Author Archives: theguitarpal
Author Archives: theguitarpal
Bass guitars are often overlooked in the instrument-popularity contest, but they’re vital to the foundation of music. Here’s a guide to buying a good one.
Most bass guitarists start off with a regular guitar and then decide they want to play bass in a band. Not a lot of them decide to play bass right from the get-go. Whichever category you fall under, it helps to have a starting point when selecting a bass to buy.
The bass guitar tends not to be as upfront in the limelight as the lead guitarist, but it is integral to the rhythm and feel of the music. Expert bassists do often take the spotlight for a solo every now and then, and many even play on their own because they are like one-person bands. There is a lot you can do with a bass guitar.
It is a common misconception that playing bass is easier than playing guitar, usually because there are traditionally four strings. But this is not really the case. Any instrument takes years of practice to fully master, and the bass is no different. With this guide, you should be able to find a suitable instrument on which you can hone your skills.
A good bass guitar largely depends on your preference, and expensive does not always mean good quality. That is why the top pick is a mostly inexpensive bass guitar, the Yamaha TRBX 174. This electric bass guitar may not be made of the perfect combination of woods, but it does offer range and versatility. Of all the basses on this list, this one offers the full scale and the full range of frets, all while giving a pure and rich tone, and that’s why it is number 1.
|Model||Construction||Pickups||Ideal For||Rating||Check Price|
|Yamaha TRBX 174||Agathis, maple||Split and single coil||Rock, jazz||9/10|
|Ibanez GSR 200||Mahogany, rosewood||Passive||Heavy metal||9/10|
|Epiphone Goth Thunderbird-IV||Mahogany, rosewood||Humbuckers||Death metal, black metal||8/10|
|Squier by Fender Vintage SS Modified||Agathis, maple||Split and single coil||Funk, classic rock||8/10|
|Dean E09M Edge||Basswood, maple, rosewood||Passive||Practice, small gigs||7/10|
Even if you think you’ve found the best bass guitar, don’t just buy it straight off the rack. If you’ve had a guitar before, then you know that you need to see if you connect with the instrument. If this sounds strange or if you don’t know what this means yet, don’t worry. With experience, you’ll come to understand it. If you do have some experience, this guide won’t be totally useless. There are plenty of factors that you need to consider before making a final purchase.
Note: this guide does not go into highly debated issues that tend to be of concern to pros or expert bassists such as those involving traditional and non-traditional, precision and jazz, fretted and fretless, or style and techniques. If you are inexperienced, you should have an expert accompany you when you are shopping.
It’s important to first understand what kind of bass you really need. Most people would think of an electric bass guitar, which is the kind that is commonly used to play in live bands. There are also acoustic and semi-acoustic basses that are generally used for unplugged or mellower playing. And finally, there are stand-up or double basses, those large, cello-like instruments you might have seen in 1920s period movies and big band or swing music. This guide caters particularly to electric bass guitars, but there is a section for if you’re looking for acoustic bass guitars. Bass guitars also come with typically four strings, with a few people choosing five-string basses, and even fewer choosing six-string basses. The latter two basses produce lower notes.
What kind of music do you plan to play and in what setting? If you plan to play chill-out music in a laid-back or sophisticated pub, you might need an acoustic bass guitar or a semi-acoustic bass guitar. If you are hoping to play rock or metal music with a band, then you’ll need an electric. Once you know what you plan to be doing, you will have a good idea of what you’re looking for.
Once you know what you are planning to buy, you should plan how much you are willing to spend. A high-quality pro bass guitar can cost thousands and thousands of dollars, while new and used bass guitars can be as cheap as a hundred or two. If you are not sure about what you want to do with your bass, consider looking for bass guitars for sale or you might be wasting money if you find you don’t like playing. On the other hand, don’t buy a bass just because it is cheap. A midrange bass guitar will be good for beginners and intermediate players, and sometimes even pros. If you are serious, it is worth the investment.
Different bass guitars are constructed differently, and the qualities of the wood that they are made of actually have an impact on the sound. For instance, mahogany, my personal favorite, has a warm and full sound. Maple, on the other hand, is very bright. Alder and ash woods offer more resonance. Basswood is a highly versatile wood and beloved by speed demons and technical players.
Another aspect of the electric bass guitar to consider is how the sound is amplified. There are active pickups and passive pickups that “pick up” the sound and transmit it to an amplifier and then a loudspeaker. Traditionally, electric guitars and bass guitars had passive pickups, which magnetically pick up all the vibrations produced by the strings. This means that to control the tone you get, you have to cut the frequencies you don’t want.
Active pickups are battery powered and allow you to cut and simultaneously boost the frequencies of your choice. If one seems better than the other now, understand that there is a sound difference as well. Many world-class bassists swear by each of these types, so it is up to you to know what sound you prefer.
Passive pickups tend to have a warmer, fuller sound, while active pickups have a brighter, more trebly sound.
