Help me buy a classical!

Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by neon_black88, Jul 15, 2007.

  1. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Ive fallen in love with Paco De Lucia over the last couple of days and ive decided to use my xbox360 money to buy a nice classical and actually sit down and learn a new style properly, like Flamenco or Classical (or both?), and stop putting it off. I dont wana just play tabs I actually want to learn and educate myself about these styles, so it goes without saying that im gana need a decent classical. Pickups and cutaways are out of the question too I guess if i wana take this seriously? I need some info from you guys on classical guitars, especially on things like what difference in scales and sizes there are and what difference that makes, if flamenco players play different styles of guitars compared to classical players and such. Im probably looking at spending about 500 dollars (AU) which isnt alot, but im hoping to get something nice for this price and reccomendations would be great!
     
  2. Given To Fly

    Given To Fly Contributor

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    Good to hear your getting into classical guitar/flamenco music. I have played classical guitar for a long time and am currently going to school studying guitar performance. So hopefully my experiences can be of some use hear. First I will go over what options are generally available and what the differences are. There are many different kinds of guitars but I will just stick with what is in your price range.

    Woods

    - Tops - For the soundboard of a guitar you basically have two options: cedar or spruce. (Flamenco guitars use different woods but I am no expert on those. I also do not suggest getting a true flamenco guitar and I will explain later.) Cedar has a brown/reddish color and usually a wider wood grain. The sound is darker and warmer then spruce and has a short break in period. (This is a period of time in which the guitar's sound starts to open up and reach it's full potential.) Spruce has a golden color and usually a thinner wood grain. The sound is brighter then spruce and typically a little clearer. Since spruce is a harder wood it takes longer to open up as well. Neither wood is better then the other, it just comes down to preference. So, if possible, play different examples of each wood type.

    - Back and Sides - At the price range your looking at Indian rosewood is pretty much the only wood manufactures use. Some might use mahogony but that is rare. (Actually Indian rosewood is more or less the standard on guitars in all price ranges now.) I do not have much advice as to what the sound characteristics are because I can not recall playing any guitars that were not either Indian or Brazillan rosewood. Brazillan is better but it is usually only on high end guitars and now that it is illegal to cut down, it is much rarer and thus more expensive.

    - Fretboards - Ebony, almost exclusively used for fretboards. Some guitars will have rosewood fretboards but since it is softer it can warp easier, so do not recommend a guitar with a rosewood board. (Electric guitars are different)

    - Neck - This where I fall short. I kind of embarressed to say this but I really have no idea what the necks are made out of. I think it is either rosewood or mahogony but I'm not sure. However, like fretboards and back and sides, you really do not have much choice.

    Scale length

    The standard classical guitar has a scale length if 650mm. This is fairly close to the standard electric scale length of 25 1/4 inches I believe, but a quick conversion can be made to be sure. Again, not a whole lot of choice available.


    Laminated vs. Solid

    This is probaby the most important quality of a classical guitar and it can be sumed up by saying solid is simply better.
    Laminated wood is two thin pieces of wood glued together to make the top of back and sides. It is a cheap process to do and requires little in terms of care. However, these guitars have a weaker and overall lower quality sound.
    Solid tops are much better because the wood is a single piece which allows for a louder, clearer, and more defined sound. Solid top guitars are more expensive but I think they are definitely worth it.

    Why not to get a flamenco guitar

    The reason I do not think you should get a flamenco guitar is because they are not as practical or versatile as classical guitars. For example, a true flamenco guitar will require different strings and the sound is typically only used for flamenco music. A classical guitar uses standard classical guitar strings (more brands than I can count) and has a tone that can be used for flamenco as well as classical music. I have nothing against flamenco guitars, it's just for your purposes you might be happier playing a guitar that can do many things well, as opposed to a guitar that only does one thing well.


