RMMGA Frequently Asked Questions

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Last Updated: 08/15/94


  1. Recent Changes to the FAQ
  2. About This Document
  3. What is the rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic Newsgroups Charter ?
  4. Where Can I Find Guitar Resources on the Internet?
  5. How Do Yoe Describe the Sound of a Guitar?
  6. Tonewoods
  7. How Does a Guitar's Construction Affect Its Sound?
  8. Who Makes Top Quality Acoustic Guitars?
  9. Where Are the Most Famous Acoustic Guitar Stores ?
  10. What is My Guitar Worth ?
  11. Where Can I Get Instructional Material For Acoustic Guitar?
  12. What Are Some Good Beginners Books/Videos for Acoustic Guitar?
  13. Who Should I Listen To? (Great Acoustic Guitarists)
  14. What Books/Magazines Should I Read?
  15. What's The Best Way To Amplify My Acoustic Guitar?
  16. What Alternate Tunings Are There To Explore?
  17. Which Strings Should I Use?
  18. What is a Good Travel Guitar ?
  19. What Types of Capos are Available?
  20. How Do I Take Care of my Hands and Nails ?
  21. What Are Tape I, II, and Tape III ?
  22. Acknowledgements

1. Recent Changes to the FAQ

The following major additions have been made since the last release of this document. There have also been some minor tweeks here and there, but those are not listed here.

2. About This Document

You are reading the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Document for the Usenet Newsgroup rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic . The goal of this document is to make information that is commonly asked for in the rmmga newsgroup available from one consolidated, and centrally maintained source.

This document will be posted to the rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic newsgroup every two weeks. Eventually it will be made available via ftp from a publicly accessible site. I have no idea where that will be yet. It will also be available in hypertext format via a WWW Server. Again, where that will be is yet to be decided.

The scope of this document is limited to those topics which are fairly objective, and for which the answers do not require extremely lengthy explanation. In those cases where answers are beyond the scope of this document, references are given to the appropriate resources to locate additional information. Clearly argumentative questions (ie "who's the best") are avoided entirely.

The rmmga FAQ is currently maintained by Grant Alvis (galvis@austin.ibm.com). Feel free to send comments, suggestions, and constructive criticisms.

This document was formatted using nroff.

There are supplemental documents to the rmmga FAQ, that are worth checking out. These are posted to the rmmga newsgroup periodically, and are maintained by rmmga readers. These include:

Who's Who - Profiles of rmmga readers. Where they live, what style they play, influences, etc... Currently maintained by Kirk Reiser (kirk@braille.uwo.ca).

Guitar Companies and Makes - A comprehensive list of guitar companies, as well as the different makes they produce. Includes company profiles, as well as details of options/stylings of a variety of different guitar models. Currently maintained by Tim Maggio (timm@dkbfpny.com).

3. What is the rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic Newsgroups Charter?

This newsgroup is intended for the discussion of all matters pertaining to acoustic guitar. Common threads include, but are not limited to: Your guitars construction, sound, setup, maintenance, worth, etc..., Various acoustic guitarists, their music, setup, history, etc..., Suggestions for reading material, videos, records, CDs, etc..., Product reviews, show reviews, album reviews, etc... You get the idea. If its related to acoustic guitar, then chances are its appropriate to discuss here.

There are specific news groups for classical guitar and instrument construction, but even those topics are sometimes discussed here. A quick look thru the current postings will give a pretty clear indication of what people discuss here, since the topics remain quite varied.

4. Where Can I Find Guitar Resources on the Internet?

There are lots of guitar resources available on the Internet. Here is a listing of the most commonly used ones:

4.1 Newsgroups

rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic - This newsgroup. Discussion of the relative merits of acoustic guitars, acoustic guitar musicians, and just about anything of or relating to the fine art of acoustic guitar.

rec.music.makers.guitar.bass - Discussion of bass guitars and also postings and requests for bass tablature.

rec.music.makers.guitar.tablature - Tablature postings and requests for both electric and acoustic guitar. Also a good forum for "who wrote this?" type of questions.

rec.music.makers.builders - Discussion of general topics/principles of building musical instruments. Although not aimed at stringed instruments, there is some discussion of guitar construction here.

rec.music.classical.guitar - Discussion of classical guitars and classical music for guitar.

alt.guitar - An alternative to the rec.music.maker.guitar heirarchy. This newsgroup has some overlap with the rec.music.makers.guitar newsgroups content.

alt.guitar.tab - An alternative to the rec.music.maker.guitar.tablature newsgroup. Lots of overlap.

NOTE: The guitar newsgroups in the alt.* heirarchy are supposedly being phased out in favor of the rec.music.* groups. However, they have persisted for quite some time, and show no signs of going away.

