How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Árthus Vinícius
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Location: Ceará - Brazil

How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Árthus Vinícius » Thu Dec 22, 2016 8:51 pm

Merry Christmas everyone!

I want to buy a guitar to start a focused study and training of the classical guitar here in this forum. My current guitar is classic, but of poor quality, it has already broken(not by me, I am not the first owner) and been patched several times, and now I want to buy a new and better one! It's Christmas, my parents will present me with a new guitar, and I will start to looking for it in my town this week and to do so, I need you help, because i don't know guitar very well yet, and I wish you guys can tell me what should I do to know if the guitar that I am buying is the best that I can buy(My purchasing power is very limited, I have accumulated money for 2 years just to buy a new guitar, now I have 1500 reais = 450 dollar), I know that I can't buy a real good guitar with it, but I want to learn how to evaluate a guitar, to buy the best in the store that I can buy.

Thank you for the attention! Greetings from Brazil!
(Sorry for any possible English error).
Last edited by Árthus Vinícius on Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

edcat7
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Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by edcat7 » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:40 pm

Hi Arthus and welcome,

You're been saving for two years and have only managed to accumulate $450? Oh dear I feel sorry for you. If you were closer to the UK you could have my Manuel Rodriguez Model C; I do like the case though. It's a good guitar; it's just that I have even better ones.

What kind of music do you play? Do you want to play Bossa Nova? If you do even a basic vintage Gianinni or Di Giorgio will be more suitable.

Ed
Remember Anthony Weller, please help. Contact myself or Aaron Green for details.

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Erik Zurcher
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Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Erik Zurcher » Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:01 pm

This is what I would do:
1. Go to a guitarshop and ask to try 3 guitars (in your price range).
2. Play the same piece of music on all of them.
3. Make a negative selection: choose the worst sounding guitar and ask for another guitar as replacement.
4. Play the same piece of music on all of them.
5. Again make a negative selection until you end up with the best sounding guitar.

Bring a friend along to help you select a guitar, because a guitar sounds different to your own ears while playing than to someone sitting opposite you. Also, take your time and enjoy all these guitars. If you can't choose, go back another day.
Reedition Domingo Esteso by Conde Hermanos 2004; Kenny Hill, model Barcelona 2001
"While you try to master classical guitar, prepare for a slave's life: the guitar will forever be your master and you its slave".

cool09
Posts: 210
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Location: Chesapeake, MD

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by cool09 » Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:26 pm

I listen to the balance (between the bass and treble up and down the neck), the tone, robustness (richness) and the projection. I won't listen to a guitar that isn't balanced (say, better in one position than others). Go to youtube and see if you can pick out guitars that sound good and guitars that sound poor. If the treble sounds sweet at the 12th fret but not in an open position (or lower position) then that's not something that you want.

Árthus Vinícius
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Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:12 am
Location: Ceará - Brazil

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Árthus Vinícius » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:31 am

edcat7 wrote:Hi Arthus and welcome,

You're been saving for two years and have only managed to accumulate $450? Oh dear I feel sorry for you. If you were closer to the UK you could have my Manuel Rodriguez Model C; I do like the case though. It's a good guitar; it's just that I have even better ones.

What kind of music do you play? Do you want to play Bossa Nova? If you do even a basic vintage Gianinni or Di Giorgio will be more suitable.

Ed
Hello Ed! And thank you for your kindness!
Well, I want to learn classical music mainly, but I also love Choro and like Bossa Nova! And I don't want nothing very great and powerful, just something that I can use to learn, and to know how to buy the best that I can! :D

:merci:

Árthus Vinícius
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 1:12 am
Location: Ceará - Brazil

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Árthus Vinícius » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:34 am

Erik Zurcher wrote:This is what I would do:
1. Go to a guitarshop and ask to try 3 guitars (in your price range).
2. Play the same piece of music on all of them.
3. Make a negative selection: choose the worst sounding guitar and ask for another guitar as replacement.
4. Play the same piece of music on all of them.
5. Again make a negative selection until you end up with the best sounding guitar.

Bring a friend along to help you select a guitar, because a guitar sounds different to your own ears while playing than to someone sitting opposite you. Also, take your time and enjoy all these guitars. If you can't choose, go back another day.
Hello Erik!
This is a very intelligent approach, this teaching will help me a lot to choose my guitar! Thank you very much!
:merci:

Árthus Vinícius
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Location: Ceará - Brazil

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Árthus Vinícius » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:39 am

cool09 wrote:I listen to the balance (between the bass and treble up and down the neck), the tone, robustness (richness) and the projection. I won't listen to a guitar that isn't balanced (say, better in one position than others). Go to youtube and see if you can pick out guitars that sound good and guitars that sound poor. If the treble sounds sweet at the 12th fret but not in an open position (or lower position) then that's not something that you want.
Thank you! This is very helpful, I'll keep track of these features now!
:merci:

cool09
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Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by cool09 » Fri Dec 23, 2016 1:26 am

Listen to any pro: David Russell, Barrrueco and hear how balanced the sound (bass and treble) are. You don't want one string to be louder than the others. I always thought Julian Bream had a sound which was unbalanced (trebles were extremely bright) - that could be from the way he plays, the strings he uses or even the guitar itself.