Yamaha produces everything from motorcycles to guitars, and the thing is that they do all of it really, really well. In the case of the TRBX 174, they’ve done a great job at giving bass guitarists a full range of playability.
This guitar is TGP’s number one pick not just because it looks as classy as it does. It has a full 34” scale with 24 frets, giving you the best range you could as for as a bassist. There is pretty much nothing you can’t play on this bass.
It is made primarily from Agathis, a cheaper woods for bass, which is why it is so inexpensive, but the tone is quite resonant and warm. The neck is made from maple. Yamaha has the same model for a little more money with maple and alder if you are interested.
This Yamaha bass guitar looks vintage, especially if you get the old sunburst finish, and it comes with combination split coil and single coil pickups, which enhances the tonal range. This guitar is ideal for rock and jazz music, but can solidly work for any genre.
So far, a lot of bass players I know have said that Ibanez produces the best basses. Now, this is largely a matter of preference, but Ibanez does have an impeccable reputation.
This bass is also extremely affordable, but it does sound amazing for the price. The mahogany, rosewood, and maple combination for the construction gives it one of the deepest and warm tones you could ask for in a bass guitar at this price. This makes it ideal for heavy metal but well capable of playing most things you put it to.
The guitar has 22 frets and combination passive pickups with a 34” scale neck. If this bass guitar seems a little underwhelming, wait until you sit down to play it. It packs quite the punch!
Epiphone is also a highly reputed brand and this bass guitar will make you see why. For starters, the mahogany, maple, and rosewood combination of wood are a force to be reckoned with. On top of that, the humbucker pickups will knock your socks off.
The full 34” fretboard has 20 frets, but the whole combination of elements that this baby is made of gives it some immense tonal power. The depth and richness of the sound is a lot to contend with, and truly at a steal of a price.
You might like this bass especially if you are into the heavier genres of metal and rock. It can greatly accommodate anything else, but at first glance, you’d say it belongs at a Black Sabbath gig.
I love Fender. I’ve been around Fenders since I was born. Unfortunately, this one makes it a little low on this list because it just doesn’t give as much as the others on this list do. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t give a lot.
This gorgeous axe has an Agathis body (I would have preferred mahogany), with maple and rosewood for the 30” scale and 20 frets. This, along with the combination single and split coil pickups will give you nice, rich tone.
The clearly vintage looking guitar is in its element with some funk or classic rock, but don’t be afraid to venture into any other genre.
This bass guitar from Dean has its ups and downs, but for a cheap bass guitar, it’s pretty darn good! Pair it with a good amp and pedal and you can get just about whatever tone you like.
The bass is made from basswood, maple, and rosewood, with a passive soap bar type pickup. Though it seems like a simple setup, this guitar is great for learning, practicing, and playing small gigs. This really is the beginner’s guitar, but it’s a good choice of one.
You’ll get a nice range of tones from the construction as well, so your versatility as a bassist shouldn’t be too hampered.
The fretboard comes at the full 34” scale length, with 22 frets to play on.
If your budget is a little tight, then you can easily buy cheap bass guitars online or look for bass guitars for sale. Many people sell their old bass guitars for practically nothing. If you want your very own brand new bass guitar, however, the Dean E09M Edge is one of the cheapest you can find.
Left handed guitars are hard to find because such a small population requires it. Many people tend to just play righty anyway. Electric bass guitars can’t be restrung and flipped around. If you need a left-handed bass guitar, try the Fender Standard Jazz Electric Bass, which might be a bit expensive but is high quality.
If you are a beginner, then you’ll probably be best off buying a starter kit that contains everything you will need in addition to the bass guitar itself. Electric basses will need an amp, cable, strap, and a few other accessories. I would recommend the Squier by Fender Bass starter kit, which comes with a quality Fender amp, a gig bag, extra strings, and plenty more. It’s a worthwhile investment overall.
Alternatively, the Epiphone Toby Bass set comes with all the same stuff with the Epiphone brand and it’s of good quality for a starter. If all else fails, the Crescent Electric Bass set has a good budget kit, also ideal for kids.
There are a lot of kids’ guitars and kids’ bass guitars out there for really low prices, but what I would recommend is the Ibanez GSR M20 Mikro, which is a scaled version and it’s a solid buy for a good price. There’s also a great Oscar Schmidt Electric Bass, also scaled for kids and of good quality for a low price. The Dean Hillsboro Jr. isn’t a bad choice either, and is even cheaper but has a great tone.
If you are looking to play unplugged (or semi-unplugged), there are some good options out there. I would suggest the Ibanez PCBE12MH, with mahogany, rosewood, and maple, so you’ll get a great sound. But if you want a semi-acoustic bass guitar, a good one to go for is the Dean EAB, which is also made of mahogany and rosewood, or the Fender CB 100CE Dreadnought, which is made of spruce, mahogany, and rosewood.
There are some amazing five-string guitars if you want to take it up a notch or if you’ve had a four-string and want to advance. Metal guitarists often prefer to get the extra lows of the B string on a five-string bass. If this is the case, I would recommend the Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass V. It has a lot of punch and muddiness to it.