4.2 FTP Sites

For all of these ftp sites use the user name "anonymous" and your e-mail address as the password. You may have to do a little poking around to find what you are looking for, but the sites are pretty well organized.

ftp.nevada.edu ( - This is THE central repository for both guitar tablature and lyrics to all sorts of music, both electric and acoustic.

csclub.uwaterloo.ca ( - This site contains a tablature heirarchy geared directly towards acoustic guitarists. Examples include Leo Kottke, Jorma Kaukonen, Blind Blake, John Renbourn, etc... Look in the directory: /pub/u/dgaudet/guitar (Maintained by Dean Gaudet).

jhunix.hcf.jhu.edu ( - This site has archives of this newsgroup (rmmga). They are archived once a week, and are accessible in tar files on a per group basis. Each tar file represent one weeks worth of postings. It also contains archives of the acoustic guitar mailing list, which was the predesessor to this newsgroup.

ftp.vast.unsw.edu.au (???.???.???.???) - There was a "guitar lesson of the week" going on in the rec.music.makers.guitar newsgroup in 1993. The lessons ranged in difficulty from beginner to quite advance topics. They are archived here.

4.3 World Wide Web, Gopher, and Archie Servers

There are some excellent WWW resources for guitar. Although these are not geared directly at acoustic guitar, they do contain a lot of information that will be of interest to the "unplugged" crowd.

URL: http://www.cs.cmu.edu:8001/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/jdg/www/music.html - The Mammoth Music Meta-List. This is a gathering of links to all things musical. It contains a link to "Guitarland" as well (see below).

URL: file://ftp.netcom.com/pub/jcarson/guitar/gl.html - Guitarland. This is to WWW what ftp.nevada.edu is to FTP. Not suprising that it is maintained by some of the same people. It has links to all kinds of stuff, including home pages profiling various artists, music listings, etc... Definitely worth checking out.

URL: http://www.ircam.fr - Ircam is a french research and education center in acoustics and music. It is, for the time being, mostly in french, but several "leading pages" are in english.

URL: http://celtic.stanford.edu/ceolas.html - The Ceolas celtic music archive. The archive covers traditional and traditional- influenced music from Ireland, Scotland and other celtic countries, and includes artist notes, tour and festival information, instrument guides, resources lists (radio, magazines, mail-order, traditional sessions), electronically- formatted tunes and much else besides.

URL: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/music.html - Leeds University Music Department. It provides an on-line album of traditional tunes from Ireland, England, Scotland and the Northern Isles, Scandinavia and elsewhere: jigs and reels, polskas and schottisches, waltzes, bourrees, horos and more. It contains a lot of gif files showing staff notation for these tunes, and indexes of these files sorted in various orders.

5. How Do You Describe the Sound of a Guitar?

The physical characteristics of an acoustic guitar are easy to identify and compare. A cutaway, mother of pearl inlays, or wood binding are qualities that are easy to make decisions as to whether you like or dislike them. The sound qualities of a guitar are much harder to discern and evaluate. In order to accurately describe the characteristics of a guitars sound, you must first be familiar with the nomenclature used to explain the sound qualities of a guitar. An acoustic guitar's sound has many facets. Here is a brief overview of the terminology most often used when discussing a guitar's sound. These explanations are for the most part paraphrasings of the descriptions given by Larry Sandberg in his (must-have) book, "The Acoustic Guitar Guide".

5.1 Tone

Tone is the quality that makes guitars from various makers sound different. When you set a string into motion, the string has a fundamental vibration, as well as many smaller vibrations, called overtones. Most guitars share some fundamental tones and overtones. Thats what makes them all sound like guitars. But they each have their own unique combination of fundamental and overtones also. Thats what makes guitars sound unique.

The woods used for the back and sides of the guitar factor most into the characteristic tone of a guitar. Rosewood gives a soulful, darker sound. Mahogany is sweeter and softer, as well as rounder and nicely balanced. Maple is louder, like rosewood, but has less bass resonance and a more brittle tone.

5.2 Volume

Volume is how loud your guitar is. But not just as measured by a decibel meter, but also how loud your guitar *seems*. This is directly related to the quality of the top wood, the top bracing, and the rigidity of the back and sides. Heavier strings are louder, because they vibrate the top more than lighter guage strings. Also, larger guitars are generally louder, since they have more top to vibrate, and a larger sound chamber.

5.3 Presence

Presence is a psychological factor that is very subjective. It is a guage of how full your guitars sound is. A good measure of presence is how satisfying your guitar sounds when you play it softly. A strong presence means that the tone quality does not deteriorate with less volume. The efficiency of the guitars top plays a large part in the perceived presence.

5.4 Balance

Balance is the relationship between the high and low notes in point of fullness and volume. In a balanced guitar, the notes have equal authority throughout the entire range of the instrument. Guitars that are over-balanced toward the bass are called boomy. Flatpickers and folk singers prefer this type of balance. Fingerstyle guitarists might prefer a guitar that is balanced toward the high strings. Balance is usually directly related to the size of the guitar. Balance is also affected by the body woods (Rosewood is boomier than Mahogany), and the size of the soundhole (a larger soundhole usually balances the guitar toward the high strings).