Lovemyguitar
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Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Fri Dec 23, 2016 2:39 am

Since you will be trying out the guitars yourself, also be sure that you like the way that the guitar "feels" to you -- the neck should feel comfortable, and the action should be to your liking, or be adjustable: be sure that there is room to lower the saddle if the action is too high, which they can do at the shop for you after you buy it, if needed.

Also check the intonation: play notes at different frets, and use a tuner to see if the guitar stays in tune as you fret up the neck (many guitars will go a bit sharp, or even flat, as you fret up), and try to pick one with the best intonation (it will not be perfect, so choose the one with the least variation).

For your price range, Erik has the best advice: play all the ones you can afford, and pick the one that sounds and feels the best to you. And have fun! :D
Last edited by Lovemyguitar on Fri Dec 23, 2016 2:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Beowulf
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Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Beowulf » Fri Dec 23, 2016 3:58 am

By John M. Gilbert:

"Selecting a Guitar
Four Pertinent Questions
By John M. Gilbert
“How do I choose a good guitar?” After years of hearing this query I decided,
several years ago, to write a brief outline of those things that are pertinent to the
question. At the same time I decided that this guide could serve as a format for the
lectures I give on this subject. I would like to share that outline with you now and then
proceed to a more detailed discussion of some of the points it raises.
How to Select a Guitar
The four areas to look into are:
1. Sound
2. Action and feel
3. Condition and construction
4. Cost
1. The most important of these is Sound: That’s what the guitar is all about
…sound.
There are several ways to check for sound:
A. Bring a good sounding guitar for comparison.
B. Bring along a friend with a good ear who can also play.
C. When testing guitars do it outdoors or if that isn’t possible, do it in the largest
room you can find.
The important facets of overall sound quality are:
1. Timbre. (Quality of the individual tones.)
2. Balance. (Trebles must match bass.)
3. Separation. (The clarity with which individual tones can be distinguished in a
chord.)
4. Sustain. (The rate of decay of a tone after it is struck.)
5. Loudness.
6. Intonation.
Always remember that sound can rarely be greatly improved in a guitar without
tremendous expense.
2. Action and Feel.
Action is the height of the strings above the fret and fingerboard.
Feel pertains to those features that comprise the playability of a guitar other
than the action, such as: neck size and shape; string length; string spacing and
location from the edges of the fingerboard; body shape.
Actions can usually be corrected at moderate expense. Other than reducing
fingerboard width and neck size, little else can sensibly be done to change the feel.
3. Condition and Construction.
If the guitar is new, then examine it for clean construction inside the body and
carefully tap around the face and back to check for broken struts. Check for depressed
or swollen face.
See if the bridge is on tightly. Check the condition of the neck and frets.
If the guitar is old, examine it for the above conditions plus cracks in the face,
back, sides, neck-to-body joint, head-to-neck joint, purfling and centerjoint of the back.
Also examine the tuning machines for worn gears or sloppy installation.
4. Cost.
Let the buyer beware! Know the seller! Ask about a guarantee. Shop
around. Remember the most costly guitar isn’t always the best. Think about re-sale.
Sound
While this outline is basic in content, it does generate questions from the audience and
we often delve at some depth into the various facets of guitar construction, testing, and
sound.
The most important subject we discuss is sound. Here are some of the things I
discuss with them:
Loudness. If you intend to give recitals and concerts in large halls, you had better be
sure that the guitar you choose projects well. The best place to test for this is outdoors.
If weather deters you, the second best method is to use an auditorium, gymnasium, or
a church. Lacking all of the above, use the largest room you can find. When making
this test and, for that matter, all test pertaining to sound, it helps to have a proven guitar
along (or several) to use as a basis for comparison and, naturally, someone to play for
you and to listen while you play. If you do not plan on concertizing or if you intend to
amplify electronically, loudness is not the most important factor of sound to you, but all
other sound qualities will be. So at this time, with guitar in hand, let us test for them.
Timbre (pronounced tamber, tanber, or timber according to which authority you
choose) is purely subjective, so that what sounds great to me may not impress you at
all. However, the instrument must have a tone quality that truly satisfies you, or you will
not enjoy playing it no matter what other attributes it may have.
Balance. This I prefer to think of as mostly an objective test because if either the treble
or bass end is weak, it will be very noticeable heard at a distance. Be sure to test for
this by barring each fret from the first to the twelfth because some guitars have
weaknesses more pronounced in certain areas of the fingerboard than others.
Separation (or clarity) is, to a great degree, a quality that goes untested by most
players because it is such a difficult and elusive feature to listen for. When a guitar has
loudness, good timbre and balance, it is hard to remind yourself to really listen to
chords to see if you can hear individual tones (like a good barbershop quartet) or only a
glob of sound.
Sustain. Some guitars have an even output of sound and will appear to have good
sustain, whereas a guitar with a robust or popping initial output of sound will seem to
have less sustain. Therefore, when comparing guitars set a metronome at some fast
tempo and count the beats from pluck (or pick) to silence. Some interesting facts will
emerge by trying this with different guitars. As to the amount of sustain, all tones on the
guitar should have some, with the lowest tones having more than the higher tones.
Wake Up the Soundbox
One word of advice about testing guitars: be sure to play the instrument for at least ten
minutes or more before testing in order to “wake up” the soundbox. This is particularly
true for spruce-faced guitars. Cedar faces are less likely to require this.
Intonation is included as a branch of sound quality because if the guitar doesn’t play in
tune it sounds bad. Fortunately, you can check for fretting accuracy and saddle and nut
placement. If errors are found, they can be easily corrected by any competent repair
person.
There are several ways to test for tonal accuracy. Let us start with one that many of
you are familiar with. Play each string at the 12th fret. Then strike the 12th fret
harmonic. These should be identical in pitch. If they are, it tells us only that the maker
placed the saddle correctly. If all six strings play sharp, it tells us that the saddle wasn’t
set back far enough. If all strings play flat, it tells us that the saddle is set too far back.
The cure for either of these conditions is to have the saddle or nut reshaped or
repositioned. Again, a repair person should be consulted. Keep in mind that faulty
strings can also sound either sharp or flat, but never all six in the same direction. So
you should be able to rule out the occasional bad string."
1971 Yamaha GC-10

