Guitar News Weekly
Edition #113, October 23, 2000
by Bob Houlston
Hi Bob, I am a beginner. Please could you give me some information about electro acoustic guitars?
Sound is subjective. We hear differently. The electro acoustic is a compromise guitar. The black bowl body which reduces feedback and aids comfort does alter the sound compared to a dedicated acoustic guitar. It does not have the depth of tone of a conventional jumbo acoustic but it is easy to carry, comfortable & convenient for jamming, recording and gigs. I just can't seem to stop playing it! :) People I play with like it too.
Cheryl, a vocalist I record with, actually prefers an electro acoustic when played "unplugged" to the sound of a genuine acoustic guitar. This may be because the electro acoustic's tone is delicate and therefore less prone to dominate her singing. I always prefer to let the vocals rest easily on the backing. If she's happy, I'm happy.
If you require a guitar that sounds great for acoustic use most of the time then an electro acoustic is probably not for you as you are paying for electrics/pick up etc that you will hardly use. I have just been rehearsing with a drummer [using brushes today] used an electro acoustic and had a great time. The electro acoustics are popular because of their versatility, they are not expected to replace top of the range acoustics but do compliment solid body electrics and real acoustics as they can gig at folk clubs or Rock 'n' Roll dances. They sound adequate with or without amplifier and guitar effects enhance their appeal.
It is an old saying... "It doesn't matter what it sounds like, its what you get out of it that counts."
As you are a beginner I feel that you should go for a guitar that is easy and comfortable to play which gives you scope to explore various styles of music / gigs, encourages you to play and not be concerned with the finer points of sound quality. If you can not hear the difference between the electro acoustic and another guitar that the shop assistant says sounds better acoustically but may not fulfil your requirements I would advise you to request that a padded gig bag with shoulder straps and guitar strap be included in the deal and buy the electro acoustic.
The only exception to this is if the INTONATION of the electro acoustic is suspect [which means the ability to be correctly tuned] which is most unlikely with modern production engineering techniques.
Incidentally, the retail mark up on new musical instruments in UK is often 100%. This is necessary to cover the costs of running a store, tax and holding expensive stock. Most beginners are usually advised to buy quality second hand as new guitars quickly lose their price due to e.g. Value Added Tax which must be included again if the guitar is sold back to the store for resale because the customer found learning to play too difficult. In some areas of UK it may come across as offensive to require a lower price after it has been stated. Therefore, when negotiating a purchase, you will often get more value by requesting a free accessory you need e.g. padded gig bag, strap, strings, capo, plectrum, slide - but don't expect to walk away with the whole store! ;) rather than a lower price. An extra item that would cost you say £10 will often only cost the propriertor £5. I often find that a gentle assertive "How do you feel about... " with regard to the above usually achieves a win / win for both sides :)
Bob Houlston is a guitarist living in St Albans, Hertfordshire UK. He also offers guitar tuition and here offers free, on-line, tips & tabs to help you learn to play the instrument.
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