5.5 Separation

Separation is the ability of an instrument to express simultaneously played notes so that they are perceived distincly and individually, rather than as a homogeneous whole. In other words, when you strum an open E chord, is what you hear more like one glob of sound or six separate ingredients? An analogy might be to the flavors that make up a fine sauce. Separation is related to the quality of the guitar, as well as the player's individual touch.

5.6 Sustain

Sustain is the measure of how long a note keeps sounding after you initiate it. If the sound decays too fast, you have poor sustain. Sustain is directly related to the quality of the guitar. More specifically, it is the vibration of the top that gives you an honest, clean sustain that preserves all the components of the tone throughout its duration.

6. Tonewoods

The type of wood used on a guitar is probably the single most influencial factor to its tone. There are a variety of different woods to choose from. Below are many different wood descriptions and their general tonal properties. These descriptions are from a Martin Brochere on Tonewoods.

6.1 Back and Sides

6.1.1 Genuine Mahogany

(Swietenia Macrophylla) Brazil. Yellowish brown to reddish brown in color, Genuine or "Amazon" mahogany is exceptionally stable and consistently clear. Mahogany is much lighter in weight than rosewood, koa, or maple. In spite of its weight, mahogany yields a surprisingly strong loud sound with an emphasis on clear bright trebles.

6.1.2 Brazilian Rosewood

(Dalbergia Nigra) Brazil. Sometimes referred to as "Jacaranda", this species of genuine rosewood ranges in color from dark brown to violet with spidery black streaks. The smell is like roses when freshly cut. Brazilian rosewood is considered nearly extinct and is extremely expensive if available at all. Martin rosewood models before mid-1969 were made with Brazilian rosewood. As a result, Martin's long standing reputation for tone was closely connected to the historical use of this wood. Brazilian rosewood is occasionally available in very limited quantities for custom or special limited edition orders only.

6.1.3 East Indian Rosewood

(Dalbergia Latifolia) India. Typically richly grained with dark purple, red, and brown color, East Indian rosewood is resinous, stable and generally more consistent than most other rosewood species. East Indian rosewood is extremely resonant producing a deep warm projective bass response that is especially accentuated on large bodies guitars.

6.1.4 European Flamed Maple

(Acer Campestre) Germany. Curly, flamed, tiger striped, or "Fiddleback" maple refers to the characteristic alternating hard and soft rippling which runs perpendicular to the grain in some rarer maple trees. This particular species of European maple is very hard and reflective, producing a loud powerful projective sound. Uniquely figured domestic "Birdseye" maple, used on the D-60 models, displays characteristics and tonal properties similar to European Flamed maple.

6.1.5 Koa

(Acacia Koa) Hawaii. Golden brown color with dark streaks and a lusterous sheen. koa wood occasionally develops a curly or flamed figure. Regardless of any figuring, koa seems to have a bass response that is slightly less than that of rosewood and treble response that is slightly less than that of mahogany. The result is a very equally balanced instrument.

6.1.6 Morado

(Machaerium Scleroxylon) Bolivia. Also known as Bolivian or Santos "rosewood", worado ranges in color from a light violet brown to redish brown with occasional olive and black streaks. Finer in texture than most rosewoods, morado is a close visual substitute for East Indian rosewood, and has very similar tonal properties.

6.2 Top (Soundboard)

6.2.1 Sitka Spruce

(Picea Sitchensis) Canadian Northwest & Alaska. Sitka spruce is the primary topwood for Martin Guitars. It is chosen because of it's consistent quality as well as it's straight uniform grain, longevity, and tensile strength. Tonally, Sitka spruce is extremely vibrant providing an ideal "diaphram" for transmission of sound on any size and style of stringed instrument.

6.2.2 Englemann Spruce

(Picea Engelmannii) United States. Englemann spruce is prized for its similarity in color to European (German) White spruce as well as its extreme lightness in weight which seems to produce a slightly louder and more projective or "open" sound than Sitka spruce. Englemann spruce grows in the alpine elevations of the American Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Cascades. It is considerably more limited in supply than Sitka spruce.

6.2.3 Western Red Cedar

(Thuja Plicata) United States. Western Red Cedar has long been utilized as a soundboard material by classical guitar makers for its vibrance and clarity of sound. It is extremely light in weight compared to spruce and the tonal result is generally a slightly louder, more open response.

6.2.4 Western Larch

(Larix Occidentalis) United States. Western larch has clearly marked annual rings and a fine uniform texture. Larch is harder and stronger than most conifers including spruce. It bears a close visual resemblance to Sitka spruce and due to its increased stiffness, it is an appropriate choice for scalloped braced models yielding a projective and crisp response.

6.2.5 Koa

(Acacia Koa) Hawaii. Historically, koa tops have appeared primarily on small bodied 0 & 00 size hawaiian guitars and ukuleles although recent koa Dreadnoughts and custom guitars have been popular. Koa produces a predominately bright treble response with less volume than spruce, but the slight loss in volume is overshadowed by the extreme beauty of the grain. Koa tops are available on special order and custom instruments.