If Fender isn’t really for you, check out the ESP LTD B Series B 205, which is made of ash, maple, and rosewood for a great sound. There’s also a 5 string Ibanez GSR 205, made of mahogany, maple, and rosewood.
Whatever your choice might be, it is always best to take your time to figure it out, consider as many factors as you can together, and then decide. Ideally, you should try it before you buy it, even if you are planning to buy online. Look for a nearby store, ask an expert bassist you might know to accompany you, and give it a go to know how it sounds and feels. Don’t just “bass” your decision on only one or two factors or without a lot of thought.
You might think that the only guitar world record to be at all interesting is to do with who is the fastest. Well, not so much. There are tons of world records set by famous guitarists and (somewhat) regular people. These range from the truly amazing to the truly ridiculous. Here are some of the most interesting ones.
Of course, we have to start with THE record. The world records for fastest guitar player have always been measured on the basis of one song. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee has been used as the standard for setting this record, and ever note needs to be discernible upon slowing down the playing. Here is Nirvana Bista, an Indian teenager, setting the record in 2015 at an insane 1600 beats per minute. He gradually speeds up until he reaches the recorded tempo, and while it may seem like noise, remember, it only qualifies because you have to be able to slow it down and see that every note is played precisely. The previous record was 1300 BPM
Okay, so it’s not quite just a guitar record, but it’s worth noting because it’s such a crazy record. This record was based on decibel level, and many famous bands have, at some point, held it. Deep Purple and The Who may be the most notable, with their gigs reaching decibel levels of 117dB and 126dB respectively. Deep Purple’s gig even knocked a few people out. Just so you know, that’s louder than a jet taking off 300m away (100dB) and enough to severely cause pain. The band Manowar held the record for a long time, but this was beaten by good old KISS with 136dB (2009). And that is louder than a military jet taking off just 50 feet away. The record is no longer being listed because it is too dangerous to try and break!
That’s a mouthful! And apparently a chinful. Here is Canadian Doug McManaman doing just that for just over a minute. Doug has managed to pull off several of these kinds of records, balancing acoustic and electric guitars on his chin while sitting, standing, kneeling, and lying down. Much like him, Suresh Gaur of India has heaped on the records, pulling off an incredible 13+ minutes balancing an acoustic guitar on his thumb!
When I first heard about air guitar championships, I rolled my eyes. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but air guitar playing has come a long way since the early days of Sabbath and Maiden. This new competitive sport (?) now involves participants having to really sell it and convince viewers that they’re actually playing an invisible guitar. This is one of my favorites. And here’s last year’s winner. I’m not sure I quite get it, but if it works, it works. In the largest assembly of air guitarists, over 2,300 people played Ozzy’s Crazy Train in California to take the record.
One of my favorite guitar-related records has not been broken since 1997, when Harold Craighead and Dustin Carr, two Cornell scientists, created a working replica of a Fender Stratocaster out of silicon. The size? Ten micrometers. That’s 1/20th of a human hair’s thickness. Each string is about the width of 100 atoms in a row! When the strings are plucked, their frequencies are too high for human hearing.
Let’s end on something special. Though this isn’t an official record, it’s certainly a lot of fun and shows some amazing dedication. Here are a thousand musicians playing Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters in an effort to convince the band to play in their city, Cesena, Italy. When the band responded and played for them, frontman Dave Grohl was injured but played anyway. Here he is thanking everyone.
Acoustic guitars are a one the most popular instruments in the world. They can be used to play almost any genre of music, and come in a wide variety. You don’t need to be a pro to impress people or play some amazing music with an acoustic guitar. Even with a few simple chords, you can play a number of popular songs from decades ago to the contemporary tunes of today.
If you are looking to purchase the best acoustic guitar for you, there are several factors to consider before you make a selection. Don’t buy a guitar on a whim. You’ll find yourself much happier with your choice if you take some time to learn the basics and put some thought into the selection.
It’s hard to really pick a “best acoustic guitar”, because what’s good for you might not work for someone else. That’s why it is always a good idea to take the time to consider all the factors that make a guitar what it is before buying one. When you have some idea of what sound you’d like, what features you need, and what you’ll be doing with your new guitar, you’ll be able to narrow down the list and make a selection.
In this list, the number one guitar is the Fender FA-100 Dreadnought because it is a total all-rounder acoustic. It allows for versatile playing, has a full and rich sound, and is made from quality material by a top guitar maker. It’s also highly affordable, so it makes for an excellent choice.
|Model||Frets||Wood||Extra Features||Strings||Rating||Check Price|
|Fender FA-100||20||Rosewood, Laminate spruce||Gig bag, tuner, strings, straps||Steel||9/10|
|Yamaha FG800||20||Spruce, Nato, Rosewood||No||Steel||8/10|
|Epiphone DR-100||20||Mahogany, Spruce||No||Steel||8/10|
|Martin LXK2 Little Martin||20||Rosewood, Laminated koa||No||Steel||7/10|
|Taylor GS Mini Mahogany||20||Mahogany, Sapele, Ebony||Gig bag||Steel||7/10|
Choosing the best acoustic guitar for you will depend on your preferences, needs, purpose, and budget. If you have no prior experience with guitars, you might be tempted to just buy the cheapest or the first acoustic guitar that you see. Well, even if you haven’t got a clue where to start, that’s not a good way to go. Because as you learn and play more, you may find yourself unhappy with the sound, look, or construction of the instrument. This guide should help to point you in the right direction.
