Guitar Buying Tips

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Are you thinking of buying a guitar, bass or upgrading one? Maybe this will help you make a better decision. We don’t sell them (although John did manage a Music Store and is an expert in setup) but over the past 45 years or buying, selling, trading and collecting we’ve accumulated some valuable experience and insight.

Start by being honest. Not just about how serious you are about playing, willingness to practice and perform, but are you better with things that are complex and feature rich or are you more at home with simpler tools and toys. For me (Professor Dave) simpler works better. I tend to like things with fewer buttons, “passive electronics” where the instrument has a smaller range of possible sounds but I love the sounds that it does make. That’s me. You may be fine with more variations and options. The same is true for amps. I have a fantastic Vox VT40 plus that I love but only use a fraction of the available features.

On this page we’re going to discuss buying Acoustic Guitars, Acoustic-Electric Guitars, Electric Guitars and Bass Guitars. I’m also going to add a little advice on where and how to buy a guitar.

Acoustic Guitars

 

Let’s talk about cheap guitars first. They’re all over the place and you can get a $45 guitar, complete with strings at all kinds of clubs and discount super stores. In my opinion, they’re not worth the cardboard they’re shipped in. These items are stamped from plywood and sold from places that have no idea what a “setup” is. These are often purchased to inspire young artists to begin to express themselves musically but they play terribly and often discourage the new learner. If low cost is a priority, use the advice below and look for a used piece of fair quality. They’re out there.

So where do we start? We’ll start with the material that goes into an acoustic guitar, which is mostly, but not always, wood. Some very fine acoustic guitars use little or no wood. For years, Ovation and now their lower priced line of Applause have used wood tops (or soundboards) and a molded composite material for the back and sides and have some good playing highly regarded instruments. Rainsong uses carbon fiber (and in some models fiber glass) to make the outstanding sounding, easy playing and rather pricey line of guitars and use no wood at all. If you were going to be spending about $1,500 or more for a guitar, I’d suggest you check out the Rainsong. I don’t have one, but if I did I wouldn’t throw it away and if I did it would remain unfazed in the landfill for the next 500,000 years where with compression it would become a diamond.

Many guitars today are made with laminated wood, or in more common terms, plywood. Don’t automatically dismiss them because they are: some laminates are well made and quite durable and sound great. Martin Guitars uses a highly compressed laminate (with a solid spruce top) that looks great, sounds great, is durable and starts at around $600 new. Takamine, Ibanez, Alvarez, Godin, Yamaha and Washburn also have some nice sounding instruments that use laminates. For me, a bare minimum is a solid wood top or soundboard and I still prefer solid wood throughout although that elevates the price.

Type of wood also matters in your selection. There are a number of options you have: spruce, cedar, mahogany, rosewood, maple are among the most common. These are well known “tone woods” and there are many elements that make them so. It’s not simply about “density” or hardness. Oak is a very hard, dense wood and it’s abundant but you’ll never see an “oak” guitar, or at least I’ve never seen one because oak is tone deaf. So here’s a brief primer is acoustic guitar wood.

Soundboard or Top Wood

 

A bare minimum for me is that the soundboard be solid wood unless you’re really strapped for money and want a very cheap guitar. Please consider my advice above about buying from “Marts”, “Clubs” and other mass merchants that don’t know jack about guitars. If you can swing it, here are some of your choices.

Spruce Tops: Solid spruce comes in a number of varieties including Sitka, Bear Claw and Englemann are three notable varieties. Sometimes a manufacturer will tell you the top is solid spruce but not the variety. Wood, like many products, has a grading system and you’ll sometimes see that  it’s a “higher” quality by the number of “A’s” that follow the name such as: AAAA+ Enflemann Spruce Top! The question remains, so how does it sound Bucky?

Spruce tops are kiln dried and cured, not for years, they’re more like muffins and go into the kiln and out in a few minutes and they’re cooked. One of the great qualities of these spruce tops is that after drying, some resin remains trapped in the wood and over the years this resin hardens or crystalizes and alters the sound of the guitar making the tone richer and sweeter. I was with John the day he bought his Martin D-35 in 1975 at the legendary Manny’s in New York and it was the sweetest guitar I’d ever heard. Thirty-six years later it’s even sweeter. Spruce tops tend to give guitars a bright and lively tone and it’s the most popular top wood, not just for guitars but for all stringed instruments.

Mahogany Tops: Mahogany is frequently used for backs, sides and necks but it’s also a terrific choice for the top. As opposed to Spruce’s lively tone, Mahogany has more a piano-like quality, deeper, rich tones. Of the guitars on “Our Instruments” page, one, the Babicz Spider Identity is an all mahogany guitar. (Jeff Babicz has altered this design and now it has an Englemann Spruce top). It amplifies beautifully and has a unique voice. Mahogany is also very strong and durable. There are a few other varieties of mahogany (similar woods) like nato and bubinga – they can be fine and lower priced options. There are some great all mahogany acoustics that are moderately priced, one of my favorites is the Guild D-25, a great guitar at a very moderate price.

Cedar: is a good choice especially for rather anemic sounding acoustic bass guitars where cedar seems to be a noticeable improvement. Cedar is very common on classical guitars and not infrequently seen on some high end guitars. The rap on cedar is that if there is damage, it’s harder to fix that spruce.

Maple: Highly regarded for brilliant tone, beautiful appearance and strength. Different varieties of maple are commonly used all over the guitar, except it’s rare to see a maple fretboard on an acoustic guitar. A number of maple varieties have found their way to the top wood including quilted maple and burled maple. It’s usually pricier and a matter of personal taste whether it’s “better” or not.

Koa: This is a beautiful Hawaiian hard wood and I would support a constitutional amendment banning the use of colors or paint on koa. I know, this is the land of the free, people should be free to marry whomever they wish to marry, it’s not my business; artistic expression is an exercise in free speech so all you self-righteous politicians, get your noses out of it; let’s stop being hypocrites and legalize pot or make every vice illegal; stain koa and you go to jail for life. That’s fair. Oh, it’s expensive and for most, aside from the beauty, I don’t think the sound is worth the bucks unless you have the bucks.

There are other types of wood used that are less common but very beautiful and worth considering including ash and walnut. They’re great choices and you’ll only know if you like them by trying them. So shop and see.

