How to choose and buy a guitar

November 2019
(update of an earlier blog)

How to choose a guitar
This is a question I get asked about a lot, especially around this time of year with Christmas looming. From beginning students right through to intermediate level, here's my answer... generally speaking:

You need to consider your budget, your size (or the size of the person you are buying it for), and the style of music you want to play with it. Short of time? Check the 'Three Golden Rules' towards the end of this blog post.

Firstly, what sort of guitars are available?

Acoustic guitars: there are two general types, nylon strung and steel strung, either type can be purely acoustic or may have a pickup fitted so the sound to be amplified.

Nylon strung: generally known as 'classical guitars'. Great for young beginners, or if you specifically want to play this style of music. The strings are generally softer and have lower tension than steel strings. They come in half, three quarter and full size; even full size they are not huge instruments, so fit most people. On full size classical guitars the necks and fretboard tend to be wide and flat and generally suit a bigger hand; adults with smaller hands should look out for guitars with narrower necks such as Faith range of guitars, also some nylon strung guitars are fitted with pickups/internal mic and frequently offered with slimline necks, e.g. Yamaha.

Steel strung: sometimes called 'folk' guitars, but they are used to play many styles of music. They are fitted with bronze wound steel strings and are similar to classical guitars in that they come in all shapes and sizes. Apart from the half, three quarter, and full size models there are names given to differently built acoustic guitars; here are some of them:

Parlour - small intended for indoor performance and practice, short scale and usually sweet sounding.
00 - the standard acoustic blues guitar, small body, but a distinct punchy midrange sound.
Jumbo - medium to large size guitar as the name suggests, big bass and clear highs.
Dreadnaught - large guitars with good loud projection, developed for use outdoors
Grand Auditorium - similar to a jumbo but a more pinched waist and quite deep sound, the original Grand Auditorium design was made by Taylor guitars.

Electric guitars: there are lots of different shapes, sizes, colours, makes and it can be confusing to choose your first electric guitar, but the same rules apply as for acoustics. They come in two types, solid and semi-acoustic, and in the usual range of sizes: half, three quarter and full size. Check to see what is most comfortable.

Travel guitars: Acoustic and electric travel guitars which are made small enough to fit as aeroplane hand luggage. As with all guitars prices and styles vary a lot. If you travel a lot, or just have room for something small, these may well be a good choice. Guitars to check: Acoustics: Washburn Rover, Martin Backpacker. Electrics: Steinberger, Hofner Shorty.

Three golden rules
1) Buy from a shop, not over the internet. Every guitar is different, even across the same model range, and cheaper guitars are often variable in build quality, components and the woods used.

2) Check the neck is straight (look down the strings from the tuning pegs end, the guitar neck should look straight in line with the strings); check the frets are comfortable for height and along the edges, and the action (the level of closeness the strings have to the fretboard) is low and the strings easy to press onto the fretboard.  All of these things can be fixed later but it costs money and time. Buying Tip: If there is a guitar you want, but things need doing to it, ask if the shop will sort these if you agree to buy it. Note: the better shops often offer a 'free setup' as part of the sale.

3) Be wary of cheaper instruments made in China, quality control is variable and buying can be a bit of a lottery, especially if buying over the internet. Again buying in a shop will help sort these issues.

Note - Some people ask whether a solid top acoustic guitar is best... my response: try the guitar and see! Solid tops generally sound louder and project better. Laminated tops tend to be stronger, are less prone to warping and, to the player, usually sound just as good.

What makes are known to be good?
Generally as with most things you get what you pay for. Well designed and made guitars of any type will be at the more expensive end of the scale. Mid range and cheaper instruments can often be OK but, as with most products, they are built to a price point, i.e. they make them to the price they think the market (i.e: you 'the buyer') will think is reasonable, and to remain competitive with other manufacturers.

Many companies produce a wide range of instruments to cover the price ranges, usually with a subsidiary company or brand name making the cheaper instruments.

What about secondhand guitars?
They are seen everywhere from charity shop and pawn shop windows to ads on E-bay, Facebook Marketplace, Gum Tree. While they pop up all the time, the best time to look out for a bargain is September and January-February. They are usually a fair bit cheaper than new guitars, but often good enough and often not used very much; a worthwhile option for beginners and improvers alike. As above, use the 3 Golden Rules when buying.