Acoustic guitars can cost as little as under $100, and as much as thousands of dollars. It’s important for you to know just how much you’re willing to spend because this will have a huge impact on your options. There are literally thousands of guitars to choose from and hundreds of brands. If you’re an intermediate or pro guitarist, you’ll want to spend a little more to get the kind of quality that will help to showcase your skills. If you’re a total newbie, you may feel better to start with an affordable guitar and move on to better ones as you master the instrument. For a few hundred dollars, you can get some pretty good acoustic guitars. If you’re still on the fence, you can always buy secondhand cheap acoustic guitars and learn the ropes. Also, see if you can find an acoustic guitar for sale online.
If you’re a beginner just looking to learn, you don’t really need to worry about all of the factors that influence the sound and quality of a guitar. But it’s still a good idea to learn about what makes a good acoustic and choose one that sounds and looks good. That way, when your skills advance, you won’t outgrow your guitar right away. If you can afford to buy a pro guitar, you should, because this will never go wrong for you. If you are an intermediate guitarist looking for an upgrade, then you need to take your time to decide on something that suits your needs.
What are you going to be using the guitar for? Do you want to be playing open mic nights or starting a band? If so, a semi-acoustic guitar might be a good idea. A semi-acoustic is only slightly different from a traditional acoustic. The difference is that you can plug it into an amplifier directly and still get the rich acoustic sound. You can play it as a normal acoustic too. Don’t go for an electric guitar until you’ve learned the basics on the acoustic and you are sure you want to get into it. If you will be playing in public with an acoustic or semi-acoustic, you should look for a decent quality.
If you are kind of small made, like I am, you might prefer to find a smaller guitar. A narrower body and neck will be good for small hands and arms, although this is not really a hugely limiting factor. Most standard guitars can accommodate pretty much anyone, but you may be more comfortable with a smaller model. It will help if the action of the strings (the distance between the fretboard and the strings) is relatively low. Beginners will find it easier to learn to play because higher action will be painful on the fingertips and finger muscles. Larger bodies will give deeper sounds, though.
This point is actually quite closely linked to sound as well. The shape of the guitar, the sound holes, the wood it is made out of, the strings, and the body type all affect the way it will sound when played.
Usually, beginner guitars are made from laminate wood. A well-made laminated wood guitar will generally keep its sound and be clear and defined. Many players who are serious about the guitar prefer solid woods because laminate does not produce as rich and resonant a sound. Beginners will still benefit from a standard laminate guitar, however. Solid woods tend to be more expensive.
Cedar wood will produce a brighter, trebly tone and is suitable for classical playing. Mahogany is very dense and can produce a very strong sound, and it’s a favorite among blues and country guitarists. Maple will give you a drier sound and is great for playing live with a band. Rosewood is extremely popular among rock musicians because of its rich sound, projection, and bassy tone. Spruce is pretty much a standard and offers clarity and resonance. Walnut will give you good midrange tones.
The strings will also make a difference to the sound. Different guitars come with either nylon or steel strings, and you can’t swap them out for one another. If you want a soft and classical tone, or plan to learn finger picking, you might prefer the nylon stringed guitars. Steel strings produce a louder tone with more brightness and are preferred by rock, pop, and country musicians.
Fender is considered one of the pioneering and top manufacturers of guitars, having been famous in the industry since the 1930s. This manufacturer has been a pioneer in the world of guitar and guitar accessories, so you can be sure that pretty much anything you get from them is good quality. It is a personal favorite, and I have yet to be disappointed.
The Dreadnought model is a type of acoustic body first developed by Martin Guitars but is used by most acoustic guitar manufacturers today. The body is on the larger side, giving a full, rich, and resonant sound every time. Smaller made players may take some getting used to, but any guitar will. It’s low priced (just $150) and a great choice for beginner players.
The FA-100 acoustic is made with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, giving the sound a more bassy tone. The laminate spruce body will give you reliable and clear sound. The steel strings are much closer to the fretboard, so they won’t be too painful at the fingertips of the fretting hand.
There’s a 20-fret board, and no cutaway, so if you’re looking to hit a few high notes, you’re a bit limited. Unless you’re hoping to be a rock god, this will be no problem for you.
If you buy the guitar online, you can get a gig bag (the carry case), an electronic tuner, guitar picks, strings, and a strap. So you can have the full guitarist experience. Simply put, this guitar is the whole package at an affordable price, and that’s why it’s number 1 on this list.
