Choosing the right instrument

Posted by Gregoire on June 19, 2015

Medium negra in the case

This is a big one everybody. This subject must be taken seriously. Let's first take our speaking voice as an example. If you can't speak clearly it affects your ability to communicate with others, wouldn't you say? This same speaking voice so many of us have is also a magnificent musical instrument. If you get a sore throat singing sucks, right? I could think of some other pleasant things to do rather than sing through a case of strep. When you can't sing comfortably because of a sickness or nodes or whatever it is affecting your voice, you lose the ability to effectively communicate your artistry to an audience.

Now the guitar. Let's take the case of a guitar that has high action, a warped neck, a rattling tuner for the 4th string, and the 9th fret notes buzz like mad on the B & G strings. Let's go a step further and say your guitar has only one of those things wrong. High action. If your guitar has high action, and you're having a hard time sounding your notes, communicating music to your audience and band mates becomes extremely difficult. It's like singing when you have a sore throat or ate too much or some such thing. Technical struggles with an instrument diminish our ability to be expressive.

When you're a beginning student, it's difficult to know what we want to feel with a guitar because, that's right, we haven't played one very much. So how can you know? As you practice and develop your own way of playing, your style, your feel, certain guitars are going to feel f%$#ing amazing and other will be non-nice.

Consider these variables the next time you practice. These are also variables to consider when you decide to upgrade to a different instrument.

1.) String height and spacing. Electric and steel string acoustic guitars have a narrower string spacing. You may notice classic/flamenco guitars have a wider nut and dually a wider string spacing. String height off the fingerboard is a matter of personal preference.

2.) Does the instrument hold tuning well or are you constantly fighting to make your first position Emaj7 chord sound pleasant.

3.) Are there extra sounds? Rattling tuners, bridge hardware, et cetera when you play a note or chord?

4.) Neck straightness/angle. Is your neck bowing forward or backwards? Back bowed necks create a situation where notes fret out. In other words, the notes just sound like a buzzy thwack. If the neck is bowed forward, the distance between the fingerboard and the strings increases creating issues with intonation and ease of making a sound.

Let's see what else...

5.) Are there depressions or notches in the frets that affect your tone?

6.) Is the over all weight and depth of the guitar comfortable?

7.) Does the tone of your instrument inspire you to practice or is it kind of, ehh?

So, if your guitar has some of these things going on it's not the end of the world and you don't have to run out today and commission a new instrument. Many of these ailments are remedied by a competent guitar technician. But if you are at a point where you just don't like the sound of your guitar then it might be time to start thinking about what kind of instrument you want to play next. And play a bunch of them. Really listen to them, feel them, look at every part of them with careful attention. Know an instrument intimately before you adopt it as a tool for your artistry and expression.