GUITARS & EQUIPMENT
Q. What sort of guitars do people usually start with?
A. Most students, particularly children, start off with an electric guitar because it's the snazzy thing to have and it's what they see mostly being played. Adults quite often choose a steel strung acoustic. They'd be better off starting with a nylon strung classical guitar as they are easier to play and beginners need all the help they can get to build up their confidence in the early days.
Q. Does this make it more difficult to learn?
A. Yes I think it does. An electric guitar is very limiting when you're sitting on your own trying to replicate the sounds that you've heard from your heroes. Remember that groups/bands typically have three guitars to complete the sound you hear - a lead guitar just playing the melody, a rhythm guitar being strummed and a bass guitar to give the deeper notes. Many people quickly get disillusioned when they're sitting alone with their amplifier. Steel string acoustics are much more rewarding to play but for beginners the efforts to hold down the steel strings is sometimes too much.
Q. What guitars do you have yourself?
A. Like most guitarists I have a classical, steel string acoustic and electric solid guitar. Many people try out each of these when they get interested just to see which type is best for them.
Q. What type of guitar do you like best?
A. It has to be the sound of a nylon string classical guitar for me. I just love the warmth and sweetness of the tone. My favoured setup is to play a Ramirez electro-classical through a Zoom effects pedal into a quality AER amplifier. The lovely tone coupled with the sustain and effects of the electrics is just heaven to me.
Q. How much should I spend and which classical guitar manufacturers do you prefer?
A. As a beginner just buy a cheap classical guitar to see if playing the instrument is for you. They start from £30 and up to £125 is a typical spend. For those students who are keen to attain a proficient level of playing then anything under £130 is not likely to be a good investment. I have an affinity for Admira, Alhambra and Yamaha guitars which always give a great tone and are priced from about £130 - £500. If your really serious then I'd go for a Ramirez guitar - these are the business but they're not cheap. The entry level model is about £700 and they go into thousands of pounds. I have played a truly wonderful limited edition Ramirez at the Classical Guitar Centre in Birmingham - but at £12,000 I can't justify that kind of spend! Japanese made guitars also usually represent good value for money - I have a super Asturias guitar.
Q. What about steel string acoustics?
A. Quite a few of my students have Tanglewood guitars. These always have a low and comfortable action and a wonderful tone. I was so impressed I bought one myself!
I also have and old Epiphone acoustic which is well past it's best now.