You probably know Yamaha for doing a little bit of everything, from guitars to bikes. They’ve been making guitars since the Swinging Sixties and are world renowned for their mostly affordable but good quality guitars.
An upgraded version of one of Yamaha’s most popular acoustic guitars (worldwide!) is the FG800, which has a low price tag but packs a punch with sound. At just $200, you can get a pretty good tone and some solid construction out of this guitar. If you want a Yamaha acoustic guitar, this should be your pick.
The dreadnought body is made from spruce wood and nato, with the fretboard made of rosewood. This means you’ll get a nice combination of bass and brightness. Your guitar will sound crisp, but deep and resonant. It’s an excellent choice for beginners and anyone looking for a bluesy, jazzy sound.
This guitar has 20 frets and no cutaway. Again, this is pretty much standard, so you won’t likely need anything more than this. The only thing that some players might struggle with is the action, which might be just a tad bit high for beginners.
This guitar is actually one of the best selling products from Epiphone. The company has been in the musical instrument manufacturing industry since the 1870s but moved into guitars after Gibson took over in the 50s. Gibson is largely considered the best guitar manufacturer in the world, and though there aren’t any Gibson brand guitars on this list, Epiphone guitars are all under the Gibson label.
The DR-100 is one of Epiphone’s original and most affordable models, at just a hundred bucks. It’s pretty much as close as you can get to a (very expensive) Gibson acoustic guitar. The spruce top, mahogany body and neck, and rosewood fingerboard make for great sounds overall. If you want a kind of bluegrass, rock, country, or folk sound, this is the go-to guitar. The versatile but budget-friendly DR-100 will serve well as a first-time instrument.
The standard fretboard comes with 20 frets, so you’ll be able to play anything basic or intermediate guitarists might play. The narrow neck and easy action make this a highly playable guitar for most beginners. The steel strings will give you brightness and add to the resonance of the dreadnought body. Epiphone acoustic guitars are usually good, so this if you like the brand, check out a few more options if you can.
The Little Martin featured here is a bit on the expensive side compared to most of the other guitars on the list at over $300, but is still an affordable choice for amateurs hoping to get serious. Martin Guitars has been making these instruments since the 1830s! So they know their stuff.
This guitar is ideal for the smaller player and is easy and light for carrying about. Though it’s small, it has the dreadnought body shape to give you a nice, full sound. The laminated koa body offers a dynamic range of sound. Though not as frequently used for guitars, koa wood is used for ukuleles, and it is a durable hardwood to rely on.
The 20-fret fretboard and bridge are made from rosewood, enhancing the koa sound you’ll get as you play. The steel strings will add more brightness to the sound. The action is also easier on the fingers.
This guitar isn’t the kind of acoustic you’d play on stage with. It’s more for practice and learning, and for leisure. It’s the kind of guitar that’s perfect around the campfire with friends and smores. Overall, it is best for smaller hands.
Taylor Guitars is one of the top manufacturers of guitars in the US and has been making guitars for over forty years. The GS Mini Mahogany is the most expensive guitar on this list ($500), but it is still of extremely high quality.
The smaller body offers easier carrying and holding, making it well suited for younger and smaller players. The mahogany and Sapele wood work well together for the body, giving a strong and powerful sound. The real ebony 20-fret fretboard and bridge are easy on small and fresh fingers.
This guitar looks beautiful and comes with a soft, padded gig acoustic guitar case. You won’t get as bassy a sound out of this guitar as some others on this list, but you still get a good tonal range.
The best things this guitar is for are portability, smaller players, and people looking to play a range of music types.
If you are looking for a guitar solely based on staying under a budget of say $100 or $200, then there are several highly rated cheap guitars. Alternatively, you could buy used acoustic guitars for practically nothing.
Some guitars are made just for right-handed guitarists, and you cannot swap the strings around and play comfortably if you are a left-hander. Other guitars are made to be left-friendly, in that you can string them any way you like. Of course, if you want the same kind of style or shape in an exclusively left-handed version, there are plenty of options. I would recommend the Oscar Schmidt OG1 for just over $100. It’s a good quality and well-suited choice for learning and practicing, especially for people with small hands, thanks to the narrow neck.
Alternatively, you could try the Taylor Guitars Baby Taylor, the mahogany, ebony, and Sapele guitar that’s a nice choice for a crisp tone. It’s also good for smaller players and beginners. You could also try the Blueridge BR-43LH Contemporary Series. The exclusively left-handed guitar is made from spruce, mahogany, and East Indian rosewood. It produces a warm and clean sound.
If you need a guitar exclusively catering to total beginners, then you’ll need an instrument with some versatility and affordability. A good beginner acoustic guitar should be long-lasting, sturdy, and of good enough quality to give you a well-rounded learning experience. A popular beginner guitar that I would recommend is the Seagull S6 Original. It’s made from wild cherry, rosewood, and cedar, and produces a big, rich tone.