Electrics
Fender and their subsidiary Squier
Gibson and their subsidiary Epiphone
Yamaha
Fret King
Vintage
Tokai
Godin
Ibanez
G&L - Fender guitars in all but name, and great quality.
Music Man
Washburn
Hofner

Acoustics
Add all the electric guitar companies above to the following list of acoustic guitar brands:

Martin - and their subsidiary Sigma
Guild
Taylor
Takamine
Crafter
Lag
Tanglewood
Simon & Patrick - subsidiary of Godin
Seagull - subsidiary of Godin

There are many other names used on guitars in the cheaper range, mostly they're made in China. Always apply the 3 golden rules above regardless of how much it costs, what the salesman says etc..

Prices, prices, prices..
Assuming you are buying a new guitar, not second hand.

                              Acoustics                   Electrics
Cheap               £80 - £200                 £90 - £200 (may include a practice amp)
Lower Mid       £200 - £400               £200 - £450
Upper mid        £400 - £700               £450 - £800
Expensive         £750 - £2000             £800 - £1800
2nd mortgage   £2500 - £5500+        £2500 - £7000+

Recommended shops
Any shop with a good selection of instruments and knowledgeable staff. Usually specialist guitar shops. Here are a few of my local personal favourites here in London (there are many others that may be good, I just have experience to these shops and like them):

Ivor Mairants - Rathbone Place WC1
Hobgoblin Music - Rathbone Place WC1
Macaris - Tottenham Court Road, and Denmark St WC1
Rose Morris - Denmark St WC1
Hanks - Denmark St WC1
Guitar Guitar - Epsom (largest guitar store in Europe)
Guitar Guitar - Camden
Yamaha London - Wardour street WC1
Tune Inn - St Mildreds Rd, Lee, SE London
Eric Lindsey Music - Catford SE London
Rock Bottom - London Rd, Croydon
Martin Phelps Music - South End, Croydon



GCQ Gigs Coming Up...

I'm back at L’Arte Della Pizza, with the excellent Green Chain Quartet, in the wonderful and ancient Charlton House in Charlton, near Blackheath on the following Saturdays from 7pm. 

Saturday Oct 26th 

Saturday Dec 21st

Remember to book, it gets busy!  Phone: 07956 808373

Info/menu etc: https://www.instagram.com/artedellapizzauk/  

Address: L’Arte Della Pizza, Charlton House, Charlton Rd, London SE7 8RE (entrance on Hornfair Rd)  





RGT Exam Deadline & New Acoustic Guitar Syllabus


Yo! Just a reminder about the RGT@LCM exam entry deadlines for the Winter Session: the deadline for paper entries is 1st October, online entries can be made - via RGT.org - until 8th October.  

Late paper entries will be accepted, with current late fees, until 8th October.


Note: In response to teacher feedback from previous Session, RGT recommend for candidates (and / or teachers) to bring backing tracks on a smartphone, a pad or a laptop together with a portable (Bluetooth) speaker they could connect their device to – as a back up to a CD.



Also: The new Acoustic Guitar Syllabus and Handbooks will be available very soon. Please check https://lcme.uwl.ac.uk/exams/guitar-ukulele/acoustic-guitar for more details and look out for updates on our social media.

Cheers

Dave

Live on Saturday! At L’Arte Della Pizza

The GCQ (Green Chain Quartet, with yours truly) are at L’Arte Della Pizza, in the lovely Charlton House and Garden in Charlton, near Blackheath on Saturday September 7th from 7pm. 

It’s jazz, and pizza, and beer time.. see you there! Note: It gets busy, so best to book a table!

L’Arte Della Pizza info/menu etc: https://www.instagram.com/artedellapizzauk/  

The Green Chain Quartet

Greenwich ParkFest

Lovely gig with the Green Chain Quartet at Hampstead Heath on Sunday. The sun shone, we played on the famous old bandstand at Parliament Hill and, judging by the applause, lots of people seemed to like what we did. 

We seem have been lucky with our outdoor gigs and the weather this summer too, amazingly.. even though the weather overall hasn't been all that great! 

