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James Owl Smith

What is exactly a great acoustic guitar?

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Hi everyone!

 

What is exactly a great acoustic guitar? According to you, what could make an acoustic guitar great? The sound of course (there's no objective definition of what a great sound is supposed to mean, that's a personal matter, would one reply to me: is that obvious? i wonder. What about finish, varnish, bracings and other criteria? The opinions and points of vue coming from my fellow colleagues as guitar players and gibson acoustic aficionados would be extremely helpful to me and certainly to anyone ineterested in this, but also to anyoneis looking for a guitar they want to buy by any chance. Therefore my friends, express yourselves & the more post i get from all of you & the better i would feel! With thanks & best wishes.

Peace.

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A guitar that sounds good, looks good, and is easy to play.

 

All of these are subjective qualities, so a guitar meeting those fundamental criteria may be different for each individual.

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Any guitar you love is a good one. A truly great one though - one that no matter how long you have owned it every time you pull it from the case and hit a big fat open chord you silently mutter Wow! It is like you are playing of for the firs time.

Edited by zombywoof

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A great guitar, in order of importance...

 

1. incredible playability. So good, it makes you sound better because it elevates you playing by, say, 5-10%.

2. sound so good, it inspires you.

3. looks that appeal in some way, could be ugly but inspiring.

 

The last one really isn't that important if the first two are met but if it's got #3, that's a plus.

Edited by livemusic

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To paraphrase a US Supreme Court Justice from a famous case in the 1960's.... "Perhaps I could never succeed in intelligently defining it, but I know it when I see it". [biggrin]

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Or as the Gibson motto on my denim jacket says: "The World's Finest Acoustic Guitars: Tone, Feel, Appearance."

 

Sums it up pretty well.

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Well, for me...

A great acoustic must be playable... set up easy. It starts there. I can’t go on now to describe my Gibson, or one of my Martins... because they are different of course. Raw. Growl. 3 dimensional. Rich. Lush. Balanced. Thump. Bass. Fat. Responsive. Not lush. Fundamental. Dark. Warm. Deep. Crisp. Resonant. Quick decay. Knows it’s sonic space relative to my voice for a certain song. Melodic. Raspy. Sentimental.

So many competing and adverse terms... and some apply to each of my guitars.

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Low, easy action.

 

Pleasurable playability.

 

Great, robust sounds and sustain.

 

And that doesn't come with a price tag, by the way.

I have played $2,000 guitars that didn't impress me as being friendly to play, and I have gigged with a $138 acoustic that has never let me down.

 

It's all up to each player's preferences, but man it's got to be easy to play and it must sound magical.

 

:)

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A great guitar is going to be different for all of us.

 

For me it is:

 

1. Neck.

2. Is versatile.

3. Is so resonant it seems alive.

4. Kills Gas.

5. Tone.

 

Those five reasons are why I own one great guitar.

 

Edit: when I re-read my post, it looked to me something like a cool guitar haiku!

Edited by countrybluespicker

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An instrument that lets its player express themself and also somehow helps it’s player discover new musical nuances over time when playing the instrument. (How could that not be a great guitar?)

 

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

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Some great answers here..I never really thought about it too much until reading the answers here and then I had to agree with alll of the answers. Good question as well. Thanks

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"My God, it's full of stars"

 

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

 

That line is not in the brilliant Stanley Kubrick film 2001. It is from the terrible Peter Hyams sequel 2010. So, perhaps you prefer a Chinese Gibson knock-off to the real thing? [biggrin]

Edited by Boyd

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Easy!! The ones that have Taylor on the headstock. (...this is me running for the exit... [woot] )

 

On a more serious note, I started to reply to this yesterday but got pulled away..

 

While the looks do matter, you don't see much of it when you're playing. Looking at them don't make much noise, so...

 

Setup is the first key thing, naturally, it's gotta be welcoming to play, how easy is it to do full bar chords in the first 2 frets? if you're fighting it down there, the nut needs to be worked on.

 

Any dead spots? high frets, loose frets? Those are buzz kills for me (pun intended)

 

Resonance... how does the instrument interact with the player, does it come a bit alive when you're playing it? The more alive it comes the better guitars ability resonate.