A couple of other good choices include the Yamaha FG730S, which is about as traditional as an acoustic guitar can get. Then there is also the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany, the mahogany, Sapele, and ebony guitar I talked about earlier. This guitar is a worthy investment for a beginner who hopes to get serious.
Learning guitar as a child is one surefire way to become a master guitar player quickly. If you’re looking for a guitar for a young child, then a smaller but well-made guitar would be best. My choice would be the Yamaha JR1 guitar. It’s a rosewood and spruce guitar so you’ll get a lovely sound, and the small scale is perfect for smaller players.
Another excellent choice would be the Rogue Starter Acoustic, which is also smaller scale. It’s made from mahogany and rosewood, a rich and gorgeous sound, and it’s quite affordable. Alternatively, the First Act FG1106 is even cheaper and smaller and features a thin fretboard to make learning easier.
Ultimately, when choosing a guitar for you or for someone else, it’s best to consider the needs and the purpose of the guitar. Whatever your budget, you can find good acoustic guitars with some great quality sound and construction to suit the player’s needs. Take your time to figure out what kind of sound you’re going for, what you would like to do with your guitar, and how much you’re willing to spend on it, and they go out to get one.
When you think of the prototypical guitarist, you probably have a certain image in mind, right? For some of us, that image might be the sensitive, sweet guy who writes deep and meaningful poetry in his spare time. For others, the image may be the badass, long-haired rocker with a penchant for sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Whatever you imagine, the truth is usually stranger than fiction. This is a list of some of the most beloved guitarists of all time and the hidden talents you wouldn’t expect them to have. Here they are in no particular order.
Or should I say Dr. Brian May, CBE? This 70-year-old, long-haired rocker from Middlesex, England is one of the most prolific musicians on the planet. You probably know May as the legend who played lead guitar for the band Queen. But what you might not have known is that he is also an astrophysicist who was in the midst of his doctoral degree when Queen became a worldwide phenomenon.
By this time, May had co-authored some serious scientific research, but decided to quit his PhD to pursue his exploding musical career. Amazingly, this multi-talented guitarist has since re-registered for his PhD, submitted his thesis on zodiacal dust, and earned his doctorate.
If that isn’t enough, May has a few more accolades under his belt. Among them is his role as a collaborator on NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission, as well as his Chancellorship at Liverpool John Moores University. May, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and several others together founded Asteroid Day to raise global awareness about asteroids and protecting Earth. Less than a decade ago, the asteroid 52665 was named Brianmay in his honor.
Aside from all of this, the legendary guitarist and composer has long been an animal rights activist, forayed into the world of stereophotography, and had a damselfly named after him too, the Heteragrion brianmayi! I mean… what?! This man is easily the most incredible entry on this list.
Dave Mustaine is known in the thrash metal industry for a number of things. For starters, he was in the original Metallica, playing lead guitar alongside co-founders Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. I won’t get into the drama that ensued not long after the original lineup of Metallica started gaining momentum, but in short, Mustaine was soon ejected from the band. He soon went on to form Megadeth. Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer are hailed today as the Big Four of trash metal.
Considered one of the higher ranking 100 greatest heavy metal guitarists of all time, the now 55-year-old rocker also has something else under his belt. More specifically, it IS his belt. Mustaine has a black belt in Taekwondo and Ukidokan Karate. It all started back in the day when the axe man was dealing with drug and alcohol problems. Though he has practiced various martial arts in the past (since he was 12), he didn’t revisit it until 1999 when he took up taekwondo. Mustaine considers martial arts to have been instrumental in giving him the discipline and strength to kick his bad habits for good.
Not long afterwards, the guitarist suffered a nerve injury in his arm (strangely because he had fallen asleep on the arm for too long). With more than a year and a half of physical therapy and intensive continued practice in the martial arts, he has returned to playing guitar as normal, something that doctors did not expect to be possible. In 2007, Dave Mustaine was made a Goodwill Ambassador of the World by the WTF (no, that’s not what you think – it stands for World Taekwondo Federation).
Other than his martial arts, Mustaine has dabbled in what he considers not-very-metal sports like golf and hockey, even coaching his son in the latter. In between writing songs and playing gigs, Mustaine still practices his martial arts. Here he is in action back in the day.
Speaking of martial arts, did you know that Willie Nelson has a black belt in GongKwon Yusul, the Korean martial art? Here he is getting his award. If you don’t know the man for his music, you will probably know him for his activism. Or you might know him for his many legal issues. Perhaps you know him from one of his 30-something movies. Or you may know him from… well, you get the point. Everyone knows Willie Nelson. At the very least, you must have heard his cover song with Julio Iglesias (“To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”) or his 1980 hit “On the Road Again”, or most likely his pro-mary jane song with Snoop Dogg.
Willie Nelson was born in 1933 and he’s still, quite literally, kicking around. This guy is the oldest on the list, and he is responsible for pioneering the country genre “outlaw country”. The Grammy award winner and Hall of Famer credits his longevity in part to his martial arts, often discussing the benefits of the practice for body and mind.
