Why do you like your guitar

Also feasible for beginners: assess the quality of a guitar

The quality of a guitar is determined by various factors. As a beginner, however, you face the difficulty that you can hardly assess or evaluate many details. Simply because you lack the empirical and comparative values. We'll give you a few tips that will help you become a "Guitar TÜV":

Check it: Assessing the quality of a guitar:

  • Processing: meticulous visual inspection
  • Mechanics: tuning stability in the stress test
  • Neatly polished frets: the haptic check
  • The frets in the fingernail test
  • Bundle purity in the assembly line test
  • Check octave purity with a tuner

Cool design: Just a subjective quality criterion

Of course, a guitar can and should look awesome. In the case of electric guitars, it is often the tough paintwork or the unusual shape. Acoustic guitars show their beauty through the special wood with visible grain, structure, etc. Then there is perhaps the attractive binding, stylish inlays on the fingerboard and other visual advantages. That's great. However, this is not a statement about the quality of a guitar.

Processing - tailor-made or mass-produced

The fact that there are significant differences in the quality of a guitar is understandable given the different production methods. Numerous instruments are made in filigree handwork, others come from industrial production. There are also differences in the equipment of the manufacturing plants, also with regard to the countries of manufacture. And of course, a custom-made guitar from the Custom Shop is most likely of higher quality than a mass-produced product.

Brands can guarantee quality - not be blinded

But be careful, don't be dazzled by big brand names. The reputation of a guitar brand does not automatically guarantee perfect workmanship. Time and again in the past few decades there have been surprises. Also the one that some no-name instruments wanted to hit the market and only had a chance because of their incredibly good workmanship.

Meticulous visual inspection - first take a close look

Even as a layperson, you can easily see whether the instrument is really well made, at least from the outside. Do an eye check. Look at all of the pieces. Is the paintwork clean or rather sloppy? Are there any unsightly drops of paint or glue? You can usually see or rule this out with the naked eye.

Tuned mechanics: a concrete quality feature

You will only enjoy your instrument if it keeps the mood reasonable. The key components for this are the mechanisms - the tuning pegs. The strings of your guitar are under tension. Not to be underestimated which forces have to get along with each other.

The tuning mechanisms must effectively counter these tensile forces and not give in again after the first notes are played. Otherwise everything would sound crooked and crooked again after a few moments. Ideally, the mechanics are encapsulated.

Stress test: pull up the strings and check the mood

You can easily check on your own whether the quality of a guitar is also right in this respect. Tune the guitar through, play a few notes or chords. Grab the strings with your right hand - if you are right-handed - and pull them up, preferably several times. Afterwards, they should have given in, at most, slightly. The mood has to stand.

Today's instruments are usually equipped with relatively reasonable mechanics, even in the middle and lower price ranges. You will hardly experience a qualitative disappointment there. Should they still not hold up or sometimes “go crazy”: hands off.

Frets - touching and touching allowed and desired

The frets must be properly polished. On the one hand a question of the feel of the playing, on the other hand a concrete statement about the quality of a guitar. This is also an aspect that you can judge well as an inexperienced instrumentalist. After a first visual inspection, you can feel the frets. Stroke it and feel if you notice any bumps.

Edge-free frets: the fingernail test

Take another look at the frets. They must not have any edges at the respective ends and must be worked accordingly neatly. If you run your fingernail along the edge of the fingerboard, you shouldn't feel any frets. Nothing should protrude or be sharp-edged.

Otherwise, you could literally play your fingers bloody. It is not a problem for manufacturers to work sensibly here. Nevertheless, there are the famous “Monday guitars”, also within a batch.

Fret purity - assembly line test across the entire fingerboard

No, fret purity does not mean that the frets have to be perfectly trimmed. It's not about making them shine like they're fresh from the dishwasher. Fret purity means that the gripped notes sound without buzzing or making other capers. As a beginner, you can also manage this control independently. You don't have to play complex harmonies or solo riffs to do this. Rather, it is, to a certain extent, a monotonous assembly line activity:

You grab and play single notes. All of them! From one end of the fingerboard to the other. You do this one after the other on all six strings and listen to each note to see whether everything is vibrating properly. If this is not the case, there is a specific problem here.

