Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ
Which guitar model suits me best?
To start with the comfort of playing. Choose a model that you can easily play on. If you are relatively small, do not take a Jumbo model, otherwise the guitar may cause pain in your arm or back. Guitarists with chronic back problems also often opt for a smaller guitar model.
A second factor is the sound of the guitar. With a smaller body, for example the Orchestra Model (OM), the higher notes resonate more compared to the mids and lows, while with a larger/wider customer body (Jumbo, Dreadnought) the lower notes dominate a little more compared to the mid and highs. Please note that the sound of the guitar is determined by several factors, such as the wood types and a 12-fret or 14-fret (neck and body) connection (see another section in this FAQ). But the design of the guitar’s model also has an influence. So it’s not just about size. A Dreadnought is often said to be good for strumming and country, while the OM is appreciated more for fingerpicking. Also the placement of the waist (the narrow part of the guitar) and its width changes the way the vibrations move around inside the guitar and this can have a small effect on the sound. This all remains very personal and the best is to try different models and choose what you like best.
Finally, the looks of a guitar can also influence the final choice. This also is very personal. For example, the OM, Jumbo and Grand Auditorium have a thinner waist than the Dreadnought. The Dreadnought guitar is named after an English battleship from the early 1900s. The Dreadnought guitar is in fact much larger than for instance the compact Parlor model that was common until then. Some guitars have a cutaway on one side or shoulder. A cutaway has a clear function (see elsewhere in the FAQ), but is often also bought because of how it makes the guitar look like.
What is the best wood for an acoustic guitar top?
The main spruce varieties for the top are: Sitka, Engelmann, German Spruce and, the king of tonewoods, Adirondack. Cedar (especially in classical guitars) and mahogany are also used for the top. The latter, in contrast to the aforementioned, is a hardwood species. Mahogany gives a more direct sound.
Homestead uses standard Adirondack AAA wood for its tops. Read more about how we select our tops.
What type of wood is best for the sides and back of my guitar?
As with the tops (see elsewhere in this FAQ), you want the wood for the sides and back to be as hard and solid as possible. The king of hardwoods is rosewood. A rosewood tree takes up to 100 years to reach a fully grown tree. Rosewood provides a warm and rich sound with more emphasis in the low and midrange than mahogany. The expression is also greater than with the other types of wood. Mahogany is the most commonly used tonewood, mainly because it is cheaper than rosewood. A mahogany tree can reach maturity in 25 years. Mahogany has beautiful full, almost piano-like, high tones. The mids and lows then lag a little behind rosewood. The same goes for most other hardwoods such as Sapele, Ovangkol, Koa and Maple.
Homestead deliberately chose rosewood for its warm sound and its balanced highs, mids and lows. Because this is an endangered species, Homestead plants a rosewood tree near Bandung for every guitar sold. In this way, the next generations will also have the availability of Javanese rosewood.
What is the difference between an open (slotted) and a closed (solid) guitar head?
Which is better for your nut and bridge saddle: bone or Tusq®
Tusq is a brand name. The plastic material is made of a high-quality polymer formed under high pressure and heat. It is hard, strong, compact and light material.
Bone is in fact made of an animal bone. Any bone can be used for the nut and bridge saddle. The American buffalo is the most popular, especially the femur and humerus bones or the bones of the pelvis or tibia are used. Asian guitars also sometimes have a water buffalo or camel nut and bridge saddle.
What are the differences? In general, Tusq and bone are the same in terms of sustain, volume and resonance. Some guitarist’s say that Tusq offers a brighter tone, more volume and sustain, and a warmer and more balanced tone. However, it is difficult to determine this, especially because the nut and bridge saddle have only a very small effect on the overall sound.
The strength of the material does have differences. As Tusq is technically synthetic, the material is consistent. Bone, on the other hand, is organic and can have soft spots. This leads to Tusq being slightly stronger than bone. Tusq is also slightly easier to work with than bone, especially for filing down the bridge saddle. But this difference is also small.
Finally, there is also some colour difference in the long run. Bone just stays white while Tusq gradually yellows and gets darker over the years.
When do you choose a guitar with a cutaway? And do you lose volume with that?
Do you lose volume of the guitar with that? Yes, but not that much. We think it’s about 5%. A cutaway does give a slightly different sound to your guitar. In particular, the low tones of your guitar are slightly less resonated, making the middle and high tones more audible.
Another reason why you choose a cutaway is that you like the looks of a guitar with a cutaway. Homestead offers two types of cutaways: a Venetian and a Florentine. The latter has a sharp point upwards.
What's the difference between a 12-fret and 14-fret guitar, and which guitar sounds better?
The 12-fret guitar therefore has a slightly shorter neck, viewed from the body. However, the total length of the strings (scale length) remains the same (65 cm). That means that with a 12-fret the bridge is further away from the sound hole and in a place on the top that usually resonates better. This gives a warmer and fuller sound.
