A few weeks before Christmas last year, I decided to take the next step and finally put some new strings on my rather old acoustic guitar. I just didn’t like the sound of the old strings – which isn’t surprising considering the fact they had been in place for close to twenty years already. So I removed the old strings and took the opportunity to also clean the whole guitar while I was at it. While doing that, I realized a slight crack in the saddle of the bridge, but I decided to try and restring the instrument anyway. But, not surprisingly, the little crack in the saddle grew even bigger when the pressure of the new strings was on it, and when I came to tuning, it broke entirely.
That saddle only being a tiny removable plastic part, I didn’t think much of it and went to a guitar store to quickly get a replacement – or so I thought. Shop number one I went to was the Music Store in the city center of Cologne, which specializes in instruments for beginners as well as pianos. Unfortunately, the guy I talked to there couldn’t really help me and recommended to go the “professional” Music Store, located also in Cologne, but on the other side of the Rhine. Still, he estimated the replacement to cost 1 or 2 Euros, not more. But while I was in the city center already anyway, I decided to first check out another music store: Tonger. After some waiting I was finally able to talk to someone responsible for guitars, but they had to call their internal repair shop first, before they could give me any information. It turned out that they would have to produce a custom-made saddle for me. I found out that saddles usually have to be customized for any guitar – which I hadn’t known before and neither did the guy at the previous music shop. My guitar being an old model from the 70s or so made the whole thing even more difficult. So after much discussion and after telling me they would of course have to see my guitar first (I had only brought the broken saddle), they estimated the repair to cost around 60 Euros. I was a little shocked, considering you can already get a brand new one starting from 80 Euros.
Needless to say, I wanted a second opinion. So a few days later I packed my guitar (as the previous shop had been complaining they couldn’t do an estimate without seeing the instrument), and headed to the professional Music Store in Cologne Kalk – which is quite a trip if you don’t own a car and are dependent on public transport. The store is huge, but located in an industrial area close to the autobahn and at least 20 minutes walking distance from the closest train station. When I had finally made it there, I headed directly to the repair shop and showed my guitar to the guy there. He told me they had a fixed price of 25 Euros for replacing the saddle – which is less than half of what Tonger had wanted! While he was at it, he also checked if my guitar needed any other repairs. Everything looked fine and he was about to tell when I could come to pick it up, when he realized the bridge itself was coming loose. It wasn’t much, but he was able to slide a piece of paper under some parts of it. He warned me that restringing the instrument might result in the whole bridge flying right into my face. End of the story: a complete repair would be something between 100 and 150 Euros. A price I could easily get a new guitar for.
So I went home to think about that. After contemplating for a couple of days, the decision was made: I would buy a new guitar. Christmas and my birthday in January were close anyway, so I would probably be able to get one as a present as well (or get it at least partly financed). When I was back home in Hamburg over Christmas, I went to one of my favorite music stores: Just Music, located right inside an old bunker. I went there between Christmas and New Year’s, so unfortunately there wasn’t much left in the store. I played an 80 Euro guitar as well as a 500 Euro guitar, just to feel and hear the difference. This helped me (as a beginner) to find out what I would have to look for when buying a new guitar. Still, they didn’t have anything in my target price range of 200 to 300 Euros. Another shop I went to was this place. There, too, I tried out multiple guitars and the person I talked to there also played a little on the different guitars for me, so that I would be able to hear the difference. But their range of instruments was rather limited and the guitar I liked most cost as much as 350 Euros, which was a little over my price range. So I decided to wait a little longer with my purchase until they had restocked sometime after New Year’s.
Back in Cologne, I also made another trip to Music Store Professional. But either I didn’t look “professional” enough (or maybe I looked too professional?) or they just didn’t want to help me – everything I got from them was “Classical guitars are over there. Just take them and try them out.” No further advice or recommendations, which I had hoped for. So I was out of that store again pretty quickly.
Finally, I went back to Hamburg last week. I tried out yet another music shop: Schalloch, really close to the Just Music store I had checked out before. This was the shop I liked best – by far. The people in there were relaxed, drinking tea and playing cards together while waiting for customers. They took me to the classical guitar section of the shop, showed me what they had in my price range, let me play and also played all the guitars for me. They made recommendations as to which guitar might fit best and which had the best sound. I walked out to make my decision, initially with the intention of again heading to the large store close by, but ultimately turned right around and bought my guitar at Schalloch – together with a gig bag and a guitar stand.
In the end, I decided for the La Mancha Rubi CM they had already ordered for me at Just Music – but failed to ever call me back to tell me it had arrived. I think this guitar is the one sold most in this price range, but I guess that doesn’t have to be a bad sign. I love the rich and much deeper sound it has compared to my old guitar. And even though I didn’t like the matte finishing when I saw it first, I really have come to like the touch of it by now. I also believe it adds to the rich sound of the guitar. Lastly, since I never owned a brand new guitar before, I just love the smell of the wood and the oil it was treated with.
I’m excited to play some more now!!