Non-Wood Choices: Anyone game for an acoustic guitar top made of aluminum? Martin makes a great one with cherry back & sides for about $1,600 in their environmentally friendly guitars made from renewable, recyclable components. Carbon Fiber is being used to build the new Boeing 787 and Rainsong has an acoustic guitar line up with guitars built entirely of carbon fiber or a composite that includes glass fiber. They’re durable, light, fun to play, sound great and if you take them on a boat and the boat loses power, you can use them as a paddle and besides the electronics, no harm will come to the guitar!  Both are absolutely worth looking at.

Back and Sides

 

Some acoustic guitars have solid wood back and sides, some have a solid back and laminated sides and some are all laminates. So as a general rule if you go with a solid top the next step up is a solid back and then solid sides too. There are a number of choices for back and side list and that list is growing. Martin Guitars has introduced a line of guitars made from environmentally responsible hardwoods that are abundant including cherry and they sound great and generally cost a bit less.  Below are some of the more popular choices for acoustic guitars.

Rosewood: This is a wonderful tone wood, beautiful and sweet sounding. There are two varieties out there, Brazilian and Indian rosewood. Brazilian is very rare and hard to come by because the only way a rosewood tree can be harvested legally in Brazil is if it falls naturally, it can’t be cut down. For that reason most rosewood you find on guitars is Indian. When you look at wood choices for your best known high end guitar builders such as Martin, Taylor, Takamine, Laravee, Morgan, Guild, Gibson and Bredlove all use rosewood in their beautiful instruments.

Mahogany: Love mahogany. Warm, rich tone, strong resonant qualities and durable. There are a numer of mahogany varities and similar woods, but genuine mahogany comes  from Honduras and is highly regarded as a superior tone wood.
Maple: Curly maple, burled maple and other maple varieties are great choices for tone and appearance. They’re incredibly durable and highly desirable. My beloved Guild F-30 has curly maple back and sides and it’s a cannon. The light color is also very distinct and rich grain.

Koa: Solid koa is beautiful, rich sound and very expensive. If you see a new “koa” guitar for $500, it’s either a typo or a laminate. These beautiful, pricey guitars are often custom made costing $10,000 or more and sadlyhang on the walls of people with lots of money who never play them. I sense another constitutional amendment brewing here.

Other back and side woods that have unique qualities and work well are walnut, ash, cherry and birch.

Non-Wood Back & Sides: Ovation and their lower priced import brand Applause have been made with az composite material for the back and sides since 1966 and the sound and acceptance have been incredible. Solid wood tops are common on Ovations with a unique bracing system and superb electronics, they’re great guitars. Rainsong, mentioned above, most models are made almost entirely of graphite – carbon fiber. The body has no bracing (doesn’t need it), the neck is graphite, the fingerboard is composite and it comes with excellent hardware and electronics. The result is a wonderful sounding guitar that only comes in black.

Guitar Necks: Necks are under a lot of stress form the strings and the wood has to be strong and well supported. The most commonly used woods in guitar necks are mahogany and rock maple, although necks can be made from alder, koa, walnut or multiple pieces of wood that are supposed to maintain stability. Necks have a truss rod within to support stability and to give you the ability to adjust the neck. Fair and unequivocal warning: if you don’t know how to use the truss rod to make a correction, leave your hands off of it. Don’t make me have to lobby for yet another constitutional amendment.

Bridge, Fretboard, Etc: Bridges and fretboards need to be made from very hard wood and the most frequent wood used for acoustic guitars is rosewood, and sometimes ebony or maple (although maple fretboards are rare on acoustic guitars). An area of great concern for acoustic guitar makers and owners is the stress on the bridge from string tension that can pull the bridge off o the soundboard, be an expensive repair and potentially damage the guitar. This is a hidden design feature that you can’t see or hear when you look at a guitar, but it makes a major difference down the road how solidly the bridge is set, and how it’s set. This careful crafting is one example of what makes a more expensive guitar, more expensive.

Acoustic-Electric Guitars

 

Take all the advice on materials above and now let’s amplify the guitar so it can be played through an amp or sound system. There are some good choices and options to consider. If you’re buying a new or used guitar and want to perform, you need to consider this. . If you have an acoustic guitar that you want to alter, take a deep breath, think about it, and consider buying a new one or used one with the electronics already on board. Between the cursing, fitting and cost of an after-market pickup system, it may not cost much more to just get a new one. Trying to retrofit an acoustic guitar for amplification isn’t easy or cheap.

I have a brief listing of some of the acoustic guitar amplification choices, and if you want more information, details and actual tests of different systems, a terrific resource is Doug Young Guitar – check it out.

Some problems that acoustic guitar amplification has experienced have been brilliantly addressed by technological advances. Feedback could be harsh and kick in with just a slight movement of the soundhole toward a speaker, now, with the new generation of amplification, it doesn’t happen. Take a Guild with Fishman Acoustic Matrix amplification, turn it right into the speaker, inches away and nothing (bad) happens. I accidentally did that and expected the glass in the place to shatter. Not a problem.

Another historic problem was authentic sound reproduction. It’s important to understand that acoustic guitar strings are different from electric guitar strings and so magnetic pickups worked differently and are largely ineffective on acoustic guitars . Now with under saddle pickups and carefully designed preamps, you get great sound reproduction.

Some after-market retrofit systems are passive, like Martin’s Thinline for about $120. It’s pretty good for the price but if you do any performance, you’ll likely feel that it’s weak compared to the folks playing with built-in, onboard electronics. The active electronics let you modify you sound and tone, adjust treble, mid and bass sounds and control volume. If you have an acoustic guitar you’d like to amplify, something worth considering and trying is Dean Markley’s Transducer. It works well on all acoustic instruments (guitars, cellos, upright bass), requires no installation, and at about $33, it won’t send your budget into a freefall.

In Martin’s higher priced range performing artist series, and some other high end models, you can have a world class active pickup system with a remarkable tool: Martin digitally recorded every note (all 132 of them) on a number of different, highly regarded Martin Guitars and digitally installed these notes into the pickup system. This enables the performer to blend different sounds with the natural sound of the guitar and provides a wide range of sound and tone options. Is it good? It depends.

I’ll give you an example from the world of visual arts. My friend KC is a brilliant artist and in the early 1990’s she began using computers to dramatically increase the range of opportunity for artistic expression. As she puts it, this approach appealed to both sides of her brain, the “techie” side and the artistic side and she’s done magnificently with this approach (visit her online gallery at www.kelisegallery.com and be prepared to be awed). If this sounds like you, you’ll love the more versatile and complex systems with a wide range of options.

