I bought a new guitar and it sounds tinny ... is this normal?

Can anyone help please?
I’ve been playing guitar on and off for a few years, my guitar is old and I purchased a new one, however, it sounds very tinny, is this normal?

Cheers
Graham

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Welcome to the forum Graham. Without knowing what you bought it’s hard to say. What was your old guitar and what is your new one. If your old one was a dred and your new one is a small body short scale it will sound thin compared to a full size dred.

What was wrong with your old guitar?

Hi Stitch,
Thank you for your reply.
My old guitar is an Alhambra made in Spain in 1978, the sound hole is 8.5cm diameter, neck is 5cm wide. See picures

The new guitar was purchased from a music website, primarily because it had a cut away and this is what I wanted. See pictures



I have noticed that the new guitar has two nylon strings, whereas the old one has three.
I hope this info helps.
Cheers
Graham

Hello @Hawkward and welcome to the community.

Your old and new guitars are two very different types Graham.
Your old one is a classical o(or Spanish) style guitar which will have three nylon strings.
Your new one is a steel-string acoustic - the non-wound strings are not nylon, they are metal. It will definitely sound more metallic (you may call it tinny) than your old guitar.
It is this model:

It is a budget model and will likely benefit from some attention by a guitar tech to check playability etc. but it should be okay as is.
What you’re hearing is likely just the difference between two different sort of instruments.

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As Richard said, you’re looking at two very different guitars. Not only are they different types of guitars (classical vs. steel-string), but they’re probably also in different quality brackets (the Gear4Music guitar is a budget instrument), and they’re different ages. Your Alhambra would be considered a vintage instrument, at this point.

I think your Alhambra is probably a flamenco guitar (due to the “F” designation), but you’d probably need to check with Alhambra to be certain. It would be interesting to know if it was considered a student instrument or a professional instrument back when it was manufactured.

The Alhambra is going to have a much lighter and more resonant construction than the Gear4Music steel string. Classical and flamenco guitars can get away with that because the nylon strings don’t put as much tension on the guitar, compared to steel strings. Steel string guitars need hardier (and thus somewhat less resonant) construction. So that’s one way the Alhambra is going to sound richer.

Another difference is the strings: nylon vs. steel. Just by the nature of the material, the nylon string guitar is going to sound warmer and less metallic or zingy.

Lastly, the age of the Alhambra could make a difference. A solid wood acoustic guitar will become more resonant as it ages and is “played in”. It’s not a given that an older acoustic guitar will sound better, and there are multiple variable involved, but it’s not complete hogwash, either. At least not in my opinion (but this can be a controversial subject).

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Hello Richard,

I really appreciate your reply, it makes sense now that I’ve had a good look at them both.
I don’t like the sound of the new one, however the size of the guitar and neck width is perfect.
I assume the classical guitars are always going to be slightly bigger?
It is likely that I will change it for a cutaway classical due to the sound difference, ideally what amount should I be looking at spending to get something half decent?

Cheers
Graham

Graham, if you want to continue playing on a nylon string guitar then you have one already. You absolutely do not need a cutaway.
They do tend to have wider necks than steel string acoustics, and flatter fretboards too. They tend to have smaller bodies than the ‘regular’ acoustic size … by which I mean dreadnought is the regular acoustic size most often seen and sold in shops.
Acoustics (steel strings come in many body sizes however, large and small).

I would suggest that if you have money to increase your budget then you should look for a steel string - unless you are dead set on nylon and the sound of it - and go to a shop to feel and try some acoustics in the £200-300 range. If you want a small body look at 00, 000, OM, Parlour, Folk sizes (there are various names).

Hello J.W.C,

Thank you for your reply. In answer to your question about the Alhambra being professional or student, I got it from a friend about 25 years ago, who in her late teens, used to play to an audience, so it could be either.

I really don’t like the sound of the new guitar, however, is changing it for a cutaway classical guitar probably the better option as I prefer the sound. I do want a cutaway, because some of Justin’s lessons involve using higher frets.
Also, I am in the early stages of the beginner lessons, so anything that makes me feel more comfortable, the better!!

Cheers
Graham

Hey mate,

Lots of reasons above but if you don’t like the sound take it back if you can and get something else but at least try some stuff out so you can hear them

Hi Richard,

Thank you for your advise, I shall send the cheap one back and find a shop like you suggested. It wasn’t the classical guitar that I particularly wanted, but wasn’t aware of the big difference between the sounds either.
I will let you know how I get on.
Once again, thanks for your help.

