/music. The
guitar can have up to 24 frets, while there are some guitars, with only 12 frets.
Scale length
The scale length if a guitar is the distance between the zero fret (or nut) and the bridge’s
saddle. The scale length is usually 25.5 inches or 24.75 inches in electric guitars of
standard length.
The scale length affects the tension of the strings considerably. Scale length also
influences the extent to which the tuning remains unaltered. The shorter the scale length,
the lesser is the string tension and greater the playability.
Some guitarists use this fact to their advantage to increase playability. They use heavier
gauge strings, on a shorter scale. This will produce the same tone, as a lighter gauge
string will, on a longer scale.
Heavier gauge strings allow a higher voltage in the pickups. As a result there is a higher
output and a thicker quality to the tone of the guitar.
The present day electric guitars have two common scale lengths
The Gibson scale which measures 24 5/8 inches (The Les Paul guitar has this
scale length)
The Fender scale which measures 25 _ inches (The Stratocaster has this scale
The significance of neck width in electric guitars
Just as the shape of the neck, the neck width, influences the playability of the guitar. The
neck width is actually measured as the width of the nut at zero fret. The nut width is
defined as the width across the flats of the nut.
The neck widths can be wide, narrow or thin. The depths of the wide narrow and thin
necks are fat, regular and narrow respectively. This is a more effective way to describe a
guitar that helps you decide which sort you would prefer. Renowned companies like Paul
Reed Smith and Parker, have a similar description for the necks of their guitars.
The actual width of modern electric guitars ranges from 1.625 inches to1.7 inches at the
The Gibson Les Paul has a neck measuring 1.68 to 1.7 inches
The Fender Stratocaster has a neck width of 1.625 to 1.65 inches.
Why frets matter
Fret positions
Frets are the nickel alloy metal strips embedded in the fret board, separated by distances
that are in mathematical sequence. Each fret is placed half a step apart, from its neighbor,
on a 12-tone scale.
When you play, that is, press the string down at a particular point, the fret will decrease
the vibrating length of the string. At different points, i.e. for different vibrating string
lengths, the pitch of the sound created will differ. The shorter the vibrating length, the
higher the pitch of sound.
Frets also tell you, what fraction of the string vibrates. The frets can denote the following
The midpoint of the string is usually the 12th fret.
The distance between the nut and the 7th fret, 7th and 19th fret and from the 19th
fret to the saddle is 1/3 of total string length
The distance between the nut and the fifth fret, the fifth to 12th and the 12th to 24th
and the 24th to the saddle, measures _ the length of a string.
These numbers are important to learn play the scales. The placement of frets is dependent
on this length. If the scale length is longer then the frets are more widely spaced and vice
Fret size
Fret size simply means the actual size of the fret. It has two dimensions, width and height. Width
is the distance between the part closest to the bridge and the part closest to the nut for a single
fret. Fret height is the distance between the peak of the fret and the fret board.
With smaller frets there is greater finger contact to the fret board, while with larger frets there is
lesser contact with the fret board. Wider frets last longer before they have to be leveled again,
while narrow frets tend to wear away faster.
Fret size affects the action of a guitar immensely. Low frets bring the fingertips on the fret board,
affording no option for manipulating a string for specific sounds. With taller frets, string
manipulation is possible but the stress on strings is always on the higher side.
Buy the kind of guitar, with the fret size you are comfortable with. In time, you will know
specifically which type suits you.
Neck joints of electric guitars
The electric guitar has two types of neck joints.
Glued on neck: Electric guitars allow the glued in neck, the Gibson Les Paul model being a
famous example.
Bolt on neck
• The bolt on neck has no bolts!
• Four screws held the guitar neck joined to the body slab.
• Solid body electric guitars have this type of neck
• The first electric guitar of Leo Fender had a bolt on neck.
Neck through body
• The neck is an extension and an integral part of the body in this kind of joint
• Neck-through guitars sound well in higher volume
• The arrangement may affect the tone by making it brighter and thinner
• The Gibson “Firebird” model has a neck through joint. The mahogany used for the neck,
mellowed the tone
Tuning pegs – what they do
The tuning peg is the knob on the headstock of the guitar, over which the string is wound. It is a
device that controls the tension of the string. A typical nut is a wooden dowel. The end of the
string is attached to it, and it is inserted into a hole called the pegbox, on the headstock.
There is one peg per string. In six-string guitars, all the pegs may be on one side or there are
three on either side of the headstock. (The Fender Stratocaster has the six tuners in line.)
• The six tuners in line (six-in-line) are tightened by turning the keys/pegs in the
clockwise direction
• When the tuners are on either side of headstock, the first, second and third pegs
are turned clockwise for tightening
• The fourth fifth and sixth strings are turned in the counter clockwise direction to
be tightened
The tuning pegs made today are without exception of superior quality and tend to remain in tune
without slipping.
Tune your 6-string guitar this way
• Make all the strings slack, except the E string.
• Place the finger on the 5th fret of the E string
• This should be of the same pitch as the open A string (A guitar string when played
without fretting is called an open string)
• Tighten the A string until the pitches match
• Place finger on 5th fret of A string
• This should match the pitch of the open D string
• Place finger on 5th fret of the D string and match it with the open G string
• Place the finger on the 5th fret of the G string and match it with the open B string
• Place a finger on the 5th fret of the B string. This should match the pitch of the open e
string (the string adjacent/next to the B string)
Headstock – and the knobs
The headstock supports the assembly of devices that help tune and control the tone and pitch of
the guitar. The headstock is on one end of the neck and the body on the other. The headstock is
carved and then glued to the neck, or it may be a single piece neck with the headstock included.
It is believed that glued on headstocks last slightly longer than a single piece neck/headstock
combination. While the former may crack with time, the latter is likely to crack by an accidental
The headstock is important for its distinctive decorative design. The guitar logo is usually
located on the headstock. There are some headstocks without knobs, built exclusively for
decorative reasons. For instance, the guitars using the Floyd Rose Speedloader floating bridge
arrangement (a bridge which holds the tuners of the instrument) have only decorative headstock.
On the other end of the spectrum is the guitar with no headstock at all! This happens when the
tuners are located at other parts of the string, like the bridge. The Steinberger electric guitar and
electric bass (designed by Ned Steinberger) are examples of this headless form.
The headstock of an electric guitar may be straight or angled. Both headstocks have their share
of advantages and disadvantages.
• They form a single plane, continuing a flat surface of the neck and fingerboard.
• It may be glued on or a single piece of wood
• The Fender electric guitars have straight necks
• When the headstock makes an acute angle (angle less than 90 degrees)w with the neck it
is called angled
• The angle that accounts for the best pitch (headstock pitch) in the guitar is called the
magic angle
• The angle may vary from 3 to 20 degrees.
• The lower end example is the angled headstock of Guild guitar models. The magic angle
here is 4 degrees.
• The higher magic angle headstock examples are the guitars made by Gibson (14 degrees),
Epiphone (17 degrees) and many more
Beginner’s Tip
Whatever the angle or shape of the headstock, it is important that the string
runs straight from the bridge to the tuning peg.
Tuning Pegs
The tuning pegs on the headstock accomplish string tuning
There is one tuner for every string
Some tuners require to be oiled for precision tuning
The nut is the ridge between the fingerboard and the pegbox. It has grooves for the string
to pass on, called the nut slots
A good quality nut is a primary need for the guitar to maintain its tuning.
The nut slots are conditioned, by rubbing them over with a slightly moistened piece of
soap. This is done after the string is pulled out
Some guitars have a set of simplistic knobs, on the headstock, like the ones mentioned above,
while some have so many of them, it looks like it’s a futuristic device for time travel! For a first
guitar, choose a headstock, with the normal number of knobs.
What are all the knobs for?
The knobs are for the pickups. If you have quite a few pickups on you guitar you will have these
• Volume control for every pick up
• Tone control for every pickup
• Controlling the choice of pickup
• Controlling the number of pickups to be switched on at a time
Pickups for Electric guitars
A pickup is the single most important component of the electric guitar to create its distinctive
sound. Bereft of a pickup, the guitar will be barely audible to a person a few feet away.
Pickups vary also in the way the sound is transmitted. Some pickups produce a bright, loud
sound, while others are responsible for the guitar having a warm mellow sound. The pickup up
“picks up” the sound, alters it for better acoustics and then transmits it for audibility. Altering
the pick up in your guitar will also alter its tone to a degree.
There are single and double coil pickups. The single coil produces a bright tone, The Humbucker
pickup, made of a double coil, has a less bright sound, but the interference (in the form of a hum)
is reduced.
There are a huge number of brands available in the market, based on the two basic types,
magnetic and piezo-electric.
Single Coil Pickup
• It is a single wire coil encircling a magnetic set up
• The vibration of the string is sensed through a magnetic field
• Guitars with steel, nylon and gut strings can use these pickups
• The sound is bright and punchy with a clear treble
• The sound of the guitar may be subjected to interference, in a large hall, or other
performing venues
This type of pick up is found in the Stratocaster
If you want more twang and less loudness, this is a god choice for a pickup in your guitar
Humbucking pickup
• It is a dual coil pickup with a set of magnets arranged to eliminate the “hum” of feedback,
by reducing the interference of sound
• The hum that sounds along with the sound of the guitar can be removed
• The magnets and their arrangements in the dual coil pickups will vary
 The magnets are directly inserted into the coil
 Some have magnets placed below the coil
• The Gibson PAF electric guitar has this type of pickup
• Guitars with Humbucker pickups have a smooth, bass sound
• The two coils and four wires offer you a range of variations in circuit and hence sound
• Though bigger in setup than a single coil pickup, some modern Humbuckers are made as
small as the former
• Smooth powerful sound- if that is what you want; the Humbucker is a good choice.
What pickup should I use?
Electric guitars generally have a combination of pickups. The most familiar combinations are
• 3-single-coil combination pickup: This is a pickup which contributes versatility and
furnishes the guitar with five varied sounds (Example – Fender Stratocaster)
• Two-Humbucker combination: Furnishes the guitar with three strong toned sounds. It
allows for less flexibility. (Example: Gibson Les Paul)
• Two single - coil & one Humbucker combination: this is the most versatile of all pickups
with powerful sound and more sound options (Example: Fender Stratocaster)
• Two humbuckers and a single coils have been used in Superstrat Electric guitars (Guitars
made for heavy metal and hard rock music in the 1980s)
Pick Guard – does my guitar need one?
The Pick Guard is mounted on to the guitar’s body, to protect the wood from
• Frequent contact/brushing of your hand
• Environmental factors like temperature and humidity
• Accidental scratches and hits on the guitars
It is an extremely thin synthetic plate, glued to the soundboards, underneath the treble side of the
sound hole. The Pick guard is placed on the side of the top that comes in contact with your hand
while you strum or pick the guitar.
A pick guard for an electric guitar is always advisable. Some guitars have Guards on both sides
of the sound hole. If you are a left-hander and keen to pick an instrument with a pick guard, this
is what you should buy.
The Pick Guard is also called the scratch plate or a finger rest. It provides the opportunity and
space for decoration on the guitar. For a better visual impact, dark bodied guitars may have a
white Pick Guard and vice versa.
The Pick Guard is the ideal place for an autograph as it can always be detached form one guitar
and transferred to another.
Besides synthetic material, a Pick guard may be made out of a variety of material and sometimes
highlighted with gems and stones. The materials are
• Exotic woods
• Mother of pearl
• Glass
• Metals including precious metals
• Plexiglas
• Plywood
• Fabrics
• Skins and Furs
The Fender style pick guards are found in the Stratocaster, telecaster, and their replicas by other
companies. This pick guard design is used for solid body guitars. This kind of pick guard takes
up a large area of the body and housses the pickups, wiring, and other devices, eiher on it or
below it.
Because of this, when there is a repair to be made, only the pick guard is detached, and the work
is easily accomplished.
The Gibson style pick guardds are found on carved top guitars. It is made of plastic, with metal
supports that are adjustable. The height of the pick guard can be adjusted to afford easier playing.
The Gibson Les Paul guitar has this type of guard. .Height-adjustable pick guards like this one,
will not house electronic components of the guitar.
Heavy guitars – what are they?
Electric guitars are usually solid body designs and so are generally heavier than the acoustic and
classical. What then does the terminology heavy guitar mean in the context of electric guitars?
Heavy guitars are instruments that are capable of heavy metal music. Heavy metal music is
aggressive, with distinctive rhythms and is highly amplified, with guitar distortion. Distortionguitars produce notes capable of great sustain and are excellent for playing solo and rhythms in
this music genre.
As a beginner, you can opt for the Stratocaster to play heavy metal music. Some of the famous
heavy metal bands are Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple.
