Buying Advice - What to Look For

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:20 pm

For Context ... I am a low skilled guitarist and have only played classical guitar for 3 years (this past year or so and 2 years back in the 80's). I am in my late 60's. And equally important I have only played two different classical guitars in my life. One was a fairly low end Garcia (garage sale find) and a Spanish luthier guitar from a lesser known luthier (Jesus Marzal - 1984 model).

First of all I am in no way dissatisfied with my Marzal. When I was playing my Garcia I thought it sounded pretty good. But the Marzal was a night and day difference (it was a mail order purchase from the now closed Guitar Shoppe in DC back in the 80's). So I wonder if I might have the same reaction to a higher end guitar compared to my transition from the Garcia to the Marzal.

I have tentatively planned a day trip to Dream Guitars in Asheville, NC as they have a number of pretty good to "out of reach" guitars. And I would be willing to add somewhere in the very low four figures (assuming a trade-in or sale of my Marzal is added to the pot) IF I liked it well enough (thinking back to my Garcia/Marzal experience). And I would assume that I know how to judge that.

But I do have a question. Given my lack of experience here, what things should I look for in evaluating a (probably used) guitar. In particular I wonder about things that I won't notice now but might notice in a year or two after my "ear develops" and my experience grows. Or anything else that might be helpful to me. E.G., should I use a guitar tuner to evaluate intonation? Stuff like that.

Thanks for the help.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

wchymeus
Posts: 206
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 11:49 am

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by wchymeus » Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:32 pm

Sigh.. a lot to say... But I guess you are doing the right thing: go and try! Try as much as you can and bring a friend with you (if possible someone who is familiar with CG and shoes the same taste...)
Hidden things to look for? Well like with a car to not buy a lemon: how was it maintained, any cracks, look inside, is the neck warped or straight, are frets new or worn out (new is good), try all notes (all on the fretboard) and assess if they are of equal sustain (more or less), in tune all over (open string and 12th fret) ... if all is good: playability, sound, sound... how does it sound? Do you like it? Do you love it? Do you adore it?
....

Price? Is it right? well... go online and look around, see for yourself if this builder/model got sold recently or not too long ago for the same price.
Like with a car: this will most likely not be an investment :-)
Field 2014, Oberg 2013, Vincente Sachis Badia 1977

Number 6
Posts: 210
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:47 am

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by Number 6 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:59 pm

You may want to stick with the Marzal - it sounds like a lovely instrument. More expensive guitar does not necessarily equate to a better sound. The trade-in value for the Marzal may not be much; plus the Dream guitar pricing are quite dreamy!!!

Carlos
Posts: 247
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:28 pm
Location: Germany

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by Carlos » Wed Jul 05, 2017 8:02 pm

Could you be more specific about your budget? are you at 1K or 2K? ...can you make it to 5K?

Indeed, on the testing first try if it stays in tune when you go to the high notes, comparing with open strings (for instance: test the high E on 3rd string/9 fret with open E on 1 string. And then check the A on 3 string/2d fret with the A on 1 string/5 fret. If both the E and the A are in tune it´s a good signal things are ok).

Then you might also wish to play the notes one by one on the keyboard to check for homogeneity (typically for all guitars some note sound better than others...it´s kind of normal, nevertheless the more homogenity you have the better).

You can also look for buzzes (for instance: check the 4th string, playing notes all around a bit loud to detect if there are not some weakspot. my experience is that buzzes often affect this string, but perhaps this was just harzard for me).

You can also check the first fret, typically the F on first string to see if the note is a bit damped. This can also be a weak spot (which can however be corrected by a minor´s luthier intervention).

And then you try the high notes after the 12th fret on 1st string, to see how bright/long they last. Normally on a cedar you will have something with less sustain than on a spruce. Nothing wrong, just make sure you are fine with it.

And globally yes what really matters most, as wychmeus says, is that you like the guitar. Sure you cannot avoid discovering that the sound that first amazed you isn´t so amazing at the end, but I am not sure you can spot this type of things on first trial. Nevertheless, normally if you like the guitar, you like the guitar and you can trust your instinct.

I´ve checked on Dream guitars website, and they seem to have pretty interesting offers...although of course in the high end part. If you can afford it, I would definitely recommend taking the Bernabe Senior 1983, it´s a fair price for a rare guitar, likely to come up with a great sound. Then, with the Ramirez 1973 you cannot be wrong, but check the string heights (due to the long neck their soundboard showed a tendency to go up, hence strings height can create playability). If you can get it for 3000 dollars that would be better.

Hope this is useful. And please keep in mind I am no professional, just some feedback of my own experience of having acquired a few luthier´s guitar in the recent past.

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:06 pm

Thanks for all the helpful input.

Wchymeus, taking someone with more experience would be wonderful. I just don't know anyone.