    Now as to your price range, I would like to make a suggestion: Get a guitar with a solid top. You will have a much better instrument and it would be a better investment. I'm not sure about the exchange rate but for around $500 US you can get a solid top guitar. This would but you in a position where wouldn't have to spend that much more money, and you wouldn't need to upgrade as soon if you decided you really liked it.

    That is the end of my little report. I hope it helps.
     
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  3. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Thank you for the reply! Over the last few days ive been looking at classicals pretty hard and it seems that a low end flamenco guitar is still out of my price range. And there's alot more standard classicals to choose from. However the choice for quality guitars is still limited but iv'e got it narrowed down to a few.
    The biggest condtender is an Almansa401 or Almansa403.

    the 401 is 100% spanish made, comes with mahogony back and sides and a solid cedar top which either comes in spruce? or matt? this is about 400 bucks which is a good price and its MEANT to be a great guitar.

    The 403 is the same exept a solid spruce top. This is the higher model which im not sure if I can afford.

    /\ Ive heard good things about this brand.

    The other options are a bunch of Admira guitars that range from 350-500$, or a le patrie etude classical (solid cedar top, genuine lacquer finish,three-way lamination of hardwood that includes a poplar center sandwiched between two layers of mahogany. neck is made from Honduras mahogany with an Indian rosewood fingerboard.)

    If you have any input on those it would be great, the Almansa seems like the best option so far. And thanks alot for taking the time to post that for me!
     
  4. Given To Fly

    Given To Fly Contributor

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    Almansa is a great way to go. They make good guitars. They have a sister brand called Alhambra which makes equally great guitars.
     
  5. BigM555

    BigM555 I SS.org Salute You! Contributor

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    Damn, had a good reply started and my browser crashed! :noway:

    Anyway, I own a LaPatrie and they are pretty decent guitars for the money. They used to be one of the few that were made of solid woods in their price range but now it seems others are filling that niche.

    I actually just ran across the Almansa brand on the weekend. Played two different models but don't remember what they were. One was about $250 and the other $750 (CDN). Both sounded very good with the $750 model having a pretty significant edge in being full bodied and additional sustain. It seems that where they are cutting corners is on aesthetics. I noticed several runs in the lacquer, tear outs with obvious repairs, staining or contaminants under the lacquer. All just cosmetics stuff but I thought it was out of place on the $750 model. There were just as many finish flaws on it as there was the $250 model.

    A few years ago I was looking for a "good" classical and was frustrated that I couldn't find anything of really good quality under a grand, and anything performance grade about double that. It seems the quality just isn't there on lower end classicals like it is with electrics (this might have changed recently). I almost ordered a Casa Montalvo Cocobolo Concert Classic from Berkeley Music Exchange. Closest thing now seems to be the Engelmann Classic Plus. He was willing to ship it across country for me to try out. If I didn't like it he had no problem taking it back if I paid the shipping, pretty reasonable. Nice guy. About double your price range though (there was an awesome sale back then).

    I was also impressed by the Esteve classicals back then but they seem in short supply these days. Not sure what the story is there. Prices were still higher than your $500 price point though.

    Check out this article for some possibly more up to date info.

    Edit: Or maybe not....just realized the article is from 1999. Still some good advice in it though.
     
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  6. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Thanks again guys. BigM, that article was a good read, thanks! Well its fairly obvious to me now im not gana get a great guitar. Its a shame flamenco guitars are so expencive because thats mainly the style I want to study, but it looks like im gana have to do that on a normal classical. Even if I had the money for a proper, good guitar, its still too much for me to shell out, but I guess your getting the full package. I mean the sound comes from the guitar and thats it, so I can see why all the money goes into the guitar, unlike electric where theres the guitar, pickups, amplifier and effects. I think im gana have to go for the almansa 401, its all I can really afford :rant:, hopefully it will be enough to inspire me to learn properly.

    On another note, looks like im gana have to stop chewing my nails on my right hand :lol:. This is going to be difficult
     
  7. Jongpil Yun

    Jongpil Yun Contributor

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  8. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Wow thats very interesting indeed! Im gana take a look at that one as well as the almansa, its more expencive here than the almansa but if I like it I guess I can save up a bit more. I was hoping to not have "Yamaha" writen on my flamenco guitar but if its quality what can you do.