Chapter 9
Amplifiers: What Kind Should I Buy?
An amplifier is a device used to increase the power of a signal and then control the output in
such a way that it matches the input signal. In music, it means, an amplifier will increase the
sound of music without changing its pattern.
Let’s begin this section by asking, do you need an amplifier? Yes you do. An amplifier is an
important but oft neglected device that makes a good guitar sound great. The quality and
performance of the amp is very crucial – an amp of superior quality can make even a mediocre
guitar sound pretty good, while a bad amp can make a superb guitar sound quite ordinary!
As with other guitar related items, there is a plethora of amp variety in the market. The choice of
an appropriate one for your guitar is made simpler, when you know the basic types available.
There are three basic types of amplifiers.
Solid-state amps: Ninety percent of guitar amplifiers are of this type. The device uses transistors
for building the electronics. They have good power, with a bass response and will provide
sufficient power to many types of speakers.
Tube Guitar Amps: Vacuum tube based amps were used in traditional guitars. These provide a
rich sound, with a powerful mid range. Be careful when you take these out for a performance.
The parts may have to be replaced with passing time. They are more expensive than the former.
Hybrid Amps: These combine tube and transistor technologies, to provide power. The vacuum
tube generates the basic tone, while the transistor lends it power
As a beginner
• The first amplifier you will want to buy will be basic, cost effective and functional
• The price range of amps starts at $100 and goes on to tens of thousands of dollars
• An 8 to15-watt amp will be suitable for a beginner, like the ones made by Fender called
the Frontman
• They are light, portable and easy to operate
As you progress: You can switch over to moderately priced amps later or buy it in the first
place. These are the features you should look for
A three-band (low, middle, high) equalizer (In simple terms, an equalizer is the electronic
circuit set-up that helps make the output signal equal to the input)
Good reverb ((to provide for persistence of sound as in reverberation)
A clear channel (to provide a clear and non distorted sound)
An overdrive channel (to provide great possibilities for sound effect when mixed with the
clean channel signals)
Provision for a good presence control (presence control in the amp is its ability to allow
you a better management of the higher frequencies (treble)
(In inexpensive amps, the presence control is not usually effective)
Options in amps
Micro amps: These are very compact and easily portable amps. Providing a minimum of one
watt and a maximum of 10 watts, these amps are designed for you to play for yourself, like a
low-volume solo.
Practice amps: These can provide 10 to 30 watts of power to the microphone. For small
gatherings, a practice amp can be set up. It is especially effective if connected to the public
address system. To make it sound more powerful when you play the guitar at home, attach it to a
10-inch speaker.
Combo amps: There are two kinds of combo amps, the one with one speaker and the other with
two. The former can provide 50 watts of power, in arrangement with a 12-inch speaker. It is the
smallest amplifier that can be effective in modest gatherings, without being wired to the public
address system. Superior quality, single speaker combo amps sound like amps used by
The 2-speaker combo amp is heavier than the former. The second speaker allows for stereo
effects. It is a great amp to buy for two reasons - It is good to practice with, and you can perform
in small gatherings with this. Line 6, Marshall and Crate are renowned makers of Combo amps.
Stack amplifiers:
A stack is a head and a group of guitar amplifier cabs connected and ready for use. It is called
stack because the cabs are stacked vertically. Though they are heavy, loud and not easy to
transport, the “stack” is preferred by many professionals because they can
• Get a higher volume output
• Have great sound effects with multiple speakers
• Perform in huge venues and stadiums
The stack amplifier has “heads” that have amplifier technology that connect to separate speakers.
The speakers are placed in enclosures called cabs or cabinets.
All the heads look alike but may differ in the wattage. The heads can be classified in three ranges
based on power they are capable of.
• 50 to 100 watts – these are called small heads
• 100 to 200 watts – these are called full power heads
• 200 to 400 watts – these are called super heads
The types of stack amps
Half Stack
• Contain small heads
• Attached to cabs of size 4X12 inches
• Has four speakers (12 inch)
• Lighter than a full stack
• Provides a good volume
Full Stack
• Has full power heads (100 watts and more – wattage can vary)
• Great volume output
• You have to wear gear for your ears (earphones/headphones) to protect them from the
impact of a full volume performance
• When you order this kind of amplifier, bear in mind you will have to pay quite an amount
as shipping charges, because of its bulk
Power amps
The bipolar transistor is a popular device for power amps. But the vacuum tube power amps are
becoming more and more popular. Professional musicians, attribute the valve (meaning vacuum
tube) with the capability to provide dependable and superior amplification.
The valve power amplifier has a great overdrive, with the technology to produce a varied set of
output designs in the guitar’s sounds. You have to remember that all this is done only at a very
loud volume.
There are three types of power amplifiers that are great sells in the market
Fender’s 6V6 and 6L6 tubes: They have a strong, punchy sound, with the versatility for
many styles.
Marshall’s EL34 tubes: they have a slower overdrive than the former. At high overdrive
levels, the sounds are clear, even at high overdrive.
VoxAC30: This valve has no negative feedback. This has a mellow sound in
amplification and is believed to have a sweet overdrive
Based on your proficiency playing and your need for specific levels of amplification, you can
choose the most suitable amplifier to invest in
Chapter 10
Effect Boxes For Electric Guitars
The remarkable range of electronic possibilities has reached music to incredible levels of
melody, tunes and harmony. The devices that make all this possible are versatile and diverse.
Devices called Effect Boxes bring about the singular effects in guitar sounds.
The names of the effect boxes may be familiar to you, but what exactly do they do?
Distortion pedals
This pedal can introduce newer harmonics into a normal electric guitar signal. This will distort
the form of the signal and the output is a more varied sound that cannot be accomplished by
playing the guitar.
Some distortion pedals can produce overdrive too. These pedals can either
• Increase the magnitude of amplification to a great extent
• Reduce or cut the amplification in a manner that the sound output is harsh and gritty
Distortion pedals can
• Convert the input sound of the guitar into a very warm output (The Ibanez Tube
Screamer )
• Convert the input music into harsh clipped tones for the output (The Gibson Maestro
Fuzz is an example of such a fuzzbox)
• Input music can be converted into a harsh overdriven output (The BOSS DS-1 of Roland
Corporation creates this effect)
• Sound is copied and then transmitted as output, after a delay. The sound can be relayed as
a single repetition or as multiple repetitions. The latter sounds like an echo (Pod2.0 of
Line 6, BOSS DD-6 of Roland Corporation and ToadWorks Redux are some examples of
delay pedals)
• Produce a small amount of upper octave harmonics (the Roland Bee Baa of Roland
An incoming music signal is mixed with a synthesized musical tone which is an octave higher or
an octave lower than the incoming sound. This effect is produced by the octavizer pedal,
available as Tycobrahe Octavia, Green Ringer, Ampeg Scrambler, and many more.
When the delay time is very short, varied and cycled, the echo is not distinct. In its place a sound
which reminds you of a swirling effect is produced. If it sounds like many instruments are
playing together, it is termed as the chorus effect. Examples of the chorus effect pedals are BOSS
CE-1 of Roland Corporation, and Ibanez CF-7 of the Ibanez Company)
Phase shifter
This pedal can recreate the effect of a jet flying overhead. This effect was more popular in the
1970s. Both bass guitars and piano players used them. Some examples are Dunlop Univibe,
BOSS PH-3, Electro-Harmonix Small Stone
Volume pedal
This pedal enables you to fade out from or fade into a musical note or a string of notes. By doing
so the plucking effect of the guitar is dulled and the sound is more fluid.
It is actually a simple volume control device, operated with your foot, when you can increase or
decrease the volume ofoutput of your guitar. It is popular with guitarists who play country music
on steel-stringed instruments. Ernie Ball Stereo Volume Pedal is an example of this type of effect
Pitch Shifter pedals
These pedals allow you to alter the pitch of the instrument. Generally it allows the sound to have
a smooth tone. The pitch shifter allows two players to play at different pitches, maybe a semitone
apart, without altering the tuning of either instrument. Boss CS-5 and Digitech Whammy Pedal
are two well known pPitch Shifter Pedal brands.
Octave Pedal
This is a variation of the pitch shifter pedal that allows the sound to be shifted a whole octave,
higher or lower than that being played. The effect is used by bass guitarists.
This pedal allows only a part of the incoming frequency to pass. By operating the pedal back and
forth you can allow only the higher frequency notes or only the lower frequency notes to pass
The effect produce because of the filtering sounds like a person is saying “wow”. In the 1960s
Wah-Wah effect was combined with the fuzz box effect to create the “fuzz-wah” effect. Some of
the available brands of Wah-Wah pedals are Vox Wah-Wah and Dunlop Cry Baby
Two identical signals are combined. One of them has a slight delay compared to the other. The
amount of delay too keeps changing. The delay interval is very small (in the order of
The output too is fed back to the effect device. Due to this there is a resonant effect. When the
output is fed back at an inverted phase, a different kind of resonant sound results. This kind of
sound mixing effect is accomplished by the flanger.
The device is more of an automatic volume control. When the incoming sound increases in
volume, the compressor reflexively decreases the volume of the output. Similarly the volume of
the output is increased when the music played decreases in loudness.
Because of the uniform volume level maintained, it seems as if the guitar has a greater sustain. A
compressor can help alter other effects like distortion. Some of the known brands of Compressor
Pedals are BOSS CS-3, ToadWorks Mr.Squishy and MXR Dynacomp.
Multi Effect Pedals allow you to use a number of effects using one device or setting. Some of
them have a provision for the player creating effects and and combining them with those
available in the pedal.
The pedal may also have a provision for you to program a variety of effects and store them
separately on different pedals. While playing, you can choose froma range of effects for just the
sound you prefer at that point. Because of the complexity of handling them, the muti effect
pedals are generally not used by beginners. Available brands of this device are Digitech
RP200A, Boss ME-50 and Line 6 POD XT Live.
There ahave been many guitarists who use effect boxes to define their personality in their
performances creating distinctive and well remembered music. Prominent among them are
Thurston Moore, Steve Jones, Daniel Ash, Brian May and David Gilmour.
The chapter has listed for you, effect boxes and the sounds made possible by them. Please
remember that there are many more varied versions and brands available in the market today.
The chapter only gives you a fair idea of the options available, in case you want to buy one or
more of them.
Chapter 11
Strings – All You Need To Know About Them
The sound of the guitar comes from the strings. The strings vibrate; because of the vibration air
cavities are created on the top, sides and back of the string. These combine together to create the
sound of guitar.
The different materials used for strings have been described in Chapter 2. They are phosphorbronze strings, bronze strings, nylon alloy strings, steel and silk strings, and nylon strings.
The range and variety of guitar strings are enough to confuse any beginner. Are you at a loss
about the right string to choose? Read on and learn what strings are just right for your guitar.
This chapter will also tell you how and when the strings are to be changed.
Tips to choose the right string
Nylon Strings
• As a beginner you can opt for nylon strings; if you want to play the classical guitar, you
can continue using them
• Nylon strings produce a soft tone and do not hurt your fingers
• These strings have more weight than regular nylon strings and need to be strummed more
• The medium to light gauge of nylon strings should suit you fine
Metal Strings
• To know whether you can play on metal strings, borrow a friend’s guitar to play. If you
feel comfortable when handling metal strings you can go for them.
• Remember not to use Monet strings on electric or classical guitars
• A classical guitar cannot take the pressure of metal strings; the stress may warp the neck
Silk and Steel Strings
• These strings are found in acoustic guitars
• These are good if your guitar playing involves a lot of finger work, as they are less
strenuous to play than the normal metal string
• As they do not conduct electricity, these strings are unfit for electric guitars
Bronze Strings
• The strings suit folk guitars
• The sound is bright and clear
• For finger playing buy string of lighter gauge
• For strumming buy a heavier gauge
Brass Strings
• If you want clear and sharp sound from the guitar, buy brass strings
• If you buy flat polished strings, they will allow you play more easily
• Flat polished strings are available both for acoustic and electric guitars
For any guitar
• Flat wound strings are suitable for any guitar, acoustic or electric
• The fingers of the left hand can move smoothly over them
• The strings have a great sound with amplification
• Jazz guitarists generally prefer these strings
For string bending
• When you apply more pressure on a fret, a higher note can be played
• Some guitarists can produce three notes at the same fret, only by increase/decrease of the
finger pressure
• If you have finger bending in mind, do not buy too light a gauge as the string may bend
more than you want to
Try playing guitars of different strings to know which strings allow best playability for you.
There is even the option of getting strings of Extra Light gauge, until your playing fingers
develop calluses. (Calluses form when there is a localized thickening and enlargement of the skin
on your fingertips, with which you play. Once calluses are formed, it becomes much easier for
finger playing.)