We played at Greenwich PARKSFEST event a couple of weeks ago and it rained right up to event day.. but on festival day it was dry and warm, the following day it bucketed down! So the weather gods have really been looking kindly on us this summer. 

We got a nice write up in the Greenwich Visitor too:

https://www.thegreenwichvisitorblog.com/reviews-full/parksfest-at-mycenae-house

https://www.greenchainquartet.com/2019/08/parksfest-review.html





Live GCQ on Hampstead Heath - Sunday 18th August

Right, so the weather forecast is good, dry and sunny with a bit of wind. I'll be treading this famous old bandstand once again in the latest of the Green Chain Quartet's outdoor summer gigs. 

Come and say hello, bring a picnic (lots of folk do), it'll be a lovely afternoon. 


The Green Chain Quartet

Learn more about the bandstand (and the band!) at:

GCQ and the Parliament Hills Fields Bandstand

Sunday 18th August 3 - 5pm: I'm with the Green Chain Quartet at Parliament Hill Bandstand, Parliament Hill Fields (nr Tennis Courts), Hampstead Heath, Highgate Road, London, NW5 1QR  (Nearest Tube: Tufnell Park, Northern Line, 10 min walk)

Upcoming gigs

Some more public gigs coming up over the summer...

Saturday 20th July 2.30 - 4.30pm: Supercool boogaloo jazz and blues with the Green Chain Quartet at the Kellerton Road Street Party, Lee, South London.




Sunday 21st July - 3 - 5pm: Soul, disco, funk, RnB with the fabulous Meantime Road Runners at Greenwich Park Bandstand. (That's us at the very top of this webpage).




Sunday 28th July 4.15pm: More Supercool boogaloo jazz with the Green Chain Quartet at Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, Greenwich. Directions




Sunday 18th August 3 - 5pm: with the Green Chain Quartet at Parliament Hill Bandstand, Parliament Hill Fields (nr Tennis Courts) Highgate Road, London, NW5 1QR




Thursday 22nd August from 1pm: Yet more Supercool boogaloo jazz and blues with the Green Chain Quartet at Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, Greenwich. Directions

Meantime Road Runners - The London Marathon entertainment - Greenwich

Gordon Mark Webber's spiffing Meantime Road Runners are back at Water Station 6 in Greenwich (by Maze Hill) for the London Marathon on Sunday 28th April.

Playing the tunes to keep the runners running and the rest of us warm! If you are running, or there to watch, give us a wave, or.... you can tweet us: @davebold_guitar @GordonMarkMusic @PhilVeacock


It's a great spot to see the runners coming through because at this point they are still pretty close together. We usually start playing at about 9.30. Hopefully see you there, as usual it'll be wonderful! Of course it will.. No, it won't rain... tsk... What?!



Meantime Road Runners.. the right way up and upside down

LCM/RGT Summer Exam Dates

Hi everyone, just a reminder that London College of Music's Register of Guitar Tutors exam dates for the summer are now available.


Listed below are the next dates for public practical exam sessions in England and Wales.  
For more information please see: London College Of Music Exams

Summer: 01 June - 31 July
Closing date for paper entries is 01 May. 
Online entries are accepted one week past the closing date - booking closes at midnight on 08 May.

Just around the corner..!

New stuff coming soon! Gig dates, new guitar courses etc etc. Watch this space.


GCQ: Birdies Christmas Razzamatazz: Sunday 16th December

Quick promo for the Green Chain Quartet Xmas Special: 'Birdies Christmas Razzamatazz'

The Green Chain Quartet return to the lovely Birdie Num Nums in New Cross on the evening of Sunday 16th December.

Expect... Wonderful sets from Sev and The Green Chain Quartet with Christmas swing, funky songs, joyfulness and... mmmm ... Christmas hats! 



When: Sunday evening 7.00 - 11pm: 16th December

Where: 11 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6PP (Opposite Goldsmiths College)


What:  A great little place in New Cross, South London, just over the road from Goldsmith's College. Great food, bar, cafe, nice vibe, great jazz, everyone agrees.. get there, you'll love it.

Check out the Birdie Num Nums Facebook Page, or Tweet Birdies @BirdieNumNumsNX

Buying someone a guitar for Christmas?

