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Saturday
Apr232011

Guitar Review - Yamaha Guitalele GL-1

I've been craving a classical guitar for quite awhile, and still don't own one.  But around New Years, I stumbled across the Yamaha Guitalele (GL-1) for around $100, and concluded that it might help me hold off the urge for a real classical for a bit longer.

In most respects, this is a real guitar.  It's certainly not a toy, and is quite nicely made.  The Guitalele name comes from the fact that it is similar in size to a ukelele, though it has 6 strings, and is tuned similar to a 6-string guitar.I say "similar", because due to the small size, the guitar is tuned like a guitar with a capo at the 5th fret, i.e. A-D-G-C-E-A, low to high.

It feels good in my hands.  Frets are closer together, of course, actually very much like playing a guitar with capo.

The neck width at the nut is 1 7/8", the same as most classical guitars.  The neck section is a shallow C that's comfortable in my hands and feels "right".

The guitalele is built in Indonesia, and workmanship seems very good.  I don't see any sloppy glue work, and the inside of the instrument is very clean and well done. The nut is nicely rounded at the edges, and the frets are all smooth at the ends. The instrument is quite pleasant to play as a result.

The tone is relatively bright.  The nylon strings and spruce top give it a relatively bright sound, not too different from a ukelele, though the lower strings bring out a lot more bass than a uke.  The nato neck (aka eastern mahogany) and sonokeling (rosewood) fingerboard and bridge look and feel good.  The neck meets the body at the 12th fret, like a classical guitar.

Intonation on the Yamaha guitalele is very good.  I'm pretty down on cheap guitars these days, particularly because the intonation tends to be pretty poor, and they just don't sound very nice because of it. I've particularly been watching small guitars, because we have some kids in the family... and a cheap Denver 3/4 steel string guitar here turned out to be pretty bad.

After having found this guitalele, I'm thinking this might be a better choice for a first guitar for a small player, rather than buying a short scale regular guitar.  The size is significantly smaller than something like a Baby Taylor [which I quite like], and may be a better choice for younger players.

The main thing I really like about playing an instrument like this is that the different voicing makes me instantly play things that I don't normally play on a regular guitar. Just that different tone and feel somehow inspire different music, which I find really great.

For $100, this is a great instrument.  Small and portable, and cheap enough not to worry about it... shove it in the supplied gig bag and hit the road.  It's small enough to fit in the car with other stuff and be available when you just want to pick up an instrument and play.

Of course, the final question is... did it convince me not to buy a "real" classical guitar?  Well, I haven't bought one yet, so at least it postponed it a few months.  But I'm still yearning for one, and I'll probably buy relatively soon.  I have my eye on a La Patrie concert guitar (not a purist classical, since it's got a cutaway).  But I certainly don't regret this little Yamaha purchase at all, and I expect it'll remain in regular rotation in the family for a long time to come.

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