Cheers
Graham

Hi Graham,

First off welcome to this forum! Your Alhambra looks really nice. It will be quite a difference with the new steel strung guitar that you have bought, which may / may not have been the right one for you. Given that you wanted the cutaway - what music did you want to play with it, above the 12th fret? There are nylon strung guitars that have cutaway’s, but they are somehow specialty models, and are at the upper end of the range - think Gipsy Jazz etc.

As others have already remarked, yes the steel strung guitar will not have the same warmth in tone as a classical (aka Spanish) guitar. Nonetheless quite a few of us play them, and there are plenty of examples in the record yourself section in this community, so you could perhaps better compare with those examples.

Do you like strumming, are you into classical pieces, or in general fingerstyle? That will tell you more which guitar will suit you better.

By the way, for the tone of any guitar, it is important to change the strings regularly. If the Alhambra has been locked away for a year or so, best to restring. And the new one, you may wish to experiment with a heavier gauge string, depending on how you would like to play it.

All the best!

Regards,

Tjeerd

Here is an example of your Alhambra. I believe it is an entry level or student model. Nothing wrong with it, and probably serviceable.

You might look at a “crossover” guitar. Many brands have them now. Nylon strings, cutaway options 46-48mm nut. A good midway compromise. You should be able to get a decent one used for a few hundred dollars, plus or minus.

Hi @Hawkward

Paul Davids had a comparison you may be able to get some useful background from:
Acoustic Guitars Types: Everything you must know - YouTube

My advice is to not worry about a cutaway. You don’t need one.

I would return the Gear4Music guitar that you don’t like, but since you like the feel of the narrower neck you should take note of the neck’s nut width. According to the Gear4Music web site it should be 43mm, but I’d confirm that with an actual measurement.

For now, I would use the Alhambra with Justin’s lessons. I’d also contact Alhambra and send them pics, serial number, et cetera. Ask them if they have any information about the guitar, where it sat in their lineup, et cetera.

I’d also start visiting some guitar shops to try different guitars. Think about what kind of music you want to play (the shop’s salesman will probably ask); it can influence the decision. Also tell them about how you like the sound of a classical/nylon string guitar, but the neck feel of a steel string. There are “hybrid” guitars that fit those criteria.

Lastly, you could also poke around online retailer web sites. Some of them (like sweetwater.com) have search capabilities that let you specify things like nylon strings, a cutaway (although I still say you don’t need this), and nut width. I would suggest actually trying a guitar before you buy it, but at the very least this can give you idea of what options are out there.

Don’t be in too big of a hurry. I think you can tackle Justin’s beginner lessons just fine with your Alhambra. You have the luxury of already having a serviceable guitar to use while you ponder your next guitar acquisition, so you can take the time to research, try guitars, and find something that really suits your wants, needs, and budget.

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Welcome, @Hawkward !

@J.W.C males a good point. Sometimes, not that this would resemble me in any way, we get enamored with guitars so much that we think we need something new and different. Sure, it is always fun to buy a new toy, but a different guitar isn’t going to make a beginner better unless there was something wrong with the old guitar that made them worse.

After 2 full years, I think I have finally learned that I really don’t know what I might need in a guitar yet, so why waste all the money and energy worrying about buying more guitars that still won’t meet my future needs?

That said, it is important to have a decent guitar that fits you well and most importantly is well set up to play its best. It is worth spending for the setup. It is also worth thinking about basics, like nylon vs steel, or acoustic vs electric.

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I see all the comments about steel string vs nylon strings…one suggestion I’d make to cut down on the tinny sound is to swap strings. Try some coated metal strings, they may sound less sharp. Search one of the online string sites and look for strings described as ‘warm’ and not ‘bright’. A cheap way to see if that fixes the problem. Good luck!

If you want the same type of guitar but with a cutaway and of good quality this would be ideal and from the same supplier as the one you have that you find unsuitable!
Takamine GC5CE Electro Classical Guitar, Natural at Gear4music
It is a relatively inexpensive instrument in real terms, but made by a known good manufacturer and will be excellent quality. It’s probably good enough to say that you wouldn’t need to buy another unless your requirements change.