What exactly is the gauge of the string? What is implied by light and heavy gauge?
Brands and Gauges – Strings explained
There are a proportional number of string manufacturers as there are guitars and guitarists. There
are certain very popular brands which are excellent in quality and playability. Ernie Ball,
D’Addario and Elixir are some of the most popular brands of strings. The other well known
string brand names are Darco, Martin, Dean Markley, and GHS.
Strings are easily affordable, starting from $3. Some strings maintain their brighter tone for a
longer time and are costlier, like the Elixir strings. The D’Addario and the Elixir brands are
lesser priced than Elixir.
The popular and inexpensive brands are the best choice for a beginner. Once you acquire a
certain level of proficiency, you can switch over to the more expensive brands. By this time you
will be able to keep on a string without snapping for a longer period of time.
String gauges
Here is a table which tells you the gauges normally considered for guitars with metallic/steel
strings. All measurements are in inches. Nylon string gauge varies from .0280 to .043 inches for
the six strings.
The thickness of strings is measured by gauges and there are some well accepted norms for
picking the gauge for each string.
Material and type
1st (High
e) string
2nd string
3rd string G
4th string D
5th string A
6th string E
Silk and Steel
Steel Extra light
Steel Light
Steel Medium
Steel Heavy
There may be slight changes in the gauges. For instance, electric guitars use either .009 and .010
inch strings for the high E string. Both are very popular. You can ask for the “nines and tens
strings” when you shop for them. They are ideal for beginners and many professionals use them
More String facts
String replacement – How often?
As a beginner, you need to replace the strings once in every five weeks. Dirt and sweat collect on
the strings causing corrosion. As days pass, the corroded strings sound dull and brittle and
become weaker. That is why strings have to be changed periodically.
Strings are also replaced, the instant they break or sound toneless. Besides this, it is important to
replace strings regularly to
Strings and the tremolo
The tremolo works on springs that counteract string tension, increasing or decreasing it as the
tremolo moves forwards and backwards. So every time the string tension is changed, the tremolo
loses its perfect balance and has to be set right again
Strings and sound
• When the string gauge (thickness) changes, so does the tone
• The sustaining factor of the string too changes with a change in its gauge
• If you use a very light string, the sustain, volume and tone all come down appreciably and
the guitar takes on a low twangy sound
For the Vintage instruments
• If you possess a vintage instrument that used gut material for strings, originally, you have
to buy very light gauged string for it
• Remember to get the instrument checked by a luthier to know whether it is in playing
condition and structurally capable of taking the strings you choose
• Get it examined on its inside for cracks, splintered braces, appropriate bridge set up, and
possible neck damage
Beginner’s Tip
Thick strings have a stronger tone and are more difficult to play
Strings with a larger gauge offer more tension that hurt your fingers
Strings with high action are not easy to play either
New strings always sound bright and clear, while worn out strings have a dull sound
Choose and set the strings for your guitar in a manner that affords easy playability
Buy an extra set of strings, in case the guitar strings snap suddenly
How to change the strings
You have to change strings and this is the first time you are doing it. It is quite interesting and
easy to do. Just follow these guidelines
Before you begin the job, get together the things you need. They are
Wire snips
Guitar polish
A piece of soft cloth to wipe the guitar
Guitar-polish and string winder
The changing – removing the old string
• Place the guitar on a flat surface
• Keep the guitar in front of you so that the sixth string is closest to you
• Turn the tuner of the sixth string, (placed at the head) in the direction that will loosen the
• Slacken the string as much as is possible
• Now uncoil the string from the tuning peg
• To remove the string completely from the guitar, release the other end from bridge
• The string is attached to the bridge by means of a pin called the bridge pin
• Sometimes this pin may not be easy to remove; use a pair of pliers to gently remove the
pin from the bridge and extricate the string
Cleaning: Once the old string has been taken out, wipe the parts of the guitar that could not be
cleaned earlier due to the presence of the string. Apply guitar polish now.
Beginner’s Tip
It is always good to remove and replace the string one at a time.
If you remove all the strings together, the sudden lack of tension
at the neck may affect the neck adversely.
Attaching the new string – at the bridge
• Remove and uncoil the new string from the packet
• You will notice a ball at the end of the string
• Push the ball end, about one or two inches, into the hole in the bridge
• Replace the bridge pin, in a manner that the carved slot of the pin, forms a groove for the
string to run through
• Keep pulling the string while replacing the bridge pin, until the pin settles down correctly
in its slot.
• If the pin pops out of its place, it means that alignment has been affected. Repeat the
process of replacing the pin, until the pin settles down firmly on the bridge.
• Check whether the pin is settled properly by tugging at the string
• Now pull the string along towards the headstock
• Maintain the length in a manner that the string stretches an inch or more than the distance
at which tuning peg is placed
• Now with fingers bend the string in a perpendicular direction, so that the end of the string
is pointing at the tuning peg
• Now turn the tuning peg so that the hole is aligned to the tip of the during in your hand
• Pass the string through the tuning peg, until the right angle is encountered
• Now the string that has passed through the tuning peg has come out from the peg,; crimp
this end again to a right angle
To tighten
• Now start turning the peg in the direction that tightens the string
• Simultaneously, maintain an artificial tautness to the string while tuning, using your other
hand; use your index finger for pinning down the string
• The winding is accomplished neatly without crimping of string if you do it in this manner
• The string winder helps you do this part of stringing, with ease
• When winding remember that the first round of the string, on the peg, runs over the open
end of the string, protruding from the peg. This holds down the string securely on the peg
• Keep winding and wrapping the string over the string end
• Stop winding when the string is of the tuned length, approximately
Tuning and attaching
• Now hold the string passing near the sound hole and tug at it gently, for 10 seconds
• When the string is almost in tune tug at the string in an upward direction, creating a
tension; keep the string pulled for a few seconds
• The tugging is done to keep the string taught, and in tune
• Release the string and tune it
Repeat this a few times until the string acquires the right pitch
Remember that the peg slot should not be too big for the tuning peg. In that case the
tuning cannot be done properly; the peg must sit just right in the slot, not too tight and not
too slack
As the last step, snip of the excess string seen protruding from the tuning peg, such that at
least 0.25 inches of string still remains on this end
You have just attached and tuned in the sixth string. In the same manner you can change the
other strings. There is only a minor variation. For the three pegs on the opposite side of the peg
you just wound, tightening and loosening will be in directions opposite of the first peg.
However if your guitar has all the six pegs on the same side, you just have to repeat the action
described above, five times more.
Tuning may seem an elusive art, when you do it the first time. By and by, you will get used to it
and realize that it is no big deal at all!
Chapter 12
Guitar Accessories
Along with the guitar, there are certain accessories you need to maintain the guitar and improve
your playing. Without much ado, we will see what they are and why you need them.
Tuning your guitar:
You can play the guitar only after tuning it. When the guitar is out of tune, music simply
becomes noise! As a beginner, it is essential you learn to tune, because playing on an un-tuned is
not appealing at all and you may be discouraged from playing/learning further.
Tuners are electronic devices that help you attain the right pitch for guitar. In the previous
chapters, when we talked about tuning, it was always assumed that one string was set to the right
pitch, while the others were tuned based on the pitch of this string. Now you will see how to set
the pitch for all the strings.
As in all equipment, there are a variety of tuners, some dear, some easy on the pocket. They can
be broadly classified into two types
• I type: the tuner produces a sound and the guitar string has to be matched to it
• II type: When you pluck a string, the sound is displayed on a screen, telling you its pitch;
you can tune the string until you attain the pitch of choice
Tuners available in the market are quite inexpensive. Good quality tuners are available for prices
starting from $20. These are tiny devices that run on a battery, that tell you whether your guitar is
tuned right or off-tuned.
How the electronic tuner works
For an acoustic guitar
• The electronic tuner provides an accurate and easy method to tune your guitar
• When you buy, ask for the guitar tuner
• Set your guitar for the standard guitar tuning – Most guitars are played with this tuning
• Always remember that the guitar standard tuning is EADGBE
• The tuner will sense which string you are playing – E or A or D and so on…
• Now place the tuner right next to you and switch it on
• Pluck the string you want to tune and ensure that the sound is picked up by the in-built
mike of the tuner
• Observe the indicator
• The flashing light of the indicator or a meter, depending on the kind of tuner you buy will
inform you
 How near to the correct pitch your string is
 How flat the sound is
 How sharp the sound is
• Now reach for the tuning peg of the string you are tuning.
Adjust it by turning clockwise or counter clockwise, until the tuner indicates that the
pitch of the string is just right
Follow the same step for the rest of the strings of your guitar
For an electric guitar
• There is a provision for plugging your electric guitar to the tuner.
• Plug it in and pluck the first string you want to tune
• Now follow the same procedure as for acoustic guitar until all the strings attain the right
This kind of tuning when every string of the guitar is set to pitch using a reference pitch (as the
electronic tuner) is called absolute tuning. When you tune the five strings of your guitar based on
the pitch of the first string, this is called relative tuning.
Guitar Straps
Do you need a guitar strap?
As a beginner, you will practice/learn only in the sitting position. However, if you are really keen
on standing up to play, it is time you bought your guitar some good quality straps.
If you buy the guitar along with the amps, you may get the strap free on purchase. When you set
out to buy straps, as in other guitar accessories, there is a wide range to choose from. Get straps
that are comfortable and have the right size.
Features of straps
• Made of durable, but soft material and (nylon, leather)
• In the instrument case, it can be placed as an additional protective buffer for the
headstock, while the guitar is at rest
• Usually made of materials which will not distract the viewer (in muted colors), it remains
practically unnoticed
• Sometimes it comes along with additional internal ribbon for extra support
• Can be attached to both right and left handed guitars
• The logo of your choice can be custom painted on the strap
How straps are useful
• It allows you to position your hand effectively for strumming, picking and fingering the
guitar, when you are standing
• It keeps the guitar in place while you play
• It lessens the stress on your shoulders and neck
• It guards your guitar against being damaged by the buckles of your belt
• It has pockets where you can keep picks, capos and slides; you can reach them easily and
quickly, while playing on the stage
Beginner’s Tip
Guitar straps hold your guitar securely when you play, either standing or sitting.
It is important that you buy a good quality strap, because inferior straps may have
an adverse effect on the finish of the guitar.
Always disconnect the straps from the guitar when you are not playing.
Do not place your guitar on vinyl furniture.
The most popular brands of guitar straps are Levys, Gibson, Wrangler, Dickies and Dunlop
Guitar Cables
The guitar cable is a significant part of the electric guitar. It connects the output of the electric
guitar to the input of the amplifier, or to the input of the first effect box. They are made of a
single conductor cable with a quarter inch phone plugs.
The cable you choose for the guitar must have the following features
• It must be reliable
• Of superior quality
• Capable of great sound transmission
• Durable, capable of withstanding a high amount of stress on the stage
• Excellent shielding capability
• Appealing to the eye
The primary and patch cables
The main cable is called primary cable and the auxiliary ones (that connect the effect pedals and
the one that connects the last pedal to the amplifier) are called patch cables. Because the patch
cables are not subjected to as much stress as the primary cables you can select light duty cables.
The right-angle equipped cables
Some electric guitars have the output jacks placed in a manner that requires a plug shaped like an
“L” to connect to the input of the amplifier or effect box.
These right-angle equipped cables are not easily available. In most situations, you have to place
an order for one, at the dealers who can get them for you.
Problem areas
• They do not lie flat on the stage during the performance
• They are rigid
• Cables can get to be noisy
• They are stamped on repeatedly, during performance
• They are packed carelessly, leading to their damage
Cables can last for a much longer time if they are
Always wound up to enable better storing or packing
Packed with care before and after the performance
When you buy the cables look out for
• The connectors must be of good quality
• The shortest cable with which you can manage
• It must be flexible and not tend to knot up
Pricing the cables
For a good guitar cable that is superior, flexible, produces clean sound , is good-looking, durable
and able to withstand stress, you will have to spend about $50 or more. The most common cables
are 15-feet long with 4.5metre leads. Some popular brands are Peavey, Ibanez and Stagg.
Beginner’s Tip
Don’t purchase cheap cables. The problems you may face because of them are many, including
short circuit, tangling, and breaking. Instead, spend a little more money and get yourself good
quality cables from reputed manufacturers.
The Capo
What it is
When you want to alter the pitch of the open string, you can use the capo. Each fret is a semitone
lower than the fret after it. Placing a capo on the first fret, will increase the pitch of all the other
frets, by a semitone (or half step). A capo makes it easy for you to switch from one key to
another while playing.
For instance, when you perform with another guitarist, one of you can have a capo on the
instrument. So even if you play the same notes, the song will have a different sound to it. This
style of playing sounds great in Bluegrass and Folk music.