6.2.6 Genuine Mahogany

(Swietenia Macrophylla) Brazil. Mahogany was first introduced as a topwood in 1922 on the lesser expensive Style 17 guitars. Tonally mahogany is less projective than spruce, producing a subdued response that is crisp and delicate with emphasis on the midrange. Mahogany tops are available on custom instruments only.

7. How Does a Guitars Construction Affect Its Sound?

7.1 Bracing

Bracing adds strength to the top without (hopefully) killing too much of the top's vibration. A set of medium gauge steel strings on a normal dreadnought scale length (25.4") guitar exerts about 185 lb of tension. This would splinter a thin wood top if it weren't braced. A top thick enough to hold this much tension without bracing would be very quiet and tinny-sounding. Another important function of the braces is to efficiently propagate the vibrations through a large area of the top. Bracing also plays a major role in determining the tone of a guitar.

7.1.1 Scalloped Bracing

In scalloped braces, wood is selectively removed from certain areas of the braces to weaken the top enough to allow it to vibrate freely without weakening it so much as to make it structurally unsound. Scalloped braces typically have a longitudinal cross-section reminiscent of a suspension bridge.

All current Martin steel-string guitars that have scalloped bracing have the following stamp on the inside: "USE MEDIUM GAUGE, OR LIGHTER, STRINGS ONLY."

7.1.2 X-bracing

Martin steel-string guitars (and most of the multitude of guitars that are copies of them) have X-bracing. This means that the two main braces under the top run in an "X" from the upper bouts to the lower bouts. The "X" crosses somewhere between the soundhole and the bridge (about which more below). There are several auxiliary braces other than the main X- braces.

7.1.3 High-X bracing

On most X-braced steel string guitars, the "X" crosses about 1.5 - 2" below the soundhole. On guitars with "high-X" bracing, the "X" crosses about 1" below the soundhole. The effect of this is that the bridge rests less directly on the main X-braces, and can thus transfer more of its vibration to the top. This is also called "advanced X-bracing" and "pre-war" bracing.

One of the features that make the pre-war Martin steel-string guitars so desirable (and sound so good) is their scalloped, high-X bracing. Supposedly the reason that Martin stopped using this type of bracing in the '40's is that so many people back then used heavy-gauge strings, which will quickly damage a guitar with such light bracing, and which led to many warranty repairs.

Some builders currently offer models with high-X bracing. These include (but are no doubt not limited to) Martin (D-16H, HD-28 Custom 15, and some "Guitar-of-the-Month" models) and Collings (dreadnoughts). High-X bracing is usually scalloped.

7.2 Neck

8. Who Makes Top Quality Acoustic Guitars?

There are hundreds of guitar makers around the world. Some are large companies that have been around for over a century. Others are highly skilled luthiers who have just surfaced in the last decade or so, and only make a handful of guitars each year.

8.1 Large Guitar Companies

These are companies that produce 1000+ guitars each year, and generally incorporate some sort of automated manufacturing process in the construction of their guitars.

8.2 Luthiers

A list of the more popular and respected names in the art and business of producing hand-made acoustic guitars.

8.3 Resonators

And then there are the Resonator guitars, which vary in construction. Some are metal bodied, while others are wood. Need more info on these.

9. Where Are the Most Famous Acoustic Guitar Stores?

The Following stores are generally acknowledged to have the finest selection of new or used acoustic guitars in the world. Reports from rmmga readers who have visited these guitar stores indicate that most people seem to leave these establishments either drooling, or in debt. :-)

9.1 United States/Canada

9.1.1 Elderly Instruments

P.O. Box 14210-FG 1100 N. Washington Lansing, MI 48901 (517) 372-7890

9.1.2 Gruhn Guitars, Inc.

9.1.3 Mandolin Brothers

629 Forest Avenue Staten Island, NY 10310 (718) 981-3226 (phone) (718) 981-8585 (phone)

9.1.4 Guitar Gallerie

W. 421 Riverside #102 Spokane, WA 99201 (800) 346-9042 (phone) (509) 747-1083 (phone) (509) 747-1493 (fax)

9.2 Europe

9.3 Elsewhere

10. What is My Guitar Worth?

Well if your guitar was built in the last 30 years or so, you can probably figure out its worth from a local guitar shop with no problem. However, if you own, inherit, or discover a vintage instrument, it may prove to be more of a challenge to get an accurate appraisal. The net wisdom seems to be to give a call to Elderly Instruments, Gruhn Guitar, or Mandolin Brothers, and ask them. From a serial number and general description they can give you a pretty good idea of its worth. I believe some of them will give a certified appraisal if you send them pictures. All of these places traffic large numbers of used/vintage instruments. The monetary value of old/vintage instruments is directly related to their desirability to collectors. These folks have their collective fingers on this pulse.

11. Where Can I Get Instructional Material For Acoustic Guitar?

There are a variety of resources available for instructional material. The internet resources have already been mentioned above. Here is a listing of other resources you might want to check out.

