Why you have to own an acoustic guitar

The benefits of unplugging

If you play the guitar and you don't own a reasonable quality acoustic instrument, half of your life is missing. And I'm not talking about that dusty, unplayable GSO (guitar- shaped object) that you can't quite bear to throw away yet. That piece of junk is the stringed equivalent of holey shoes with nails poking through the soles: you're never going to wear them as long as you have something more comfortable around.

A straw poll of non-enlightened Guitarist staff, friends and alumni confirms the situation. For many, a 'decent' acoustic seems to be at best a fourth or fifth purchase, and in some cases, neverth. You have your main electric guitar, main amp, then second electric guitar... third... fourth? Just when do you stump up for a good steel-string flat top?

I know many friends and colleagues who will spend hours coming up with reasons why they need the next same-but-different electric, while the quality acoustic remains the elusive, reluctant purchase. And yet which option offers you a wider visual and creative opportunity to sound different?

"You'll unlock a whole new and fundamental human/instrument connection that is both immediate and profound."

One of the acoustic guitar's problems among predominantly electric players might be as a result of its mainstream omnipresence. According to figures from the UK's Music Industries Association, as many as one in seven UK households has an acoustic guitar. You might also be surprised to learn that the humble acoustic was even added to the Retail And Consumer Price Index basket of goods in 2004 and has remained there ever since.

Sadly, the majority of those guitars are little more than the unloved junkies I mentioned above; cheap GSOs that are near impossible to tune and deeply uninspiring to play. Those factors may not have been a problem for the young, guitar-obsessed BB King or Hank Marvin when they started out, but times have changed, choices have widened and there's now no way you'd choose to play the nail over one of your more sumptuous electrics.

The result – for the unenlightened – is that the acoustic remains maligned to a position of rudimentary stepping stone on the way to a 'real' (usually electric) guitar. The flat-top steel-string acoustic guitar deserves far more than that.

For the record, I'm not suggesting for a second that you disengage with the electric guitar. It has a glorious place in our hearts, minds and on our stages – life would be frankly rubbish without it. What I am saying is that you really owe it to yourself to also own a good – preferably a great – acoustic or electro-acoustic guitar.

Issue 358 of Guitarist should help you well on your way to choosing one and getting the most from it. What I hope you'll find when you take the plunge is that you'll unlock a whole new and fundamental human/instrument connection that is both immediate and profound, both to you personally as a player, and to anybody listening. Play it often and it will make you a better guitarist and musician, and soothe your soul. A great acoustic guitar will, I am quite certain, change your life.

The Summer 2012 issue of Guitarist magazine, on sale now, contains a huge 27-page feature packed with advice, information and techniques all geared towards making you a better - and better sounding - acoustic guitar player.

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