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View Diary: Buying an American-made guitar (286 comments)

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  •  I've played the guitar for 50 years now (8+ / 0-)

    American guitars of the past that were inexpensive like Kay and Harmony required fingers like Frankenstein.  Those brands went out of business as the cheap Japanese guitars made with low labor cost (and better playability despite being crappy) drove them from the market.  Those Japanese companies that survived increased in quality to high standard in the 80s -until the labor cost in Japan rose. Then Taiwan had its day and then Korea. Now China and it's likely successor Indonesia.

    What's a good guitar?  It's one that sounds good and is well made.  Most cheap guitars fail on one count or the other.  It's noticeable that real musicians always manage to get their hands on sleepers and specials that don't fit the retail stories I am seeing above.

    In all cases the guitar will require setup and adjustment.  This is true with instruments worth many thousands as well as those which are cheap.  Knowledge counts.  The level of luthier knowledge available now is a hundred time higher than it was 50 years ago.  Get the action adjusted.  Do you let your car go un-tuned?

    Being able to know which guitars were better made is a grapevine thing among guitarists.  If you are buying get experienced help.  Many retail instrument places are garbage.  Do not go to Happy Harry's Crazy Guitars or flashy Christmas tree ornament places like Guitar Center (wowee, it's in the Mall!)  You have to find the music stores the pros and serious amateurs use, they have deals without flash, plus they have guitars of lesser known but worthy brands.

    Get the danm guitar action adjusted.  The bridge and the nut have to be the right height off the fingerboard.  If the strings are more than 3/32nds off the 12th fret --IT"S TOO HIGH!

    "It's too LATE to stop now!" - John Lee Hooker

    by Rolfyboy6 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 08:21:51 PM PDT

    •  Noted. n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rolfyboy6, SherwoodB

      Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

      by Alumbrados on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 09:09:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Get the danm guitar action adjusted" (0+ / 0-)


      But there is no specific measurement. I'm  a Luthier and the first step in setup is asking about the style, or giving the customer/ player a "typical" instrument to try and see what the feedback is. When I Flatpick (on my old Martin D35) a few thousands of an inch in action makes a lot of difference to me, and it goes without saying that the neck has to be right to start with. That doesn't mean perfectly flat.

      So a flatpick guitar is setup differently than a fingerpicker than a blues guitar than a resonator, string sizes are different, scale length is important, ect. My slide guitars have pretty high action....

      I have about 22 6 and 8 string guitars around here, 7 violins, three resos, three 12 strings (like a Guild F212FC, and a Takamine D-28-12 copy - the lawsuit guitar), violas, banjos (some for three-finger, some for frailing). Banjitars, couple of classical nylon 6-string. Every one is different.

      I often check out craigslist here in Denver and frequently  find good deals that need just a little work that I can customize or resell cheap after setup and make a few bucks.

      I am impressed that if you look around you'll find plenty of good Japanese, taiwanese or Indonesian instruments that just need a little help better tuners, new strings, stuff like that. But bad intonation/Fretting is expensive to fix. Don't buy one of those.

      For a beginner the  most important thing is setup, and choosing the right size and style guitar to begin with.

      unlike violins, say, there are many many type of guitars all driven by adaptions for styles of music....

      Even a sole practitioner like me uses technology. You can get pre-machined roughed-out necks, for instance, or you can buy a pretty inexpensive CNC router if you know CAD. I can buy mother of pearl inlay from the far east for high end guitars. It is still labor intensive, but I like that part of it, hand fitting things. And no two of mine are alike.

      I started playing as a teenager, I stumbled along for years trying to learn fingerpicking, blues, classical, whatever on cheap guitars.

      When I went into a store one evening in my 20s and tried out my Martin D-35, I spent on the spot twice as much as I thought I would ever spend on a guitar, but it was flawless, perfectly set up for what I like to play and I knew I'd have it for the rest of my life. That was almost 40 years ago, the more I play it the better it gets, it's in my will who gets it when I croak...

      But even violins... When my daughter plays classical, we use one instrument - when she plays Irish or old-time, a different one with different radius fingerboard - not so fast, but richer double stops...

      I tune race cars too .... many things in common, actually

      Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

      by blindcynic on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 02:03:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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