On the other hand, this is something I would struggle with. The two sides of my brain have a pathological hatred of each other. When one is talking the other is ignoring it. They refuse to speak directly to one another and often gossip and talk trash about the other side. The relationship is so strained that the left side of my brain has even insisted on a hemispherectomy: “Either righty goes or I go.”

I can’t handle the techie stuff along with the emotional, gestalt stuff, so I’m better with getting a system that authentically amplifies the guitar beautifully and is happy doing that. It needs to have basic controls; volume, treble, mid, bass knobs and likes to tell me that I’m talented. I like and work best with simple equipment.

A small thing that we don’t look at when we shop for a guitar, but it makes a difference, at least to me, is where the ¼” outlet is on the guitar. Often, it is placed in the hole used for the strap button and that’s not a big problem unless, like me, you always use a strap. Getting the strap over that piece is a pain, stretches out the end of the strap and eventually destroys the strap end. Many guitar makers now use a separate outlet for the &#188” plug outlet and strap button. It’s small, usually not something that we’d think about, but it does matter.

What’s your opinion on acoustic guitar amplification systems? Place a note in my Blog, Professor Dave’s  Objective, Unbiased Guitar & Bass Buying Advice Feel free to ask questions, offer advice, give and get feedback and tell us what you think.

Glues???

 

Why am I talking about glues and guitars? Mostly to offer you some advice: really think about how to affix parts of the guitars and avoid some nasty, destructive and costly errors. Guitars are designed to come apart so they can be fixed or adjusted. Luthiers (the folks who make and repair stringed instruments) use super glues very sparingly and for very specific purposes such as fixing a crack in the soundboard of an acoustic guitar of filling a chunk in a solid body electric. Some people have replaced a nut (the piece of bone, ceramic or plastic at the top of the neck) or put back one that came loose by using super glue. DON’T DO THAT!! You’ll never be able to get the nut off again without damaging the nut or the guitar.

Luthiers extensively use hide glue (like the very familiar “Elmer’s Glue”) or model glue because they are strong, bond well and the glued part can be removed if needed in the future. Hide glue is very strong but when heat’s applied, will soften and separation is fairly simple. The glue a nut, using model glue creates a strong bond and if the nut needs to be removed in the future, a few taps will crack the glue and it’s easy to clean and sand the surface. A good rule to follow: if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t glue it.

Part of the craft of guitar making, and what makes some guitars worth so much more than others is the quality of materials, labor and science of understanding how to construct a quality instrument. If you don’t know what you’re doing with repairs, and especially with adhesives, don’t do it, get a pro to do it.

Tuning Machines

 

They matter; tuning machines look alike and often, if you want to replace your guitar’s tuners, you can tell which units will fit by simply looking at them. But by looking, you won’t know what’s inside of the tuning machine and that can make a big difference in your axe’s performance. The market is flooded with both inexpensive and cheap (there’s a difference) tuning machines that look just like Grovers, Schallers or Gotohs. They look like them, but they don’t perform like them.

This is a place where lower cost guitars can save production costs by throwing on a cheap set of tuning machines that don’t tune the guitar precisely and fall out of tune easily. My best advice if you’re looking to upgrade youu turners is that you don’t change them often, get a good, name brand set and you can’t go wrong.  I personally like the names I mentioned above: Grover, Schaller and Gotoh. There are other good ones and lots of bad ones.

Some Buying Advice

 

If you’re looking for advice on what brand to buy, there are a lot of choices and a lot of good choices. Among the brands that you’ll find “everywhere” I feel that Ibanez, Yamaha, Takamine (Jasmine low priced Takamine), Epiphone (low priced Gibson), Washburn and Alvarez are worth looking at and compete well in any price range. Some of these makers offer guitars for as little as $150 and head up to guitars that sell for thousands. Taylor Guitars are well regarded and very popular for a reason – they’re excellent. Here’s a quick list of my choices by price range.

Under $500: Ibanez (exotic woods series look awesome), Epiphone, Seagull, Tanglewood (from the U.K. and new to our shores), Yamaha, Ibanez, Alvarez, Washburn and Takamine/Jasmine

$500 – $1000: Some Martins with laminated backs & sides, some Taylors, some nice Washburns, Guilds made in China, Epiphone Masterbilt (very nice for the price), Tanglewood and Seagull

$1,000 – $2,000: Martin, Guilds and Taylors begin to appear in abundance in this price range. Takamine (great guitars but not all solid wood even in this price range), Alvarez Yairi series (beautifully crafted in Japan but not sure if it’s solid wood throughout), Gibson at the high end of the range and a cool, lesser known brand, Bedell that uses solid woods and Alaska Spruce (it’s from Alaska, it has to be good) is a great value. Rainsong, the graphite guitar starts its presence here too.  This is the price range where you’ll also find Babicz Guitars and we love them a lot.

Over $2,000: There are more players in this market than most people think and they all seem to be quite beautiful so it comes down to personal taste which I suppose is true for all of the instruments we talk about. Our favorite brands are Martin that still has masterful quality and integrity, Guild, Ovation, Takamine, Laravee, Gibson and the carbon fiber wonder Rainsong which is really an interesting guitar.

I’d love to hear from you and hear what you think. Visit my blog, Professor Dave’s Objective, Unbiased Guitar & Bass Buying Advice and post your opinion.

Obviously from what’s been already written, the brands we love are Martin, Gibson, Laravee Babicz (small but great) and Guild. Gibson’s import brand is Epiphone and they’re good for the buck. Guild doesn’t change the name but has lower priced Guilds made in China and they’re made quite well in China with quality components.

Some other brands that are good value include Tanglewood, Seagull, Ovation and Rainsong.

ELECTRIC GUITARS

 

In the 1940’s and into the 1950’s a revolution was brewing and going to change the face of American culture forever. No, not a communist plot, or a CIA conspiracy to control the minds of the masses. Two men, Les Paul and Leo Fender were in the process of inventing an amplified guitar that was capable of pumping out extraordinary volume and this would take the guitar from the big band rhythm section to the front row, center featured instrument. The guitar, the centuries old folk instrument was about to emerge as the dominating sound on stage, on radio and in the streets.

As a tribute to Les and Leo, most of the guitars on the market today have designs based on the work of these two geniuses. Les Paul’s designs were manufactured by the legendary guitar maker, Gibson, while Leo Fender’s were made first by the company that bears his name, Fender, and then after selling his interest in Fender, he went to Music Man building extraordinary instruments and his next venture into making superb guitars and basses, G & L guitars.

