What is ‘The Best’ Guitar?

Because many people know I play guitar I am sometimes asked “What is the best guitar?”

Benedetto - Winter NAMM 2007 Photos.jpgThe question is different from being asked which of my guitars I like best. There are no wrong answers when responding to a question about personal preference. Not that they are easier for me to answer, but any sincere answer is correct.

I try not to get annoyed when someone asks me the “best” question. I will generally ask some questions to see if I can determine what the person really wants to know. Are they asking because they want to take up the guitar and want a good guitar for a beginner? Do they want to buy a guitar for their son or daughter? Or do they want to know the most expensive guitar made – which doesn’t necessarily make it the best unless cost is your only criteria.

Here are some of the different criteria that can be applied to help answer which is the best guitar:

Some Criteria for Best …

  • Most popular
  • Most Expensive
  • Least Expensive
  • Best value
  • Most ornate
  • Most unusual looking
  • Best sounding
  • Rarest woods
  • Best craftsmanship
  • Most rugged (least likely to be damaged when traveling or gigging).
  • Most comfortable to hold and play
  • Loudest

Best for (musical style) …

  • Jazz
  • Rock
  • Acoustic Country Blues
  • Electric Blues
  • Classical
  • Flamenco

Best for (player) …

  • Children
  • Beginners
  • Someone with small hands
  • Someone with large hands
  • Gigging musician with limited budget
  • Musician needing versatile guitar for many musical styles

You can probably think of other criteria that could apply. No one guitar can meet all of these, so the question is, which is important to you. Probably the biggest question is what type of guitar and what type of music is the questioner interested in. The best rock guitar isn’t going to be the same as the best classical guitar. If you are only interested in rock it might not occur to you to even consider classical guitars but not all people have that narrow perspective.

My problem is I like a lot of different types of music and each has guitars that are more suited (or at least more generally used) for that type of music. I also recognize that a “pretty” guitar may not sound good, a good sounding guitar may not be comfortable to play and a good playing guitar may appear rather plain. I also am skeptical of popularity as a measure of quality.

Another factor is who built the guitar and where can you buy one. The best made guitar from one of the large guitar companies which specializes in mass production of instruments probably can’t match the best guitar from an some of the independent luthiers today. Then again, if the closest guitar store is a 200 mile drive from where you live, a mass produced guitar from an online retailer may a good choice.

With regard to what is my favorite guitar, the easiest answer is the one I am playing now.

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