As a beginner, you can get the popular elastic capo for your guitar that is priced at $3 or less. The
strings are clamped down better by the more expensive Capos that have a screw-on or clamp-on
clasp. Yet, it makes sense to buy the Elastic Capo, because it is not likely to damage the finish of
the guitar neck. Shubb and Dunlop are the most popular brand names for Capos.
Capos work equally well with acoustic and electric guitars. There are two types of Capos -The
six-string capo and the Cut Capo. The six-string Capo, when clamped on to the guitar, will hold
down all the six strings.
The Cut Capo, when clamped on does not hold down all the strings, because a part of it has been
cut away. It is also called the Drop D Capo, when it has been cut to exclude the last E string.
When clamped on, the last E string of the guitar will seem to have dropped down to the sound of
D. Thus the name.
Putting it on
• When you want to use the Capo, place it over the middle of the fret
• Using the elastic around the neck, you can attach it by hooking it on
• The capo must be hooked on in a manner that all the strings are held down firmly and
well, without buzzing
• Ensure that the strings are straight, and have not slipped from the grove of the nut
• Once the Capo has been attached to the fret board in this manner, you can play the song.
Beginner’s Tip
Do you play the acoustic guitar? Clamp down two elastic capos instead of one, as the pressure
exerted by a single capo may be insufficient to hold down all strings.
String Winder
A string winder is a swivel device, with a handle. It can be fitted over the tuning pegs of the
guitar, to help wind the string in a more efficient manner. It also allows for the windings to be set
more firmly on the peg. This helps the guitar “stay in tune”. This is an inexpensive tool (about
$2) available in the popular brands of Fender, D’Andrea and Dunlop
The plectrum used to pluck the guitar is called a pick. It can be made of exotic wood,
tortoiseshell, nylon, rubber, felt, steel or plastic. It is the flat piece you use to strum the guitar
string, instead of plucking it.
Steel picks have perforations to help the player grip them properly. In the same manner, the
synthetic picks are coated with a high friction layer, to afford a better grip. Stainless steel picks
produce a brighter sound than the synthetic ones, but they also tend to wear the strings faster.
The pick is an inexpensive, but effective accessory that can improve the tone of your guitar.
There are many gauges and sizes to choose from. Heavy pick help produce a stronger tone than a
light one. Jazz guitarists generally prefer heavy picks, because they make the guitar’s sound
Thin-gauged picks make the guitar sound brighter and tinnier. Some guitarists are of the opinion
that a thinner pick can help you play the notes faster. Picks vary in thickness in the range of
extra light to extra heavy. The extra light or thin picks have a thickness of .014 inches or less,
while the extra thick/heavy picks have a thickness of .060 inches or more. In the middle are the
Light, Medium and Heavy picks.
The most common shape of the plectrum/pick is the equilateral triangle, with rounded corners.
You will observe that two corners are more rounded than the third. You have to hold the pick
between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, so the third corner with the less rounded angle
touches the strings.
The other shape in which picks are made is the shark’s fin. This pick can be used both ways; the
guitar can be strummed with the blunt end or with the shark-fin-shaped side. The latter produces
a fuller sound.
Finger-Tone picks, available at the guitar dealers’ are made in a manner that when you use it, it
sounds like you are using your fingernail to pluck or strum the guitar.
How to choose
• Buy a well made pick from a reputed manufacturer
• The edges should not be rough, as it may damage both the guitar and your hand
• The pick should allow you to play the notes clearly
• To play Spanish or Classical guitars use the thin picks of a lighter gauge
• Thin picks are chosen when you want softer tone from the guitar
• To play Acoustic and Electric guitars buy picks of medium gauge
• To play the Bass buy heavy-gauge picks; some Bass players believe that a coin makes an
excellent pick
Picks are small, light and inexpensive. They are available in packs of six, or can be bought
singly. The best-known brands are Jim Dunlop, Fender, Gibson and Stagg.
Finger picking
Finger picking is ideal when you have to play musical passages that require both strumming and
plucking. If the musical passage you play requires you to both strum and pluck the guitar.
How do you do it?
• You can use the thumb to strum/pluck the strings. The sound is soft and mellow
• You can strum with the back of fingernails, using one or all fingers
• You can simulate holding a pick and play with the tips of the thumb and forefinger
coupled together
• You can use the thumb for strumming and the index finger for the upstroke
For fast playing
• The little finger is not used for plucking; position it on the guitar near the strings, firmly
• The thumb plucks the 4th, 5th and 6th strings
• Te other fingers are used to pluck the remaining strings
• It needs a lot of practice, but once you master the knack, you can play the notes with
remarkable ease and speed
Do I need a pick?
Every guitarist is in the quest of the best sound for his instrument. Will a pick enhance the tone
of your guitar? A pick is usually advised because
• Strumming is made easy, with a pick
• Upstrokes are easier with a pick, than with fingers
• The guitar sounds brighter when the pick is used
• However, some guitarists prefer the mellow sound that comes from finger picking
You will learn to coordinate your hands better, using a pick
Individual strings can be played clearly, without making contact with other strings
While plucking your guitar, your hand may tug at more than one string unintentionally;
with the pick’s thinness, you can target only the string you want to strum
Your fingers and nails are not hurt accidentally if you use a pick
Chapter 13
Guitar Cases
Most guitars are sold along with the cases. The cases don’t last for a lifetime though. You have
to think of getting another case or bag. If you travel often with the guitar, the case must be able
to stand the wear and tear frequent travel.
Tips to help you choose the case
• Capable of giving your guitar the amount of protection you seek for it
• Plywood cases offer the ultimate protection for your guitar, but are priced very high
• The case only protects the guitar, it cannot be costlier than your instrument
• There are two options for a beginner’s guitar – a cardboard case, or a vinyl carrier
• In an attempt to keep the guitar safe, don’t buy a case so heavy that it will injure your
shoulder when you carry it.
The most popular guitar holders are guitar cases and gig bags. Guitar case prices range from $50
to $100, while the cost of gig bags lie between $20 and $50. These prices are for simple
utilitarian guitar carriers. As the quality of material used and the embellishments increase, their
costs also spiral.
Guitar case - hardshell
• It is made of stury plastic and have a soft lining
• Very good at keeping the guitar safe during long journeys
• The case must be as strong as you can manage. The stronger the case, the better the
• The case is usually heavy and quita difficult to transport
• A molded case keeps the guitar packed tightly and does not allow it to move
• Hardshell cases can be custom made to suita the exact conour of your guitar. These are
prices higher.
• The cases are available in very bright, pleasing colors. It is easy to identify when
retrieving your baggage
• Though heavy, it provides excellent protection to your guitar
• The price range is around $100 for a hard shell case. Custom made cases are more
• There are guitar case covers available too. The cover ensures that the case, along with the
guitar receives shielding, to make it last longer.
• Some renowned brands of hardshell cases are made by ProTec, ReUnion Blues,Levys,
Kaces and Kinsman
Guitar case - softshell
• The softshell cases are lightweight
• Good at keeping the guitar safe during long journeys, though with less protection than a
hardshell case
• Made of a vinyl coated material with a soft lined interior
• There is provision for strapping the guitar inside the case
• Cases can be custom made to the exact size of your guitar
Though lightweight the padding and stitching of softshell cases ensures that the guitar
remians immobile, inside it
Good quality cases are available from $50 to $100
Some renowned companies that make them are Fender, Blue Heron, and SKB
Gig bag
• It is a guitar shaped bag with sufficient padding to protect the guitar
• It is lighter and easier to carry than the case, but not as suitable for air travel
• Lesser priced gig bags are those without padding
• Generally the padding is 1-2 inches. For airline travel, there are gig bags that can be slung
on your shoulder
• This bag should bot be bulky and yet offer protection to the guitar
• Gig bags that you take along with you, and is not a part of baggage, do not need as much
padding as a case, as it is not likely to reach the baggage handlers
• They are safe from being stole too
• Some renowned companies that make gig bags are Kinsman, Levys, ProTec and TKL
Travel cargo case
• Made with the travelling guitarist in mind
• Some are made of fiberglass
• Molded lightweight cases come with a secure locking systems
• Some have built in wheels and recessed handles
• They are available in bright colors for easy identification during baggage retrieval
• Renowned manufacturers sometimes provide guarantee for the safety of your guitar, in
the cases they sell.
• For instance, The SKB Company’s travel case for the Dreadnought guitar comes with a
guarantee. The Company is ready to pay up to $1500 if the guitar is subjected to any
damage during air travel, when placed in the SKB travel case
• Costs vary depending on the quality of material, size of case and the bonus facilities
offered for better protection of the guitar.
• Good travel cases are available for prices ranging from $100 to $200
• Some renowned companies that make the cases are Martin, Fender, SKB, Gibson, and
Precautions taken for travelling
• Don’t keep the guitar case in the trunk of the car, when you travel by road
• When travelling by air take the guitar along with you, with the airline’s permission
• The attendant can help you find a place for it
• There are flat guitar cases, which can be placed in garment bags. You can hang it in the
coat area of the plane
• As mentioned in Chapter 3, one of the fool proof methods of travelling with your guitar is
- Placing the guitar in a hardshell case, and placing the hardshell case in a trunk
Storing the guitar for a longer period of time: If the guitar is not to be used for some time, you
need to keep it away safely. Here is how you do it
• Loosen the strings and reduce tension
Pack the guitar in its case
Store it in a place that is devoid of dampness
The temperature of the room where you place the guitar, should be neither too in which
you place the case, should be neither too high nor too low. (For instance, you should not
keep the guitar in the attic).
Asccessories for the guitar help you to play the guitar better and maintain its good condition for a
longer period of time. While not compromising on the quality of the accessories you seek, bear
in mind that they need be more expensive than the guitar. Choose them sensibly, aso that they
are durable and cost effective.
Chapter 14
Renowned Guitar Makers
Guitars of the most renowned makers have everything going for them. They are splendid to look
at, have excellent sound quality, and afford great playability. Though some of them are too
expensive to be considered for a first buy, there are many that are affordable at a reasonable price
and offer you an incredible value for your money.
This chapter will tell you about some of the renowned guitar makers and their marvellous
Gibson Guitars
Gibson guitars have shaped the trend of 20th century music. Their instruments have
entranced and been used by the greatest guitarists of the century. Whether it is a Rock
legend, or a Folk Music great, or a Jazz Superstar, Gibson guitars have been popular with
all of them.
Probably the most distinctive acoustic electric guitar designed is the Gibson Byrdland. It
was made in collaboration with Bill Byrd and Hank Garland, two celebrated country jazz
guitarists, in 1955. The beauty and versatility of this guitar continues to enthrall
guitarists, even today.
The Gibson Acoustic Guitars have set the trend for newer and better guitars. L00, E5,
J35, L50, SJ200, the Hummingbird and the Dove are some of the great acoustic guitar
models brought out by Gibson.
The Gibson solid body electric guitar models include Flying V, Explorer and Les Paul,
which have been described in Chapter 8.
The hollow body electric guitar models of Gibson are Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery,
ES295 and Super 400 CES.
The Gibson guitars have more traditional design, with a distinctive scale length and neck
attachment. To date, electric guitars made by most manufacturers repeat the classic,
features of the Gibson guitars, which have always been synonymous with great
The beginning
Orville Gibson, a woodwork hobbyist of Michigan, built an arch top mandolin, in 1894.
He made an Archtop guitar a little later and began the Gibson Mandolin Guitar
Corporation Ltd in 1902. The name was changed to Gibson Guitar Corporation.
Presently located in Nashville Tennessee, the company makes guitars and creates new
models for special requests as of Les Paul. Every step of production is hand made by the
employees of Gibson, most of whom are musicians.
From then to now, the company has always stood for excellence and innovation in terms
of their handcrafted stringed instruments of magnificent quality and superb design.
Fender Electric Guitars
Rock ‘n’ Roll was introduced to the world, largely due to the Fender Electric Guitars. The great
Leo Fender designed the models so that they would be easy to build and not too expensive. The
fender models include the incomparable Stratocaster and Telecaster models.
These guitars have revolutionized the world of modern guitar music. The instruments are highly
versatile capable of sounding nothing short of wonderful, whether you play country music, rock
or punk!
The first Fender guitars came out in the 1960s. They had maple necks and fingerboards. Though
the rosewood fingerboards came later on, the exceptional “blond” colored necks of the first
Fender guitars were long remembered.
Fender guitars are available in the highest variety of designs and models. They have the most
number of quality instruments manufactured than any other company in the world. All time great
guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan have played on
Fender instruments.