Types of Electric Guitars

 

Solid Body, Semi-Hollow and Hollow Bodies are all available, but the market is dominated by Solid Body Electrics. As the name infers, solid body guitars are made from a solid piece, or pieces, of wood; many have two or more laminated pieces to form the body. Because there’s no chamber or sound within the guitar, some make the incorrect assessment that the wood is there just to carry the strings and to secure the pickups. The wood matters, the material and construction have a great deal to do with the sound the guitar produces. Some of the discussion about wood choices under acoustic guitars relates here as well.

Semi-Hollow Body electric guitars have chambers carved out and tend to enhance resonance and sustain. There’re also lighter and much easier on the shoulder by the end of an evening of playing. I have one, a Babicz Blue Flame Octane and love it for all of the above reasons.

Hollowbody electric guitars are completely hollow within like an acoustic guitar. They were the original electric guitars and still command a lot of respect, but not a lot of share, in the electric guitar market.

Pickups & Electronics

 

Most pickups use magnets to capture or “pickup” the vibrations of the metal guitar strings. This signal in electronically transmitted through coils to an amplifier where sound is produced through a speaker. Some hollowbody or semi-hollowbody have a sound receiver, like a microphone, inside of the body, but most electric guitars use magnetic pickups that are either Single Coil or Humbuckers, some have one or more of each and most electric guitars come with one, two or three pickups. There are switches that permit the player to switch pickups or combinations of pickups. Single Coil piclups are common on Fender Strats and Teles, as well on some great Gibson’s like the Les Paul Jr. They produce a sound that is bright and clear but can also create an obvious “hum.”

Humbuckers, as the name infers, reduce hum with two coils that are wired “out of phase” and produce what’s described as a warm, rich tone.

Active & Passive Pickups

 

With passive pickups, the vibrations of the strings run through a coil with a small amount of voltage and that produces the sound. Active pickups basically do the same thing but a 9 volt battery gives it a voltage jolt.  There is more sound and tone options with an active pickup and more consistent tone with passive.

Bridges

 

With acoustic guitars, there are few options on the bridge, a few innovators, but for the most part, it comes down to quality of the materials, design and construction by the guitar maker. Electric guitars do have a wide range of bridge options. The bridge holds the base of the string in place, gives the string adequate height and gives the string strong contact to allow it to vibrate and create sound. Different bridges do create different sound possibilities, impact sustain and are critical for proper guitar setup and especially intonation.

All of these work well and it really comes down to personal taste.  Standard through bridge types do as the name says, the string goes through the back of the bridge and then over the saddle where it can be adjusted for height and length. It’s simple and very effective. Some bridges take the string through the body and then over the saddle where the string’s adjusted. This is another simple, effective system.

Some bridges come with a “tailpiece” that is placed just below the bridge. The string is fed through the tailpiece where it’s anchored and then over the bridge saddle. You’ll see this arrangement on Les Paul guitars and other similar great instruments

Tremolo bridges have a bar sticking out that’s called a tremolo arm, whammy bar and sometime’s a rat’s tail. You can use this to “warp” or vary the sound of the guitar and some people do it well; most don’t. My experience with whammy bars is that if there’s one attached it either gets overused or not used at all.  A problem with using this is you can work the string out of tune and so many have a locking nut that helps keep the string length consistent. It’s worth playing with to see if you like it. “Bigsby” tremolo is an innovative design that creates a range of sound and very cool vibrato but needs practice to master.

Necks

 

A few words about guitar necks – if any part of the guitar is going to give you problems after you buy it, chances are it’s the neck.  The neck is under a great deal of pressure from string tension and how well it’s constructed and designed means a great deal to how well your guitar performs.

Most guitars have a one piece neck made of hardwood such as maple or mahogany and inside the neck is a truss rod to adjust the neck for “tension” or “relief.” Some necks have three or even five pieces of hardwood laminated together. These are higher priced and tend to resist warping on the principle that if one piece of the neck is prone to warp, the others will stabilize it.

Where a lot of discussion and debate occurs is how the neck is attached to the guitar body. There are three primary systems to do this: bolt on, set neck and neck through designs. Bolt on necks, as the name infers, have the neck bolted to the guitar body and Fender guitars use this system. Set necks fit and glue the neck to the body and Gibson guitars use this system extensively. Musicians sometimes argue over the virtue of each system and I promise, if you’re ever a witness to this you will see one boring argument.

On an electric guitar, the neck does more than carry the strings and give you a place to press down on them to change the sound, it also contributes to the tone. Set necks seem to provide more sustain but that’s arguable. The rap on bolt on necks is that it’s a cheaper system and a thus a cheaper guitar – not true, some great guitars have bolt on necks.

Neck through designs increase the production cost and in this the neck of the guitar continues right through the length of the guitar body. This is supposed to add sustain and stability to the neck. Schecter Guitars have some great neck through designs that are $80 – $100 more expensive then their comparable set neck models.

Tuning Machines

 

This is exactly the same as what I wrote under acoustic guitars.

They matter; tuning machines look alike and often, if you want to replace your guitar’s tuners, you can tell which units will fit by simply looking at them. But by looking, you won’t know what’s inside of the tuning machine and that can make a big difference in your axe’s performance. The market is flooded with both inexpensive and cheap (there’s a difference) tuning machines that look just like Grovers, Schallers or Gotohs. They look like them, but they don’t perform like them.

This is a place where lower cost guitars can save production costs by throwing on a cheap set of tuning machines that don’t tune the guitar precisely and fall out of tune easily. My best advice if you’re looking to upgrade youu turners is that you don’t change them often, get a good, name brand set and you can’t go wrong.  I personally like the names I mentioned above: Grover, Schaller and Gotoh. There are other good ones and lots of bad ones.

Glues???

 

This is exactly the same point that I made under the acoustic guitar section so it may be a “rerun” for you.

Why am I talking about glues and guitars? Mostly to offer you some advice: really think about how to affix parts of the guitars and avoid some nasty, destructive and costly errors. Guitars are designed to come apart so they can be fixed or adjusted. Luthiers (the folks who make and repair stringed instruments) use super glues very sparingly and for very specific purposes such as fixing a crack in the soundboard of an acoustic guitar of filling a chunk in a solid body electric. Some people have replaced a nut (the piece of bone, ceramic or plastic at the top of the neck) or put back one that came loose by using super glue. DON’T DO THAT!! You’ll never be able to get the nut off again without damaging the nut or the guitar.

