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Acoustic guitarists might well get pretty peeved at electric axe wielders. Not only can they get a lot louder, plug into a huge range of effects and get guitars in any shape under the sun but they also have entire websites, magazines and manuals dedicated to discussing the minutiae of tone. Reading some of them you might think they were dedicated to seeking enlightenment or capturing a mythical beast. While acoustic guitarists haven't always had quite the same column inches and dedication it is an important subject. If you're a folk guitarist then you don't necessarily want a big booming dreadnought designed for indie or a shimmery bright electro acoustic that might be ideal for pop music. There's got to be a certain earthy quality and what's commonly thought of as being a "dark" sound, but the absence of a shiny top end doesn't mean a guitar is dark, just balanced to perfection. Here's our choice of some of the best folk guitars available today and little bit of the history behind them.
The Finest Folk Guitars In History
In many ways Bob Dylan might be said to have continued the tradition of Woody Guthrie and he's certainly no stranger to a J-45. Indeed he's collaborated with Gibson on his own Signature acoustic guitar.
Arguably they don't get much more folky than this one, an upgrade to the J-35, which was created during the Great Depression. No surprises that it was made to be affordable and was very much in chime with the protest movement, indeed Gibson closely related to American folk legend Woody Guthrie. Indeed in 2014 they made a very special acoustic guitar from the timbers of Woody's childhood home. Barring a little break between 1982-84 the J-45 has been a permanent fixture in the Gibson/Epiphone catalogue and we've got the current incarnation available.
It's probably easier to name folk artists who haven't used a Martin at some point than to pick one specific example. Not surprising given this is the company that created the original dreadnought design, named after a Royal Navy battleship due to it's size and bass rich sound. If you're after a guitar that really delivers both a big strumming sound and balanced mid focused picking then it can be hard to beat a Martin dreadnought. They're available in a wide range of prices to suit everyone from open mic songwriters to aspiring Mumfords.
Yamaha L Series
Perhaps Yamaha don't have the same cache and history as brands like Gibson, Guild and Martin but you can be darn sure that plenty of beginners have picked up an L Series Yamaha folk guitar as their first instrument. If you need convincing of Yamaha's pedigree then it's worth remember, that they certainly highly regarded as acoustic piano manufacturers with over a centuries experience. The most recent L Series models benefit from Yamaha's high tech know how too, having developed special processes to accurately replicate the ageing process of fine tonewoods. No need to wait 10 years for your guitar to "bed in" and gain that individual character, every L Series acoustic benefits from real character and the quality you might expect from a experienced luthier.
Excited about getting yourself a new folk guitar? Here's our Top 5 Choices:
BEST BUDGET FOLK GUITAR: Gibson Limited Run J-45 Grenadillo
Limited run J-45 available today, with vintage good looks and the perfect tone for folk music
BEST "NEW CLASSIC": Martin Road Series 000RSGT
This Martin folk guitar, released in 2014, comes equipped with Fishman pickup. This guitar is more affordable than most of the classic Martin models, but offers great features and, of course, legendary tone!
BEST FOR PERFORMING ARTISTS: Yamaha LS6ARE
The new L-Series from Yamaha marries tradition with modern features, and has quickly established Yamaha as a great choice for folk guitars. This model is affordable, comes equipped with SRT Zero Impact Pickup and is ideal for the performing musicians who wants something road-worthy, great-sounding and affordable.
BEST "VINTAGE-STYLE" FOLK GUITAR: Martin HD-28VS Vintage Series Acoustic Guitar
This is as authentic as you can get. The HD-28VS model was originally introduced in the 1900's and this new Martin lives up to the tradition - it's handcrafted from the finest tone woods by Martin's best luthiers.
MOST DESIRABLE FOLK GUITAR: Gibson J-200 Standard Jumbo
Folk music artists don't come more legendary than the J-200, a luxurious acoustic guitar made to Gibson's highest standards. Gibson also offers an even more expensive model
, which offers cutting edge technology to get that lovely folky sound!