Guitar builders spend millions of dollars every year trying to convince you that every instrument they create is “professional grade.” But what does professional-grade mean? Can’t you grab any acoustic that’ll stay in tune and get the job done?
Not if you’re a professional.
Around Breedlove, professional-grade means an instrument that meets all of the requirements of a professional guitarist. No matter their style, gig, or unique requirements, a professional-grade acoustic guitar must meet their demands every time they pick it up. To do that, guitars need to excel in three key areas.
- Performance / Sound
A guitar’s ability to perform flawlessly is at the core of professional grade. That performance includes sounding great, looking the part, and feeling right in your hands. It only makes the grade if it achieves all three.
It has to sound good
Your guitar’s voice needs to inspire you. If it doesn’t, you won’t play it. It’s that simple. That said, how the guitar sounds to you is dependent on your application.
A great-sounding at-home 6-string needs nothing more than a natural voice you love.
The guitar’s plugged-in tone should precede its natural acoustic voice if you’re playing live. If you’re in the studio, not only does the instrument need to speak with nothing more than a microphone, but it needs to be free of any buzzes and have near-perfect intonation.
It needs to feel good
A guitar’s feel is also subjective. (Most things about guitar are.) But professional-grade acoustic guitars are designed to feel right to a wide variety of players. The neck has to be large enough to keep your hand relaxed but thin enough to facilitate advanced techniques. The guitar’s body should be comfortable to play sitting or standing while also delivering the tone the builder was after.
Note: This balance is the foundation of our Concert body style.
It has to look good
Worrying about a guitar’s appearance can seem trivial to some. But we assure you, it’s not.
Your first impressions of any guitar will almost always be visual. A professional-grade guitar will invite you to pull it from the rack as soon as you see it.
The need for the guitar to look good doesn’t presuppose what the guitar looks like. In many ways, a beat-up, vintage guitar is as beautiful as the most ornamented boutique creation. Luthiers agree. So, whether the figure in our Myrtlewood enchants you, you’re a pre-war diehard, or you love deep, colorful finishes, they’ve built a pro-grade guitar for you.
So you found an acoustic guitar that performs just like you like it. That’s terrific! But can you count on it to do it repeatedly, year after year, every time you hit its strings? You can with a professional-grade guitar.
Builders crafting guitars at this level are obsessed with their instruments’ reliability. They have to be. They’ll find themselves out of business if their instruments can’t keep up. The trick is achieving this reliability in guitars designed for many different environments.
Guitars used onstage must be durable, comfortable, and feature reliable electronics.
Guitars that live in the studio must maintain a flawless setup and keep intonation in check.
At-home guitars have to sound terrific, even if only sometimes correctly stored in their case.
Craftsmanship is where all these roads meet, but it’s more challenging to spot than the other elements. Look at two different guitars at opposite ends of the price spectrum. There’s a good chance that they look a lot alike, at least at first glance. But look closer, and their craftsmanship reveals how vastly different they are.
The builder makes countless choices throughout the design and creation of the guitar that define the quality o the completed instrument. You’ll most easily recognize these choices in the materials, the fit and finish, and the instrument’s voicing.
The guitar builder’s materials are the essence of what the guitar will become. Each one brings its characteristics to the whole. Still, it’s how they come together and interact with each other that governs everything we’ve discussed above.
Fit and Finish
Fit and finish are the easiest way to identify a professional-grade guitar. In the case of an acoustic, there shouldn’t be any glue seeping out around the internal braces. The frets should be smooth and level. And the string nut must be cut correctly with smooth and precise filing. Finally, the guitar’s finish must be smooth and uniform across the instrument.
You can only expect some of this from some acoustic guitars on the market. But you should expect it from every guitar claiming to be professional-grade.
All of the above elements manifest in the guitar builder’s voicing technique. From the body dimensions they settle on to the bridge saddle material, every detail informs the guitar’s tone. This is especially true of what’s happening inside the guitar, and Breedlove’s are perfect examples of this.
Look at a Breedlove from across the room, and you’ll notice our unique body profiles, headstocks, and tonewood choices. What you won’t see is our hand-tuned bracing and proprietary Sound Optimization process. You might also miss our Designed in Bend series’ Cascade Bracing system. Another hidden feature is our Bridge-Truss system, which transfers string tension from the guitar’s top to the heel block. It also plays a pivotal role in the sound of our instruments.
These innovations and design elements are essential to our acoustic guitars’ voices. And all of them result from skilled craftspeople passionate about creating beautiful sounding, flawless playing, and always reliable professional grade guitars.