Luthiers extensively use hide glue (like the very familiar “Elmer’s Glue”) or model glue because they are strong, bond well and the glued part can be removed if needed in the future. Hide glue is very strong but when heat’s applied, will soften and separation is fairly simple. The glue a nut, using model glue creates a strong bond and if the nut needs to be removed in the future, a few taps will crack the glue and it’s easy to clean and sand the surface. A good rule to follow: if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t glue it.

Part of the craft of guitar making, and what makes some guitars worth so much more than others is the quality of materials, labor and science of understanding how to construct a quality instrument. If you don’t know what you’re doing with repairs, and especially with adhesives, don’t do it, get a pro to do it.

Woods

 

Like acoustic guitars, electric guitars use a wide variety of woods in the construction and the woods have certain properties that may make a difference to you. I’m going to cover the most common woods used and if you have a specific questions, you can contact me at my Blog on guitar and bass advice or send an email, the email address is at the bottom of the page and the Blog link is all over the place here.

Alder – This is a very popular choice, light color and bright tone with great balance. Moderately light weight and looks great, especially with translucent colors or just natural. A lot of great guitars are made with Alder.

Ash – I’ll distinguish “ash” from “swamp ash” below. Ash is a highly regarded tone wood, beautiful, light colored wood that’s moderately heavy. Strong sustain and midrange tones combine with a classic appearance.

Basswood – In this case “bass” is pronounced like the fish, not like the instrument or clef. There is some contention that Basswood is lower cost and inferior wood for guitar construction. It is lower cost, it’s not inferior. There are some great guitars that are constructed with basswood including MTD basses, EVH guitars and others. It’s a strong, balanced tone wood, moderate weight and less expensive.

Koa -  This is a beautiful, high cost wood and as I mentioned in the acoustic guitar advice, it’s a crime to color it. Is it superior in tone? It’s different in tone and from a sound point of view, I don’t think it’s worth the extra bucks. But if you have the money, it’s beautiful and does sound great too. On some guitars, Koa is offered as a top wood.

Mahogany –  A lot of great, classic guitars like the vintage Les Pauls and Les Paul Jr’s are made from mahogany. It’s moderate weight, relative low cost and brilliant tone make it an excellent choice. Mahogany is strong, used for both body and the neck and is a great choice. Genuine mahogany only comes from Honduras; there are mahogany varieties out there that perform well and are a close match.

Maple – Strong, vibrant tonewood, durable and weighs a ton. This is a heavy wood that’s highly regarded for lively tone and incredibly durability. A bit pricier than mahogany, and depending on the variety of maple, generally less costly than Koa. Rock maple is a great wood for necks, flamed maple or quilted maple have amazingly beautiful grain and look great in natural or translucent colors. Quilt maple or flamed maple used as a top wood look incredible.

Swamp Ash –  This is a great choice, a strong tone wood known for great mid but still strong at the ends of the tone spectrum, light in color and very light in weight. Swamp Ash comes from the Southern U.S. and it’s literally an ash tree that grows in swamps. Make sense? The part of the tree used for electric guitar and bass bodies is submerged below the water for years and becomes porous, but still very hard. This creates a feeling like buoyancy, and a noticeable lightness.

Walmut -  Walnut is dark, beautiful, rich sounding and like maple, very heavy. The cost isn’t that much more than mahogany, in line with maple and if you can take the added weight and price, you have one classic looking and sounding choice for body wood.

Under $500: There are a lot of very good electric guitars on the market for under $500 and none of them  are sold at mass marketers like the various “Marts” out there. Guitars that are available at “This Mart” or “That Mart” aren’t worth the cardboard they’re packed in. Brands to look for include Epiphone, Squier, Ibanez, Schecter and Godin have some very good entries in this price range as does ESP.  A great part of the value of a guitar, low priced or not, is how well the guitar is “setup” or adjusted. A musical instrument supplier or store knows exactly what that means, the folks at “This Mart” or “That Mart” have no clue.

$500 – $1000: Fenders and Gibson appear in this price range and made in Mexico Fenders are terrific and well made. Godin, Schecter and Ibanez continue to impress and so do some higher priced Epiphones. PRS also provides some good selections along with ESP. Among my favorites in this range are G & L Tributes and Sterling by Music Man.

$1,000 – $2,000: Now you’re getting into Gibson territory but don’t overlook Ibanez, they do pretty well in any price range. PRS is warming up to their big market, the high priced range and American made G & L guitars are popping up. Perhaps lesser known, but a great guitar is Conklin – if you see it, give it a try, you’ll like it.

Over $2,000: Gibson still rules in this lofty territory but right up there is PRS and G & L. You can’t take Gretsch or Music Man lightly, there are major hitters here. Gibson Custom Shop, Fender Custom Shop, Ibanez (again?) and Parker have few good choices.

Have a comment or a suggestion? Visit my Blog, Professor Dave’s Objective,  Unbiased Guitar & Bass Buying Advice and post your opinion.

BASS GUITAR

 

Pickups & Electroinics

 

Bass guitar pickups are similar in structure to electric guitar pickups and the choice of single coil or humbuckers are readily available. A bit on the sound and specifically the difference between a “J” (jazz) bass and a “P” (Precision) bass. When cranked up, the sound of a “P” bass is can be likened to the thud of a punch while a “J” bass can be likened to the ring of a smack.  Before you buy, try both, try a lot of varieties and see what you like. If you have the money, buy one of each.
The discussion below is exactly what I wrote in the pickup section of electric guitars.

Most pickups use magnets to capture or “pickup” the vibrations of the metal guitar strings. This signal in electronically transmitted through coils to an amplifier where sound is produced through a speaker. Some hollowbody or semi-hollowbody have a sound receiver, like a microphone, insitde of the body, but most electric gutiars use magnetic pickups that are either Single Coil or Humbuckers and most electric guitars come with one, two or three pickups and switches that permit the player to switch pickups or combinations of pickups. Single Coil piclups are common on Fender Strats and Teles, as well on some great Gibson’s like the Les Paul Jr. They produce a sound that is bright and clear but can also create an obvious “hum.”

Humbuckers, as the name infers, reduce hum with two coils that are wired “out of phase” and produce what’s described as a warm, rich tone.