11.1 Mail Order Companies

The Internet is great for getting tablature and lyrics, but when you want video tapes, audio tapes, and authorative transcriptions of your favorite artists, mail order is the way to go.

11.1.1 Homespun Tapes

Homespun Tapes is run by Happy Traum, who has been producing quality instructional tapes for quite a while. His mail-order catalog contains lessons in all styles of guitar, both electric and acoustic, as taught by popular guitarists. The catalog contains over 150 video tape lessons, as well as audio tape lessons, books, and various musical supplies.

    Homespun Tapes
    Box 694
    Woodstock, NY  12498
    Phone: 1-800-338-2737
    Fax:   1-914-246-5282

11.1.2 Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop

Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop is a mecca for fingerstyle videos in blues, ragtime, celtic, and jazz. But his forte is country blues, so if you want to learn the styles of Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, or Big Bill Broonzy, this is the place to go. He also has a circle of friends who provide lessons in a variety of styles from country blues to jazz. People like Duck Baker, Leo Wijnkamp, and David Laibman contribute to many of the instructional tapes. (You often see these same people in Fingerstyle Guitar magazine, giving Master Workshops as well.)

    Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop
    P.O. Box 802
    Sparta, NJ 07871
    Phone: (201) 729-5544
    Fax:   (201) 726-0568

11.1.3 Crossroads Music

They carry all the Grossman workshop stuff, plus a few other interesting bits and pieces.

    Crossroads Music
    439 Newchurch Road
    OC13 0NB
    Phone: (0706) 875729

11.1.4 Workshop Records

Workshop Records has a wide variety of video and audio tapes, that rivals those of the other guitar mail-order big boys. But they also offer a wide array of 1/2 speed tape players, 4-track recorders, and other devices for both transcribing and recording music.

    Workshop Records
    P.O. Box 49507
    Austin TX  78765
    Phone: 1-800-543-6125
    Fax:   1-512-327-6603

11.2 Other Resources

There are, of course, other resources for obtaining instructional material for guitar. The following sources generally won't give you a wide variety of topics to choose from, but you may get lucky and find something useful every once in a while.

11.2.1 Local Library

Your local public library usually has some guitar books, and a nice collection of records and/or CD's. You certainly can't beat the price.

11.2.2 Local Video Store

Instructional videos have been known to be hiding out in video store rental bins. And since they don't make for prime Friday or Saturday night viewing, they are usually available. :-)

11.2.3 Local Bookstores

Many of the larger bookstores will carry guitar instruction books, and other material relating to guitar.

11.2.4 Magazines

Almost every guitar oriented magazine on the market has a column dedicated to guitar instruction. They will often describe a technique or style, and then provide a piece of music (standard notation and tablature) that demonstrates that technique. See the section of this FAQ that lists popular guitar magazines for more information.

12. What Are Some Good Beginners Books/Videos for Acoustic Guitar?

If you know nothing about guitar, then a few lessons with a local guitar teacher are probably in order. This will help you develop the basics of proper right and left hand technique. If you are learning on your own, then the following might be effective learning tools.

12.1 No Guitar Experience

12.2 Beginning Fingerstyle

12.3 Beginning Flatpicking

13. Who Should I Listen To? (Great Acoustic Guitarists)

This is a very subjective topic. There are tons of great musicians to choose from. There are many who are often cited as being masters in a particular style, or having a style all their own that sets them apart from the rest of the guitar playing community. The following list is by no means definitive. It is merely a listing of the artists and performers who frequently come up in discussions on rmmga. Think of the following recommendations as a survey of acoustic guitar musical styles, as well as a survey of great musicians.

13.1 Fingerstyle

Fingerstyle guitar can be broken down into two basic categories, old and new. By old, we generally mean country blues popularized during the 1920's and 30's by black artists in the South, Chicago, and New York. By new, we mean contemporaries of these popular country blues players, as well as modern players who have developed their own style or greatly expanded upon the ideas of those who preceded them. (Does that make sense? Also, anyone who can give a blurb about Celtic influences, please do.)

13.1.1 Early 20th Century

13.1.2 Contemporary

I'd appreciate it if people could help out with a short blurb about each of these people, citing stylistic points, as well as recommended albums. Additions to the list, or opposition to current list members is welcome.

13.2 Flatpicking/Bluegrass

Though bluegrass and old-time string band music have been around for a long time, the use of guitar as a lead instrument is a fairly recent development. The styles of flatpick guitar for other than rhythm playing range from relatively simple statements of song/tune melodies to spontaneous melodic improvisation much as a jazz soloist might play.

Most bluegrass and flatpicking guitarists play dreadnought guitars. There are a few reasons for this: a) Tradition: "Well, that's what Uncle Newt and Cousin Stub played." b) Bass response: Dreadnoughts have a strong bass response, which makes them the ideal guitar for playing rhythm behind a string band. c) Loud: Bluegrass/flatpicking guitarists have to compete with _seriously_ loud instruments like banjos and fiddles. Small-bodied guitars sound sweet by themselves, but they quickly get lost when doing single-string lead work in an ensemble that includes louder instruments.