dilettante1000
Posts: 252
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:29 am
Location: North Yorkshire

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by dilettante1000 » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:48 pm

If i was in your place, I might go to Guitar shop CE in Fortaleza and look at their range of Giannini guitars. There should be something in your price range. They also do payment plans.

User avatar
Peter5
Posts: 44
Joined: Sat Dec 19, 2015 8:47 am
Location: Ulm/Germany

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Peter5 » Fri Dec 23, 2016 1:06 pm

Lots of good comments here. The only one thing I want to add is that you should take a friend to the guitar shop who has expertise to advise you. In terms of playing comfort however it´s you who has to play the guitar later on, not your friend.

Good luck
Peter

SteveL123
Posts: 367
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:05 pm

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 6:34 pm

Just found this. Very comprehensive and informative! Thanks for posting it.
Beowulf wrote:
Fri Dec 23, 2016 3:58 am
By John M. Gilbert:

"Selecting a Guitar
Four Pertinent Questions
By John M. Gilbert
“How do I choose a good guitar?” After years of hearing this query I decided,
several years ago, to write a brief outline of those things that are pertinent to the
question. At the same time I decided that this guide could serve as a format for the
lectures I give on this subject. I would like to share that outline with you now and then
proceed to a more detailed discussion of some of the points it raises.
How to Select a Guitar
The four areas to look into are:
1. Sound
2. Action and feel
3. Condition and construction
4. Cost
1. The most important of these is Sound: That’s what the guitar is all about
…sound.
There are several ways to check for sound:
A. Bring a good sounding guitar for comparison.
B. Bring along a friend with a good ear who can also play.
C. When testing guitars do it outdoors or if that isn’t possible, do it in the largest
room you can find.
The important facets of overall sound quality are:
1. Timbre. (Quality of the individual tones.)
2. Balance. (Trebles must match bass.)
3. Separation. (The clarity with which individual tones can be distinguished in a
chord.)
4. Sustain. (The rate of decay of a tone after it is struck.)
5. Loudness.
6. Intonation.
Always remember that sound can rarely be greatly improved in a guitar without
tremendous expense.
2. Action and Feel.
Action is the height of the strings above the fret and fingerboard.
Feel pertains to those features that comprise the playability of a guitar other
than the action, such as: neck size and shape; string length; string spacing and
location from the edges of the fingerboard; body shape.
Actions can usually be corrected at moderate expense. Other than reducing
fingerboard width and neck size, little else can sensibly be done to change the feel.
3. Condition and Construction.
If the guitar is new, then examine it for clean construction inside the body and
carefully tap around the face and back to check for broken struts. Check for depressed
or swollen face.
See if the bridge is on tightly. Check the condition of the neck and frets.
If the guitar is old, examine it for the above conditions plus cracks in the face,
back, sides, neck-to-body joint, head-to-neck joint, purfling and centerjoint of the back.
Also examine the tuning machines for worn gears or sloppy installation.
4. Cost.
Let the buyer beware! Know the seller! Ask about a guarantee. Shop
around. Remember the most costly guitar isn’t always the best. Think about re-sale.
Sound
While this outline is basic in content, it does generate questions from the audience and
we often delve at some depth into the various facets of guitar construction, testing, and
sound.
The most important subject we discuss is sound. Here are some of the things I
discuss with them:
Loudness. If you intend to give recitals and concerts in large halls, you had better be
sure that the guitar you choose projects well. The best place to test for this is outdoors.
If weather deters you, the second best method is to use an auditorium, gymnasium, or
a church. Lacking all of the above, use the largest room you can find. When making
this test and, for that matter, all test pertaining to sound, it helps to have a proven guitar
along (or several) to use as a basis for comparison and, naturally, someone to play for
