When it comes to acoustic guitars, what’s the first brand that comes to your mind? Perhaps it’s Martin, Taylor, Yamaha, or Fender – these are all fantastic acoustic guitar brands that have built up a tremendous name for themselves. However, there are plenty of lesser-known guitar manufacturers that do equally a good job, and a prime example of this is Zager.
Whilst you may not have heard of them, Zager is a stand-out guitar brand with decades of history, and I am always shocked at how little of my musician friends have heard about them.
I’ve decided it’s time to spread the word, so if you’re new to the word “Zager” then read on to find out more, because I’ll be covering the company history, what makes them special, and offering my Zager guitar recommendations!
Bottom LineUp Front
Zager Guitars have a ripe history of producing easy-to-use acoustic guitars, including specialist models such as electro-acoustic, 12-string, and left-handed acoustic guitars. Something like the ZAD900CE electro-acoustic is fantastically suited for anyone looking for a serious upgrade to allow their guitar skills to flourish, but if you’re on a budget, I couldn’t recommend the ZAD20E electro-acoustic enough!
The History of Zager Guitars
Every guitar brand comes with an interesting story, especially when it comes to some of the older ones. However, no backstory behind a guitar brand has topped when I learned about the origins of Zager guitars – it has a unique history, and I’m here today to share it. I’m going to start things off with some early history, and then we’ll move up to the present day!
“In The Year 2525”
The man behind Zager guitars is named Denny Zager, a dude that started playing guitar all the way back in 1949. He taught himself to play the instrument by ear and by listening to songs on the radio, rigorously practicing and slowly developing his skills despite the lack of tuition.
He began practicing more and more until he eventually began writing his own songs, some of which got played on the local radio. However, things truly kicked off for Denny when his band’s song “In The Year 2525” became a number 1 hit song for six weeks in 1969!
Sadly, the musician’s performing career didn’t last long – he loved creating music, but did not enjoy being in the spotlight, so he decided to retire indefinitely. However, this gave him more time to spend on his true passion – creating music.
The Zager Learning System
The guitarist continued to master his craft for years, and as soon as his young son became old enough to hold a guitar, he did his best to pass on the skills to him. However, this was difficult – his son found it difficult to hold the guitar comfortably and his fingers were getting sore. What’s more, the child had dyslexia and struggled to understand traditional western notation and theory, discouraging him from practicing.
Zager compared this theory-based guitar learning to his own experience of learning by ear, and decided to create a learning system for his son, “The Zager Learning System”. It was designed to be exciting and engaging, encouraging students to use their ears to learn rather than music theory. It was a technique that worked marvelously for Zager and his child, so he began to teach the technique to people all across America, and it is still used by many people around the world to this day!
Zager EZ Play Guitars
Believe it or not, Zager’s fruitful career did not stop there. Despite experiencing a lot of success from The Zager Learning System, the guitarist still was not completely satisfied. Whilst the learning system certainly made it more exciting and less daunting for children to learn the guitar, he observed that physical limitations still made it uncomfortable or even painful for children to learn the instrument. From having sore fingers and wrists to awkward posture and arm placement, there were many problems that arose from children learning the guitar, and Zager recognized them all too well.
In the late ’60s, Zager began experimenting with modifying his guitar, initially working to relieve the finger pain that he was experiencing when playing. He had tried everything at this point, from getting the guitar set up by a luthier to physiotherapy, so he had decided to take this into his own hands.
He started in 1969 by rebuilding his guitar neck to give it an unusually low oval shape. Then he replaced the guitar frets with a softer and smaller gauge of the fret wire and worked on saddle optimization across the early ’70s. The action was experimented with in 1973, 1974 saw bracing system tests, and in 1975 Zager was testing out different string gauges. His final adjustment to his guitar was in 1978 when he noticed that correctly-placed string spacing dramatically increased the speed that he could play the guitar.
Quickly, Zager started to receive attention – he was building and modifying guitars so that they could be played at an estimated increased ease of 50%, and everyone was interested. Not only had Zager developed The Zager Learning System, but people were now asking him for help regarding making their guitar easier to practice with. As a result, Zager began a full-time job of modifying guitars for people, working with thousands across the next couple of decades.
Whilst these guitar problems could be solved with some modifications and experimentation, it also outlined that the way guitars were being designed at the time was simply not right. Instead of modifying guitars, it would be better if all guitars were built with such accessibility in mind, and this was the final thing that Zager set out to do. He began designing an acoustic guitar that curated all of his knowledge over the years into a perfect instrument, and he has been selling the guitars online ever since.