Active & Passive Pickups

 

With passive pickups, the vibrations of the strings runs through a coil with a small amount of voltage and that produces the sound. Active pickups basically do the same thing but a 9 volt battery gives it a voltage jolt.  There are more sound and tone options with an active pickup and more consistent tone with passive.

Woods

 

My discussion about body wood for basses is exactly the same as my discussion for electric guitars. So if you read that, you can read it again or jump over it.

Alder – This is a very popular choice, light color and bright tone with great balance. Moderately light weight and looks great, especially with translucent colors or just natural. A lot of great guitars are made with Alder.

Ash – I’ll distinguish “ash” from “swamp ash” below. Ash is a highly regarded tone wood, beautiful, light colored wood that’s moderately heavy. With ash, strong sustain and midrange tones combine with a classic appearance.

Basswood – In this case “bass” is pronounced like the fish, not like the instrument or clef. There is some contention that Basswood is lower cost and inferior wood for guitar construction. It is lower cost, it’s not inferior. There are some great guitars that are constructed with basswood including MTD basses, EVH guitars and others. It’s a strong, balanced tone wood, moderate weight and less expensive.

Koa -  This is a beautiful, high cost wood and as I mentioned in the acoustic guitar advice, it’s a crime to color it. Is it superior in tone? It’s different in tone and from a sound point of view, I don’t think it’s worth the extra bucks. But if you have the money, it’s beautiful and does sound great too.

Mahogany –  A lot of great, classic guitars like the vintage Les Pauls and Les Paul Jr’s are made from mahogany. It’s moderate weight, relative low cost and brilliant tone make it an excellent choice. Mahogany is strong, used for both body and the neck and is a great choice. Genuine mahogany only comes from Honduras; there are mahogany varieties out there that perform well and are a close match.

Maple – Strong, vibrant tonewood, durable and weighs a ton. This is a heavy wood that’s highly regarded for lively tone and incredibly durability. A bit pricier than mahogany, and depending on the variety of maple, less costly than Koa. Rock maple is a great wood for necks, flamed maple or quilted maple have amazingly beautiful grain and look great in natural or translucent colors.

Swamp Ash –  This is a great choice, a strong tonewood known for great mid but still strong at the ends of the tone spectrum, light in color and very light in weight. Swamp Ash comes from the Southern U.S. and it’s literally an ash tree that grows in swamps. Make sense? The part of the tree used for electric guitar and bass bodies is submerged below the water for years and becomes porous, but still very hard. This creates a feeling like buoyancy, and a noticeable lightness.

Walnut -  Walnut is dark, beautiful, rich sounding and like maple, very heavy. The cost isn’t that much more than mahogany, in line with maple and if you can take the added weight and price, you have one classic looking and sounding choice for body wood.

Tuning Machines

 

This is exactly the same advice that I placed in the section on acoustic guitar and electric guitars.

They matter; tuning machines look alike and often, if you want to replace your guitar’s tuners, you can tell which units will fit by simply looking at them. But by looking, you won’t know what’s inside of the tuning machine and that can make a big difference in your axe’s performance. The market is flooded with both inexpensive and cheap (there’s a difference) tuning machines that look just like Grovers, Schallers or Gotohs. They look like them, but they don’t perform like them.

This is a place where lower cost guitars can save production costs by throwing on a cheap set of tuning machines that don’t tune the guitar precisely and fall out of tune easily. My best advice if you’re looking to upgrade youu turners is that you don’t change them often, get a good, name brand set and you can’t go wrong.  I personally like the names I mentioned above: Grover, Schaller and Gotoh. There are other good ones and lots of bad ones.

Glues???

 

This is exactly the same stuff I wrote in both the acoustic guitar and electric guitar section, so if you read that, this is a rerun.

Why am I talking about glues and guitars? Mostly to offer you some advice: really think about how to affix parts of the guitars and avoid some nasty, destructive and costly errors. Guitars are designed to come apart so they can be fixed or adjusted. Luthiers (the folks who make and repair stringed instruments) use super glues very sparingly and for very specific purposes such as fixing a crack in the soundboard of an acoustic guitar of filling a chunk in a solid body electric. Some people have replaced a nut (the piece of bone, ceramic or plastic at the top of the neck) or put back one that came loose by using super glue. DON’T DO THAT!! You’ll never be able to get the nut off again without damaging the nut or the guitar.

Luthiers extensively use hide glue (like the very familiar “Elmer’s Glue”) or model glue because they are strong, bond well and the glued part can be removed if needed in the future. Hide glue is very strong but when heat’s applied, will soften and separation is fairly simple. The glue a nut, using model glue creates a strong bond and if the nut needs to be removed in the future, a few taps will crack the glue and it’s easy to clean and sand the surface. A good rule to follow: if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t glue it.

Part of the craft of guitar making, and what makes some guitars worth so much more than others is the quality of materials, labor and science of understanding how to construct a quality instrument. If you don’t know what you’re doing with repairs, and especially with adhesives, don’t do it, get a pro to do it.

Acoustic Bass Guitars

 

A relatively small part of the bass guitar market but still significant and worthy of a few comments. Acoustic basses give a thumpy sound, similar to an upright bass with the familiar symmetrical tuning, neck and fretboard of all bas guitars that make basses relatively easy to learn. Without amplification, the sound is fairly anemic and if you’re playing an acoustic bass, you won’t be heard among the acoustic guitars: unless you use a guitar pick. A guitar pick gives you enough punch to be heard. Other than that, they need amplification.

Most of the lower priced acoustic bass guitars have laminated backs and sides and often laminated top as well. My best advice is to at least get a solid soundboard. Most solid soundboards are a variety of spruce or cedar. Cedar is considered to be sonically superior but I’m not convinced the difference is significant. Some acoustic basses use mahogany and that’s a good choice too.

Some recommended products are Fender’s Kingman (about $500) with a solid spruce top and pretty good for a Fender acoustic. I also like some Michael Kelly acoustic basses but most are discontinued models. The Club DeLuxe had a solid cedar top and solid rosewood back and sides and sounded great. The Dragonfly Rose, as opposed to the more abundantly available Dragonfly, had solid rosewood back and sides and a solid spruce top and sounded much better than its equally fancy-schmancy cousin, the laminated Dragonfly. Bredlove makes a very nice acoustic bass, laminated, but still very good in the $700 range. My best picks are used Guilds or Martins and check out Carvin for a unique and they offer options to build it to your specifications.

