Are you a regular acoustic guitar (non-classical) player as well as a classical guitar student? I researched the Ibanez GA6CE and got some exciting answers for players interested in multiple styles.
The acoustic-cum-classical-guitar player may wonder if they really need two guitars to do the job. With the Ibanez GA6CE, your acoustic self will love adding an interesting nylon string sound and a pre-amp to your music. Your classical self will love what is essentially a beautiful classical guitar, built to well accepted classical guitar norms.
It’s really not about the cutaway design and whether you think it’s cool or weird. That’s a great feature for regular acoustic guitarists to easily reach the higher frets. For classical guitarists, on the other hand, it is a questionable feature.
Beginner pieces in classical music rarely use the higher frets. And the cutaway design may actually affect sound quality adversely (as we will see shortly). Let’s dig in.
A quick overview of the Ibanez GA6CE
- A regular spruce-top classical guitar with nylon strings
- A pre-amp and pickup to amplify its volume
- Cutaway design for easy reachability of higher frets
- An affordable price for a serious brand name instrument
- A mellow and warm sound (acoustic) and crisp and loud (electric)
From a purely classical player’s point of view, all specs adhere to a standard classical guitar (barring the cutaway design). The GA6CE is made to conventional norms. For instance, the top wood – considered the most important factor when it comes to sound quality – is spruce, a standard choice for even the most expensive classical guitars.
The back and sides – also impacting sound quality, although to a lesser extent – are made of Sapele wood. Sapele is an African hardwood known for its durability. It is an affordable substitute for mahogany.
Again, as a cheaper substitute for ebony, the GA6CE uses Mexican/Brazilian purple heart wood, a hard wood.
The fan bracing pattern under the spruce is more than 150 years old as a design idea. It is widely held, along with the top wood, to bolster sound quality. The scale length is standard at 650mm. Width at the nut is again standard at 52mm.
Like all classical guitars, the GA6CE has 19 frets. It is outfitted with regular nylon strings which come in their own bewildering variety (topic for another article, really).
Here’s the actual sounds of an Ibanez GA6CE in action. The second one is in Russian, but the guitar sounds just as sweet!
Cutaway design: Who is it for and why?
So the design question remains to be asked, at least from a classical guitarist’s point of view. With so much that Ibanez has put in to make the GA6CE a genuine option in the regular classical guitar mould, what’s with the cutaway design?
As suggested earlier, it appears like Ibanez had in mind folks who straddle both classical and pop/rock worlds. Going by the rave reviews in online stores like Amazon, Sweetwater, etc. they sure made the right decision.
Hence, three types of people should look at this guitar seriously:
- Players in the pop/rock/jazz category, including performers and composers, looking for a refreshing little ‘nylon touch’ to their sound. The GA6CE fulfils this role very well at a surprisingly low price
- Beginner classical guitarists and advanced beginners who also dabble in folk/rock/jazz etc. This guitar once again fulfils the dual function beautifully
- People looking to gift their talented child or a niece or nephew (in their teens, perhaps) who show musical promise. This makes for a great gift, substantial without being obscenely expensive
On the cutaway design itself, no one can deny that it provides easier reach to upper registers.
But there is a valid concern. Cutaways have an adverse effect on sound quality, in theory at least. The guitar top, the bracing underneath, and to a lesser extent. the sides and back of the instrument, are the leading contributors to sound quality.
Reducing wood from such resonating surfaces by ‘cutting away’ can only harm the sound, they say. They have a point, but it’s not something that novices or advanced beginners of the classical guitar should lose sleep over.
Rightly so. Students have enough challenges in technique and repertoire to overcome without also dealing with a potential loss in sound quality of about 10 per cent!
The price is good, but know this…
By any normal yardstick, the price on this guitar is a steal. User review after user review never fail to mention the relatively low price for the tremendous value on offer.
However, for all that the Ibanez GA6CE is, some corners were obviously cut to keep it affordable. The machine head handles, for a start, are made of plastic. So is the vertical nut at the end of the fingerboard. And the saddle on the bridge over which the strings pass? Yes, plastic again.
There are a couple of users I know who replaced the plastic saddle with a bone one. Machine heads can also be changed. But if you are a beginner or thereabouts, you shouldn’t even be worrying about stuff like this.
Get to practice. And play your heart out. Which is all the guitar gods ask of you.
If you’re interested in the broader subject of various classical guitars to consider before you decide, I highly recommend checking out my full review of different models and their pricing.
A word on the electronics
This is a classical guitar site essentially, so we won’t get into every nitty and every gritty of the electronics on this model.
But for the sake of completion, this much needs to be said. The onboard electronics are fairly simple and straightforward.
It comes with a decent internal piezo pickup system. The EQ system is basic and serviceable, with separate controls for Bass and Treble as also an overall Volume control. There is provision for a quarter inch jack insert for amplification. It comes with a 9-volt battery and an Allen key.
How far down the road can you go with the GA6CE?
If you are a performer you are way down the road already. The GA6CE is there to provide you extra, occasional color to your music. You can live with it forever!
For purely (or mainly) classical guitarists, this model will serve them through the novice years comfortably. In my experience, in a couple of years, everyone feels a need to move on.
Not because it suddenly became inferior, but because we all need milestones in our education. Changing our guitar model to a more expensive (and better sounding, of course) model is one way of marking a milestone.
In addition to the Ibanez model reviewed here, I have done a round-up of a set of 6 Cutaway Classical Guitars. You can review other brands that have a similar cutaway design and see what works for you.
I also recommend my article about a range of Takamine classical guitars including some electric cutaways. You can read about those options too before you settle on any.