From Yamaha to Freshman...

Gulp! I've bought a new guitar...

As if things weren't confusing enough already, with all this technology updating faster than my learning processes can cope with, I finally decided that my 30 year old plywood Yamaha FG200 just didn't cut it as part of the 50th Anniversary Edition equipment list.

So, before the family holiday burnt up what credit is left on the Bisset card, I started to research budget acoustic guitars. Of course, the fascinating thing is that a budget acoustic guitar in 2006 bears no comparison to one from 1976. For a start, plywoods and laminates are a thing of the past, and the only decision is whether to go for solid top and laminate sides, or to throw caution to the winds and just get solid tonewoods all round.

Having done a bit of preliminary research on the web, I went out to all the local music shops in Manchester and started banging guitars.

Now, here's a tip from an old git - don't piss around when you're checking out new guitars. Your mind (and the shop salesperp) will attempt to persuade, ameliorate and rationalise the sound that you hear. Instead, surround yourself with two or three of the guitars that you favour (let the salesperp hold them if necessary, that's their job) and then hit them with three things - some open chords, some barre chords and some single string twittering.

Now quickly, switch guitars and do it again. What do you hear? Keep going now. Go round and round. Switch in some new guitars if the salesperp encourages it, and let them join in too - sometimes it's useful to be at the receiving end.

The whole point is to get a sense of the relative difference between guitars, because that gives you some objective basis on which to judge the guitar you finally decide on.

At least until the salesperp says 'Oh, did I mention the damaged guitar sitting alone and depressed in the corner?'

Now, I don't know about you, but 'the stone which the builders rejected' is just shouting out for my attention. I'd been through three guitar shops and ended up at Johnny Roadhouse in the centre of Manchester when this line was played. It was hook, line and sinker.

I'd been looking for a Jumbo (come on, dreadnoughts are so square) when the salesguy pointed out the 'Freshman' Jumbo at almost half-price because of the (repaired) split down the front.

Owee! Who cares about the sound! It's a bargain! It's a bargain with mystical significance! I'll have it. I'll have it now!

And within minutes it's in the holy sanctum:

Yamaha and Freshman acoustic guitars

For the record, I now have a Freshman FA400FBJ. It should have cost £579 and it was reduced to £350 because of a split in the top running along the grain by the fingerboard. It had previously served time as a rep's sample.
split on Freshman jumbo top
Can you see it? Let's hope the damage to the sound is as slight as the damage to the appearance. So far, even the kids can tell the difference in sound straight away.