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Idyllwild by Monoprice 3/4 Classical Guitar with Gig Bag, Natural   —   guitar review
[DISCLAIMER:  This product is being reviewed without compensation of any sort by the manufacturer.  I purchased the guitar with my own personal funds.  Also, nothing I say should be taken as anything but my personal opinion / observation, as I have VERY little knowledge of music or musical instruments.    —    KMAB]
Background:  Back at the end of May, I posted I would be reviewing my guitars and I’ve done the first two.  Here’s the latest…  Most of this was covered in my earlier post (More Changes…) about this guitar.  To summarize, I restrung and played with my daughter’s fiance’s guitar (a boyhood gift from his grandfather), and I fell in love with the feel of it.  So, I looked around to see how much they cost and if I could get one to play around with.  It turns out there is a company (Monoprice) which owns / distributes for another company (Idyllwild) which the Monoprice website says “makes” the guitar.  The product page is titled:  “Idyllwild by Monoprice 3/4 Classical Guitar with Gig Bag, Natural“. I have no idea what the “Natural” refers to.  Anyway, what I loved about the guitar I restrung was how it felt.  The box of the guitar literally vibrated against my chest with a deep resonance which had (for me) and emotional appeal.  Basically, it sounded deep and full and this carried through the feel even more so than the sound in my ear.  I saw the guitar was relatively inexpensive – even vis-a-vis other 3/4 guitars online, so I decided I would get one (eventually).  As I was prepping my wife for my buying another guitar, the guitar went on sale.  The original price was $64 with free standard shipping.  The sale price was just under $45, but when I went to buy it, the site said I was eligible for an additional discount which brought my full price (including taxes and free shipping) to $42 and change!  I ordered the guitar and received it the following day.  (Note:  the base price on the site is now $65.)
Start of review:
So, this (3/4 size “classical”) is the third guitar I’ve bought this year.  It arrived within 24 hours of ordering, so that was an initial very good impression!  The box had a 6 – 8 inch slice in it, so that was a negative, but did not necessarily have anything to do with the manufacturer / seller, so it’s merely a comment on delivery status.  (Note:  the previous line was copied directly from a prior guitar review.  This is the third guitar I’ve bought this year and ALL three have come in damaged boxes – two sliced with the cardboard partially crumpled back.  Fortunately, none of the instruments have been damaged at all.  I think the various delivery services really need to look at their processes and / or the instrument sellers need to double-box their products.  Then again, maybe it’s just another strong argument for buying from a local store.)
Per their site, this is what I received for $42 and change – all-in (including tax and shipping).
Features –
• Body Shape:  Classical (no cut-away), but 3/4 size
• Top Wood:  some kind of laminate
• Back / Sides:  some kind of laminate. I am not a wood expert, so take this opinion with a grain of salt…  Looking through the sound hole, the “wood” seems to be some kind of rough balsa.  It may even be some kind of thin, compressed particle board “wood” with an exterior veneer glued on and laquered over.
• Neck:  no idea
• Fretboard:  no idea
• Bridge:  no idea, but the saddle appears to be plastic (like the nut)
• Pickguard:  none
• Gig Bag:  Included. This bag is actually ok considering the total price. It is more than a dust cover in thickness (no padding at all), and it seems tough, (but not waterproof).  The zippers look medium weight and works smoothly.  There is also a zippered pouch on the front of the bag.  The bag is sufficient for most carrying about, but it is baggy and offers only the slightest of protection.  It does not have a sturdy handle or padded shoulder straps, but the straps are adjustable.  At least it doesn’t stink (smell bad) like my Glarry gig-bag did.