 

Structurally, it's gotta be sound, if you're gigging with it, or doing some serious session work (recording) you can't be worried about intonation, poor tuning keys, etc. Those things are going to be blockers for you mentally because part of your brain is always going to be listening for that quirky out of tune string, or the struggle with that one string where the machine head just won't bring it where you need it.

 

other than the key basics, I try not to over think any of this. if it feels good, sounds good,.. then it is good. I have 5 acoustics, they're all different, but they're all "Good" in their own ways.

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My best friend's early 50s LG-1 imprinted the Gibson chordal blend in my ears; helped me to hear chords as a whole rather than separate notes; laid the foundations for what I would later desire in guitars. It was (and is) a great guitar.

 

The 1960 LG-2 I bought in the mid 80s for $125 led to learning about inside chord voices. It was a chameleon of a guitar, able to delicately pick out atmospheric sounds, whirl through Celtic-inspired fingerpicking, thump through Piedmont blues and chunk out roots music, even pour out a shockingly loud sheet-metal roar when pushed hard. It remains the only guitar I really regret parting with. It taught me a lot.

 

The early 30s roundhole L-4 that required multiple patches to repair holes created by a previous owner's electrification was a great guitar that was an unforgiving taskmistress. You heard every single note on that guitar, and when you played a clam it was obvious, but it rewarded with a surprisingly round and full tone, mids and lows that rivaled nice jumbos, and a focused power that carried to the back of the hall when used to accompany singers. It led me down a lot of musical roads and was a good teacher, and I hope whoever has it today appreciates it.

 

My blues mentor's '62 J-50 taught me about the gut-punching whomp of the low E string and was used to teach me Piedmont blues and spilled out a swath of stories from the folk revival through Macon's music scene of the 60s and 70s. Specifically, it changed how I heard guitars, giving me a greater appreciation of richness, of depth, reducing the importance of top end to me. It helped me to really value the mids.

 

The c.1950 J-45 I traded for had 24-count-'em-24 cracks in top and bottom because the neck block had popped loose from the treble side. It spent many months languishing in a shop in Atlanta before I finally paid off the repairs and took it home. It completed what my mentor's J-50 had started, and every time I hear the first recordings I did with that guitar I am struck by how wide open and rolling and strong it is, not like someone shouting to make himself heard, not the over-used "it's a cannon!" foolishness, just the normal conversational voice of a truly great singer. It's lived with my brother for more than 20 years and he still thanks me for it, so it's a great guitar in the form of giving me the opportunity to give something, too.

 

I once briefly played a D'Angelico Excel, one of a pair commissioned in 1948. It was a big archtop, and I was playing it with bare fingers and it still pushed back against me, I could still feel the whole guitar vibrate in my arms and against my chest, and it had a singing quality I wish I had words for.

 

The greatest of them, for me, is the one I have now, an '05 J-45 Historic Collection built for Guitar Center, discovered on a day when I wasn't looking for an acoustic guitar, discovered when I casually lifted it off the hook with my right hand and was struck immediately by the thought, "what is MY guitar doing hanging on the wall of this Guitar Center?" It touches on the legacy of every guitar I have ever played and loved, tone reminiscent of the vintage jumbos but with a breathy, voice-like quality I cannot truly describe or explain, the neck feel of the LG-2 but subtly better for my hand, just a sense of being utterly, absolutely right under my hands while playing it. It is the only guitar I have never had an instant of buyers' remorse about. It is the guitar that I have played for a dozen years while finally finding my own voice, finally consolidating what it is that I do with music, rolling every technique I have into what works for me, relearning from the basics of how to hold a guitar, how to listen to what the guitar says while playing it, how to go for that point where my voice and the guitar's voice complement each other and work together and stay out of each other's way, how to put everything musical into the service of the song and not me or the guitar. This guitar inspires me, I am always eager to play it, always saddened and reduced when it is time to gently lower it back into its case and close the lid.

 

A good guitar is a fine musical instrument that plays well and sounds good and is a delight to the eyes. A great guitar is your partner.

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If I bond with it (and that encompasses all the reasons offered here), then it's a great guitar for me. As mentioned, it's all subjective and depends on who you ask.

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When you find a guitar that ticks all your boxes that you have identfied as a great acoustic guitar buy it !

It’s amazing how we often come across these Holy Grails when we least expect it. Nothing worse than finding the one,thinking i’ll Go back on the weekend to get it and find out...... ITS GONE !!!. [wub]

Edited by The G

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