However, it is one that can be fixed in the vast majority of cases. Often this is just a matter of attitude. In any case, there is no plus point in terms of guitar quality for poor fret purity.

Octave purity must be precise and adjustable

A guitar can only be properly tuned if the length is meticulously worked. The scale is the distance between the freely vibrating string between the saddle and the bridge. You can check this by playing the string in the 12th fret - where the two markings are usually located on the fret - first with a flageolet:

Lightly touch the string with your fingertip above the fret of the 12th fret, play it and immediately take your finger up again. Next, press the string on the fingerboard in the same fret and play it. The two tones must be exactly identical.

Better to use a tuner for meaningful results

Ideally, you do this test with a tuner. After all, we are talking about “exactly identical” and not by chance. The control with the tuner is probably much more reliable than your not (yet) fully trained ears.

What you are checking with this is the octave purity. The background is that a guitar string has a range of two octaves. The two octaves are divided in the 12 fret. If the octave purity is wrong, you can experiment as you like. The instrument cannot be tuned perfectly.

The octave purity can also be adjusted in moderation

Electric guitars in particular are usually equipped with tabs with which the length of the scale can be fine-tuned. To put it more simply: The free-swinging string can be shortened or lengthened to a small extent. You have to keep in mind, however, that the existing path really doesn't offer much leeway and the expression "fine-tuning" is really meant seriously.

If your instrument is exposed to influences such as dry heating air over time or if you transport it in cold or damp conditions, the wood of the neck and body can warp easily. After all, wood is a natural material. If you have to readjust, you need a little leeway. When buying a guitar, the strings should not be exhausted. Otherwise they would have lost their meaning at the beginning of your friendship.

Vibration behavior and overall sound

With electric guitars it becomes quite complex to assess the vibration behavior. After all, the sound is an overall construction made up of the electronics and the wood of the electric guitar, including the necessary peripherals such as the amplifier. Depending on which sound you like and which music you want to play, you should attach great importance to the pickups in addition to the wood - if it is named and is visible at all.

Most likely you will mainly choose between single coils and humbuckers. It is important at the beginning that the pickups do not bring out excessive self-noise, even with a higher output. It is said that the pickups must be well shielded, allow as little interference as possible and not produce any inherent noise.

Acoustic guitars have more original quality differences

With acoustic guitars, the impression arises that it is easier to make a statement about the quality of a guitar than with its electrified comrades. It's just wood, one might think. No, it's definitely not that easy.

Admittedly, with acoustic guitars the focus is more on the wood and workmanship used than on any components such as electronics and pickups. But they alone really have it all. Because this is really about the natural sound of a natural instrument.

Compare instruments: With an acoustic guitar you experience the vibration behavior immediately and directly. In order to be able to hear and evaluate this at all, you should play several guitars one after the other. Just listen to how voluminous, rich in overtones or bass-heavy the sound develops.

Locked or solid: body quality of the acoustic guitar

The body of an acoustic guitar is largely responsible for the sound. To put it more precisely: the wood used and its processing. The back, frame and top can be made of solid or laminated - locked - wood, and it is often a combination of both.

In any case, it is a quality feature of an acoustic guitar if at least the top is made of solid wood. In most cases, this also means a higher price, which is definitely justified in terms of sound and service life.

Solid wood develops its sound over time

All the better if the frame and bottom are made of solid wood. This wood develops over time; the guitars can be played. This can be a statement about the sophistication and quality of a guitar, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. It's a first clue. The so-called "locked instruments" are usually cheaper and can also provide you with good sound results at an affordable price. Assuming the processing is okay.

Balance - balance of weight

A very pragmatic quality feature is that the guitar should be well balanced. We're not talking about tone here, we're really talking about weight distribution. It makes little sense if the guitar is top heavy and therefore constantly pushes down on one side. That would get in the way of playing. The gripping hand would have to work incessantly against it. If you are testing a guitar, it makes sense not to just sit down. Take a guitar strap and hang the instrument over your shoulders.

Keywords: guitar quality, stringed instruments