We all know what we would prefer but how can we be sure?
When I was first asked to write about this problem I thought: "Yes, this will be easy". Boy was I wrong.
I started looking into the variety of construction techniques used to build classical guitars, two thoughts came to mind.
The first thought was: "Yes Here I can see that to keep costs down laminated or faced, as its sometimes called, would be an advantage".
The second thought: "Why???"
Let me explain.
Looking over the guitars built by Rodriguez, Admira, Alhambra, Cashimira I noticed that each maker made a conscious decision when to replace laminated with solid wood, or vica versa depending on whether you are thinking of rising in price or reducing.
Having said that Admira have two guitars with solid sides but laminated back. hmmmmm! is this done for musical reasons? or as a way of justifying price rises as you travel up the range of guitars.
I had hoped that as a rule of thumb one could say: "All guitars over X hundred Pounds or Dollars etc are built with solid back and sides". Then we could walk into a guitar studio and armed with this little bit of knowledge buy a guitar for a son or daughter and know what we were getting.
Sorry folks its not that easy.
Let me give you some examples:
Admira Artista, lovely guitar costing £243 ($342) built with solid sides & laminated back. Does having solid sides make a difference to the sound? I don't know. As I said lovely guitar so may be it does.
Guitars built with solid back & sides commence with the Admira Teresa costing £410 ($578). Next we have the Cashimira model 81 £526 ($740), Rodriguez produce the D1 for £535 ($754) and Alhambra leave solid back & sides until model 7P priced at a staggering £782 ($1105).
So between the least expensive and the highest priced we have a difference of £372 ($527).
Now maybe we are putting too much emphasis on solid back & sides I don't know. What I do know is that even though the Admira Teresa has solid back & sides it is not as good a guitar, musically, as the Alhambra 8C.
Forget price. Price is no indication as to whether the guitar of your choice has solid or laminated back & sides.
So what can we do to discover the secret held somewhere in the depths of our chosen guitar?
Well at this point you have to be very observant and look inside the sound hole. Be careful, though, if the salesman is less wise than you he may think you are trying to place your nose into the sound hole to sample any glue residue that lingers there.
A good sales man will understand that what you are attempting to do is to check the grain pattern of the back by looking through the sound hole and then compare that with the grain pattern seen when viewing the back of the guitar from the outside.
If the patterns are the same your guitar has solid back and sides, if not then laminated or faced has been used.
And that's about it, easy really, when you think about it. If anyone out there has alternative ways please let me know and I will add your ideas to this page so that we all may confidently go to our local music studio and even if the sales man does not know what he is talking about we can be confident when making our purchase.