Acoustic guitars are a beautiful, beautiful thing. Competing luthiers have unique styles and traditions. When it comes to beautiful guitars, aesthetics are taken into account, but players need an instrument that performs. Sound is the crucial thing. Also, how well it keeps in tune, how durable it is, and how the action remains intact (the action refers to the proximity and how parallel are the strings to the fretboard). A lot of preference is personal at the highest level, but when discussing the best guitars around there’s a few companies whose names always come up.
Martin Guitars are exceptional. Built in America out of the finest rosewoods and mahoganies, they’ve been crafting beauties for decades. Players who’ve used them is a veritable who’s who of the rock world: Jerry Garcia, Elvis Presley, Neil Young, and there’s really too many more to name. They’re known for their booming low ends. Martin’s ‘D’ series is where the term ‘dreadnought’ came to be. This is now a general term which applies to all standard shaped acoustic guitars this says a lot about Martin’s impact on the industry. It’s a company associated largely with country and bluegrass players, but there’s no shortage of classic rock players who have used their instruments too.
Larivee is a revered Canadian company centered in Vancouver, with a California plant too. Their guitars are all hand-made, and produce a very clean, balanced tone. Looking at a Larivee is enough to know you’re looking at something special, even at their low ends. With tortoise shell pick-guards and their sleak woods they’re something to behold. They’re not the household name like Martin’s, but amongst guitar players they’re very, very respected. They’ve been making guitars since the nineteen sixties, but have quickly become an established name in the industry for their top quality instruments.
No discussion about acoustic guitars is complete without discussing Gibson. Musicians can identify a Gibson from across a smokey nightclub by its look and sound. In a lot of ways, up there with the Martin, the Gibson is the quintessential acoustic sound. This is especially true of the J-45, but other blues and custom models are no less treasured. A novice might not be able to see a difference between these stunning guitars and their knockoff counterparts, but the difference is felt after hearing the booming tone after just one strum. They really are that good.
At the high end, the woods are all top quality, but what separates one company, or style, of guitar is the bracing system. This refers to how the soundboard is reinforced. None of this is detectable from the outside, as obviously it’s all constructed inside the guitar itself. Ask a guitar technician at your store for details about how this differs from one brand and from one model to the next. If you’re looking at high end guitars, it’s a question that needs answering!
Whatever guitar you pick will be a beauty, but make sure it’s the right beauty for your specific musical needs. Keep playing!