Nelson is really a jack of all trades, having done pretty much everything from playing football to writing poetry. He’s an actor, and activist, a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist, and even an author. He’s played alongside the country greats like Johnny Cash and the Highwaymen. Today he gets up to shenanigans with Snoop Dogg and practices GongKwon Yusul on his tour bus.
This guitarist is a Grammy award winner and considered one of the best guitarists in the world, and if you listen any one of this one-man band’s songs, you’ll see why. Now in his mid-fifties, Vai first began his interest in music at the tender age of 5, still able to recall that first experience of recognizing the notes on a piano. Vai later took lessons from another great, Joe Satriani, whose influence can be heard and seen in Vai’s work. He also took over from David Lee Roth as guitarist for Frank Zappa’s band back in the day, and this was how his incredible career began.
What you may not have known about this Grammy award winning and record setting legend is that since the 90s, he has also been a beekeeper. In fact, he also has his very own bees honey product, which he only auctions off for his Make a Noise Foundation. It all started in his Hollywood home when he realized his wife’s garden was flourishing thanks to the honeybees that lived in the neighbors’ walls. When they moved to Encino, California, Vai went online and learned about beekeeping, procured some of his own, and began his hobby.
Vai says that he relates to these little creatures because they “work themselves to death”, and that he could relate. This is not surprising if you know how this guy grew to be the shred-master that he is today. Vai is known for his 15-hour-a-day practice sessions. Here he is talking about and displaying his hobby.
Today, Steve Vai actively promotes beekeeping and, more importantly, he has been pushing for saving the bees since before they became as endangered as they are today. Additionally, Vai has his own record label, signature guitars and equipment (which he helps to create), and dabbles in voice acting.
No, not the drummer from Genesis, that’s Phil Collins. I’m talking about the guitarist from Def Leppard. Collen joined this iconic hard rock/NWOBHM band back in 1982 and he’s been through thick and thin with them ever since. This is the man who was once asked to be in Iron Maiden and turned it down!
In the 1980s, it really was all sex, drugs, and rock n roll, and Collen and a fellow guitarist were in deep with alcohol addiction. While Collen recognized that he had a problem and turned over a new leaf, his bandmate suffered a more tragic fate and died in 1991. Since then, Collen has adopted a health-conscious lifestyle, and has been sober and vegetarian for over 20 years. It was at this time that Collen found a new love.
A Bruce Lee fan since childhood, Collen found himself outside a dojo one day in 1991, when someone asked him if he would be interested. After learning how to escape a stranglehold, Collen says that he signed up immediately. Now, the Def Leppard guitarist is training daily under Muay Thai champion Jean Carrillo and has a black belt in Kenpo.
You wouldn’t think it to look at this Adonis-like rockstar, but Phil Collen is in his mid-fifties today. Here he is in training. And here is playing and singing one of Def Leppard’s iconic songs (mind the cursing).
The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince was making music until he died in April, 2016. This truly talented individual was considered an innovator, a musical genius, and a true showman. He was also a quiet and softspoken man, so most people would never have guessed that he also had a great love for ping pong, or table tennis.
Prince, and yes that is his real name, came from a highly musical family, so it’s no surprise that he played just about a dozen different instruments. At the age of just seven, he wrote his first song on the piano and he called it “Funk Machine”. It seems that he was destined to be the star that he became.
As a teenager, Prince played a lot of sports, including basketball, football, and baseball, and continued playing some of his favorite sports as an adult. It was in the late 70s and early 80s, though, that he got his break in music.
Before he died, Prince had not just written dozens and dozens of albums of his own, but he had also written countless lyrics for other artists, including greats like Patty LaBelle, Tom Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and Stevie Nicks. He also wrote for newer artists like Alicia Keys. You may have heard the song he wrote sung by Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, and the famous “Manic Monday” by the Bangles. Yep, all Prince.
By the time of his death, he had won 14 awards and 48 nominations, including Academy Awards, Golden Globes, American Music Awards, and Grammy Awards. You may have caught him in one of his rare appearances too, if you watched that one episode of New Girl. Prince was a shy man, though you wouldn’t have thought it of such a high-profile celebrity, but one thing he wasn’t shy about was his passion for ping pong. In fact, he was quite competitive about it, as some of his famous challengers might tell you.
What other guitar gods do you know who have unexpected talents?
Almost every beginner and intermediate player wants to see speedy improvements, but the truth is that no matter how quickly you pick it up, becoming a pro guitarist is going to take time. You first need to accept that and learn to be patient. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to put up with improving slowly. Becoming the next Yngwie Malmsteen is going to take years of practice, but with a few simple tricks, you can figure out how to learn guitar fast. Here are a few to get you started.
Some people have a bit of an edge over others. If you have perfect pitch, for instance, you’re lucky. If you worked with your hands a lot prior to picking up a guitar, you probably have a lot of finger and hand strength already. But most people don’t have this to work with. It’s important to understand that there are no barriers to learning guitar. If you think your hands are too small, like I did, or if you think your fingers are crooked, like I did, you’ve gotten it all wrong. There are little kids who play like pros. And even one-handed guitarists.
