Guitar is the medium that Hendrix used to define a libratory dream better than any 1960s theorist. What Chuck Berry used to give birth to rock n’ roll and what B.B. King used to revitalize the blues. Their signature licks ring out rock nostalgia over car speakers and amplifiers the world over. The classic American sound stays alive today within listeners RCA chords. These great names make any beginning guitarist feel like a mere mortal staring up at the faces of gods, but at the genesis of their career they were alike; unknowing and naïve. What sets them apart from the masses was their persistence to stick it out through the years of trial and error and hours of practice. They had to start somewhere however; and it began with finding the right axe.
Chris Baney is a junior at BGSU majoring in music, has a minor in recording technology and knows a lot about guitars. Baney has been a part of a band that has won numerous battle of the bands in Pennsylvania and Ohio. He has opened for well-known bands such as Sanctus Real and House of Heroes. He works as a recording technician at Back Road Studios and is the Music Director for Basic Truth Church in Cygnet, Ohio.
Baney said that the first step for someone trying to find the right guitar is to determine what they want to use the guitar for. Determining whether you will jamming at home in your pajamas or playing at live venues is what you should consider first according to Baney. Also the style (blues, rock, country) of music you want to play will affect your purchase of a guitar.
Baney recommends Ibanez electrics for the beginning guitarist. “Basically it is the most cost effective guitar and will give you the same playing capabilities as Gibson or Fender,” Baney said. “Ibanez uses the same ideas to make their guitars as more famous and expensive companies but they use less expensive materials, yet this does not detract from their durability.”
Corky Ballard lives in Newtown, CT and has been playing guitar since 1967. He has been purchasing and trading guitars for over thirty years and has a recording studio attached to his home. He sneaks away while the rest of his family sleeps and the minutes soon become hours in the old barn that he converted into a studio. Ballard said for a beginner guitarist, he recommends an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, which is also considered a classical style guitar.
“Learning guitar is all about practice like any other instrument,” Ballard said. “The problem is that your fingers can get very sore from pressing down on the strings. This leads a lot of people to get frustrated and quitting. The nylon strings are very soft and more comfortable for beginners.” Baney added that a Samick brand acoustic guitar is also good for beginners.
The type of wood that is used in the body, neck and head of the guitar also can affect the sound of the guitar as a whole. Ken Strittmatter has built his own guitars over the past ten years as well as his own amplifiers out of the tubes from Hammond organs. When he plugs into his amp his says he can hear his wife and two daughters slam their doors methodically. Strittmatter owns over a dozen guitars and has modified all his guitars himself to create a different sounding guitar altogether from the original purchased model.
“The wood that the neck and body is made from can really effect the sound,” Strittmatter said. “Maple, mahogany, rosewood and solid maple are all great for the neck specifically.”
Strittmatter said that for the body of an acoustic guitar, spruce and cedar are good choices. “The tighter the grain on the guitar the better the sound will be,” Strittmatter said. “Tight grains are caused by short growing seasons which are a result of a cold climate.” Swamp ash and koa wood are some of the best options for the body of an electric guitar according to Strittmatter.
Baney agreed with Strittmatter that a spruce body was a good bet for acoustic guitars. “I like a Sitka spruce top for my acoustic because it is a really hard wood,” Baney said. “This type of wood actually plays better the longer you have it. The sound increases overtime and responds well to the resonance of sound waves.” Baney went on to say that for the fret board, a maple or rosewood is the best.
All three of the guitar aficionados came to the same conclusion about underrated guitar companies. Ibanez, Washburn, Takamine, Squire and Epiphone are all companies that will provide a great sound at a cheap price.