Not mentioned on the site:
• they give you an Allen wrench to adjust the truss rod which runs through the guitar’s neck.  I have have only begun to try to adjust the neck.  The neck is visibly straight; not bowed one way or the other, but it appears to be mounted at an angle which causes the action to be very high at the top frets.  The top frets are 10 – 12, where the neck joins the body.  I believe this is why the nut can be tuned and open chords sound good, but the top frets are all uniformly sharp.  Pressing down so far is stretching the string and making it (the note) sharp.  (Note:  it is my understanding that most “classical” style guitars do not come with a truss rod.  Also, you cannot put steel strings on a guitar meant for nylon strings.  They lack the physical support to hold steel strings and you will most probably either severely bend or outright snap the neck off the guitar body when you try to tune it.)  I will update this review after I’ve played with the truss rod to see if that helps in lowering the action on the high frets.
Specifications –
• Strings:  6 – nylon
• Electronics:  N/A
• Tuners:  typical “brassy” looking (three to a side, linked) classical tuners, but they look and “feel” flimsy.  Interestingly, the knobs on the ends of tuners do not “feel” flimsy.  They also do not have dead spots (when you turn and nothing happens, then suddenly the gears seem to grab).
• Neck Shape:  I’m not sure how to describe it.  This is the underside. The top is flat; almost to the point of being concave.
• Scale:  3/4 length
• Nut / Saddle:  Plastic (Most minor tuning adjustments make the strings “ping” at the nut.  This means I need to “lube / graphite” the nut a little when I get around to changing the strings.)
• Nut Width:  not stated
• Bracing:  not stated
• Finish:  very well polished.  The “wood” looks cheap, almost plastic toy-ish on the surface, but it feels good under arm and to the hand.
Dimensions –
• Not provided and I haven’t bothered to check them with a ruler / tape measure.
Main Review –
First:  this guitar was received within 23 hrs of my placing the order!!  I’m not sure how this was even possible…
Second:  it arrived in a damaged box which appeared both sliced and crumbled.  Fortunately, the guitar was undamaged.  In addition to the case, the neck had a thin paper cover over the strings and a 1-inch silica packet to help with humidity.  Unfortunately, the packet had fallen into the sound hole and gave the guitar a rattle-ly / sound when you moved / strummed it.  I shook it and heard “something” rattle around inside and initially thought I had received a broken instrument.  It took a little playing with (shaking, holding upside-down, turning side to side,) before the packet came out of the hole.
Third:  my first visual and hold – the finish is beautiful and the guitar does not “feel” cheap (or inexpensive).  Obviously, it has a shorter neck, which after playing for a while, seems more comfortable than a longer (normal length) neck.  The fret ends do not extend past the neck edges (good), but they are not rounded, so they feel a little bit sharp.  The fret board surface seems almost ash grey-ish.  I believe it is supposed to be black.  I think this means it is just overly dry.  I will add some lemon oil to it when I get around the rounding the fret ends.  The neck is good for relief (not bowed up or down) and is not warped.  As mentioned above, the string action is high at the high frets which (I think) affects the intonation.  The good news is all six strings seem to be equally affected, so when I figure out the solution, one fix should help all six strings.
Fourth:  the strings are new and untrimmed, i.e. FAR too long.  They were wrapped around the tuning pegs 5 or 6 turns and still had 4 to 6 inches just sticking out from the head piece.  The recommendation on YouTube is to never wind a string more than three times or they will tend to interfere with each other or have a greater tendency to stretch.  I unwound them a bit to clip a bit off the excessive ends (and then stretched them as I tuned them).  It took several days for the nylon strings to stabilize and they required frequent tuning.  Once stable, they no longer require daily tuning (but I do it by habit).  The third string (G) still requires almost daily re-tuning.  This seems to be a guitar thing, though, as my electric guitar has the same problem string (G).  An additional note on tuning this guitar.  My ear is still not able to accurately determine if a guitar is tuned.  I can now tell if it doesn’t sound right, but not what is wrong.  Tuning forks do NOT help with this.  The nylon string does not give a sympathetic vibration the way my steel string electric and steel string acoustic do.  I can tap the tuning fork and hold it against the guitar, but that doesn’t help me.  Placing the tuning fork on the specific fret (matching the fork) doesn’t work either.  There are only two options:  have someone else tune it or use an electronic tuner.  Fortunately, I have an electronic tuner.