#6, your point is exactly the point. I have NO IDEA how this guitar compares (in my mind) with other instruments (it is far better than my $200 Garcia). And if I find that spending a couple grand doesn't get me something I like better, that is fine with me. $2K is comfortable, $3K is doable, over $4K is walk away no matter what the instrument is. My Marzal was appraised by Dream Guitars at $2.9K. I assume that this is basically the highest sticker price you could EVER see on this guitar anywhere, so not what I could get in trade or in an outright sale. And as I said there is nothing lacking in that guitar (other than my own knowledge of instruments in general).

Carlos, thanks for all the very useful input.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

Keith
Posts: 1241
Joined: Sun May 06, 2012 5:48 pm
Location: Land of Daniel Boone

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by Keith » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:06 pm

What I would look for to help predict if a big repair bill is in my future

1. Is the neck straight. Roller coaster necks speak for themselves.
2. The action of the guitar and how much saddle. If the action is high or on the high side and little if any bone sticks above the slot a neck reset may be in the future.
3. Frets. Are they even and in good shape.

Notice the neck seems to get a lot of attention. Nothing like a new neck or neck reset to eat away at the 401K.

3. Nasty cracks. Humidity related cracks but well repaired should not be an issue. Nasty cracks or sloppy repaired cracks would raise a flag.
4. A lifting bridge. Not really an issue until it pops off and then it is a BIG issue since a popped bridge often times take chunks of top wood with it. If the bridge looks to be lifting it should be repaired.

Things to take with you to the store.

1. Pharmacy reading glasses, maximum magnification. Those 3.5X glasses really show a lot of issues that the 1.25X glasses miss.
2. A 3 foot long straight edge if you have it. good to measure necks and the relationship of the neck to the saddle.
3. An action measuring ruler or a ruler in 1/64 or in mm. Those magnifying glasses help out here.
be true to the one you love but have many flings with different guitars

guitarras en la espiritu de la:
Marcelo Barbero
Jose Ramirez III

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:09 pm

Keith - very helpful. Thank you.

dave

ps. I am extremely near sighted, so close in vision - got that one covered :-)
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

Number 6
Posts: 210
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:47 am

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by Number 6 » Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:39 pm

DaveLeeNC wrote:
Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:06 pm

#6, your point is exactly the point. I have NO IDEA how this guitar compares (in my mind) with other instruments (it is far better than my $200 Garcia). And if I find that spending a couple grand doesn't get me something I like better, that is fine with me.
One point is that you may not be able to discern the differences between your guitar and other high end instruments. Folks have made suggestions the neck, top, and other physical characteristics that are certainly helpful. I find it is the guitar voice that is paramount and this may involve bringing along a skilled musician that can both play the instrument and also listen to the guitar being played. Are you currently taking guitar lessons and have had a teacher evaluate your guitar? good luck in your journey!

Marshall Dixon
Posts: 512
Joined: Fri May 15, 2015 5:06 pm
Location: SW Oregon

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by Marshall Dixon » Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:16 pm

DaveLeeNC wrote:
Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:20 pm
For Context ... I am a low skilled guitarist and have only played classical guitar for 3 years (this past year or so and 2 years back in the 80's). I am in my late 60's. And equally important I have only played two different classical guitars in my life. One was a fairly low end Garcia (garage sale find) and a Spanish luthier guitar from a lesser known luthier (Jesus Marzal - 1984 model).

First of all I am in no way dissatisfied with my Marzal. When I was playing my Garcia I thought it sounded pretty good. But the Marzal was a night and day difference (it was a mail order purchase from the now closed Guitar Shoppe in DC back in the 80's). So I wonder if I might have the same reaction to a higher end guitar compared to my transition from the Garcia to the Marzal.

I have tentatively planned a day trip to Dream Guitars in Asheville, NC as they have a number of pretty good to "out of reach" guitars. And I would be willing to add somewhere in the very low four figures (assuming a trade-in or sale of my Marzal is added to the pot) IF I liked it well enough (thinking back to my Garcia/Marzal experience). And I would assume that I know how to judge that.

But I do have a question. Given my lack of experience here, what things should I look for in evaluating a (probably used) guitar. In particular I wonder about things that I won't notice now but might notice in a year or two after my "ear develops" and my experience grows. Or anything else that might be helpful to me. E.G., should I use a guitar tuner to evaluate intonation? Stuff like that.

Thanks for the help.

dave
Check out this thread on the subject - viewtopic.php?f=107&t=109420&p=1201481& ... t#p1164236

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:15 pm

#6 - I am kind of taking lessons. But they are online so not exactly a solution to this particular problem. And it is a 4.5 hour one-way trip, so would not be a "trivial ask" even if the instructor were local. Regarding the fact that my 'sense of sound' might improve over time, I certainly agree with that. In this case if it doesn't sound better to me now, there will be no purchase.