13.3 Jazz

13.4 Other

There are invariably those artists that can not be classified as finger- pickers or flatpickers. They fall into the "Other" category.

14. What Books/Magazines Should I Read?

14.1 Magazines/Periodicals

Here is a listing of periodicals that, in addition to advertisments for every guitar product known to man, also contain interesting articles pertaining to guitars, performers, music theory, etc... And they ALL thrive on publishing tablature of songs by popular guitarists.

14.1.1 Acoustic Guitar

    P.O. Box 767
    San Anselmo, CA 94979-9938
    Phone: (415) 485-6946
    Fax:   (415) 485-0831

14.1.2 Fingerstyle Guitar

    7620 Delmonico Drive
    Colorado Springs, CO  80919-9954
    Phone: (719) 599-5076

14.1.3 Acoustic Musician Magazine

    Border Crossing Publications, Inc.
    Steve Spence, Editor
    P.O. Box 1349
    New Market, VA 22844-1349
    Phone: (703) 740-4005
    Fax:   (703) 740-4006

14.1.4 Country Guitar

    Harris Publications Inc
    1115 Broadway
    New York, NY 10160-0397
    Phone: (?)
    Fax:   (?)

14.1.5 Guitarist (British)

14.1.6 Vintage Guitars

14.1.7 Guitar Player

14.1.8 Guitar World

    P.O. Box 58660
    Boulder, CO  80323-8660
    Phone: (303) 447-9330

14.2 Books

These books vary widely in topic, but are all invaluable resources for every acoustic guitarist.

14.2.1 The Acoustic Guitar Guide

Everything you need to know to buy and maintain a new or used guitar. This book has it all. The history of the guitar; how guitars are made; how different things affect tone; and even simple repair. This is a must have book for anyone who is thinking about buying a guitar, or simply wants to gain a strong working knowledge of the guitar.

14.2.2 The Complete Guitarist

This is a broad overview of all kinds of guitar topics. Primarily an instructional book, it also talks about technique, sound, and style. It also discusses various makes and models. It covers electric as well as acoustic playing.

14.2.3 American Guitars: An Illustrated History

This book is both a complete guitar reference guide, as well as a complete history of the modern guitar. It contains complete histories of just about every guitar maker that has ever operated in the U.S., and chronicles these companies thru the various stages of their existence. It covers both electric, as well as acoustic guitar, and dedicates about half of the book to Fender and Gibson guitars. Hundreds of great photos.

14.2.4 Nothin' But the Blues

This is a detailed account of the evolution of the blues. It breaks the development of the blues down by region (Texas, Piedmont, Delta, Urban) and then charts their merging and metamorphasis into modern day blues. Lots of rare photographs of just about every blues great ever known. If you want to be an authority on early 20th century blues, this is a great place to start.

14.2.5 Acoustic Guitars (and other fretted instruments)

A visual history of the evolution of the acoustic guitar. Contains hundreds of color photos of vintage instruments. The ultimate wish book for people who are connoseiurs of vintage guitars.

14.2.6 The History and Artistry of National Resonator Instruments

Bob Brozman, a noted collector and performer of Resonator Guitars, gives a history of the instrument, and shows off his extensive collection of Resonator guitars in color photos.

15. What's The Best Way To Amplify My Acoustic Guitar?

15.1 Microphones

15.2 Pickups

15.3 Amplifiers

15.4 Effects

16. What Alternate Tunings Are There To Explore?

Tired of Standard Tunings? Give an alternate tuning a try.

16.1 Books/Pamphlets

Here are the names of some cheap books (more like pamphlets) that have chord diagrams for a variety of open tunings.

16.2 Popular Alternate Tunings

Here is a list of some popular alternatives to EADGBE, along with artists/tunes that utilize them.

16.2.1 DADGBE (Dropped-D)

This is standard tuning with the 6 string E dropped to a D. Used mostly when playing in the key of D, so that one can have an open string for the tonic. Also used in the key of G, where the D rings open on the V Chord. No doubt, there are lots of other uses for this tuning also.

16.2.2 DADF#AD (Open D)

Used extensively for fingerstyle and slide guitar. Fahey & Kottke use this alot. Kottke's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring", "Vaseline Machine Gun", "Sailor's Grave on the Prairie", "Crow River Waltz" are in this tuning.

16.2.3 DGDGBD (Open G)

Used extensively for fingerstyle and slide guitar. Lots of the Turn of the Century country blues guitar players used this. It is also commonly used in contemporary guitar.

16.2.4 CGCGCE (Open C)

Fahey & Kottke use it alot. Kottke's "Busted Bicycle" is in open C, as is Fahey's "Sunflower River Blues" and "Revolt of the Dyke Brigade"

16.2.5 DADGAD (D Modal Tuning)

Pierre Bensusan plays just about his entire repertoire in this tuning. His book, "The Guitar Book", contains many beautiful arrangements in both tab and standard notation, as well as lots of Pierre's exercises for stretches. It even includes recipes and poetry!