Fretless Basses

 

Fretless basses are very cool, have a softer, “thumpier” sound than one with frets and you never need a fret job. The reason for the tone difference is that your soft finger tip (even a tough guy has soft finger tips) presses against the fretboard and creates a muffled tone. If you had frets, the finger would push the string down against the hard fret and the string would be pinned to the fret and the hard bridge and the tone would ring.

Some are concerned that without frets, they wouldn’t know if they were in the right position on the fretboard to create the right note. It’s not a problem. There are markers on these basses but there’s also a technique you can use to never look at your fingers and know exactly where you are on the fretboard. I give details with photos in my article on advice for blind and visually impaired musicians so rather than repeat it, just click here and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

You do not have to look at your hands when you play and the technique is free to learn about and very, very cheap to do so check it out.

My Top Ten Acoustic / Acoustic Electric Guitars Based On Value:

 

  • Martin D-35: legendary for a reason
  • Babicz Spider Identity: very sweet tone, wonderful design, best neck I’ve ever played on, great features, state-of-the-art electronics. Available only directly from Jeff Babicz Guitars
  • Guild F-30: brilliant voice, great materials and incredible construction.
  • Guild D-25: the all mahogany low priced Guild is still a great guitar and a great value
  • Laravee D-03RE: if you don’t know Laravee Guitars, you should
  • Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500: solid wood, great design, well built & finished for about $600
  • Guild GAD-JF30: a Guild import, very well designed and manufactured. A great guitar for about $1,150.00
  • Gibson Hummingbird: a very bright tone and good playability have made this a favorite for years.
  • Godin Multiac Spectrum: unusual design beautiful tone, so wonderful to play.
  • Martin OMC Aura: if you can go the bucks, this is an incredible guitar with true state-of-the-art electronics.

Honorable Mention of Brands: Tanglewood (made in the UK) is a great value for the dollar. Rainsong – every time I play one they grow in my esteem and I’m tempted to buy one. Ibanez – yes Ibanez – they make a wide range of instruments and compete very well in any price range and particularly for good value in lower priced instruments. Ovation / Applause – I can’t get used to the rounded back even with the contours but it’s still a fine instrument for the money. Washburn makes some great guitars and again, competes well in any price range as a good value. I’ve never played a Taylor I didn’t like – they make great guitars.

My Top Ten Electric Guitars

 

  • Gibson Les Paul Jr. new for around $850 up to around $1,150 still a great, simple powerhouse of a guitar
  • Fender Jazzmaster for around $1,900 is a great, great guitar
  • Schecter Hellraiser C-1 for around $750 new is very, very hot.
  • Gibson Les Paul Studio Mahogany for around $1,000 stands up to the legend
  • Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Royale for around $480 is a bargain
  • Godin Exit 22 – this is a relatively low priced (new at about $500), beautifully built, easy to play and very powerful.
  • Squier Deluxe Strat for around $280 is really well made and if you want to upgrade the bridge to a full contact hardware for around $128 and a tusq nut for around $12 and you’ll have an amazing guitar
  • G & L Tribute Bluesboy Semi-Hollow for around $750, looks like a Tele with amazing sound and playability.
  • Ibanez S570DXQM for around $600 – love Ibanez products and I understand that when a company offers such a diverse line, it’s hard to find distinctive names but remembering an Ibanez by name is like trying to remember the Manhattan phone book.
  • Paul Reed Smith 2011 Swamp Ash Special for around $2,330, pricey and worth it

Honorable Mention: Gibson / Epiphone SG (400), Sterling by Music Man (entire line), Fender Telecaster, Schechter Solo 6. I also like the unusual Hagstrom Viking but I don’t know why. If you’re looking for a vintage guitar, while everyone is chasing and dreaming of very expensive 1960 Les Pauls or Strats, considered two underpriced marvels: The Ovation Solid Body Vyper and the Guild S-300. These guitars are incredibly well made with awesome sound for a fraction of the price of the other classics.

Do you HAVE to have a Gibson but can’t afford the price? Here’s an idea for you. Buy a Gibso…gee, Thanks Professor, that was great. No really, buy a Gibson Melody Maker, they sell new for around $490 and maybe you’ll be happy with that, but maybe you want more bite than the basic MM offers.  So you buy the Melody Maker, if you get it online you normally have 45 days to decide if you want to keep it or not and if you like the feel and size (it’s light) keep it and now for a little more upgrade the sound and the tone. Replace the standard single coil pickup with a DiMarzzio or Seymour Duncan P-90 ($70 – $80), replace the wrap around bridge with a tune-o-matic from Gibson or Schaller (around $50) and replace the corian nut with a bone or tusq nut (around $12). If you can do it yourself, these modifications are pretty simple but if you need to hire a pro, it’s a fast and relatively inexpensive upgrade. Your little Melody Maker will roar and the entire project will cost under $650.

I could easily extend this list to a top 100 and still have quality guitars on that list. What’s your list? Please send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com or better still, drop in at my blog Professor Dave’s Objective, Unbiased Guitar & Bass Buying Advice and let me hear what you think.

My Top Ten Bass Guitars

 

  • Carvin B-40 (OK, I own one, I’m a little partial)
  • Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass – About $1,000 and a great bass
  • G&L Tribute L-2000: G&L import with genuine G&L components including the electronics and the bridge. No, it doesn’t have the laser precision and amazing craftsmanship of a USA made G&L, but it’s a beast and hard to match for the price.
  • Lakland 55-02
  • G & L JB 2 – Awesome and sweet too.
  • Peavey Millennium – for a low price a LOT of bass
  • Music Man Sterling – Ouch! It’s hot.
  • Schechter Stiletto Elite – Schechter makes great guitars & basses
  • Ibanez SR7 – in all price ranges, Ibanez competes very well.
  • Yamaha Billy Sheehan – Yes, Yamaha. They make great instruments

List of Best Values (Bang for the Buck)

 

I did an informal survey of my bassist brothers and sisters at talkbass.com (if you’re a bass player and don’t know of this site, you owe yourself a visit) and they came back with an impressive list of best values, dollar for dollar, out there. Thanks friends!