With such a fruitful history, you’d think that Zager would pass his skills on and retire to look back on his memories, but nope – the guitarist is more productive than ever, continuing to work on guitar innovations with his son, and recording new video guitar lessons. No rest for the wicked!
Two Things to Consider when Buying Zager Guitars
You might have read the last history section and become immediately inspired to buy what is supposedly the easiest guitar in the world to learn on. I don’t blame you – Zager really does go above and beyond when it comes to comfort and accessibility, but there are still two few things you’ll need to think about before you make a purchase.
Just like any other guitar brand, Zager produces a variety of guitars with different properties, so it’s going to be important to consider what works best for you. Let’s take a deep dive into the two things that I would look out for when browsing Zager’s online store!
Type of Guitar
Many people consider acoustic guitars to be “one size fits all”, but this could not be further from the truth – just take a look at Zager’s online store, and you’ll probably become overwhelmed. Zager designs its guitars in a ton of different ways, so it’s going to be important for you to know what you’re looking at.
For starters, you’ve got size – not all Zager guitars are of the same size! Denny Zager realized that people needed different-sized instruments for different body types and purposes, so he was sure to accommodate everyone through his product range. You’ll find everything from jumbo and regular acoustic sizes down to the parlor and even travel-sized guitars, so have a good think about which is best for you. The travel size is ideal for the traveling musician, the parlor is great for kids and smaller people, whereas the larger sizes are more appropriate if you are comfortable using full-sized guitars.
Next, you’ve got electronics. Zager is a big fan of combining the resonant tones of acoustic guitars with electronic amplification, and therefore he sells many guitars that include pickups, electronics, and even a spectral EQ interface! This is ideal if you’re planning to play live and need the additional amplification, but if you’re not a fan of electric acoustic guitars, then you’re in luck as Zager still sells plenty of them.
Finally, you’ve got specialist acoustic guitars, such as twelve-string guitars or left-handed guitars. Zager has never turned down an opportunity to innovate on an existing guitar solution, and Denny was never someone to let a customer down, so the company’s product range includes various unique and specialist guitars. If you’ve already been playing the guitar for a while then you should know whether you’re left or right-handed, but you’ll never know when you might get the itch to play a twelve-string.
Those last specialist instruments are particularly high recommendations from me considering how much effort Zager goes to ensure every guitar they make is comfortable to play. I’m constantly finding left-handed or twelve-string guitars from other brands that simply were not designed with comfort in mind, so it’s great to see a company that provides a premium option for people with specialist guitar needs!
Quality Vs. Budget
The next thing that it is going to be important for you to consider is finding a nice balance between quality and budget. Take a quick look at the guitars available on Zager’s website and you will quickly notice that they facilitate just about every budget, yet again contributing to their policy of supreme accessibility.
Some of the guitars are crafted with high-end tonewoods that provide resonance and amplification that is to die for, but you’ll certainly pay the price of a few thousand dollars! On the other hand, there are plenty of budget guitars, ranging from only a few hundred dollars up to a thousand.
If you’re reading this as a beginner guitarist who is seeking out a budget guitar that is going to be easier to learn than alternatives, I would highly recommend that you seek out one of the cheaper options. There are tons available, and whilst it’s certainly nice to learn the instrument on a fancy model with glorious tonewoods, this simply is not necessary at an early stage in your guitar career.
I would recommend going for something cheaper first, getting the basics covered, mastering your craft for a couple of years, and only then considering buying something worth a thousand dollars or more.
On the other hand, you could find yourself in a similar situation to Denny Zager, having decades of guitar experience behind your back but struggling to make progress due to the inaccessibility of your current guitars. If that sounds like you, I would recommend spending a little more if you can afford it.
The premium guitars on the Zager website are made for intermediate or expert guitarists, being full-sized, including beautiful tonewoods and other sonic properties, and generally being made to improve experienced guitarists’ playing ability.
It goes without saying that even if you are a professional guitarist, you might not have the cash to splash on a $3,000 Zager guitar. Luckily, that’s really not a problem – whilst the more expensive Zager guitars certainly hold some luxurious qualities, all of their guitars are made to augment your guitar experience, and even if you only spend $1,000 to $1,500 dollars, you’ll be sure to notice the difference. You should never let your finances get in the way of you playing guitar, and thankfully, Denny Zager thoroughly follows that same philosophy.
My Top Zager Guitar Model Recommendations
Now that we’ve taken a deep dive into the history of Zager guitars and what you should look for when purchasing one, I’ve decided to provide a little extra assistance by breaking down some of my favorite Zager guitar models.