Opinions are divided on whether a 12-fret plays more comfortably. That is very personal and often a matter of habituation. For guitarists who also regularly play high on the fingerboard (neck), a 14-fret is probably preferable because the high notes are more accessible there.
Homestead has several 12-fret models in stock.
What is the difference between nitrocellulose and polyurethane?
Which pickup should I choose?
We have selected these two pickup systems because they are the best in their class. But if a customer would like a different pickup system, that is of course also possible.
What are the differences between the two pre-selected pickup systems? The Fishman Matrix Blend features a combination of an under-saddle piezo pickup in the bridge and a microphone mounted on a gooseneck in the sound hole. The sound hole also contains a control panel with volume control, phase knob and blend control. With the ‘blend’ control you can mix the signal from the microphone and the piezo.
The advantage of this system is that you have a built-in microphone at your disposal that reproduces the sound of your acoustic guitar as naturally as possible. This sounds better, for example, when you’re recording. The disadvantage is that a microphone will howl faster (feedback), this can happen at a high volume or if you are too close to the amplifier. You can prevent this by setting the ‘blend’ switch to piezo. What also sometimes works is a cover or plug in the sound hole. A second disadvantage of the built-in microphone is that you quickly get contact noises. For example, if you move your arm over the guitar. That has advantages if you also occasionally use it as a percussion instrument.
With the LR Baggs VTC system, you only have a piezo element under the bridge saddle. You can also control the volume and tone with two wheels that are accessible via the sound hole. It’s quite simple and direct. The piezos from LR Baggs are of top quality. According to many, LR Baggs is the best brand for pickup systems.
In terms of weight, the LR Baggs VTC system is lighter than the Fishman Matrix Blend system as it consists only of a piezo. This is of course due to the ‘heavy’ microphone that is in the Fishman system.
Both systems work with a 9-volt battery in a strapjack that is attached inside the guitar’s body near the sound hole with Velcro. The batteries are easy to replace by loosening the tension of the strings. So the strings don’t have to come off.
My personal conclusion is: if you record a lot or play solo in small venues, a Fishman has advantages because of the pure sound that the microphone produces. If you mainly play in a band or if you don’t use your electronics much, the LR Baggs has the best credentials.
Which guitar strings should I use?
This includes three main categories:
- Classical guitar (nylon)
- Western guitar (steel)
- Electric guitar (thin steel strings)
Most Homestead guitars use western strings. With western strings you can choose from various brands, string thickness, winding material and with or without coating. These are mainly personal choices, but these choices affect sound and playing comfort.
There can be many reasons why you should choose thicker or thinner strings. Each have its pros and cons.
Thick strings have the advantage that they stay in tune better and have a louder and fuller sound. The downside is that it plays harder.
Thinner strings are more flexible and therefore easier to bend, which makes solo playing easier. The disadvantage is less volume and less warmth of the sound.
String thickness acoustic western guitars
Most guitar string sets indicate the thickness of the thinnest (1) and thickest string (6). For example: .012 – .053 This number represents the diameter in inches.
The common thicknesses for the acoustic western guitar are:
- Thick strings, for the high E string .013
- Standard or Medium: .012
- Thin or light: .011
String winding material
Strings 4 to 6 have a winding for which various materials are used. This also affects the sound. The materials used are for example:
- Aluminum Bronze
- Nickel Bronze
- Phosphor bronze
- Nickel plated steel
- Silver-plated steel
With or without Coating
Coated strings have a higher price but last longer because these strings are more resistant to oxidation. The coated strings also retain their sound for longer. But coated strings also have their drawbacks. While the polymer coating is great for keeping your strings clean and protecting them from the elements, coatings dampen the highs slightly. Coated strings therefore sound slightly less metallic and therefore less authentic. Some guitarists also find that coated guitar strings feel smoother. Whether that is pleasant or not is also very personal.
If you dislike changing your strings often and are willing to spend the money, go for coated guitar strings. On the other hand, if you like the retro tones better, stick with uncoated varieties.
At Homestead we strung our guitars with D’Addario EXP 16 with string gauge .012 – .053 as standard. Of course we can also put your favourite set on it.
It’s always good to try out a few different brands and types. It remains a personal choice for what you are looking for in the sound. In addition, one guitar sounds better with one particular set while another guitar sounds better with a different brand or type.
Tips for preserving your strings.
- Always wash and dry your hands: Before playing your guitar, it is highly recommended to wash and dry your hands. That alone should be enough to keep dirt and skin grease off the guitar strings.
- Clean the Guitar Strings: After a performance, continue to clean and dry the strings with a soft cloth. Sweat that accumulates on the strings can be removed in this way.
- Keep the guitar in its case: Outside of playing, it is generally recommended that you store your guitar in the case. Doing so minimizes the effect of air oxidation on the strings in most cases and extends their life.