  • Fenders Made In Japan (the Geddy Lee above is MIJ)
  • Ernie Ball Music Man – beautifully made and great for the long haul
  • Squier – yes, low priced, great value and if you throw on a Full Contact Hardware ® Bridge for about $80, you won’t believe how much that improves the instrument and still keep it low priced.
  • Lakland – don’t overlook this brand: take a look at the 55-02
  • Old Peavey Basses – Foundation, Fury and Patriot; great and used often sell for under $250
  • G & L Tribute Basses – I love G & L and these imports have G & L bridge and electronics and are quality made. A great value. (I own an L-2000 & LOVE it).
  • Carvin Basses – notably the B40, specs like a Jazz bass and the awesome SB4000/5000 starts under $1,000.
  • Sterling by Music Man – the import version of the great line up. Lower priced and still excellent.
  • MTD – is the lower priced, import version of Tobias (Michael Tobias) and is a great value, but so is the premium line of Tobias.
  • Yamaha BB424 Basss – under $300 new – YES!

What’s your opinion? Head over to my blog, Professor Dave’s Objective, Unbiased Guitar & Bass Buying Advice and let me hear what you think!

Where and How to buy a Guitar

 

You have a lot of options to choose from. Online stores, ebay, local music shops and all have their advantages and disadvantages. First and foremost, never buy a guitar, even an inexpensive kid’s guitar, at a store that has “Mart” in the name. They not only have no idea what they’re selling, I’ve never seen any indication that they care. Overwhelmingly and perhaps universally, these are worthless items that look like guitars. Don’t waste your money.

Shopping online gives you a wide range of choices and pricing is very competitive. All online vendors are checking each other’s pricing constantly and if one slides in a better deal, the others will match it. Sometimes they won’t show the price of an item and direct you to add it to your cart to see the price. This is done to make it difficult for competitors to scan the web site and find special pricing and keep a competitive edge. The big difference between these vendors is service and sales tax.

First, let’s discuss sales tax. When a vendor ships to an out of state customer, they do not need to charge or collect sales tax. So if you live in New York, and receive a shipment from American Musical Supply, one of our sponsors located in New Jersey, they won’t charge or collect sales tax. If American Musical Supply ships to a New Jersey customer, they’re obligated to charge sales tax on the purchase. We have two sponsors that are musical instrument, equipment and accessories stores, American Musical Supply in New Jersey and Woodwinds and Brasswinds in Indiana. If you’re from Indiana or New Jersey, this may make a difference in which you choose to deal with especially on a big ticket item where sales tax can add a lot to the price.

Now a bit about service and it does matter. The online stores do vary widely in the commitment to basic service. If an item is in stock, shipment should occur within one business day of the order being submitted. They should also promptly issue credits when one is due, honor gift cards and respond to questions and inquiries. Of great importance if you’re buying from them, especially an expensive piece of equipment, is that you have time to examine the item and decide if you want it and if you don’t you can return it for a full refund at no cost to you. This really does take the risk out of buying online. Don’t be shy; if you don’t like it, send it back.

A brief comment on our two affiliates that are musical equipment suppliers, Woodwinds & Brasswinds and American Musical Supply, you see their ads on this site. These are among a handful of “affiliate” advertisements that we accepted on our web site, or connections we choose to make. We (John and I) have used these suppliers many times, purchased happily and received great service. That’s why we selected them from among the throng of available vendors. We do make money on ads and that’s how we support our page, our business activities and buy food. If you purchase from our advertisers it’s at no cost to you and we get income from directing customers to them. If they didn’t do the job, I’d put someone else’s ads up here.

Another source for buying online or through a catalogue is the very well-known and highly regarded Carvin line of guitars, basses and related equipment. With Carvin guitars and basses, you order your instrument to your specifications including choosing wood, color, finish options, neck options, headstock choices, electronics and what you have is a customized guitar. You need to put down at least 20% to have the item built and about 8 weeks later you’re obligated to pay the remaining balance. The item is shipped to you and you have ten days from the day you receive it to decide if you want it or not. If you don’t want it, you can ship it back at no cost and get a full refund. They don’t mess around at Carvin, if you don’t pay the balance you lose your deposit. I have a Carvin bass and love it, but keep the rules of the deal in mind when you’re putting your order together.

Ebay is a common means for people to purchase and sometimes you can get a great deal, a closeout or find something that you’ve been looking all over Georgia for and find it in Lincoln, Nebraska. Most ebayers I’ve dealt with have been honest in describing the item, but not all of them. On used guitars and basses, I’m more comfortable with a dealer who has a lot of positive feedback than an individual. Also consider if there’s a return policy on the item otherwise you’re taking a huge chance.

Heading to a local music shop is always an option and has some clear benefits and some drawbacks too. The plus is that you can actually play or use the exact item that you are interested in and might purchase, so when you buy it, you know how it looks, feels and sounds. If there’s a problem you can go back and a store with a good reputation should take care of it. Also, a professional musical instrument dealer should know how to prepare and setup an instrument although not all music stores actually do have that ability.

On the down side, they don’t and can’t have the same vast inventory and choice that’s available to these large online vendors, so your selection is limited. Some will match the price of online stores but most don’t and some sneak in extras to build up the price. Different stores have different return policies and some don’t accept returns at all. Ask about that. Finally, if you buy at a store, and I do, the store must collect sales tax, there’s no option. If you don’t like that please complain to the governor, not the guy behind the counter.

I’d love to hear your opinion on anything I’ve written. Please visit my blog Professor Dave’s Objective, Unbiased Guitar & Bass Buying Advice.

Also, if you know someone who is blind or visually impaired and is a musician or wants to be a musician, please let them know about my other blog Professor Dave’s Blind & Visually Impaired Musicians Blog

Call us at 609-788-3958 or send email to info@openmindedmic.com

Open Minded Mic produces open mic events and fundraisers throughout Southern New Jersey, Southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware (the entire state – it’s small). The counties we usually serve are: Atlantic County, Ocean County, Cape May County, Burlington County, Salem County and Burlington County.

Currently, you can find our Open Minded Mic shows and fundraisers in
Atlantic County,
NJ: Absecon,  Atlantic City,  Brigantine, Buena Borough,  Buena Vista Township,  Corbin City, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Estell Manor, Folsom, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Hammonton, Linwood, Longport, Margate, Mullica Township, Northfield, Pleasantville, Port Republic, Somers Point, Ventnor, Weymouth Township.

Cape May County, NJ: Avalon, Cape May, Cape May Courthouse, Cape May Point, Dennis Township, Lower Township, Middle Township, Ocean City, Upper Township, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor, West Cape May, West Wildwood, Wildwood, Woodbine.