16.2.6 DGDABE (Cross-Tuning??)

16.2.7 DGDGBbD (Open G minor)

Used frequently by John Renbourn and Stefan Grossman.

16.2.8 EADEAE (E modal)

Used extensively by Martin Carthy and other English guitarists.

17. Which Strings Should I Use?

17.1 How Strings are made

17.2 How The Strings Material Effects The Guitars Sound

17.3 Euphonon Strings (mail-order)

This is a mail order company that sells amazingly inexpensive strings (~$2/set) in bulk orders of 1/2 dozen or 1 dozen lots. They have a wide array of string types, and you can custom order string sets to suit your personal needs. The reports from rmmga readers indicate the quality and consistency of their strings is very good.

    Euphonon Co.
    P.O. Box 100A
    Orford NH 03777 USA
    Phone:  (603) 353-4882

18. What is a Good Travel Guitar?

19. What Types of Capos are Available?

The capo is a device that lets you change the key to which your instrument is tuned, without retuning. Simply slap it into place, and voila, you're ready to go. Capos are often used to allow you to change keys, but still utilize open strings. For example, you can play the chords F#, B, and C#7 simply by placing the capo on the second fret and playing the basic E, A, and B7 chords.

Capos come in 3 basic types. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. They are outlined below, and makers of each type are given.

19.1 Elastic Capos

These are the least expensive capos you can buy, but also have the shortest expected lifespan. They are basically a piece of rubber-coated metal rod with a piece of elastic attached. Simply put the rod at the fret you want, and pull the elastic band as tight as you need. If you are going to use one of these, make sure it has a heavy elastic band, so it will hold firm, and last longer. Some makers of elastic capos include: Bill Russell, Jim Dunlop, and Third Hand.

19.2 Clamp Capos

This type of capo clamps onto the fretboard and has an adjustable "thumb screw" that allows you to select the proper tension more precisely than an elastic capo. This type of capo also allows you to do partial tunings, by only clamping it across the strings you want capoed. For example you can achieve dropped-D tuning from standard tuning by capoing the 2-6 strings at the second fret and leaving the 1 string uncapoed. This capo is a little slower to get into place than an elastic capo, but is more versatile. Makers of clamp style capos include: Shubb, Saga Golden Gate, Victor, and Kyser.

19.3 U-Shaped Capos

This type of capo is a flat rubber-coated surface with a U-shaped metal bar that hinges around your guitar neck, and is adjusted using a thumb- screw. It has the advantage of applying even pressure across the whole neck, but is slower to get into position than the elastic or clamp style capos. Makers of U-shaped capos include: Picker's Pal, Paige, Baldy Brothers, and Golden Gate.

20. How Do I Take Care of my Hands and Nails?

Taking care of your hands and nails is important, especially if you play on a daily basis. Hand care includes both stretching your hands (ie warming up) before playing finger-busting arrangements, as well as nail care, ie preventing nail breaks and dealing with broken/worn-down nails.

20.1 Hand Care

One area that can not be overlooked is warming up before you play. Common sense prevails here. Start off each guitar session by playing something that is slow, and doesn't involve huge stretches. Scales and arpeggios are always a good starter. Also, you may want to do some sightreading of a simple piece, since this will normally keep your movements slow. Or you might try a piece that you know (and enjoy!) that is not too difficult. Play thru at a moderate tempo, just to get the juices flowing. A few minutes of warm-up goes a long way towards preventing hand injuries, just as warming up prevents injury in sports and other physical activities.

And what about those callouses that build up on your fretting hand? A lot of British guitarists (e.g. Eric Clapton) use "Surgical Spirit" to toughen up the skin on their fingertips. Surgical Spirit is simply the English term for rubbing alcohol. If you wipe your fingertips with it twice a day for a couple of weeks you'll get callouses tougher than elephant hide!

NOTE: Need info on callouses and Carpal Tunnel.

20.2 Nail Care

Nail care seems to be part voodoo, part common sense. Keeping your nails strong and evenly filed is essential to maintaining consistency in your sound. There are basically 2 things to consider: "How do I prevent nail breaks?", and "What do I do when a nail does break?".

Part of preventing nail breaks means don't expose your nails to dangerous situations. Common nail breaking incidents are: opening aluminum can tops, zipping your fly, and snagging them on clothing. Don't let your nails grow longer than their optimal playing length. The longer they get, the more suseptible they become to damage.

Another part of preventing nail breaks is preventive maintenance. People claim that nail polish makes their nails stronger (and shiny!). Others use hand lotions with Keratin (a natural protein) in them. Still others claim that your nails get stronger if you ingest powdered gelatin. And there are other products, like "Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream", which was originally used to strengthen horse hooves, which has been modified for use on your nails.

