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Guitars: do looks make the difference?

03 Nov 00 - 05:54 PM (#333974)
Subject: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Marion

I did some preliminary guitar shopping a few days ago, at the only store within reasonable distance of my home, and I can't stop thinking about one of the guitars that I met there.

It's an Art and Lutherie (made by the same company as Seagulls), inexpensive, and what attracts me to it is its gorgeous appearance. It's royal blue; normally I'm turned off by unusual colours in instruments but this was different. The varnish let the grain of the wood show through and and matte finish (I know that's probably not the correct term) keeps it from looking tacky.

It sounds the same as every other guitar, to my highly inexperienced ear. It feels weird in my hands, but every acoustic feels weird to me since I'm used to a classical.

Would I be an idiot to buy a guitar for its pretty face? Rationally, I feel like I should be trying to ignore the guitar's appearance and focus on feel and sound. But to be honest, I don't feel able to competently judge a guitar's feel and sound, so maybe as long as it has a reputable pedigree I might as well go by looks. And I'm sure there's something to be said for choosing the instrument that captures your heart, for whatever reason it does so.


03 Nov 00 - 06:04 PM (#333983)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Bert

That's the way I bought my birds eye maple guitar.

It's called "Peter's Placebo" - "An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance".

From the number of Martins and Gibsons one sees around, it appears that the name on the headstock often works the same way.

03 Nov 00 - 06:05 PM (#333984)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: GUEST,Liam's Brother

Well, Marlon, it's often said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If it's not expensive, then you won't make too big a mistake (if at all) by going with your emotions.

My advice is to think in 3-dimensional terms (with sound, beauty and playability being the 3 dimensions). If it plays and sounds as well as an acoustic guitar costing 2 or 3 times as much and you are determined to have a steel-string acoustic, then... what the hell are you waiting for?

Good luck.

All the best,
Dan Milner

03 Nov 00 - 06:08 PM (#333987)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: MK

Cosmetics and decoration (i.e. inlay work, etc.) do absolutely zippo as far a tonal contributions to a guitar. It is a question of choices, personal vanity, and pockets deep enough to indulge in such opulence. Remember, a D-45 is a D-28, attired in a tuxedo.

Personally, I like the "tuxedo" look.

03 Nov 00 - 06:18 PM (#333993)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: bbelle

It is definitely personal choice. With my Larrivee, I was taken aback with the strength and tone of the guitar. It wasn't until I returned home and took it out of its case that I realized how physically beautiful this guitar is ... from the grain of the Honduras Mahogany and Sitka Spruce, to the Flame Maple binding, and abalone trim.

So, not only did I get a guitar with great sound, I got a guitar that is beautiful.

But I also think my Gibson B-25 Fireburst is beautiful, so what do I know!

03 Nov 00 - 06:24 PM (#333997)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: catspaw49

Marion.....We seem to be mentioning "varnish" a lot around here.....Nobody uses varnish. I saw it in another thread and didn't mention it, but urethanes are used, but mainly finishes commercially used by most makers is lacquer. And we've talked so much about how to pick a guitar in previous threads, I don't know what further can be said. BTW, the blue color does not affect the sound.


03 Nov 00 - 07:25 PM (#334066)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Murray MacLeod

Sounds like the ideal guitar for playing the blues ...


03 Nov 00 - 08:19 PM (#334110)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: M. Ted (inactive)


Personally, I'd get it--it sounds like the sort of guitar you would be getting, even if it wasn't blue--but a cool looking guitar always is noticed and remembered. particularly when it is amusingly different--when you go out-- a more conventional one gets to ranked in the "hoot clone hierarchy"(Yamahas at one end, Martins and customs at the other, with the seat of honor for somebody with a "Vintage" instrument) but a fun instrument takes you out of that whole thing and lets you be a person--

03 Nov 00 - 09:32 PM (#334159)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: richlmo

I remember a Bicentennial Edition Ovation guitar I saw in '76 at a local music shop. Looking down as if playing, it had on the lower right end a drum,fife and Stars and stripes flag in the finish. Very subdued, very tasteful a part of the dark colored top. I still wish I had bought that guitar. Never seen another one.

03 Nov 00 - 10:17 PM (#334188)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Rick Fielding

Oh Boy do looks matter in my music room! I love certain designs and some turn me right off. I never thought of it as a vanity issue until a few years ago, but it undoubtedly is. Hell, it may even be a Freudian issue!

There are lots of factors that go into making one a better player, and sure, sound and playability should be at the top of the list, but simply being excited at how it looks (to you) is right up there. I've seen those blue "A of L" guitars Marion, and even though the colour wouldn't do anything for me....if it excites you, BUY IT!

Obviously this way of choosing an instrument isn't for everyone, but lets relate it to some of our other food, for example.

Some folks enjoy their dinner.....and others (I'm one) simply can't wait!! I LOVE exotic foods, from far away places. Heather would probably be quite content with meat and potatoes forever. If I dealt with my playing needs strictly on a practical basis, I'd probably own a Yamaha. They're cheap, and sound remarkably good.....but I simply HATE their pickguard, and little indentation in the head stock. It would really bother me, and I doubt if I would play as well.

When it comes to cars and clothes though, I couldn't care less. If I won a Corvette in the lottery, I'd just sell it and continue to drive my Ford Escort. Haven't owned a suit since I was forced to buy one 12 years ago (by Heather's sister) to get married in. Haven't warn it since. Jeans, sweatshirts and cowboy boots make up most of my wardrobe.

