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FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / Please enlighten me, please.

Contributing Member

Southern Florida,

Aw heck just make it N 25º by W 80º
Dec 12th, 2002 10:13 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have come to realize that the acoustic guitar is a compromise, as are all things. For instance and I could be wrong or have it backwards but my understanding is that the voice of a Martin is grand when played fairly aggressively, that it needs to be played that way or is designed to be played that way. Other guitars would be better voiced for different playing styles. I play guitar with my bare fingers, I canít really strum because of damage to my arm and I have to strum from my wrist or fingers because the elbow is out of the picture.

I think this may be why I am partial to the all mahogany guitars, that they just sound better because of my limitations. Many of the Gibsons I have tried also sound better to me. Is there a data base on this aspect of guitars, any source of information on the aspects of construction that impart these characteristics? As you can see I know nothing. Any direction or information will be appreciated.

(This message was last edited by hushnel at 10:14 AM, Dec 12th, 2002)


Chicago burbs

So many guitars, so little time.
Dec 12th, 2002 04:57 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Yeah you have to beat a D28, but....look at some models with lighter, scalloped top braces, the top will vibrate with less effort. Due to your strum situation, I advise you try a heavy thumbpick, Golden Gate is my fav, available from Elderly.


Crofton MD

When going gets weird, weird turn pro
Dec 12th, 2002 04:57 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

A lot of a guitar's response and tone comes from the materials and construction. F'rinstance, the X-bracing system (Martin and others) under the guitar's top makes for a sturdy instrument, but restricts the top's movement a bit compared to the older-style fan bracing construction, which is weaker...but more responsive. Spruce is a common top material because it's fairly stiff and light. Cedar is sometimes used (it's a bit mellower sounding), but it's very soft and doesn't stand up to abuse very well. Composite tops (Ovation, Rainsong, ect.) tend to be fairly stiff compared to solid wood, and are perceived by many players to be a bit "brittle" or bright sounding. Finishes also play a part in tone and brightness (moreso than on an electric). As a general rule, the heavier a guitar, the heavier the strings need to be to produce good tone--all other things being equal. These are some examples of what you're asking about...but the only REAL way to determine if a certain type of guitar or construction will work for you is to play as many as you can find, and also have them played *for* you, while you stand about 20 feet away and listen to how they project. Sitting on your lap, a guitar transfers its vibrations to you, which enhances the perceived tone and character of a particular instrument. Move away and listen, and it can be something else altogether. Finding the "right" one for you is not necessarily a means to an end...the journey might be the end in itself. Happy hunting, man!




Ray from Rochester, NY
Dec 12th, 2002 07:15 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Fingerstyle players also tend to prefer smaller bodied guitars, I went to a workshop by Roy Binder at a Folk festival this summer (he is an acoustic blues fingerpicker) and he uses a smaller bodied Martin I believe it is an OM model, but I'm not positive. I would suggest you try some of the smaller body styles, by Martin, Taylor, etc.


Chicago burbs

So many guitars, so little time.
Dec 12th, 2002 08:25 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Folk guy, right you are! My fingerstyle guitar is an OM-16GT and my strummer is a D-15. In addition to the smaller body, the OM has a little wider string spacing.

Contributing Member

Southern Florida,

Aw heck just make it N 25º by W 80º
Dec 13th, 2002 04:49 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Thanks I've been looking at the OM-17 but haven't played very many of the others yet.

Frank Hudson
Contributing Member


Dec 13th, 2002 08:39 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Yes, smaller tops are great for this sort of thing. OOO, OM, OO sized models. I have a particular liking to deeper bodied, smaller topped instruments. If you can find one to play, try a DBM Martin. I couldn't quite pull the trigger on one for price reasons, but my Seagull Folk lets me enjoy this kind of sound.

If you are a bare flesh finger picker cedar tops when braced right give more response with a lighter touch. Cedar tops are common in "classical guitars' where most everyone plays with bare fingers.

Mahogonny is kind of cedar like at least from the experience I have with my Martin 0015, but it seems to be a bit "midrangy". It's great for blues and slide.

I'm sure other with more experience will chime in, but I'd go with a smaller topped guitar for sure if you don't strum.



Dec 14th, 2002 01:12 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I'd second (or third, or fourth) the "try-a-smaller-body" approach, Hushnel. And the Golden Gate pick suggestion, too. It's the pick I use, and it's great. Can't pick your teeth with it, though, unless you have r-e-a-l-l-y wide gaps between them. It's a thick pick....

Not to be nosey, but I'm interested in hearing more about your elbow situation. (Les Paul had a fairly well-known "elbow situation," and he's one of the finer guitarists you'd ever want to hear.) Don't underestimate your own abilities or potential. If you watch really fine bluegrass flatpickers and rhythm guitarists -- no slouches at strumming -- you'll notice that most of the work and movement is at the wrist, not the elbow. The theory is to keep the forearm fairly stable and let the finer muscles in the wrist and fingers do the fast stuff. There are some guitarists whose right elbows move only slightly when they play. Yeah, every now and then it's nice to be able to whang away on the guitar, but don't think you can't strum because of elbow limitations.

On to your choice of tonewoods. A mahogany-bodied guitar is going to give you a "warmer" sound than a rosewood guitar. There are exceptions to every rule, though. But if you think that fingerstyle is the way to go, I'd pick an smaller-bodied guitar, probably mahogany, where the notes are more clearly defined and don't get lost in that bass-heavy "whomp" that you'll probably get from a dreadnaught. Then again, there are dreadnaughts that are great fingerstyle guitars. This is all a long way of saying you just have to try a lot of different guitars before finding one that has the "right" sound for you.

I'll agree with you on Gibsons, though. A well-made slope-shouldered mahongany J-45 beats a well-made square-shouldered D-18 virtually any day, in my book anyhow. I know some folks swear by the D-18, and that's fine; to each his own.

Good luck.

Contributing Member

Southern Florida,

Aw heck just make it N 25º by W 80º
Dec 14th, 2002 02:33 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

My elbow limitations are caused by two separate accidents, in the first I fell off a 6 story building and shattered the radial head, in the second I paralyzed my arm by breaking my neck. Most of the arm came back but the shoulder and bicep muscles are shot. Hasnít stopped me mostly because Iím a bass player, always have been.

OK so I canít play any slap style but thatís fine by me. Relearning how to play bass after these two accidents has made me a better player but my guitar playing has been limited to the abilities I have with my fingers as a bassist. My fingers work well and I can control them independently of each other just about any way you think of in terms of patterns.

My next project is building a Martin D-18 because I got a good deal on the kit but after that I want to build an instrument totally designed for me so the nets are out to gather as much information as I can, though this project is pretty far down the road I want to understand what does what as I build this next guitar to get a feel for the custom one in the future.

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(This message was last edited by hushnel at 04:40 AM, Dec 16th, 2002)

FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / Please enlighten me, please.

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