The beginning
Clarence Leo fender was a luthier fender Musical instruments Corporation. The guitars designed
by hm were both innovative and specialized to afford great playability. The hallmark of his
designs was that they could be manufactured with proficiency and ease. In the 1950s and 60s the
Fender guitars rewrote music history as the Telecaster and Stratocaster became the by-word for
excellence in sound, design and affordability.
Other remarkable models that came from the Fender Company are the Jaguar, the Jazzmaster, the
Jazz Bass. In 1965 the company was sold to CBS for $13 million. Leo Fender died in 1991. The
strangest fact was that he never played the guitar! Modern music owes a olt to this remarkable
innovator who managed to bring instruments of superior quality within the reach of many.
The Paul Reed Smith Guitars
Standard and quality are synonymous with the Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitars. The extraordinary
instruments are made with the most excellent of implements and continue to uphold all that was
superior in the first guitars handcrafted by Paul Reed Smith himself.
In Paul Reed Smith’s own words “Excellence is always the goal. We never lose sight of that.” To
this end, are the great guitars made. The means are uncompromising and revolutionary at the
same time.
The motive to create a guitar with a superb tone has been the driving force for the design of PRS
guitars. The durability of the guitar is legendary too, taking you on and on from one successful
program to another.
Paul Reed Smith became synonymous with excellence of guitar design when he designed a
guitar for the legendary Carlos Santana. He also built custom guitars for Howard Lees and Ted
Nugent. The one he built for Santana is especially remembered for its stunning flame maple top
The PRS custom of 1985 had a flame maple top and a one-piece mahogany body. The body
contour was a double cutaway with certain characteristics of the Stratocaster. The elegant
instrument came to be called the New Classic because it was reminiscent of the classic guitars
made two or three decades ago.
The beginning
When Paul Reed Smith was a teenager, he decided he would make electric guitars. Building a
guitar for the school project triggered of this idea. He first set up a shop in Annapolis, Maryland,
to repair guitars. He would design guitars, about one in a month and take it over to be examined
by performing musicians. Many a day he was seen persuading the players, to try out his
In this manner, he built guitar after guitar, until me made one that was liked immensely by the
guitarists. He called it the PRS Custom and it was first played in the Winter NAMM show of
Elegance of design, aesthetic appeal and near classic contours of the PRS guitar is only matched
by its superb sound quality and excellent playability.
The Martin Guitars
The Martin Company has been making the best Archtop acoustic guitars for the past 150 years.
That speaks a lot for their persistent quality of the great instruments. From 1840 to 1920 the
small-bodied guitars used only gut strings. The instruments were characteristic of superb
workmanship, sound and playability.
Later on, the Martin Company produced Archtop guitars, mandolins and electric guitars. But
none of the later designs could reach the extraordinary status of their flat top guitars.
From 1920 to the middle of the 20th century, martin produced steel string models of acoustic
guitars (12 fret and 14 fret designs). These guitars too symbolized excellence of craftsmanship of
their predecessors. These designs are collectors’ items and indicate the distinctive reputation of
the Martin of the 1930s.
In the beginning
The story of Martin Guitars began in 1811, in Markneudirchen, Germany, when CG Martin, ,
began his apprenticeship with Johann Stauffer, a famous guitar maker.
The instruments that Martin eventually made had
• Rosewood or mahogany for the neck
• A spruce sound board
• Tuning pegs of bone or metal
• Decoration of ivory or shell
When CF Martin, his son immigrated to the US in 1935, he carried with him the rich tradition of
guitar making he learned from his father and Stauffer. In 1916 Martin Company made the first
Dreadnought guitar. Some of the Dreadnought models made by Martin are DM, DC-1,
D-1R, and HD-35
Martin also made guitars for other companies like Rolando, Wurlitzer, Belltone, Foden, OlcottBickford, Paramount and many more. They also made ukuleles and banjos for some companies.
Martin acoustic guitars are today what they were so many decades ago, examples of excellent
melody, craftsmanship and superior design.
The Yamaha guitars
Yamaha has a worldwide network of design/development facilities and factories, to build their
awesome range of guitars and basses. The final product of each design is the dedicated teamwork
of gifted musicians, astounding innovations and great designs. These features make Yamaha
guitars one of the most popular guitars today, barely four decades after they first came into
The Yamaha Company attributes its success to
• Adherence to principles of quality
• Ace craftsmen
• Traditional luthier skills
• Technological innovations
The Acoustic guitars made by Yamaha first came into the market in the middle of the 1960s.
The affordable instruments of excellent design and sound quality were available in the FG and
DW models. The other acoustic models of Yamaha are FPX, CJ, CJX Country Jumbo, and so
many more to cater to varied taste and style of music.
Electric Guitars: The Electric guitars of Yamaha are available in the Pacifica, RGX, AES, SA,
AEX and SLG series. The last, SLG, is an innovative electric guitar with nylon strings, and a soft
smooth tone. It is called the Silent Guitar.
Yamaha bass guitars: The BB series of Yamaha bass guitars have a superb level of versatility.
The BB3000MA has been specially designed for Micheal Anthony of Van Halen. The other
series of Bass models are RBX, TRB, ATT, BEX and ERB.
In the beginning
Torakusu Yamaha made a reed organ in 1887 and took orders for more instruments. From the
reed organ, to the piano, to the harmonica and finally to the world’s first ever Acoustic research
room, the Yamaha company, started by the illustrious Torakusu, grew from strength to strength.
The first acoustic guitar was made in 1962 and two decades later, the US subsidiary was
founded. From then on there was no looking back for the company which continues to make
guitars of remarkable quality, fabulous playability and all of that available at an unbelievably
affordable cost.
The Ovation Guitars
Ovation guitars stand tall among the ace guitar companies because of unique design and sound
quality. Guitar enthusiasts love the great sounding guitars and Ovation instruments are great
favorites as Vintage items.
The models made by Ovation are Adamas, the Ovation I and II series, Legend, Celebrity, Elite
and Balladeer.
The 12-string Electric Guitar made by ovation is called Bluebird and is highly impressive for its
sound, design and playability.
In the beginning
Introduced in the 1960s the popularity remains undimmed even after five decades. Charles
Kamen an avid guitar player made a guitar with a bowl-shaped back made of fiberglass. This
guitar had improved transmission of the strings vibration and was spared of problems like wood
cracks and shrinking.
The result was a great sounding acoustic guitar. The instrument rode the waves of popularity
only after Kamen designed a guitar for Glen Campbell, to be played on his television show.
Glen wanted an acoustic guitar that could be heard without placing the microphone, right in front
of it. That day, the Ovation guitars were here to stay.
Glen Campbell, besides playing the Ovation guitar also designed their marvelous range of
Classical guitars. Till date the company is one of the most successful maker of acoustic guitars.
Taylor Guitars
The Taylor company makes acoustic guitars with the exception of its T5 Electric. The tguitars
made by this company need no special description. One word will suffice . They are
The Taylor Company makes the following series : 100 through 900 series, presentation Series,
Walnut Series, and the Koa series. The body shapes producesd for the acoustic guitars are Grand
Concert, Concert, Dreadnought and the Jumbo.
In the beginning
Bob Taylor and friend Kurt Listug began the taylor company in 1974. Bob was already a guitar
builder of awesome repute and in his own company the guitars took on finer designs and greater
sound. The factory is in El Cajon, California and remains one of the best guitars you can buy for
its sheer presence and sound.
Please note: There are many more guitar makers, whose instruments are excessively popular for
quality and playability, in the US and all over the world. The guitars mentioned above are in no
particular order of preference or features.
Custom Luthiers
Every guitarist wants an instrument that looks like a dream, which he can hold it well, play better
and which sounds the best. He can find such an instrument if he
Buys one. Yes there are all those splendid guitars out there…Surely one of them is just
Gets one made. This is where the custom luthier steps in.
If you are willing to spend some more money, you can get a guitar made, that suits you to
perfection. You have to consult one of the many luthiers who specialize in custom guitars.
Once you make up your mind to possess that dream guitar specially made for you, here is what it
The preliminaries
• Decide on the wood and other materials you want to go into the making of your
• Choose the design according to the style of music you want to play
• Find an experienced luthier who will be able to interpret your requirements for a
guitar into a well-made instrument (Guitarist friends, reputed dealers, guitar
magazines and online information are good sources to research for the person)
• www.luth.org takes you to the official website of the Guild of American Luthiers
• http://www.cybozone.com/fg/luthier.html provides a country-wise list of luthiers,
all over the world
• You can also read the book “Custom Guitars” (String letter Publishing). The book
will give you a visual idea of the differences in numerous luthiers’ work
• Commission the job to the selected luthier, with exact specifications, which
include his valuable suggestions
A guitar made on these lines will be the perfect instrument, unique in its suitability – just
for you!
Why some people prefer custom made guitars
Custom luthiers pay great attention to the smallest details of making the guitar
As a result the action, sound quality and aesthetic appeal are outstanding of the
instrument in the eyes of the guitarist. Ken Clark, the renowned jazz guitarist,
wholeheartedly endorses this.
Ken got his custom made guitar from Mark Campellone, the famed Archtop
guitar specialist
Custom luthiers can build you an instrument that performs just as superbly as the
immensely popular guitar in the market, and stamp it with your individual choice
of inlays, designs and sculpted logos.
This does not mean that all custom made guitars appear ornate; rather, you will
own a guitar with just the finish you wanted
The neck length, number of frets, the neck width are all engineered to suit the
reach of your hands and fingers and offer you a great level of playability
Most custom made designs are a blend of the exceptional qualities of the greatest
factory made guitars
The wood choices made to extract the tone you want, may just turn out to be a
unique blend, for your guitar.
For instance, Dake Traphagen, who has made classical guitars for greats like Pepe
Romero, builds custom guitars with individualistic bracing patterns, scale lengths
and different combinations of wood
Custom luthiers usually accept a part payment for the instrument and full payment, once
it is delivered. During the process of building, it is a good practice to keep in touch with
the luthier, with direct visits, phone conversations and email communication.
One significant factor of custom-made guitars is that you have to wait for it. The much
sought after luthiers take a minimum of eight to nine months to deliver your dream guitar.
There are some luthiers known to have taken four years to fulfill an order!
Once the guitar is ready, it is important you examine the guitar minutely, before paying
the rest of the money due. Don’t forget to pick up the warranty for the guitar from the
A large percentage of guitarists who seek the custom made instruments are highly
experienced musicians. They have played on the best guitars available in the market. The
choices they make in the custom made instrument, will culminate in a beautiful sounding,
great looking, and comfortable guitar.
The professionals and their guitars
The professionals undoubtedly play the best possible guitars. They use the most splendid of
amplifiers and effect boxes. If you are a great guitar enthusiast who hopes to become a
professional soon, you can start saving for buying the best your money can afford. You may not
play as well as your guitar idol, but you can surely extract a better sound when you have a guitar
just like his.
In 2003, the Rolling Stone magazine has compiled a list of the 100 great guitarists of all time.
You can have a look at the list at the site
Some magnificent (lead) guitarists and their playing machines
Dick Dale - Stratocaster
Kirk Hammett of Metallica - Stratocaster and the Flying V
George Harrison, lead guitarist of the Beatles – Gibson SG
Gary Hoey – Stratocaster
Yngwie Malmsteen – Stratocaster
Brian May – Red Special (designed by his father)
Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy – Gibson SG and Les Paul, Stratocaster
John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stratocaster, Telecaster, Maton Messiah, (12
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd – Electric - Stratocaster, Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd – Acoustic – Ovation, Martin and Taylor
Slash of Guns’n’Roses – Gibsons, Fenders, BC Rich guitars, Travis Bean guitar and
custom made Guild guitar
How to get that certain tone
The following features help to create that magic tone in a performance. It is a broad
generalization and every player has his almost unique set up of audio equipment, whether you
hear him play live or if the performance is recorded. .
A tube preamp
Pickups (like the Fender HS3)
Distortion box (like the Ibanez Tube Screamer)
Tube power amplifier (like Vox or Marshall)
Specialized guitar speakers (like Celestion)
Noise suppression pedal
The microphone placed about two inches away from the speaker at an acute angle
Three band equalizer, with more provision for operating the mid range (parametric mid
For recording
A guitar performance is recorded with the microphone placed in front of the speaker
The guitar provides you with great moments of music and joy. To continue enjoying its magic, it
is so important that you keep it well maintained. The next chapter gives you some tips about the
guitar’s maintenance
Chapter 15
Care and Maintenance of your guitar
The guitar has to be maintained in the peak condition always so that the tone extracted fro it is
always the best it can offer.
The most important concerns that tend to affect the guitar are environmental factors; temperature
and. Generally damage caused by environmental factors is not covered in the warranty of your
guitar. It is up to you to keep the guitar a well as possible.