you and to listen while you play. If you do not plan on concertizing or if you intend to
amplify electronically, loudness is not the most important factor of sound to you, but all
other sound qualities will be. So at this time, with guitar in hand, let us test for them.
Timbre (pronounced tamber, tanber, or timber according to which authority you
choose) is purely subjective, so that what sounds great to me may not impress you at
all. However, the instrument must have a tone quality that truly satisfies you, or you will
not enjoy playing it no matter what other attributes it may have.
Balance. This I prefer to think of as mostly an objective test because if either the treble
or bass end is weak, it will be very noticeable heard at a distance. Be sure to test for
this by barring each fret from the first to the twelfth because some guitars have
weaknesses more pronounced in certain areas of the fingerboard than others.
Separation (or clarity) is, to a great degree, a quality that goes untested by most
players because it is such a difficult and elusive feature to listen for. When a guitar has
loudness, good timbre and balance, it is hard to remind yourself to really listen to
chords to see if you can hear individual tones (like a good barbershop quartet) or only a
glob of sound.
Sustain. Some guitars have an even output of sound and will appear to have good
sustain, whereas a guitar with a robust or popping initial output of sound will seem to
have less sustain. Therefore, when comparing guitars set a metronome at some fast
tempo and count the beats from pluck (or pick) to silence. Some interesting facts will
emerge by trying this with different guitars. As to the amount of sustain, all tones on the
guitar should have some, with the lowest tones having more than the higher tones.
Wake Up the Soundbox
One word of advice about testing guitars: be sure to play the instrument for at least ten
minutes or more before testing in order to “wake up” the soundbox. This is particularly
true for spruce-faced guitars. Cedar faces are less likely to require this.
Intonation is included as a branch of sound quality because if the guitar doesn’t play in
tune it sounds bad. Fortunately, you can check for fretting accuracy and saddle and nut
placement. If errors are found, they can be easily corrected by any competent repair
person.
There are several ways to test for tonal accuracy. Let us start with one that many of
you are familiar with. Play each string at the 12th fret. Then strike the 12th fret
harmonic. These should be identical in pitch. If they are, it tells us only that the maker
placed the saddle correctly. If all six strings play sharp, it tells us that the saddle wasn’t
set back far enough. If all strings play flat, it tells us that the saddle is set too far back.
The cure for either of these conditions is to have the saddle or nut reshaped or
repositioned. Again, a repair person should be consulted. Keep in mind that faulty
strings can also sound either sharp or flat, but never all six in the same direction. So
you should be able to rule out the occasional bad string."

Jeffrey Armbruster
Posts: 1528
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2013 3:16 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Mon May 22, 2017 6:51 pm

Gilbert's advice is very good. Two things that struck me; first:
"Timbre (pronounced tamber, tanber, or timber according to which authority you
choose) is purely subjective, so that what sounds great to me may not impress you at all.". All of the other factors can be tested (sustain, loudness etc.) but this is a question of taste or preference. Which can change! But this must apply to why people choose their strings as well.

And then this old warhorse:
"One word of advice about testing guitars: be sure to play the instrument for at least ten
minutes or more before testing in order to “wake up” the soundbox."
Paul Weaver spruce 2014
Takamine C132S

SteveL123
Posts: 367
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:05 pm

Re: How to evaluate the quality of a guitar?

Post by SteveL123 » Mon May 22, 2017 7:10 pm

"When a guitar has
loudness, good timbre and balance, it is hard to remind yourself to really listen to
chords to see if you can hear individual tones (like a good barbershop quartet) or only a
glob of sound."

What's a "barbershop quartet"?

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