    BTW According to music 123.com, shipping would cost about as much as the guitar :nuts:. So i'm gana have to buy from here.
     
  9. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Hey guys if anyones still reading. I had another interesting Idea. I found a UK site that will sell me an Almansa 413 flamenco, for 750 including shipping and insurance! It sounds like a pretty good deal exept I cannot find ANY info on this guitar besides the product description :noway:. A local shop suggested an Admira Flamenco for about 500 AU because that yamaha wont be available here for about 6 months :nuts: , australia sucks for guitars! I havent really heard great things about Admira, or bad things really, but I want an especially good guitar for the price, not an adiquite one. If it turns out that someone I trust is fairly confident that the Almansa 413 flamenco is a good guitar and a step up from the yamaha, ill jump on it.

    The almansa has sycamore back and sides :scratch:, even the yamaha has cypress back and sides.
     
  10. BigM555

    BigM555 I SS.org Salute You! Contributor

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    Cypress is the more traditional wood for flamenco guitars...at least in my experience (no flamenco expert). I see sycamore is also a common choice but seems to be considered a "cheaper" alternative.

    At the end of the day though it usually comes down to construction more so than the species of wood. Are the guitars you're looking at solid wood construction or do they have laminated back and sides? In my experience this makes one of the biggest differences, especially with nylon stringed instruments. Laminates just don't resonate like solid woods.

    The next biggest consideration is the internal bracing. Two guitars made with the same woods and same dimensions but different internal bracing will sound completely different. Honestly I'm not experienced enough to know what to look for here. I just go by sound. In your case though that's going to be tough as it looks like you may not get to play the guitar before you get it. That's gotta be tough, especially when buying a nylon string guitar. :(

    With that in mind you might want to drop a few more bucks and make sure you're paying for the best reviewed instrument you can afford (use professional review sources if you can, don't rely on internet forums or user databases, not enough people really know what they're looking for IMO).

    In reference to the Yamaha, I've generally been pretty impressed with any of the Yamaha instruments that were above their entry level. They make some pretty decent stuff. The Almansa's I played both sounded pretty good for the money, it was just the finish flaws that kind of turned me off. For the price though, you have to know they are cutting corners somewhere, and really, it's all about the sound right?

    Good luck.

    Edit: Just doing some research on the Almans and Yamaha options you noted. The Yamaha seems to be much better reviewed and construction and finish reports are sound. Pitty it won't be available in your area for another 6 months. Maybe ebay? Have you checked around with many Aussy stores?
     
  11. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    This is a great thread with so many well thought out and informative posts!

    I'm going to nitpick a bit on GivenToFly's otherwise excellent post (+rep!).

    I'm also mainly a classical guitarist although I have studied flamenco seriously, and I have to disagree with your opinion that classical guitars are more practical or versatile than flamenco guitars.

    I used to think exactly that before I studied flamenco but now I own both types of guitar and I have to say that I find the flamenco to be slightly more versatile, but not much.

    I'd say that anyone who is a serious classical player probably could not bring themselves to play their pieces on a flamenco guitar because of the extremely bright, snappy tone and dismal sustain - in other words traditional classical guitar music sounds like shit on a flamenco.

    And it's exactly so for trying to play serious traditional flamenco music on a classical - the tone is much too bass-heavy, rumbly, unclear, and far too quiet to be heard in a traditional performance context with singers & dancers - in other words, it would also sound like shit.

    The reason I feel that my flamenco guitar is slightly more versatile than my classical is that it has a tap plate on it. Therefore it is possible for me to play both classical & flamenco on it, but on my classical I can only play classical unless I'm willing to destroy the soundboard when I tap on it with my fingernails (golpe) while playing flamenco.