The ideal temperature for the guitar is between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ideal humidity is 45 to 55 %.
Buy a thermometer and a hygrometer. This will tell you how hot/cold the day is and how
humid/dry the atmosphere is. .
High temperatures can
• Affect the glued in joints, forcing the guitar to disassemble
• As a result frets and the neck suffer irreversible damage
• Cause the bridge to slide towards the sound hole, damaging the paint and finish
Low temperatures can cause
• Cracks in the finish due to sudden change of temperature from high to low
• Instruments transported in winter have to be brought to room temperature, before they are
unpacked, else there are cracks evident on the guitar’s finish
• The metallic strings will contract, placing a stress on the neck and body of the guitar
• The top grains of the wood on the guitar will appear prominent; this is an indication that a
crack is about to appear
Tips to combat temperature fluctuations
• Remember not to open a cold guitar case in a warm room. Wait for the case to reach
room temperature
• If you open the case without waiting, the effect on the guitar is the same as pouring hot
water into a cold glass; the lacquer just cracks up right before your eyes!
• Keep the guitar away from a hot car
Direct sunlight
Near a burning stove
In rooms like the attic where there is high temperature
Remember not to hang your guitar open in winter
When the guitar has to be shipped, loosen the tension of the strings
Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. Too much humidity or too little (dryness) can
affect the guitar adversely.
Impact of Dryness
• The dark grain appears prominent as the softer wood loses its moisture
• This is the indication of an impending crack
• If unnoticed, the cracks will spread, increasing the cost of repair, exorbitantly
• Sharper fret ends, because the fingerboard contracts
• The top of the guitar flattens and gradually becomes concave, leading to loss of
• If unnoticed, the cracks
Impact of high humidity
• The guitar swells up and causes damage that cannot be repaired
• A combination of high humidity and high temperature the glued joints will open
up the top surface of the guitar
• The bridge will get detached and roll off damaging the surface of the guitar
Tips to combat dryness
• For a humidity level below 40%, you can purchase a room humidifier
• This protects your guitar against the ravages of dryness, in an effective manner
• Guitar case humidifiers are also available. They are usually porous stones or
sponges that have to be moistened and placed in the accessory compartment of the
• If you buy such a humidifier, moisture that has come into contact with your guitar
will damage the veneer of the guitar
• Keep the case humidifier moistened, at the recommended intervals
• Use a hygrometer by the heel of the neck to monitor the humidity level; 45% is
considered an ideal level
Tips to combat high humidity
• A silica gel pack can act as a dehumidifier. Place about _ 10 gm packs in the guitar case.
You can buy them at a camera store
• The packs have to be dried at a low temperature, once in a while
• When the humidity level drops, make sure that you remove the packs, or else your guitar
will develop problems due to dryness
• Air-conditioning the room is an effective method to dehumidify it
• If the guitar case is damp due to excessive humidity, you can blow dry it, taking care to
see that the case does not heat up
Basic cleaning regimen for your guitar
Guitars can be maintained and made to last forever, assuming they are not subjected to accidental
hits. Here is a basic regimen to keep it looking good, feeling good and sounding good.
After you play the guitar and want to put it away for the day-
Dust under the strings and under the bridge with a feather duster or a soft cotton cloth
You can moisten the cloth with a mild detergent solution, wipe the guitar and then dry it
by wiping it with a dry cloth again
Clutch each string through the cloth and gently scrub he length of the string going up and
Cotton cloth with prints is a no-no. Avoid paper towels too, as they tend to scratch the
Dust and moisture due to sweat, if not wiped away will cause permanent stains on the
veneer of the guitar
Use a paint brush made of camel hair (small size) to brush the areas that house the bridge
and pickups
Important: The pickup should not come into contact with any material other than a cotton
cloth, as it will affect the device’s magnetic field
• Blow away the excess dust from wood
• Rub the guitar with the soft cotton cloth, in a gentle manner
• If the fish appears dull, apply superior quality guitar polish using a soft cotton cloth
• Avoid silicone based polishes
• Avoid furniture polishes as they may dull the guitar
• Important: The polish is rubbed in with the cloth only; don’t apply the polish directly on
the guitar
• Very Important: Don’t attempt to repair a damaged guitar without the requisite knowhow; take the instrument to the guitar repair shop and get it repaired by an expert.
• Avoid bringing your guitar in contact with citric acid, after-shave lotion, alcohol and
insect repellants
You strum the guitar with your right hand. Assuming you do not use a pick, you have the option
of playing the strings with your nails or bare fingers. Using nails to strum the guitar produces a
thin bright sound, where as the fingernails produce a far more solid tone.
Most guitarists prefer the no nails approach. For those who prefer to use nails, I the place of
fingers or the plectrum, here are a few tips for making your guitar sound great.
Nail facts
• The sound produced is highly dependent on the size and curvature of the nails
• Te angle of placing the nail must be changed with precision, for the guitarist to produce
the right sound
• It is quite impossible to play the strings keeping your fingers perpendicular to the guitar,
if your nails are thin or hooked
• In fact, playing with the wrist perpendicular to the guitar may increase the risk for wrist
• Nails will get thicker with age, there are changes to your posture – both affect the angle at
which you will keep your wrist
Fingernail care
The left hand fingernails are very easy to care for; just keep them short, and nicely
trimmed always, so that they do not intrude when you play the frets
You have to pay more attention to the length, shape and edge of the right hand fingernails
Keep the nails rounded, so that their contour matches the edge of the finger, exactly
File the nails in a careful manner, as it allows your fingers to attack the string when
needed and does not give room for the nails to be caught in the strings
Keep the thumb nail a little longer, with a square cut at the ends
The thumb is most in contact with the bass strings and gets worn more quickly than the
other nails
A bright, thinner sound, or a bassy sound can be produced by the thumb, depending on
the angle it attacks the string
A soft bass sound is achieved by using the thumb itself, instead of the thumb nail
You will need a fine pair of nail clippers for cutting the nails and an emery board (fine
middle range or heavy) for filing your nails
Choose the emery board that suit’s your nail character
Sandpaper can also be used for filing the nail
Trim your nails so that about 0.3cms is visible, when you keep your hand , palm facing to
you, at eye level.
This is a general specification, which you can alter as per the needs of your playing
Follow these tips and with practice, you will know exactly how to keep the nails trimmed and
rounded for achieving the best possible sound from your guitar
Chapter 16
Guitar Damage Control
Great care and regular maintenance can keep your guitar gleaming in peak condition. Sometimes
however, the guitar may show signs of damage due to accident. How do you bring the guitar
back to its original look?
This chapter throws light on the various ways you can adopt relatively simple procedures to care
for your guitar, when it suffers damage.
Cracks and chips – how to rid your guitar of them
To repair minor cracks in your guitar, this is what you will need.
A felt tip lacquer pen (Gibson pens are available)
The color of the pen should match the finish of your guitar
A clear lacquer touch up pen
Pure cotton cloth
The repair
• Clean the chipped area with a cloth wetted with warm soapy water
• Wipe the soaped portion with a dry part of the cloth
• Allow the area to dry
• Meanwhile shake up the lacquer pen, remove the lid and press the tip of pen on a
throwaway surface
• This will pull up the paint to the tip of the pen
• Now place the pen at the center of the crack or chip and gently apply a coat on the area,
without using excess paint
• Don’t spread the paint to the adjoining area
• Check out whether the paint matches the finish
• Allow the coat to dry for 20 minutes
• If the first coat matches the finish perfectly, the job is done
• Else apply the second coat as instructed for the first coat
• Once the final touch up has been done, place the guitar aside for about two hours to dry
To repair chips: The missing wood chips have to be filled with the finishing lacquer originally
used for the guitar (usually nitrocellulose lacquer). To fill 2-3 chips, it will take you about 4-5
days, as many coats of the lacquer are needed. The coat also has to dry properly. In view of this
specialized procedure, it is best you take the guitar to a repair shop.
The warped neck – how to set it right
Guitar necks have a tendency to warp at some time, due to constant tension of the strings. To
check whether the strings are warped, remove the strings from the bridge, but let them remain on
the pegs.
Take a yardstick and hold it alongside the neck, keeping it edgewise. The stick should be in level
with the frets. Else the neck needs your attention, because it is warped.
To set it right
Check for a hex nut, inside the body or in the headstock
The nut is connected to the truss rod
By tightening or loosening the truss rod, the neck can be aligned
The truss rod is tightened by a clockwise turn of the nut
Take care to see that you do not tighten the rod in excess –that will result in a broken
To avoid such a situation, here is what you can do. Take the nut through only half its
turn, in the clockwise direction
Set aside the guitar. The next day, check the alignment of the neck. If it still needs to be
straightened, tighten the truss rod through half a turn again.
Continue the procedure until the neck is totally aligned
Fret Buzz – How to set it right
When the frets become loose, fret buzz is caused. A buzzing sound emanates from the string,
when pressed down on a fret, then it is time you checked your guitar for fret buzz.
With the point of a pair of pliers, press down on each fret. This will show you which fret is loose
and at which end. Once you have identified that loose frets have caused the buzz, take your
guitar promptly to the repair shop to get the fret securely placed.
The fret is hammered back precisely to position. It is not an easy task to accomplish by a novice.
However, if the buzz is due to faulty action of the guitar, here is how you can set it right.
Acoustic guitar: The action is adjusted by changing the height of the string above the fret board.
Fret Buzz occurs when the action is low, i.e., the strings are closer to the fret board. To increase
the action (height) of the strings,
Remove the strings attached to the bridge
Remove the saddle on which the strings sit on the bridge
Position a thin piece of plastic or shim( a thin slice of wood veneer), inside the bridge,
where the saddle sits
Now replace the saddle and re-attach the strings
If the action you have set is too high, you have to lower the strings again.
With practice you will soon know how best to maintain the right action.
Electric guitar: The action is adjusted in this instrument by tightening or loosening the hex nut
beneath each string. This will adjust the action of each string separately. Take care to see that
you don’t raise the action so much that the intonation of the instrument is marred.
You can now do the basic repairs of the guitar. With patience, practice and time, you will be able
to maintain your guitar in a “sound” condition for years to come.
Chapter 17
Vintage Guitars
The word Vintage was coined by the wine industry to describe a wine’s harvest date Vint – of the
vine and age – time of creating it. With time the word took on subtle overtones. It is now
synonymous with anything that is original, of great appeal, and maintained in the best condition
Vintage Guitars have become a collector’s delight the world over. Vintage guitars are guitars that
are original and old. A collector is a person who accumulates objects of art, books or articles of
historical significance.
What are the factors, according to a collector, that determines the authenticity of a guitar as a
Vintage item?
The guitar must have been made/manufactured between the middle of the 1920s to 1970
A rare model of guitar, produced in low numbers, is not always a Vintage item, as it may
not be valuable in terms of design and quality
Guitars made before 1920 are considered “primitive” for collection
Guitars made after 1970, in spite of their excellent sound, design and durability, have
parts that can be copied.
The guitar must be an original – representative of its time and make
If parts have been replaced only to salvage the guitar’s sound or design, the value of a
Vintage guitar drops
For instance a guitar that looks well used, is more valuable than an old guitar that has
been refinished
A Vintage guitar that is in a good condition is more expensive than a similar one which
has not been maintained as well
However reputed the manufacturer, if the guitar has not been popular, when it was first
introduced, it will have little Vintage value (The Fender Electric Mandolin is rare but not
invaluable, for the simple reason that it never took off when it was first made)
In contrast the Fender telecaster that was made in great numbers can still qualify for a
vintage position, high above the Electric mandolin
When a collector talks about “mint” condition, he means the instrument is in such a new
condition that it would seem you just bought it today
What classifies as Vintage?
Guitar dealers get instruments worth about $500 signed by famous musicians in an attempt to
make great sales. These guitars are just like autographs and have probably never been played by
those who signed it! Such instruments do not get counted as Vintage.
Consider the price of the guitar, if it were to be bought today, disregarding its connection to
famous names…Any 1959 Gibson Les Paul is worth around $100,000 today as are 1954
Stratocaster and 1958 Les Paul guitars! That is vintage for you!
The most valuable of all Vintage guitars are those that were personally owned and played by
legendary musicians. Those guitars played when the guitarist was at the peak of his fame are
even more valuable. For instance, the drumsticks of the Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham,
were sold at Julien’s for a whopping $1200!
Some valuable Vintage guitars include the 1954 Stratocaster and the 1958 Les Paul
To find a guitar that appreciates in value
If you want to buy a Vintage guitar
Besides the magnificent guitars made by Fender and Gibson, there are many names that were
accepted in the middle of the 20th century. These have now become very expensive. Most of
these instruments have reached the Vintage guitar enthusiasts, and are now hard to find.