Marshall, thanks for the useful link.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

User avatar
eno
Posts: 333
Joined: Fri Dec 09, 2016 4:56 pm
Location: Boston, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by eno » Thu Jul 06, 2017 9:11 pm

Of course a great sounding guitar in excellent condition with no issues is always a good buy. But even if a guitar has some fixable issues then don't ignore it. High or low action (as long as not too high), fret buzzing, bad tuners, old and bent frets can be easily fixed, minor dings and scratches can be tolerated (or the surface can be refinished if you want it perfect), so if there are any of those problems that's not a showstopper and you can likely negotiate lower price in that case and then spend a few hundred $ to fix it at a lutherie. Cracks, twisted or bent neck, bad intonation are more serious problems but cracks can be glued and stabilized, neck and intonation can also be fixed but would just be more pricy to do. But the most important is the sound, bad sound can not be fixed, great sound is a treasure even if a guitar has some fixable problems. If I would find a great sounding guitar I would not pay attention to scratches, tuners, frets and even cracks.

And I agree, the Bernabe at DG (made by Bernabe Senior himself!) is a fantastic guitar and it is fair priced. I was considering buying it but I bought an equal grade Bernabe from another dealer at about the same price and I absolutely love the sound.
Paulino Bernabe 'India' 2001
Masaru Kohno No.6 1967
Rokutaro Nakade 1967, 1962

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Thu Jul 06, 2017 11:24 pm

eno, regarding "the sound"...

Dream Guitars has a snippet of playing for all of their classical guitars (that I am aware of). And for the most part it is the same guitarist playing the same piece of music. So it is "perfect" for comparison purposes (for the case of not hearing them live). Playing that stuff through my laptop and a pair of monitor speakers would leave me less than convinced that I am going to find a couple $grand worth of sound improvement over what I have. They don't all sound the same for sure, but ...

Have to wait and see. It will be a few weeks before this trip can materialize.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

Jack Douglas
Posts: 1198
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2015 2:37 am
Location: Ashland, Va

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by Jack Douglas » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:29 am

Hi Dave,
Paul is a very nice fellow. Unless they've re-decorated be prepared for a rather austere room to audition the guitars. When I was there all the guitars were hanging on the wall so you could grab any one of them to try. They have a wooden seat/bench to use for trying the guitars. I can't remember if they have a footstool. If I were you I would bring your own chair and footstool.
I just looked at his offerings that would fit your budget if you trade your guitar.
Check out the:
2010 Michael Thames
2000 Ignacio M Rozas
1983 Bernabe
1989 PaulJacobson (if they will deal)
2002 Desmond (I don't know this maker but it looks good)
I agree with comments by others regarding other things to bring with you.
If I were you I would play to get a feel
For your favorite one or two guitars , then tell Paul you're going to clear your head and come back an hour or so later. Don't be afraid to make a reasonable offer.
They've sold for me and bought from me. A trip there won't be a waste of time.
PM me if you need more.
Good luck,
Jack
Hauser III 2014!

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:43 am

Jack - thank for the kind offer. When this gets closer I will take you up on your offer.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

DaveLeeNC
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:31 pm
Location: Pinehurst, NC, USA

Re: Buying Advice - What to Look For

Post by DaveLeeNC » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:39 am

Well, the trip is now scheduled for the 2nd week of August. And I will actually have a "second set of experienced ears with me" (thanks to a most generous offer from a fellow Delcamp'ian). After thinking through all this I have decided that there are three possible outcomes here.

1) I really like one of the guitars and we can come to a price that works for me.

2) I discover that at my level of playing there really is no difference (to me) between my guitar and what I can afford at the moment. The decision in this case is pretty obvious.

3) This one is more subtle, but I actually think that it is the most likely outcome. In this case I am anticipating that I will be able to hear (and be willing to pay for) the difference between my guitar and some/most of the more expensive guitars in my price range. Each of the better guitars will have 'definable/hearable attributes' that I can identify, but I won't have a strong opinion regarding which is better for me. I am thinking of something like "I really like the sustain of the Bernabe" best of all. But that Thames has this REALLY clear treble above the 5th fret that just sings to me, while that ringing bass on the Jacobson when I play Reedology (sorry - not a classical piece, but something I learned recently as a archtop piece and I ended up loving it on my Marzal), and so on. They are all better than the Marzal, but which one???

So if it comes out to #3, this leads me to a different strategy. And it is one that says "buy a guitar in 'the next class up' but only at the kind of price that you can roughly resell it at". Then as my tastes mature I can move on without loosing $1-2k or more (which you probably tend to do with a dealer). So in this case "market value" (as best as I can determine) vs price becomes paramount (and makes a purchase path through a private party vs. a dealer being the most likely end point).

Open for comments - thanks.

dave
1984 Jesus Marzal cedar CG
1971 Sherry-Brener (Cedar) Garcia No. 1 CG
1975 Gibson ES-175D Achtop Electric
2016 Eastman AR905CE-BD Carved Archtop Electric

Return to “Advice on buying, selling or valuing a guitar”