Special offer! If you are buying lessons for anyone this Christmas please note that I can complete the gift by offering a free guitar lesson to get them started. 

To take up this offer simply email me (dave@davebold.com) giving the name of the person receiving the guitar/ukulele/bass/banjo, I'll send you a personalised electronic copy of the flyer below. then simply contact me to arrange a date and time to come over.

Cheers

Dave



Winter Jazz Course 2018

Want to learn to play jazz?  If you've been playing guitar for a year or so already and have built up the basics of playing the instrument playing blues, rock, classical or country it's not as hard as you might think. In fact a lot of what you already know can easily be adapted to play jazz on the guitar.

'Learn to play jazz by learning tunes and their chords'


Together we'll sit down and tailor-make a 12 week course for you, to move you from where you are in your playing now, to where you'd like to be in 3 months time.

The 12 week course will contain between 6 and 8 tunes to learn, each one negotiated between us to work out which tunes will suit you best to develop your playing style. Each week you'll study your tunes, work through the chord changes, the melody, the rhythm and your approaches for improvisation for best results. Some will be simple, others more challenging, all of them fun to play!

The tunes selected will include those played regularly at jams, i.e. jazz standards, blues, ballads, latin, bebop heads etc. At the end of the 12 weeks you'll know the 'heads' and the 'changes' to your chosen tunes, along with different 'comping' styles, and a range of strategies for improvising on them.

The pathway include a free 1 hour introductory lesson to evaluate your starting points including technique, aural and musical understanding, so we can hit the ground running the day you start your first proper lesson.

'includes a free 1 hour introductory lesson'


Intro Lesson - assessment of your current technique, level of understanding and preferred learning styles. Discussions on what targets we set, likely practice regime, useful text books/reference sources.

The course will fall broadly into 3 areas:

Foundations - Weeks 1 - 4: typically this will include: getting your ears in gear and fingers moving efficiently around the fretboard, so you play what you want to, not what your fingers are limited to. Chords and progressions, triads, scales and modes, arpeggios, double string studies, fingerings, note names, aural studies, and rhythmic and timing foundations, that apply to the tunes you have selected to work on. In short, building the musical scaffold that makes improvising possible. This stage also includes visualisation and memory techniques.

'Tap into your inner musical ear'



Moving on Weeks 5 - 8: Putting all the above information and resources into your playing. Phrasing, fretboard mapping; getting a clear and simple understanding of how things really work everywhere on your fretboard. How to find the sweet notes and how to apply these to different jazz situations. Exercises and drills that are fun and you can put instantly into your playing. Building on your rhythm and timing skills. Hearing exercises - tap into the 'musical ear you didn't know you had' to make huge leaps in your playing. All of this while working on your next set of tunes.

Consolidating - Weeks 9 - 12: Building vocabulary. Turning scales, triads and arpeggios into licks and phrasing. Common licks used with different chord changes, how to adapt licks to fit lots of playing situations. Filling out between phrases as part of your comping style. More on rhythm - swing, bebop, hard bop, cool, funk and latin styles. Get in the groove with other time signatures - 3/4, 6/8, 6/4, 12/8, 5/4, 7/8. And applying all of this to your final set of chosen tunes.

'Get a clear, simple understanding of how music really works'


To book your free Introductory lesson, use the contact form to the right of this page, or email me at dave@davebold.com. Fees for the course are the same as my standard rates; info on the Lessons page.

LCM Music Theory Exams 2019

London College of Music Theory of Music Exams (UK & Ireland)

Advance notice of these changes:

From the Winter session, entry for LCM Theory exams will only be available online. Please do not use the paper entry form from the website or the back of the handbooks.

Theory Exam Centres: UK and Ireland Theory exams are offered at selected public exam centres - see list on website:

Exam and Closing Dates 2018/2019 


  • Winter 2018 - Saturday 24 November 2018, 10am (closing date 8 October)


  • Summer 2019 - Saturday 15 June 2019, 10am (closing date 15 April)


  • Winter 2019 - Saturday 30 November 2019, 10am (closing date 8 October)


Further information: https://lcme.uwl.ac.uk/information/theory-exams

Looking ahead: What's happening this Autumn

Right, here we go; the summer break is well and truly out of the way, (it's been the longest hot summer here in London since 1976!) so time for me to tell you about what's coming up from this month (September) at Dave Bold | Guitar:

The fabulous Mo-Bo Duo (me n Rich) are working on a brand new project, can't say too much at this stage but for some gigs we'll become a 3 piece. Expect new tunes as well as the regular standards, blues, bop funk n pop folks like us to play.  Also a new recording is planned and a new residency is likely in mid Autumn.