You can find these guitars by attending Vintage guitar shows. These are some of the guitars you
can find:
The Fender and Gibson guitars made after 1960
Gretsch Nashville
Country Gentleman
You can also consider buying one of the following, as their values are being appreciated.
Whether they become the most prized possessions of the future, only time will tell, but they will
certainly appreciate in value
• Paul Reed Smith guitars, built in 1985 and 1986
• Guild of the 1960s
• Epiphone made in the 1960s
There are many acoustic guitars available as collectibles. They are beautiful specimens at great
prices. Included among them are Gibson, Martin, Epiphone, and Guild acoustic guitars.
You can also surf through guitar magazines for information about more Vintage shows and other
sources selling vintage gear. There are two ways of buying the instrument 1) Directly from the
seller, by paying the final negotiated price, 2) “On consignment”- buying a guitar from a vintage
dealer who has been assigned to sell it by a vintage owner.
Examine the guitar thoroughly, select the instrument with care, get it appraised by a guitar
expert, check out the testimonials (photographs, published articles) and become the proud owner
of a Vintage instrument.
Why guitars sound better with age
Old instruments sound better with age, not only because the wood has mellowed down, but also
because it has been played extensively.
In a complicated process involving its cells, the wood of a guitar undergoes changes in
flexibility, rigidity to emerge mellower and improved with the long passage of years.
Certain notes, scales and musical patterns are played again and again on the guitar. These
patterns are set on the guitar and as the wood ages, these specific notes become mellower in tone
and stronger in timbre.
There is a telling difference between the tone of a brand new guitar and an older one. This has
led an innovative guitar manufacturer to subject the new guitars to continuous, automated
playing, before selling them! The guitar was “shaken” by Timbre technologies for long periods
of time. Later, it was found that the guitars, were neither damaged, nor under stress, while the
tone had mellowed.
Timbre Technologies subjected Laurence Juber’s Taylor 514 guitar, to automated “shaking”
(Laurence Juber is a Grammy award-winning guitarist.) Before the experiment the Taylor
sounded like an excellent new guitar. After it was “shaken”, Juber believes that the guitar
became noticeably mellow!
Chapter 18
Where Do I Find The Guitar I Want To Buy?
There are two principal ways you can buy a guitar – offline and online. Offline simply means
buying it locally.
If you are planning to buy a famous brand, you can visit their website and check out the finer
details of the instruments. Visit websites which include reviews by guitarists, of major brands.
These reviews are frank and you can expect to know more about the instrument. Dealer Reviews
and Eopinions.com are the sites to visit for the same.
Once you have done your research online you now will have a pretty good idea about what you
can expect at the local shops.
The local purchase
This is the best way to get a guitar, though it may be more expensive way than buying online. By
buying a guitar locally, you have a warranty for the instrument. This is one of the biggest
advantages. Buying froma local shop have their disadvantages too. The salesperson may be a bit
too pushy or there may not be as great a variety as you would like.
However, once you buy the guitar, after selecting, playing and checking it, you can take it home
right away. There is no waiting period.
How to choose the local store
• Check out the local music store
• Visit the local departmental store
• Access the local shops via the classical advertisements in the paper
We have already discussed how to buy a guitar from a guitar dealer.
In the Pawn Shop
Pawnshops, at times, you may find a guitar that looks and sounds excellent for $100. You would
be lucky to find one like that! But generally, pawnshops have guitars of middling quality,
available at quite a reasonable price. If you are good at negotiating you can get a pretty good
instrument for $150.
However, a pawnshop purchase is even better if you are good at the subtle tactics of bargaining
and negotiating. Without prior experience, you may be persuaded to pay for an old and/or abused
Classified advertisements
People who want to sell their guitars, will place advertisements in local newspapers.
When you visit the person who wants to sell their guitar, you will first have to contact them and
then take along your guitarist friend with you.
Carefully check out the instrument. Ask a lot of questions regarding why they are selling their
guitar. Once you are satisfied, negotiate a good price and purchase the guitar.
Buying a guitar online
Little did Tim Berners-Lee realize the potential of his invention, way back in 1989? The inventor
of the World Wide Web is the reason behind the creation of a virtual world of Internet. A world
that connects everyone everywhere and brings home to you whatever you “click” for…you can
get a guitar too, if you click for it...
When you decide to buy a guitar online, make another conscious decision - to select a major
brand. Paying less for an average guitar, will rob you probably of the joy of playing. The adage
“Penny wise pound foolish” never fitted a situation better….
Surf the web and select a shop from where to buy. To buy the guitar you have to
Find out whether there is a warranty for the instrument
Guarantee of getting your money back, if the guitar does not satisfy you, refund your
money or credit for selecting another guitar
Find out the exact shipping charges what will be added to the actual price you see online
Look out for deals that offer you free shipping
Look out for shops that are renowned for good after sales service
Look out for deals that have bonus offers (free accessories, learner software, tablature,
You can always enquire about used instruments online by asking the following questions. Don’t
buy from a dealer who does not respond to your queries.
Ask questions about the alignment of the guitar’s neck, its action, tonal woods, type or strings ,
intonation, fret wear, pickups and pick guards, chips and scratches, and whether the guitar still
has all its original parts intact.
The greatest advantage of buying online is the sheer range of products you have to choose from.
However, once you order online, there will be a period of waiting before you get your new
guitar. If you have any doubts regarding your choice, you can always visit the local store and
have a look at the same model you are thinking of ordering.
Online Auctions
You can also get your guitar from an online auction. Check out the prices offered by the online
sites for the guitar you want and quote your own. There is every possibility that you can pick up
a good instrument. E-bay is one of the best-known auction sites selling almost everything!
The other sites, capable of good offers include are The Amazon Auction Site, Guitar Action.com
and The Gibson Global Auction Site. The Gibson site is one in which the dealer sends the guitar
to Gibson for inspection and the company sends it to the buyer. This site has great Gibson
guitars, including some Vintage instruments.
You can actually watch a live auction and get into the feel of the procedure. Participating in
online auctions is a good experience and you may get an attractive deal through it. However,
guard against getting addicted to online shopping and online auctions.
Which guitar makes a good gift?
Choosing a guitar you want to gift somebody is a personal choice for you. This section will tell
you about some splendid guitars that are compact, look good and provide excellent value for
your money.
If the gift is for a beginner or an upcoming young musician, you should plan to gift him an
acoustic guitar. The guitar is easy to play and has no wires and devices attached to it. It is ideal to
be played at camp fires, family get together, etc.
Take care that you gift one with medium to thin gauge strings, as the thicker-gauged ones are
difficult to fret.
If the person is an electric guitar enthusiast, you can get him a reasonably priced electric guitar of
the colors that you think will appeal to him. Since the appearance and tone of a guitar is always a
very personal choice, you can gift your friend a check, and then help him choose his electric
Here is a list of five gift ideas for Electric and Acoustic guitars.
Electric guitars
Squier Stratocaster, Epiphone G-310SG, Yamaha Pacifica 112, Danelectro 56-U2 and Epiphone
Les Paul Special II. These guitars can be found online and are a good choice for the beginner.
The acoustic guitars that make great gifting ideas are Seagull S6, Yamaha F310, Takamine G240, Fender DG-7 and Epiphone DR-100. These guitars can be ordered direct from the site
(Note: The guitars are the selection of Dan Cross, professional guitarist and a private instructor, who
writes for the about.com site).
Chapter 19
Learning to Play
Playing the guitar is easy and can be learned quickly. Basic finger placements, scales, tablature
reading and playing by the ear are some of the techniques that will guide you into the world of
making music with your newly bought guitar. The first step in this direction is to start taking
guitar lessons.
Taking guitar lessons
Whatever your level of proficiency, there are guitar lessons just right for you. You can surf the
Internet and choose the learning package most suitable for you.
Children need to be taught by a guitar teacher, on a one to one basis. Their guitars have also to
be tunes and kept in the right set up, to enable them practice. It is important not to expect
miraculous performances from your children, just because they have been learning guitars for a
year. They will pick up in their own time; some may play beautifully within six months, while
other children could be slower.
For teenagers and adults, there is are several resources to learn the guitar.
Books on guitars are a plenty, given the popularity of this great instrument. Books on guitar
lessons are usually comprehensive and can teach a novice everything he needs to know for
playing the guitar in a step-by-step technique. Some books come with a CD included. The CD
contains audio demonstrations of the lessons contained in the book. Books are ideal for the
beginner who wants to maintain his own pace of learning. Guitar books cost about $15 to $30.
Online lessons on the Internet can be accessed live, or can be downloaded, or it can be a live
lesson on the Internet, supplemented by CD and DVD options. The multi-media approach can
make the lessons come alive. You can watch someone play, there are books with lessons on
Tablature, Chords and Scales, and there are comprehensive lectures, all enabling you to grasp the
essence of the lessons, far more easily.
Lessons on video constitute another great option to learn the guitar. The lessons can be loaded
on your computer or DVD. Seeing and learning creates the illusion of a virtual teacher, sitting
right next to you to coach you. The lessons can be bought at a store, ordered online or
downloaded from the learning site. Video lessons lack written instructions for the tablature and
chord diagrams. This can be a disadvantage.
Following books, video lessons, textual information, guidelines for playing the scales, and
interpreting the tabs, can become wearisome. Doubts arising remain doubts and they lose the
confidence that they may be able to learn anything at all!
A tutor, on the other hand will be able to sit with you, explain the aspects that were not clear to
you and guide your fingers to the right notes. Where does one find such a tutor?
Learning from a tutor
Learning in the physical presence of a tutor is the most effective way of learning anything,
including music. You will be told how exactly to hold the guitar, how to place your fingers, what
you are doing wrong, and how to correct mistakes. With a model to follow, you can effectively
improve your playing techniques day by day.
The instant feedback to your way of playing will form the stepping-stone for your improvement.
The teacher can skillfully guide you into the right way of playing and solve the problems that
arise in playing and learning. Tutors charge you by the hour and usually offer lessons once a
To find the tutor : The sources to find a tutor are
• Someone told you about him
• The Local Music College
• Music Stores
• Advertisements placed in the local paper
Once you locate a few people who are ready to teach music, meet each one of them and ask for a
free lesson if possible. Enquire about the course they will teach you. Inform them you are a
beginner and find out what materials and accessories you have to keep ready to learn from them.
Find out how much they charge for a day’s lesson.
Compare the feedback you got from the teachers to your enquiries and choose the teacher who
best suits your requirements.
Once the classes are begun, there are assignments for practice both in playing the guitar and
reading music. These assignments can be a significant motive to learn what has been taught and
master it, by the time you meet the for the next session.
In case you feel you have not progressed as you would have wished, even after personal
coaching, discuss the same with the teacher and sort tings out. If things really do not work out,
you can opt out of the lessons. On the other hand, discussions usually clear up matters and you
con continue learning, with on friendlier and more informal grounds with the teacher.
The teacher can encourage, motivate and guide you through difficult lessons, always offering
sound advice and tips that are eminently useful.
Online lessons
In the variety of lessons available online, there is one that is just right for you. The lesson that
can make you learn guitar quite easily and effectively.
For online learning you need written guitar lessons, chord and tablature lessons, song lyrics with
playing instructions, sound files and guitar tracks, guitar lessons in the form of e-books and
instructional and interactive software programs.
Another remarkable tool available for the online learner, is a membership guitar forums. Here
students can raise doubts that are cleared by master players or other learners.
The basic lesson will tell you how to hold the guitar, choosing the guitar and its accessories, and
preliminary instructions regarding reading music. the tools and the step-by-step training program
are designed to ensure you learn the basics well.
In no time you will reach the next level of learning., where you will learn more on tablature and
reading music.
Free lessons are available on the Internet, but most aspiring guitarists prefer to learn from a
professional teacher, whose lessons are available for a fee. The fee is generally reasonable. The
lessons are well planned to ensure you grasp them easily.
Online courses are exceptional because you can play along with the demonstration tracks, learn
the latest in techniques of finger play. Have an access to live discussions with your teacher and
his other students, the world over.
Guitar Software
Guitar software for beginners, offers an interactive environment to test and teach them the basics
of playing. Tests and exercises include tasks for fingering, reading tablature, converting notes to
the tablature form, and so on.
The typical software program generally includes some or all of these features.
Interface for display and reception like zoom tools, scrolling, multiple display screens etc
Scores for Standard and advanced notation
Sound with digital electronic support for special effects in sound
Interactive fingering exercises
Interactive tablature lessons
Live previews of notes in required tempo
Visual access to strings
Popular songs with visual and textual instructions to play them
Some popular guitar software for beginners incude Guitar Pro and GCH Guitar academy
Multimedia Course. If you are interested you can access their websites for procuring the
Learning to read music
Most people assume that reading music is a tenacious procedure. Reading music, especially
guitar music is uncomplicated and straightforward if you grasp the basics of it.
