#1
I've played guitar for decades, and for most of that time I never tried a guitar in a store that was much above my price range. My thought was if I couldn't afford it, why bother? I had a crappy guitar teacher who taught me to play but didn't give me any information about guitars, and for many years, that was that. This last January, that all changed.

I was trying out some Breedloves (in my price range, of course) when my husband handed me this Gibson Custom Shop J-45. I actually pulled my hand away because $2800 wasn't in my price range and I was a little nervous of hurting a guitar I couldn't afford to pay for. He said "I know you hate Gibsons, but this one may change your mind". Well, I didn't hate Gibsons - I just didn't play 'em. But I took this guitar and played it.

And - I know this will sound overly dramatic, but it's true - my whole world changed forever. The sound wasn't all of it, although it was a big part. Nothing I had played came close. There's a reason some guitars are worth more. But the playability was better than any guitar I had ever touched, and that was important. I mostly had played electric bass for 15 years because the guitars I played were annoying to play in one way or another - very. But this Gibson wasn't. It was VERY easy to play. I played it for an hour before we left.

From then on, I tried guitars I hadn't tried before. Lots of them. In fact, ALL of them. I hadn't realized what a difference various neck widths, profiles and radiuses could make to my playing. I hadn't ever considered scale lengths. I can play classical, flamenco and lots of fingerstyle guitar, but I hadn't even really considered woods except the basics - cedar, sitka, rosewood and mahogany. I hadn't considered what size and shape might mean to my playing and my comfort.

Within a few months, for the first time after over 40 years, I began to listen to guitars with educated ears. I realized how much better some high end guitars sounded, and also how different from each other. I spend both days every weekend playing every guitar I could get my hands on, and living in L.A., that's a lot of guitar stores. And I began to define my own preferences in tone, sound, feel, etc. Even knowing I couldn't afford those higher end guitars, they helped me decide what I liked in the lower priced guitars.

One of the most important things I discovered is that some lower priced guitars sounded okay played right after the good guitars, some didn't. Some brands never sounded very good after I spent an hour playing the high quality guitars included Ibanez, Dean, lower priced Ovations, most Fenders. They all sounded pretty unimpressive after playing a Goodall or an R. Taylor, but Blueridges, solid top Yamahas and Seagulls held their own. So did Trinity College, Boulder Creek and a few other brands. I didn't feel let down playing them after playing a $6500 guitar that sounded incredible to me. They didn't sound as good as the good stuff, but they weren't at all disappointing.

While price isn't everything, playing guitars that are mostly handmade, using top quality tonewoods and finishes really can educate your ears. I now know that my favorite back and side wood is madagascar rosewood. I've played a Martin with the madagascar rosewood and the same Martin without, and also a Gibson with madagascar and the same one without, and the madagascar rosewood almost broke my heart, it sounded SO much better but cost more than I could afford. But now I know. And koa? Everything I heard is true. It's got an amazing way of sweetening tone. I love the Taylor GC8, but the Taylor GCK just plain sounds better to me.

And I also learned that with quality guitars, how they're made affects the tone more than the wood. I've played guitars made out of typically bright wood that were dark and warm and rich. Why? Partly bracing - bracing pays a big part when it comes to handmade guitars, and although it plays less with factory guitars, forward bracing can add warmth and bass to a guitar without any other changes. Also makers like James Goodall (who make guitars so good they're hard to believe when you hear them) attach the bracing less to the sides. That makes for more bass as the top can move more like a drum top, pumping the air in and out. Obviously I've done some reading, too

Without playing lots of really good guitars, none of that would have happened for me. I'm back to playing the guitar all the time, largely because playing the high end guitars allowed me to realize how good Seagulls were because they still sounded and felt good. So now I own a couple. When I have more money, or find a guitar I really like that I can afford to lay away, I'll get a higher quality guitar - one with a beautiful sound and all solid woods. But for now, the Seagulls are appealing enough that I really WANT to play all the time, so even though I was good, my playing is getting cleaner. And I'm having a blast playing every guitar I can get my hands on


BTW, anyone have an extra $5500 so I can buy the guitar of my dreams?
#2
Ma'am, if this forum had a thumbs up emoticon, I would abuse the heck out of it right now.



After I played my Martin at the store, I went home and played my Art & Lutherie(which was my first guitar). I sat there playing my A&L and thought to myself, "This guitar is no longer good enough." A month later, I got my Martin and haven't played a better guitar yet. For me, anyway.

Since then I've played, Bourgeois, high end Taylors, high end Larrivees, high end Martins, Collings, and the like. Still haven't found anything close to superior in sound, although I have played some that were on par. I highly doubt I'll find another dreadnought for me.
Equipment:
- Art & Lutherie Cedar CW (SOLD! )
- Martin D-16RGT w/ LR Baggs M1 Active Soundhole Pickup
- Seagull 25th Anniversary Flame Maple w/ LR Baggs Micro EQ

Have an acoustic guitar? Don't let your guitar dry out! Click here.
#3
Totally agree. That is exactly why I fell in love with Seagull as well. I had the change to play an S6 Original right after playing a Taylor 814ce, and was shocked that I didn't want to put it down immediately.

Honestly, this site has helped improve my ear for tone, both in acoustics and electrics. I had no idea how much better a guitar made with solid woods could sound over my all-lam Tak G320, and tube amps over solid state? Don't even get me started (yes I know there are some good SS amps out there but I'm saying in general).
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#4
Great post.

Also, I should point out that I have bashed seagulls on here before (not very many around here, and the 2 I had played were subpar) but the guitarcenter around here and another local store just got a few more and I played a (somewhere around 600$) all wood seagull (with electronics, a tuner, and a cutaway... everything I like on a guitar, lol) and it played amazingly. Great action, great tone, loved the stock strings on it, looked and felt great on my lap. I've had a hard time finding a guitar I would take over my Taylor 114ce for the price (bought it used at 450$ with a hardcase) but that seagull is one of them. I'm actually contemplating listing my taylor on craigslist for what I bought it for and going to get that exact guitar I played the other day.

Also, it's a great suggestion to play the guitars out of your range.