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Guitar Musician   e-zine     03/30//05


In This Issue:


  Bent out of shape from society's pliers, cares not to come up any higher, but rather get you down in the hole that he's in.

                                                                     - Bob Dylan, It's Alright, Ma


Some Humor

  Little Johnny's kindergarten class was on a field trip to their local
police station where they saw pictures, tacked to a bulletin board, of  the
10 most wanted criminals. One of the youngsters pointed to a  picture and
asked if it really was the photo of a wanted person.  "Yes," said the
policeman. "The detectives want very badly to capture him." Little Johnny
asked, "Why didn't you keep him when you took his picture?"

 


Review

 
Click here for all products by Yamaha.
 

Yamaha CGS Series

Quality classical guitars for young students

By Justin Jones

Yamaha CGS Series Since its founding in 1887, Yamaha has earned a reputation for expert craftsmanship, consistency, and great musical tone. Nowhere is this reputation better deserved than in the field of classical guitars. Yamaha's CGS102, CGS103, and CGS104 student model guitars incorporate decades of hard-won expertise to deliver extremely consistent tone and playability for young students at prices almost any parent can afford.

No surprise
My first classical guitar (the most common style of nylon-string guitar) was a Yamaha C40 my dad bought for me in 1976. A guitarist himself, he recognized good quality and was delighted by the small price tag. I put over a thousand hours on that instrument and it still played great when I traded up a few years later.

Now I teach guitar and I always recommend Yamaha instruments for my students. After searching high and low for decent, affordable beginner-level classical guitars, I concluded that Yamaha is the only manufacturer with consistent enough quality that I can recommend their guitars to students sight unseen.

So I wasn't even mildly surprised when I discovered the great quality of the CGS Series guitars. The two small scale models�CGS102 and CGS103�are the only widely available small-scale guitars I've played that consistently provide genuine musical guitar tone and playability. I've played quite a few different brands, and most of the small-scale models on the market sound like toys and play terribly. In fact, Yamaha is the only brand of small-scale classical guitar I will recommend.

Right foot forward
Parents, I'm going to truth you. Too often I hear, "We don't know if little Sally's really going to stick with these guitar lessons or not. Let's just buy her a cheap one and if she really shows an interest, we'll get her a better one later." Truth: Little Sally will never develop an interest if you saddle her with a toy that sounds horrible and is impossible to play. You have to a buy a real instrument!

But why nylon strings in the first place? Nylon-string guitars are easier to play. Classical guitars tend to have smaller bodies, so they're easier for children to hold. The string spacing is a little wider to make chording easier without accidentally muting strings. The strings themselves are wider, softer, and easier to push down so they don't bite painfully into the fingertips. Finally, while almost any style of music can be played easily on a nylon-string guitar, classical, flamenco, and Latin American styles can be very difficult to play on steel-string guitars.

Yamaha CGS Series Best to start with nylon and lay the foundation for good right-hand finger-style technique. Your child can always expand into steel-string and electric guitars later after he or she has learned the basics on a friendlier instrument.

As to scale, a couple of rules of thumb can help you decide what size is right for your young student. The scale length of the guitar would optimally be about 44% of your student's height. The scale length is the distance from the head nut to the bridge, the stopping points of the strings. So a student 48" tall would perfectly fit a 21"-scale guitar, which is called a 1/2-size guitar. A 3/4-size guitar has a 23" scale, and a full-sized guitar has a 25-5/8" scale. In playing position, the left hand on the fretboard placed near the headstock should cover three or four frets. Of course, very young children will have to stretch to play even the smallest guitar.

Integrity
Like most established manufacturers, Yamaha began making premium-quality instruments, and of course they still make some of the world's finest concert-level classical guitars. Yamaha applied everything they learned building high-end guitars to building student models. These are built in Yamaha's own factories by carefully trained craftspeople using techniques developed for much more expensive guitars.

Yamaha CGS Series The result is the incredible consistency I've already mentioned. That consistency is apparent on all three of the CGS guitars Musician's Friend sent me for review. The diminutive CGS102 is the most astounding. The scale is only 21", which makes it the best fit for players four to seven years old. The big surprise here is the amazing tone generated by the spruce top with nato back, sides, and neck. It's amazing that an instrument so small could produce such a full, warm timbre. And, as with all of these instruments, the CGS102 has been very well set up in the factory so that the action (distance from the strings to the frets) is very low without any fret buzz.

The 3/4-scale CGS103 demonstrates the same painstaking attention to detail as the other two instruments. Looking inside, all the bracing cuts are clean and there's none of the sloppy gluing so often found in cheaper guitars. This guitar is also fine looking, with an intricate rosette (pattern around the sound hole) and a well-finished rosewood fretboard. Again, the tone is very robust, especially for a smaller-scale instrument.

The full-sized CGS104 is an incredible value. Excellent fretwork, super-friendly action, truly sweet tone, and sumptuous looks combine in an instrument that most will want to keep around even if they graduate to a concert-quality guitar.

The Yamaha CGS Series guitars are quality instruments with friendly price tags and reliable, rugged construction that can hold up to children's ungainly handling through years of regular use. I'll continue to recommend them as the best choice for young guitar students.

 

Features & Specs


CGS102 CGS103
  • 21" scale length
  • 3-3/4" body depth
  • Spruce top
  • Nato back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Quality mechanical tuners
  • 23" scale length
  • 4" body depth
  • Spruce top
  • Nato back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Quality mechanical tuners
CGS104
  • 25-5/8" scale length
  • 4" body depth
  • Spruce top
  • Nato back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Quality mechanical tuners

For more info on ordering this product email us


Guitar Q & A

  Spruce or Cedar?

Q What are the differences between spruce and cedar tops?

Travis Tran
Santa Ana, California

A To appreciate the difference between the two woods, we have to understand their similarities. When a spruce or cedar tree is felled by a woodcutter who wants to turn it into guitar soundboards, it must be carefully split apart with wedges into large blocks instead of sawn into boards. This ensures that the fibers are precisely aligned. Later, soundboard sheets are sawn off these blocks perpendicular to the rings (lengthwise down the log). The rings will thus be oriented in the soundboard like a series of tiny, rigid beams ("reeds" as luthiers like to call them), separated and kept upright by softer, fluffy fibers in between. This natural architecture yields a soundboard that is enormously strong and stiff relative to its weight. In terms of strength-to-weight ratios, materials engineers rank vertical-grain spruce and cedar among the most efficient structural materials in the world, comparing favorably with aluminum or even space-age carbon fiber laminates. The differences between spruce and cedar are very slight but noteworthy. Cedar soundboards have a reputation for not noticeably improving in tone over time as much as spruce boards usually do. But that may be the stuff of lore, as it is difficult to prove. Subtle structural differences make cedar somewhat stiffer and lighter than spruce and therefore more brittle and fracture-prone. In our repair shop, we often see spruce tops that are dented from a collision with a microphone. All too often on cedar guitars, there are cracks beneath the same sort of dents. And because the fiber between the reeds is softer and fluffier than that of spruce, cedar is considerably less wear-resistant, and fingernail and pick marks tend to accumulate more rapidly than they do on spruce tops. But these same differences also result in a marginally crisper, louder tone from cedar-top guitars. All things considered, spruce and cedar perform equally well as guitar soundboards, whether on low-priced, off-the-rack factory models or high-priced concert-quality instruments.

�William Cumpiano