You may manage fine without reading music, but if you want to play with other musicians,
learning to read music, really helps. Reading music implies understanding the music notation
that convey to you, which are the notes to be played, and how to play them.
Guitarists have created a separate music notation, which is an easy way to share music with other
Basics of Tablature
A typical tab staff for a guitar consists of six horizontal lines. The lower most line is the lower E
string, and the upper most is the high E.
The guitar tablature will have numbers written in the middle of the horizontal lines. For instance
if 4 is written just below the third string, it means you have to press down the fourth fret. You
have to play the 4th fret on the third string.
Sometimes 0 is written below the string. If the number 0 is written for the 2nd string, it means, for
that part of music, the 2nd string is not fretted. It is left open. This is the basic rule that governs
reading of guitar tablature. If X is written beneath a string, it means, the sound of that string has
to be muffled.
Interpreting chords: Playing a single number denotes a note, playing a set of numbers denotes a
When numbers are written in a vertical line in this manner, it means all these notes have to be
played at a time simultaneously. You have to leave the 1st, 5th and 6th strings open. Press the 2nd
fret of the 2nd and 3rd strings, and the 1st fret of the 4th string. And pluck the strings together. (The
counting of strings is from bottom to top)
This is an example of the E major chord – of all the notes to be played at once.
Sometimes, the numbers are written in an oblique manner
This is the E major chord, played one string at a time. This means that the strings have to be
played one after another, starting with the lowest string. The tab is read from left to right.
As you notice, there are no rhythms specified in the tab. The unwritten rule is that if the numbers
are written closer to one another, the rhythm is faster and if they are further apart, the rhythm is
slower. With practice, you will be able to master the proper tempo of the songs you play.
Beginner’s Tip
As the rhythm or beat of the song is not indicated by the guitar tablature,
you have to listen to a recording of the song, to learn it in the right tempo.
This is where playing by the ear assumes great importance.
Playing by the ear
Why does one want to play by the ear? The answer is simple. You like playing by the ear
because you like the sound of the guitar you are listening to. Trying to coax the same affect out
of your instrument will be a sweet success.
Playing by the ear means, listening to a piece of music and trying to play it. For guitarists, this
takes on a special significance, because playing by he ear allows you to understand and interpret
the rhythm of the song in your playing.
Let the first song you learn be a simple and very familiar tune. For instance you can learn
to play the birthday song, (the most widely played song in the world) for a start
If the tune is too simple, you can strum along some chords to accompany the song
For the first set of chords played, or for the first song you learn, you experience a sense of
It is the wonderful feeling of having achieved something!
If you are listening to a piece of music and want to learn it by notation, you will have to
first figure out the sheet music. Listening and playing offers an easy and practical method
of mastering the same
Learning by the ear helps you learn the tempo of the song and allows you to perform with
musicians who play other instruments.
Knowledge of a major scale pattern, like the C Major, helps you learn better. When you
automatically play the scale, the pattern of notes of the song, becomes easy to learn too.
By playing in this style you will be emulating musicians like Wes Montgomery and
Charlie Christian, who always played by the ear
When you play the song you want to learn, listen to it first. Do not sing along. Pay
attention to the notes being played
The second time you play the song, sing along. Pay attention to the nuances in pitch and
Here is a tip:
To learn exactly how the intricate fingering is done on a guitar, this is what you do.
Buy an affordable keyboard. Play the CD of a familiar song and pick out the notes
on the keys of the organ.
Identify the notes are being played and play the same notes on your guitar. Graduate to more
difficult music day by day. Learning to play by the ear, using a piano gives you a certain depth of
knowledge and confidence. This tip is for the confirmed “Play by ear” guitarist. For a person
already taking guitar lessons, this would not be necessary.
If all this intimidates you, remember that you learned to speak all these words In the English
language, only by listening to you parents speaking. Nobody taught you alphabets and phonetics
when you were a two-year old!
As you gradually move on to more complex songs and learn to play them, your confidence will
grow. This confidence will help you achieve better in all spheres of life, including music
This section, in no way diminishes the importance of learning to read music. That is a very
essential factor, which will help you grow in stature and experience as a guitarist.
How to form a guitar band
As with every aspiring guitarist, you may dream of joining a band, for great musical pastimes.
This section will tell you how to go about it. Do you want to join a band, or form a band?
Joining a band will help you get right into the middle of things and you are performing in no
time. But you may be delegated a minor role in the performance; due to which joining the band
will be equal to tagging along with the members.
Forming a band is as easy as you want it to be. What kind of band do you want to form? It could
be a band comprising of friends, who play occasionally at the Club and have lots of fun. Or it
could be a band set up to rake in the dollars. The great thing about having your own band is that
you control it. However, there may be an indefinite time lapse as you wait for the band to start
performing on a professional scale.
The stature of your band is very important, if you want the band to stay together for some time.
Else if it is a band that has drifted together just like that, it will not take much time for the band
members to drift apart again.
If you want your own band, it is time to get cracking and start off the preliminaries
What to do
• Make a note of your plans for the band for the next year, next 2 years and next five years;
• Have specific goals
• Write down all areas of performing including composing jingles for commercials and
background music for shows, videos, movies and computer games
Find the musicians:
• The sources would be
• Your friends
• Asking the local music teacher about is students who are keen to play in a band
• Advertising in the local paper for the kind of musician you want 9percussionist, keyboard
player, vocalist, etc)
• While placing an ad ask the applicants to send you recordings of their performances
• Interview the candidates, just as you were appointing them for a job. Ask all the
important questions, about their ambition, playing ability, the probability of moving away
from your city, why they want to join a band, etc
• The answers will indicate which of the applicants are committed to cause of the band.
Select them prudently
• Do not compromise on the quality you expect from the applicants
Writing songs
• Read extensively to get ideas for lyrics
• Listen to hundreds of CDs to help you identify the general style of the song
• Keep writing and writing, until you hit on the right words
• Keep a thesaurus beside you for a greater source for words
• Buy a rhyming book to help you find the most apt words
Copywriting: Once the song is ready, you have to apply for its copyright if you plan to use it in
a performance. This gives you the sole right over the song. You have to register the song with the
United States Copyright Office, for a fee of $20. if you have more than one song to copyright,
solicit the help of a lawyer, who can help you get on with the work.
The application form is downloadable from http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/
Your music is heard
The song is written, the musicians are ready, and you have practiced enough. Only the
performance is yet to begin….
This is how you can get to be heard. Play in the radio station at the local band hour
Make a superior quality recording of your performance on tape and give the cassettes to
the local music dealer, radio stations, producers of shows, etc; ask the music dealer to
play it in his store
Hand over copies to the local DJs, for them to play
Play in the local park to create an awareness about your band
Affiliate yourself with a charity organization, so that you may play at their programs
Approach the local club to allow you to perform there
All through the planning and PR work, allot quality time for extensive practice
The more you practice, the better you will play and the more chances of being asked to
Check out with the local authorities whether you need a license to play at public gatherings. If
yes, waste no time to get it. Hire a Certified Pubic Accountant (CPA) to help you manage the
financial side of the band.
With foresight and perseverance, not to mention talent, you can take your band from strength to
strength. As the leader of a fairly successful band you can start considering it as the mainstay of
your career, rather than a hobby
Posture - standing or sitting?
Correct posture is a very important requisite of a guitarist. Wrong posture or a slouch will place a
stress on his hands, shoulders and back. This will eventually lead to an internal injury (like
carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrists) and the musician is incapacitated at a crucial point of time.
These problems can be effectively avoided if you pay more attention to the way you play the
guitar in an erect and sensible posture, without causing undue stress to your back, shoulders
Sitting: Steel string guitarists adopt the sitting posture. When you sit, there is a stress placed on
the lower joints of the body. The problems can be circumvented if you keep your upper body,
and abdomen fit and strong.
There are two sitting positions, the classical posture and the contemporary posture. The
contemporary posture is more convenient, with the guitar held in place by the left hand and the
neck in a relatively straight line.
The arch of the base of the guitar rests on the right thigh, while the underside of the right fore
arm, rests atop the base of the guitar. A footstool is not necessary for this position.
The Classical posture has the guitarist holding the instrument’s neck at a 45-degree angle. He has
the guitar’s base held between his thighs and keeps a footstool for his left foot. Though the
classical pose allows for complete freedom of the left hand for finger play, the contemporary
pose is much more comfortable for the guitarist.
Standing: Players who stand must have their knees in a slightly bent posture. Erect knees tend to
place stress on your spinal column. The important features of this posture is the neck of the
guitar held at 45 degrees and the guitar strap to support the guitar weight and reduce stress on the
shoulders and hand. The pose is appealing too.
Neck and Wrists: When you look at the fret board, don’t just push your neck forward. This will
cause your neck to ache and the muscles get injured. Bend your whole body above the waist
instead. This will prevent your neck from serious injury.
Guitarists, who make use of the tremolo bar, have to put in a lot of shoulder and elbow work in
their performances. An overworked shoulder takes on a hunched posture that leads to other
posture problems!
To combat this, allow your wrist to take on some of the pressure of the shoulders. For the
Tremolo movement, the three sections should move in unison, like a well-oiled mechanism
When bending forward, bend with your whole upper body, not just the neck or shoulders.
Begin training for legs and the abdominal area under a professional trainer
Work out with weights for toning the shoulder and elbows
Ask your trainer to help you adopt the correct posture
Avoid keeping your hand in the same posture for too long. Once you get a chance to rest
either hand, rotate the wrist, after you lower your hand to the side
Similarly move about in between songs, by going backward, forward or by swaying
Stretch and rotate your shoulder muscles and feel the instant relief. .
Which is a better posture?
The posture adopted depends on your style of playing and the size of the guitar. Steel stringed
acoustic guitar players usually adopt the sitting posture, while almost all electric guitar players
stand and play. Yet, there are electric guitarists who sit to play and acoustic guitar players who
prefer to stand.
Adopt the style that suits you, while paying great attention to how well and erect you hold
yourself. Correct posture is crucial to playing and achieving it either by standing or sitting, is less
important compared to the posture itself.
Are my hands the right size?
Guitarists are sometimes confronted with problems while playing, simply for the reason that their
hands are not the average size. How do you manage then?
Small hands: People with small hands have small fingers. The fingers of the strumming hand
are strained while playing the guitar. This shows that your hands may be small. If the left elbow
is more straight than forming a 45-degree angle, when reaching for the last fret, then too it is
indicated that your hands are small and the guitar big. You have to play a smaller guitar.
Ask the dealer for a shorter scale length guitar. If you are still growing, you can place a capo
temporarily to shorten the neck. Also look for a guitar with a thinner neck.
Large hands: People with large hands have longer fingers. They cannot reach the higher frets
with ease. Also, the fret width may be too narrow for the hands. This will deprive the guitarist of
accuracy when fretting. He may fret at two consecutive positions instead of one position and
cause fret buzz or unintended muting of notes.
These guitarists can look for guitars specially made for them with a longer neck length, and
wider fret spacing.
How To Build Calluses
Calluses are caused on fingers with persistent playing. While playing, the skin rubs against the
strings making the skin tough at that point. Calluses are those toughened skin areas on the
fingertips with a deep groove or line running through it. For people who play extensively, the
calluses are deeper.
Once the callus develops, the player feels absolutely no discomfort while fretting. The string fits
neatly into the callus while you play. Some believe that fingers with deep calluses can extract a
better tone from the guitar.
The beginner faces discomfort when his fingertip applies pressure on the frets. Calluses develop
only with more playing. So how does a young musician get them on his fingers? Here are some
Rock climbers need calluses on fingers for a firm grip. So you can visit a rock climbing
equipment dealer and ask for the callus equipment. It is a coin like metal piece that has
concentric edged. Hold it between the thumb and other fingers held together. Press firmly on the
ridges. Keep the coin in your pocket and press into it whenever possible. Hey presto! You have
calluses as deep as a professional player in no time.
Another smart way to build calluses is to hold a credit card between your thumb and other
fingers. Press firmly and repeat whenever possible. The calluses start appearing in no time.
That is the guitar story for you – an attempt at encapsulating all that you need to know about
the instrument before you go out and buy it.
The Guitar has a rich heritage and is responsible for redefining music through the centuries. The
height of its reach, the power of its melody and the effect it had on all music lovers is more
pronounced in the 20th Century and later, than ever before.
You are about to join all those people who have bought played and loved the sound of this
instrument. Among them stand the greatest musical legends that have shaped the face of culture
and music.
Here’s wishing you a lifetime of great music and joy with your guitar.
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