Fifth:  There at two areas on the back of the guitar that came with scratches of several inches length.  The most visible one appears to have happened after finishing (perhaps during shipping).  It looks like it was scraped by chalk or some kind of plaster of Paris.  The lower on the body “marks” are under the finishing and look like heavy pencil or marker lines under the coating.  This one (a marked / damaged guitar) appears to have slipped through the company’s quality control.  Neither affect the sound in the least.  The upper scratch is clearly visible.  The lower is MUCH longer / bigger, but practically invisible in normal light.  I was playing the guitar outside in direct sunlight when I first saw it.  Again, neither affect the sound quality of the instrument.
Sixth:  the “gig-bag” is a functional dustcover / carry-all.  It will NOT protect the guitar from any but the most trivial bumps.  Having said that, it is FAR better than one of the “gig-bags” I got for “free” with a more expensive guitar.  It has a handle and un-padded shoulder straps.  The straps are not long enough for someone my size to use, but I suppose they would be fine for a child or slender teenager.
Seventh:  Because of the high action across all the strings on the high end frets, I would not recommend this as an ONLY guitar for a beginner.  The notes begin to go sharp after the third fret and it is noticeable (to my untrained ear) by the 7th fret.  My brother-in-law is a music teacher with a much better “ear” and he says it’s bad after the 5th fret.  He agrees with me that it is fine for practicing open chords and scales at the bottom of the neck (nearest the nut).
Finally:  What I discovered was the nylon strings were extremely forgiving for longer (over one hour) practice sessions.  The flat neck seems to have more room for my chubby fingers to practice scales and chords, but more difficult to practice / play barred chords.  I have shown (and played) this to / for friends and family and have received several (three) unsolicited comments about how beautiful this guitar is.  It is!  It sounds as good as it looks!  And it looks better in your hands than it does on the screen images (which look rather flat to my eye).  The guitar has a beautiful color and a high luster / polished finish.
Recommendation:  I would highly recommend this guitar to any one thinking of beginning guitar lessons or with a child who would like to learn guitar.  Because of the high action / tuning issue mentioned above, you / they will certainly outgrow this within a year (or as soon as you try to learn barre chords or scales in higher fret positions), but you’ll keep it handy and pick it up frequently because if it gets a little banged up, it can be easily (and inexpensively) replaced.  I bought this specifically to keep laying around, for quick pickup to practice chords and scales. It will certainly exceed those simple requirements.  Caution:  unlike my inexpensive electric guitar, you should NOT purchase this thinking you will be able to use it for a “mod” (modification) platform.  Other than changing the strings and (maybe) polishing fret ends, there is almost nothing you can do to make this a “better” instrument.  Just bite the bullet and shell out for a more expensive second guitar when you get past what this has to offer.  Then, keep this one for when you go to the beach or camping.  Please remember if you pay full retail price, it is STILL only a $65 guitar.
Because my impressions / opinions of the guitar may change over time, updates to my reviews will appear on the specific guitar review page and not in a daily blog post…
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On This Day In:
2020 Still Learning
2019 Almost Hallmark
Beyond All Reason
2018 Daydreams And Wanna-Be’s
Or Work For #45
2017 Summer Pale
2016 Ain’t It Funny
2015 At Both Ends
2014 Whiner(s)
2013 Just Passing Through
2012 Dog-gone Heaven
2011 Occasional, Sad Results

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[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturers of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about these items because I personally purchased them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.   —    KMAB]
As I’ve posted a couple of times, I’ve decided to try to learn how to play a musical instrument and the one I’ve chosen is the guitar.  I’ve now completed just over four full months of learning / practice and I’ve missed a grand total of five days of practice.  (Full disclosure:  most of the first month was only 15 – 20 minutes a day to break in my fingertips.)
In January I bought my acoustic guitar (Orangewood: Austen).  It took about five days for delivery.  They actually promised two weeks delivery, so I was very happy with the speedy receipt.