It just takes time and practice. If you’re looking for immediate results, you won’t get it, but when you do, all that hard work will have paid off. Remember, nothing good ever comes easy. Malcolm Gladwell says that anything, ANYTHING, takes at least 10,000 hours to master. Just ask Steve Vai. You think he got that good because he’s a prodigy? No, the guy practiced fifteen hours a day. So never give up.
Okay, pep talks aside now. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to warm up before a practice session. Your arms and fingers are the same as any other muscle. You need to warm them up before practice and warm down afterwards, like with sports. Start and finish your sessions with scales or finger training exercises. This will help to reduce stiffness in the joints and muscles and get the blood circulating.
Well, something like that anyway. When you’re not playing guitar, there’s plenty of time spent with at least your fretting hand free. Use these times to work out the fingers, individually and together. You don’t need a guitar for this. You can do strength training for your fingers with a hand exerciser. GripMaster has plenty of different strength to suit your level, from the extra light at 3lb, best suited for kids, to the heavy duty at 9lb, best suited for, well, rock climbers. These are ideal for working out your entire hands, from fingers to wrists to forearms. You won’t really need these if you’re not planning to become the next Michael Angelo Batio, but if you’re looking for faster results, these will help. It will largely help you to improve your dexterity, flexibility, and strength overall.
If you haven’t started learning with a metronome, it’s about time you started. A metronome is a device that makes a sort of ticking sound like a clock. Nowadays there are plenty of apps that you can get for free instead of the device. The metronome is used by all types of musicians to learn to keep time. I used to practice my finger exercises without the metronome and a pro guitarist friend of mine pointed out how I kept speeding up and slowing down at times without realizing. This may not seem like a major problem at first, but when you start playing with a band, you’ll find it hard to keep time. Or your bandmates will find it hard to keep up with you. Using a metronome, you learn to intuitively keep time, making your notes and chords even. It will also help when you’re struggling to learn a song that’s a little too fast for your skill level. Start the metronome at a slower tempo than the original and learn to play it carefully at that pace. Then gradually increase tempo till your reach your target. Even with learning scales and finger exercises, start slow. You can get speed trainers to help you improve your speed even as an expert. I still use the old school GuitarPro for this (which also has a metronome).
This is one mistake I made when I first picked up the guitar and I still have trouble shaking it. As with anything, bad habits are hard to break. So if you start off learning with the wrong grips and techniques, you’re going to have to relearn a lot of the right stuff later on when the songs and chords you play demand it. For instance, how do you press down on the strings with your fretting hand? With the pads of your fingers, or on the tips? The right way is on the tips. I started learning with the pads of my fingertips, and always got a buzzing sound because the flesh of my fingers would touch the other strings. Another thing is the way you hold the pick, if you use one. Here’s a picture of the correct way to hold the pick.
I used to avoid barre chords because I have tiny fingers and this was one of the things I had a major issue with. The neck of my first guitar was narrow enough, but I couldn’t stretch my fingers to make those big chords. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. It’s not just several different ways to play the same F chord. Each root chord also has dozens of other modified versions that fit better with different styles of music, different scales, and different feels. More importantly though, learning the variations gives you a lot of versatility, especially when working with other musicians. When someone says, “Can you try that with an F# augmented, you need to be able to play it without having to fumble around for that chord dictionary app! Of course, if you’re not planning on becoming a pro or a sessions player, this shouldn’t be an issue. But it helps to speed up your development nonetheless, because you’re going to encounter dozens of songs with weird chords that you’ve never heard of. And they’re not all difficult chords, mind you. There are plenty of apps and books with chord dictionaries you can keep handy for practice. Try learning a new chord every day. Just be sure to practice them.
Don’t make the mistake of ever taking a break from your guitar. I learned the hard way that fifteen minutes of practice each day is better than one or two hours a week. Always spend some time each day doing a few scales and finger exercises, no matter how busy you might get with school or work. If you have time to check your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you have time for guitar practice. Your muscles need to get used to playing, and it takes time and consistent playing to develop muscle memory. So the more frequently you play, the more quickly you get used to it. The less time between practice sessions, the less time you have to forget what you learned.
Sometimes, you might find yourself a few weeks down the line feeling like you’ve gotten nowhere with a particular song or lick. This is one of the reasons it can help to have a video recording of your first practice of it. You might be surprised to see how much progress you’ve made. Video recordings can help you recognize observable results and progress, and it can help you to notice mistakes you might be making. While hearing yourself practice can help you identify mistakes in the chords or notes, and other similar elements, seeing yourself can help in identifying mistakes in positioning, posture, and grip, among other things. Use these videos to regularly review and correct yourself, and remember to remind yourself how much you’ve improved.
The important thing to remember is that there are no instant results for learning anything new. The tips above can help to catalyze your progress, but it won’t make it happen overnight. It takes time, practice, and commitment, but it is achievable if you persist.