I'll be introducing a new guitar lesson pathway in the early Autumn, called Fretboard Navigation, to help budding guitarists find their way around the guitar fretboard. I've mulled over how to teach this skill over quite a while now, with bits of it often being drip fed to my current students. I've decided it should be it's own a specific pathway with set outcomes.  It will also feature videos and an eBook as backup resources... so... watch this space!


Meanwhile in the Green Chain Quartet, we are working on some new tunes to our extensive blues/jazz/boogaloo repertoire which will add to the fun. We'll be back at BNN's in the Autumn and talk of a possible new residency in SE London.

Here's looking forward to a great Autumn :-)

Dave

Meantime Road Runners - Blackheath Bandstand, Greenwich Park - Sunday 15th July

We're no longer in the World Cup so what could take it's place? Well....what's taking it's place is Gordon Mark Webber's super soulful Meantime Road Runners are at Blackheath Bandstand in Greenwich playing some terrific summer soul, disco, funk and blues tunes for y'all on Sunday 15th July from 3pm.

So why not join us? Forget the World Cup and the Tennis (far too stressful), relax and enjoy a great summer's afternoon of live music. 

It's a lovely spot for a picnic too, and it looks like this great weather we've been having will continue... T
weet us: @davebold_guitar @GordonMarkMusic 


Road Runners.. No summertime blues for you!

Summer Strummers course returns!

Want to learn to play the guitar or ukulele this summer?  Every summer I run a 6 lesson Summer course just for people who want strum a few simple songs.

Ever imagined yourself being able to strum songs by the campfire, on the beach, or leading a sing-along at parties, impressing friends and relatives? Or maybe as a personal challenge, just for your own enjoyment?  Well you can.



This is a 6 lesson course for absolute beginners, no experience necessary. All you need is an acoustic guitar, or ukulele, short spaces of time for practice and the ambition to learn 6 songs. Simple.

Over the 6 lessons you'll learn 6 songs, 3 of your own choice; a song each week. You'll learn how to adapt the strumming patterns and chords you learn to many other songs.

You can learn solo, share with a friend, pile all the lessons into 2 weeks, whatever suits you, it's your call.

Each lesson lasts an hour; at the end of each lesson an achievable practice schedule is set out, with targets lined up ready to work on.

To book just use the contact form on the right, or email. My lesson fees apply, see the Lessons page for more information.



Whatever you're doing, have a great summer :-)

Green Chain Quartet: Live on Hampstead Heath - Sunday 10th June

Don't forget the groove-tastic boogaloo-ist Green Chain Quartet are live on Hampstead Heath this Sunday 10th June 2018.

Funky, bluesy, boogaloo-swingy music for your soul.

Parliament Hill Fields Bandstand, Hampstead Heath: Sunday 10th June 3 - 5pm
http://www.greenchainquartet.com/2018/05/gcq-live-on-heath-sunday-10th-june.html

(very interesting history to the bandstand if you are a music fan; more at above link)

The Groovy Green Chainers on Hampstead Heath Sunday June 10th

Fab-tastic Upcoming Gigs!

I've got two up and coming live dates you may be interested in, both with the fab-tastic boogaloo-ist Green Chain Quartet, and both free.

If you like that funky, bluesy, swingy sound from the late 60s this will be your thing.



Birdie Num Nums Cafe/Bar: Sunday 3rd June, 12.30 - 3pm 
http://www.greenchainquartet.com/2018/05/gcq-live-at-bnns-sunday-june-3rd.html










Parliament Hill Fields Bandstand, Hampstead Heath: Sunday 10th June 2 - 5pm
http://www.greenchainquartet.com/2018/05/gcq-live-on-heath-sunday-10th-june.html

(very interesting history to the bandstand if you are a music fan; more at above link)