Best Guitar For Flatpicking
There are a few criteria that need to be met to be the best guitar for flatpicking. Flatpicking is most commonly found in the genre of bluegrass, so that’s where we’ll start. There is no one perfect guitar for flatpicking but it needs to follow the following criteria:
- Acoustic Guitar
Flatpicking has its roots in traditional music, bluegrass to be precise. Bluegrass instruments tend to be acoustic so it makes sense that the guitar would be acoustic.
- Flattop Guitar
The flat top guitar has a round sound hole, and the bridge is glued directly to the top of the guitar. These are different to the archtop guitars, which have f-holes, a tail piece and a carved top.
- Body Type
Dreadnought guitars are most commonly used in bluegrass bands, although the smaller bodied guitars like the orchestra model are gaining in popularity.
Another consideration is the wood the guitar is constructed from. This can seriously affect the tone of the guitar. The woods used to construct the guitar, especially the woods that construct the back and the sides of the guitar influence the overall tone of the guitar. The most common tone woods used in bluegrass guitar construction are mahogany and rosewood.
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Mahogany Tone Wood
Mahogany is commonly used in the Martin D-18 it is lighter than rosewood and creates a less bass-like response. You can identify mahogany as it sounds warm, and emphasises bright,clear trebles.
Rosewood Tone Wood
Rosewood can be found in the D-28 and has a deep bass-like tone. This is popular among many bluegrass guitarists. They can be identified as darker sounding. The majority of rosewood used today is from the East Indian Rosewood. Martin D-28 guitars built before 1969 were made from Brazilian rosewood. There are some who prefer the tonal qualities of the Brazilian over the East Indian but the differences are too subtle for most to even notice.
Top Manufacturers For Flatpicking
If you look at most bluegrass bands, they will probably be playing Martin acoustic guitars, in fact from the 30s to the 60s Martin were the best brand to have for flatpicking. Along with Gibson, Martin were the only brand manufacturing guitars suited to bluegrass music.
As the demand for flatpicking guitars has increased over the past couple of decades so has the number of manufacturers increased as well. Names like Bourgeois, Collings, Blueridge Guitars, Allen Guitars, Henderson Guitars, Huss and Dalton, Larrivee Guitars, Merrill and Nashville Guitars and many more, who create guitars of quality.
Tips Before You Buy A Flatpicking Guitar
It’s an exciting prospect, buying a new guitar, but before you commit your hard earned money, follow these helpful tips.
Do As Much Research As You Can
Check as many online guitar sites as you possibly can. Ask as many questions as you find necessary, remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Plus it’s better to look slightly foolish now, before you part with your money than afterwards.
Check Out Your Idols Guitars
If you have a favourite bluegrass artist, it’s worth checking what guitar they play, if it’s out of your price range, look for something similar that’s in your budget.
Take Your Time
Don’t go rushing out, and buy the first guitar you look at, make sure to check out as many models and makes as you can before making your final decision. Also try to imagine how that particular model will sound in a band setting, will it fit in with the rest of the crew?
Get The Feel Of It
Does it feel right in your arms? Do you think it will feel comfortable after playing it for a couple of hours? If it doesn’t feel right, try another one. Keep on looking until you do find the right fit.
New Is Not Always Best
Sometimes, you can get a better deal buying a used, or second hand guitar, often the tonal quality will be richer, the action will be set, plus you can buy a far better guitar than you could actually afford. So more research, which guitars age best?
No Two Guitars Are The Same
You can play 2 identical guitars, same make, same model, and yet they both play differently. This is due to many factors, but the main one is, you’re dealing with a living entity. Alright, so not quite alive, but the way wood reacts to various things, climate, temperature, etc, can and does alter the way the set up changes.
Don’t look at one in a guitar shop and then buy the same model from a different source and expect the exact same guitar. Remember, take your time, follow this guide, and find your dream flatpicking guitar.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most commonly used guitar for bluegrass is the dreadnought guitar, although more and more orchestra models are being used in recent times.
Flatpicking is picking or plucking the strings with a pick or plectrum. The pick is held between the thumb and the first finger, and should not be confused with fingerpicking which is playing the strings without using a pick at all.
Doc Watson was the first guitarist to popularise the flatpicking style, while he was playing in a dance band called Jack Williams and the country gentlemen, in the mid 1950s.