    Furthermore, although I would never do this in a serious performance context, I can play classical pieces on my flamenco and get a bit less horrible tone out of it by positioning my picking hand closer to the neck to get the warmest tone I can. Listeners who are not familiar with classical or flamenco guitar would likely have no idea how far away the tone is from a good classical guitar.

    So as I say, I think a flamenco could be slightly more versatile, but not in any serious or very meaningful way.

    btw the strings on a flamenco are usually the same as classical guitar strings, although some players may prefer a slightly lighter gage.

    That's my 2ยข, and again I thought your post was really helpful and informative GTF.



    So basically I'd recommend a flamenco guitar to you Neon Black since you've mentioned Paco De Lucia :)bowdown:) and flamenco a lot in this thread.
    Best of luck!
     
  12. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Did you find any reviews for the Almansa 413 flamenco? Today I went to a store and tryed a few classical Almansa guitars, the 401 the 403 the 434S and some 3000 dollar model. They all felt GREAT (remember ive only played shit classicals) and the 3000 dollar model was noticeably louder, but thats all I could tell really. Well I really liked the feel of the Almansas so it seems a good way to go, its a shame I cant try the yamaha to compare. If the Almansa 413 Flamenco feels and sounds as good as the guitars I played today ill be happy with it. I think my next step will be to go into another guitar shop and play the Admira Flamenco and see how that compares.
     
  13. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

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    Flamenco guitars are built lighter than classicals and with different woods and slightly different geometry. Flamenco players generally go for a significantly lower action than classical dudes too, as a little buzz here and there is perfectly acceptable. As Durero says the flamenco sound is brighter and more cutting with less sustain. Paco de Lucia (I believe) was the first to use what's known as 'flamenco negra' guitars - flamenco construction with classical woods (rosewood sides), basically a ballsier sounding guitar than typical.

    For $500 you're not going to get anything exceptional and at this stage you're not going to be hearing the all the nuances. The most important thing is to try all the guitars in your price range and get the one which sounds and feels best to you. Don't make judgements based on brand, or by having played one example of a particular model. Spanish made guitars in particular tend to be quite inconsistent so you might find two or more of the same instrument that are significantly different.
     
  14. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Thanks, the 'flamenco negra' guitars thing is quite interesting! By the way my price range has gone up to about 750. At the moment im looking at an Almansa 434 spruce, an Almansa 413 Flamenco, the yamaha CG171SF, or the Admira flamenco. So far all ive played is the 434, which was nice but I really want to try a proper flamenco to feel the difference.
     
  15. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

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  16. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Yeah thats one of the places im going to try the Admira flamenco, also the place that said there would be a 6 month wait on the Yamaha :noway:
     
  17. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    In one corner we have the Almansa 434,an all around classical with the specs to boot. Spruce solid top, rosewood back and sides, ebony fretboard ect.

    699!!!

    In the other corner we have the Almansa 413, sycamore back and sides.

    Hmmmmmm. Would a spruce top classical be good enough for playing solo flamenco? I think im gana go with the 434. :noplease:
     
  18. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

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    Whichever one you feel is better in terms of sound and value, play them both and see :yesway:
     
  19. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    I wouldent be able to play the 413 before I buy it, ive played the 434 and it was great, but every classical ive played is a piece of shit so thats not saying much. Im guessing the 413 will still be quality, there lowest model the 401 still felt and sounded great to me. Id buy the classical if I didnt prefer flamenco so much over classsical music. I wish there was just a nice, happy medium! :scream:
     
  20. neon_black88

    neon_black88 SS.org Regular

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    Update: 99 Percent sure im getting this

    [​IMG]

    Yay! Its had an after market pickup so theres some flexibility there, its all solid wood constuction and thats nearly impossible to find for under 1000US let alone 1000AUS. It previous owner was one of the biggest flamenco players in melbourne and he gave me the thumbs up for it so im pretty happy to find this, and not have to settle on something crappy. Its a Matsuka M40 Flamenco, its hand made and apperently a copy of the Ramirez Flamenco. Yayyy
     

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