Maybe you’ve been playing for awhile, maybe you’re looking to learn. Maybe you’re gigging frequently, and maybe it’s money you have yet to earn (Amazing rhyme, I KNOW). No matter what your need or where you are in your musical journey, it’s important to be up to date on all things acoustic guitar. Guitar is one of, if not the most popular musical instrument in the world. Whether you love it or hate it, it has solidified itself as a staple of genres from pop to gypsy jazz and can not be ignored. If you are interested in learning guitar, whether it be electric or acoustic, it can be an important stepping stone to pick up an acoustic guitar and begin plucking.
Acoustic guitars are widely recognized to be more difficult to play than electric guitars. This has to do with the the gauge (thickness) of the string and the effort required to hold the strings down. Playing guitar is a workout, the more you exercise those fingers – the stronger they get. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones says that they only way to learn how to play any guitar is by getting your hands on an acoustic with catgut strings and making her purr. While we’re not sure if that’s all true, there is something to be said about playing an acoustic. Every modern iteration of guitar, whether it be a Stratocaster or a shredder, was birthed from an acoustic. In simple terms, an acoustic guitar is a guitar that does not require amplification (however it can be amplified) and provides its own acoustic resonance. In this article, we’re going to explore the acoustic guitar brands you NEED to know. Happy plucking!
Martin & Co.
The granddaddy. This is the company that been in operation since Andrew Jackson was president. That’s right, this company opened it’s doors and cranked out the first of it’s incredibly fine acoustics in 1833! It’s almost unheard for any business to last that long, let alone one involved in making sweet sounds. There’s even a museum dedicated solely to Martin Guitars!
Boy do these babies play! These are the guitars that all those infamous bluegrass pickers are not only playing, but singing about (when they’re not singing about murdering their significant other)! Known for high quality flat-top guitars (as opposed to archtop), Martins are revered around the world and what’s fascinating is that they appear to have never compromised on their quality. If you pick up a Martin, you’re bound to like something about it.
All this being said, Martin’s can cost a pretty penny. Just like fine clothing or dining, you pay for quality – but when it comes to making music, you might as well pay big bucks for something you’re going to use the rest of your life instead of moving from one guitar to the next like some sort of high school floozy. The cheapest Martin currently offered is $800 and the most expensive costs the same as a house ($150,000), but you should always remember that no matter what you spend, it will always have you coming back for more. Hell, you’re owning a piece of American history and you won’t be disappointed!
Check ’em out here!
Compared to the age of Martin & Co., Taylor guitars are infants. But you should never underestimate this exceptional brand. Taylor was founded in 1974 and is the #1 manufacturer of acoustic guitars in the United States. Why have they experienced such success in such little time? Simple. Founder Bob Taylor was a revolutionary. With no preconceived notions on what a guitar “had to have” he simply built the guitar he felt he needed. With its low action, slim neck profile, and fine materials, Taylors are a force to be reckoned with. Many electric guitarists that are moving to acoustic will choose a Taylor because of the light touch required to make them sing. If you invest in a Taylor, you’re once again investing in a family heirloom – they will last for your kids to learn on!
It should also be stated that Taylor is doing incredible things for the environment, ensuring that attention is payed to responsible forestry and conservation while conducting business at Taylor Guitars. Bob recently talked about their initiatives.
Most Taylors start around $650 and move (way up) from there, with their most expensive offering listed on their website at just above $9000. Check them out here.
We’re about to take a hard right turn. Ovation has been doing things differently since they first appeared in the late 60’s. Unlike the well-known wooden looks of acoustic guitars that Martin and Taylor offer, these guitars feature a rounded synthetic back (the part of the guitar that sits against your chest and stomach while you play). Originally borrowing from helicopter blade designs, Charles Kaman’s guitars were built from aerospace composite materials that he had used to craft helicopters. That might sound odd, and you might be a purest, but open your mind and ears and you will see why these guitars deserve your time. Legendary country musician Glen Campbell was a champion of these guitars and he can be seen blissing out on one in this clip (guitar break starts around 1:25):
In addition, Ovations are well-known for their slimmer necks that allow for greater dexterity as well as the high-quality electronics that come with some models, ensuring a fine sound if you need to plug-in for a louder gig. There look is instantly recognizable, so if you’re looking for a bit of flash that still commands a cool presence, check these guitars out! Ovation’s products currently run from about $450 to $2000.
Check out Ovation’s offerings here.
Another hard right turn and we land right in Japan with Yamaha. Yes, that’s correct, the same company that manufactures trumpets, speakers, DVD players, baby grands, skis, and even motorcycles – makes a mean guitar. Yamaha is widely known as an entry-level guitar brand, and while that is true in many cases, Yamaha continues to produce with quality and affordability. Many young pickers will comment that they learned to play on a Yamaha because it was what they could afford and now hold a strong affinity for the brand. If you’re looking for strong playability, but also want to keep an eye on your wallet, you owe it to yourself to check out the Yamaha brand.
Take a look for yourself over at their website.
Here’s a guitar that hails from La Patrie, Quebec, a small village in Canada that’s industry is mainly focused around building guitars. About half of the population of La Patrie works to hand-make these Seagull guitars from tonewoods harvested from Canadian forests. These guitars are a beauty to behold and hold, revered for their fine workmanship and polished finish. Of particular note, Seagull’s neck design that ensures a consistent action (the distance between the fretboard and the string) and a compound-curved top that ensures optimal acoustics. Seagulls currently run from around $400 to $1500.
Take flight with a Seagull here.
Fender and Gibson
We’ve opted to save our say on Fender and Gibson for another time. World-renown for their innovation within electric guitars, these companies also boast an amazing history on the acoustic side of things. Stay tuned for individual profiles about each of these crucial guitar brands!
Think Something’s Missing From This List?
Leave a comment below about a company you think others NEED to know and why you love them! We’re only as good as our community and highly value your contributions. Thanks and here’s to achieving your sound!