Mike's point about a D-45, being a '28 in a tux is spot on. I think it's a wonderful design. Now there are SOME folks who'll pay a 1000 bucks extra to get a superstar's SIGNATUTE on a guitar (Clapton's, Kottke's, Stills'). That has the opposite affect on me. I'd pass up a wonderful sounding instrument simply BECAUSE of that signature. It would truly drive me nuts.

I know one thing though, when you're really emotionally excited about your axe (as Jenny is now about her Larrivee) it's gotta make it fun to play...and when it's fun....ya gets BETTER!

Rick (who definitely has FUN playing)

04 Nov 00 - 04:26 AM (#334318)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Rob the Ranter

I used to watch He Haw as a kid and one of the preformers had a tricolor guitar it looked a lot like the french flag but he was singing country music (did I really just admit to watching He Haw?) this was about 76 so it was probably bicentenial.

last time I shopped for a guitar I drove the dealers nuts trying to figure out what I wanted. I played a lot of really nice sounding new and old guitars but none of them looked right. I wanted to go for total aurl and visual satisfaction and would not settle for any thing less. So if you can find a comely and good sounding guitar in one go for it!

04 Nov 00 - 04:42 AM (#334323)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Jon Freeman

I'm not worried about the looks and I would be a little bit nervous over suggesting that others should take looks into account.

I remember a friend who had a perfectly good Yamaha part exchanging it for a Fender Malibu? (some fancy looking cut away job) and proudly showing it to me. I thought it sounded awful, thin and weedy but he was delighted with his new acquisition even though it seemed to be unsiuted to his style of playing.

His playing did not improve with this guitar and in fact, I think he sounded worse with it but I guess he was happy even though he was always dissapointed that no one who was without a guitar at the folk club would ever ask to borrow his (at least not after trying it once)...


04 Nov 00 - 06:29 AM (#334342)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Mooh

Think of it this way. The colour of your car doesn't matter and isn't noticed when you're flying down the highway. It only matters when the car is parked in the driveway. Similarly, when you're playing guitar the colour doesn't matter a wit. But when you hang that guitar up, or play for people who will look at you and your guitar, the colour will say something, however subtle, about you. Various qualities will make us like a guitar, ours and the instruments, appearance is a legitimate one.

I say you need that guitar and gut feelings are the only reasons you need to justify it. Frankly, I like tinted translucent finishes. (Heck, Taylor has some nice ones too.) Go for it.

Peace. Mooh.

04 Nov 00 - 10:46 AM (#334418)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: zander (inactive)

Looks don't matter one jot, just take a look at Fylde instruments, totally plain to look at but sound amazing. I play a Fylde mandolin and a Fylde mandola, they are very plain to look at but really do sound great. Regards, Dave

04 Nov 00 - 11:16 AM (#334428)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Jon Freeman

Good on you zander, the only Fylde I own is a guitar and I love its tone. I have tried a mandolin and mandola in our local music shop and was I impressed. I would have bought the mandolin on the spot if I had the money. I still have no money but maybe the instruments are still there (nearly 3 years on) - I'll have to check. It's a shame really, the owners of the shop tried to stock some nice folk instruments but I guess the market simply doesn't exist in Llandudno.


04 Nov 00 - 01:30 PM (#334493)
Subject: Guitars And Their Faces
From: Clinton Hammond2


Having just read your post and not everyones responses... My advice would be this... find a chum who isn't so inexperienced with accoustic guitarsand bring him to check out this baby blue beasty you seem to like so much...

If yer lucky, he'll be as impressed by it's play-ability and tone as you are with it's 'pretty face'...

Good luck eh!


10 Nov 00 - 01:15 AM (#337662)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Marion

You know, I realized that part of what makes an instrument good-looking in my mind is the absence of cutaways and pick guards. They're practical, but detract from the symmetry too much. Form vs. function... I guess it would be a little silly to care more about the form, eh?

After all, I already have the most beautiful guitar strap in the world (I designed and embroidered it myself) so maybe that's enough eye candy.


10 Nov 00 - 09:23 AM (#337818)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: John P

Marion, The Art and Lutherie is the least expensive decent guitar that I have seen (I work for a company that runs an acoustic music shop, so I see a LOT of guitars). It is an all laminate instrument, so it will never have the sound of a guitar built of solid wood, or even a good guitar with just a solid soundboard. That said, it is a great sounding and playing guitar for what it is. It's quality to dollars ratio is very high. I think it sounds better and certainly plays better than some guitars that cost two or three times as much and do have solid tops.

This is your first steel string guitar, so you don't really know what you are looking for in a good guitar. So why by a good guitar? Buy an inexpensive but functional guitar that works well and that you find attractive, and in a couple of years you will know what feel and sound you want in your "real" guitar. I usually don't go for colored guitars, but I agree that the blue A&L is strangely attractive. I say buy it.


10 Nov 00 - 10:51 AM (#337887)
Subject: RE: Guitars: do looks make the difference?
From: Wesley S

Sometimes you actually get the best of both worlds. When I met my wife she was not only one of the smartest and sweetest women I'd ever met but she was a babe to boot. If this guitar is talking to you and it says "buy me" then go ahead and listen to it. But I also agree with those folks who suggest that you take a friend in to play and listen to it also. That way you can sit in front of the guitar and hear what it will sound like to others. Good Luck.