I liked the guitar, but I was surprised by it.  It felt almost too light and too bulky.  I put it down to being inexpensive and me being overweight.  I bought what I thought would be a “starter” guitar for just under $200, in case (as my wife predicted) I was just going through another of my fads.
I soon noticed most of the YouTube videos I was watching to learn from were being taught on electric guitars.  So, I thought maybe I should see if I could pick up an inexpensive one of those as well.  It turns out, at just that time, I earned a $100 Amazon credit for taking some online surveys.  I watched a bunch of video recommendations and settled on a Glarry electric guitar (with gig bag, cable and amplifier) for $120 – including taxes and free shipping.  I ordered it on St. Patrick’s Day and received it two days later.  (There were / are some outstanding issues which I’ll cover in a later review / post.)
After the waiting period of our second vaccine shots, my wife and I visited our oldest daughter and her fiancé and he had JUST bought a banjo to learn how to play.  I noticed he had a small guitar standing in a corner and I asked: “What’s up with that?”  He replied it was a childhood present from his grand-father and he never learned how to play it.  I picked it up and noticed it was missing two strings.  He said it was okay because it was just a family gift which he carried around his whole life to remind him of his grand-dad.  I offered to re-string it for him if he loaned it to me.  And so I began learning about nylon string acoustic guitars…
I watched a bunch of videos and learned about nylon strings vs steel strings and how to restring a nylon.  I picked up some new strings and I also picked up some files to trim the frets – which were badly jutting out the sides and were quite sharp.  I tuned and stretched, tuned and stretched, tuned and stretched…  and eventually the strings got to the point where they were stable enough to stay in tune for more than a few minutes.  I then had to do this again for a few days.  Finally, I was able to pick up the guitar and it was near tune.  A quick tune, and it could be played.
What I discovered was the nylon strings were extremely forgiving for longer (over one hour) playing sessions and this guitar generated a vibration which was similar to the electric, but FAR more so.  It was almost sensory overload on my hands, arms, legs and chest.  You could FEEL this guitar!  It wasn’t just sound.  I decided right then, I had to have one just like it.
So, earlier this month I bought my third guitar.  I ordered it on 14 May around 4pm and received it the NEXT day before 2pm!!  It was not in tune, but I took care of that and within a few days it too had settled down into a playable instrument.  (I will also do a fuller review of this guitar in a later post.)
And, below is a picture of the guitar (and “gig” bag).  This guitar is “normally” $64, but it was on sale and I got an additional discount which brought my cost plus tax down to $42!!
Monoprice_Idyllwild_3-4_Classical_Nylon_Guitar_With_Gig_Bag
The guitar is “made” by Idyllwild, but “sold” by Monoprice – which is some kind of manufacturing / sales conglomerate.  It is a 3/4 size “classical” style guitar.  It is not quite the same as the one I re-strung, but it does have the marvelous “feel”.  Once it settled in (only a few days), I was able to play it for well over two hours with very little loss of tuning.
What does all this have to do with “changes”?  Well, I’ve decided “in for a penny, in for a pound” and I’m going to add some posts and pages to my blog chronicling my reviews and what I’m learning.  I don’t image much of this will be of use to anyone, but I am interested in how far along a rank beginner with NO musical training can get by learning off of YouTube as inexpensively as is practicable – and as an exercise, I’d like to share this experience via my blogging.  So, in a bit, I’ll be adding a “guitar” / music page to my menu to cover all things related to my learning guitar:  guitars, prices, classes / videos / books, accessories, (minor) luthiering / repairs, etc.
I hope some of you will be able to share some of my excitement in this discovery and learning process.  I feel as if a whole world is opening up before my eyes and at my fingertips!  Stay tuned…
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On This Day In:
2020 Remembering…
You KNEW That Man Was Trippin’
2019 Kingslanding
2018 I’d Bet On Taxes
Ooops! I Spoke Too Soon
2017 A Cautionary Wish
2016 Slogging
It’s About…
Man / Man
2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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