If you do get a nail break, your options are basically: 1) Remove the broken part of the nail, and file the nail as best you can, and wait for it to grow back, or 2) attempt to repair the broken nail, or 3) replace the nail with a fake one. Filing the nail is pretty straight forward, and is described later on. Repairing the nail can be done by reinforcing the nail with a paper/nail polish, paper-mache type fix up job. Replacing the nail can be done thru a number of means. These include growing your non-picking thumb-nail long, and using it as a replacement nail, using a piece of ping-pong ball, using some brand of fake nail, or even temporarily moving to the use of fingerpicks. There is a brand of picks called "Alaska Picks" that fit under the nail, and are made of plastic, so they don't give that metallic sound that normal fingerpicks do.

NOTE: Need info on how to properly file your nails.

21. How Should I Take Care of my Guitar?

21.1 Avoid Climate Extremes

Do not expose it to extremes of temperature. If it's too hot or cold for you, it's probably too hot or cold for your guitar. Don't expose it to quick temperature changes. If you're in an area of low humidity (<20%), keep it humidified. Humidifiers that fit in the soundhole are available, or you can easily make one out of a plastic prescription bottle, some string, and a piece of a kitchen sponge.

Here is a set of instructions for making your own guitar humidifier:

  1. Get a small plastic prescription bottle.
  2. Using a soldering iron or something like that, poke, oh, about 10-15 holes in the bottle, wherever you want. The holes should be about 2-3 mm in diameter. Make one hole in the bottom.
  3. Get a piece of nice thick string about 40-50 cm long.
  4. Run that string through the hole in the bottom and knot it so it won't come back out.
  5. Cut a piece off a kitchen sponge that will fit in the bottle (but not too tightly). KIDS - ask Mom before doing this ;^)
  6. Put the sponge in the bottle, put a few drops of water in the sponge, and put the top on the prescription bottle. The sponge should be damp, not dripping wet.
  7. Make sure the outside of the bottle is dry.
When you put your guitar in the case, drop the bottle in the box. (You'll probably have to pull a string out of the way a little to do this, unless you have one of those large soundhole Maccaferris. It will probably not be necessary to loosen a string to do this, though.) Leave the string hanging out so you can pull the bottle back out later.

Obviously, you don't want to vigorously shake your guitar and case when this humidifier is installed. Also, on dry winter days, you'll have to put more water in it every two days or so.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, using a Prozac prescription bottle will not make your guitar sound mellower ;^)

21.2 Simple Maintenance

21.3 Travelling With Your Guitar

22. What Are Tape I, II, and Tape III?

A wonderful idea was brought to fruition by the early participants of the rmmga mailing-list. Larry Corbett put together a series of tapes containing tunes performed by rmmga participants. These mysterious and elusive "Tapes" are quickly developing into rmmga folklore. Why is there no Tape I? What happened to Tape II? How can I get Tape III? The following is Larry's explanation of the rmmga Tape I/II/III saga:

The Tape I story. Tape I was "guit's" first attempt to share some guitar music with its members, and failed big time. The whole process of Tape I was not a good one. It began as a tape that went from one member to the next on a long list of folks who were from many different parts of the globe. Almost as soon as it began we could see the short comings of doing a group tape in this fashion. It would have taken months to get the tape just through the list let alone to anyone else who might be interested in hearing it. And then, two months into the project, it got lost in the mail. End of Tape I.

Tape II and III went much better. Tape II was complete and available to anyone who wanted a copy in six or seven weeks. Some one suggested that all contributors should send their contributions to one location, get dubbed on a master and then distributed to the net. This worked well. I did both Tapes II and III. Tape II was pretty simple to do and both tapes II and III had a lot of luck going for them. There was no control on how many folks would contribute, so, Tape II just about filled a 90 minute tape and Tape III nearly filled two 90 minute tapes.

I sent out over 80 copies of Tape II, and only 10 copies of Tape III after the contributors got their copies. It took me about 20 minutes per tape to make a copy. Tape II wasn't too hard to deal with, but Tape III really began to take up more time than I was willing to deal with. I needed to pass the project on, which is what I did.

Some one thought it would be a good idea if a few of them would decode to make ten copies each of Tape II and III and then pass the masters on to the next person. This is where I left off. I sent both master copies and all liner notes and jackets out to a volunteer. The masters of Tape II and III are out there somewhere.....

23. Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following people for their contributions to the FAQ. This is a great combined effort from a number of helpful and knowledgeable people.

dasherma@us.oracle.com (Douglas Asherman) LCORBETT@MAINE.maine.edu (Larry Corbett) darsie@ece.ucdavis.edu (Richard Darsie) cddonaghe@halnet.com (Charles Donaghe) eveland@pecan.esd.sgi.com (Christopher Eveland) bobf@plan9.research.att.com (Bob F?????) loredo@astrosun.TN.CORNELL.EDU (Tom Loredo) jjm@wwtc.timeplex.com (James McGowan) mcipriani@aol.com (Mcipriani) neverisk@wp.prodigy.com (Mike Neverisky) moishi@uoguelph.ca (Mo Oishi) bo_parker@fbpmac.msfc.nasa.gov (Bo Parker) guy@harlequin.co.uk (Guy Snape)

html'd by Chris Peckham, cmp2@tower.york.ac.uk