The website can be a little overwhelming with so many options available, so hopefully, this will help provide some inspiration and narrow down your choices a bit.
I mentioned earlier that Zager guitars have a fantastic range of instruments for just about any budget, and this first recommendation is a perfect example of this – Travel Size Solid African Mahogany Acoustic guitar.
This 3/4-sized travel guitar is absolutely fantastic for any buskers, traveling musicians, or people who struggle lugging their full-sized acoustic about. They can also be fantastic for smaller adults or children, yet another example of Zager being 100% inclusive in their guitar-making.
It features a mahogany top, back, and sides giving it a stunning grain aesthetic and beautiful resonance projection. It’s not got any electronics inside though, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to plug into an amp.
- An ideal ¾ size for traveling musicians
- The smaller size also makes for a great guitar for children or small adults
- Stunning full mahogany tonewoods
- It will be too small for most professional guitars
- No electronics, so you can only play it acoustically or through a microphone
The last guitar that I mentioned was great value for money, but it’s undeniable that it could seem expensive if you’re looking for a full-sized electro-acoustic. Luckily, Zager has you covered for a budget full-sized electro-acoustic too, with the ZAD20E Solid Spruce/Mahogany Acoustic Electric Natural.
This absolute beauty is well under a thousand bucks, yet it features a classic dreadnought style, a spruce top for a tight and punchy low-end response, and mahogany backs and sides to balance it out.
Not only does it include all of this and Zager’s classic EZ functionality, but it also includes pickups, electronics, and a three-band spectral equalizer. This way, you not only have the opportunity to plug into an amp, but you can shape the tone of your guitar too!
- Excellent value for money considering it’s a full-sized EZ Dreadnought
- An aesthetically stunning combination of tonewoods
- The spruce tops give the guitar a punchy and tight low end while the mahogany sides and back balance out perfectly
- Features electronic amplification and a three-band equalizer
- It’s a beautiful guitar, but it’s obviously not going to sound as good as Zager’s higher-end products
This next guitar is a bit of a curveball, but I felt like I had to include it due to its uniqueness – it’s the ZAD900CE 12 String Solid Spruce/Rosewood Acoustic Electric AURA Pro Series guitar! As the name suggests, this delightful instrument has been designed as a 12-string guitar, providing it with rich tones that simply cannot be achieved with a traditional six-string.
The tonewoods are pretty next level too, featuring a spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides, applied to a classic full-sized dreadnought with a Venetian cutaway. That cutaway is a massive bonus, it really adds to the accessibility of the guitar.
If all that wasn’t enough, this instrument not only includes electro-acoustic functionality like the last one, but it uses the Aura Pro electronics board, providing not only a three-band equalizer but also an anti-feedback system, a pickup blend potentiometer, a spectral imager, a phase effect, AND a tuner. It’s no surprise that the Aura Pro is commonly known as the highest-rated electronics board in the U.S!
- A 12-string guitar, giving it spectral characteristics that simply cannot be achieved through traditional 6-string guitars
- The perfect tonewood combination of a spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides
- Venetian cutaway, making that fretboard even easier to reach than normal Zagers
- The Aura Pro electronics board is next level in functionality
- Not everyone is a fan of 12-string guitars, due to their complexity to play and the pain of tuning it
- Pretty darn expensive, it’s certainly not for anyone on a budget
4. ZAD900CE Solid Spruce/Rosewood Acoustic Electric AURA Pro Series 50th Anniversary Tobacco Sunburst
The final guitar on my recommendation list is no doubt the most beautiful of them all, but unfortunately, its price is representative of this at over three thousand bucks! It holds a lot of similar properties to the previously mentioned 12-string – it benefits from the outstanding Aura Pro electronics board, a dreadnought style, and a Venetian cutaway. However, the major selling point of this beauty of an instrument is that its top is made from Grade A Sitka Spruce top, giving it a resonance that is simply priceless – you really cannot do much better than Sitka Spruce, period.
To add to this, the guitar has a gorgeous Tobacco Sunburst finish, Indian Rosewood 900CE back and sides, hand-bent maple binding, a mahogany inlaid neck, an Indian rosewood headstock… the list goes on. This truly is a work of art, and if you have the cash to splash or have been saving for a truly special guitar, this is what you’ve been looking for!
- The top is made from Grade A Sitka Spruce, and you don’t get much better than that
- Features the previously mentioned Aura Pro electronics board
- Gorgeous Tobacco Sunburst finish
- Tons of personal touches such as hand-bent binding, rosewood headstock, and a mahogany inlaid neck
- Unless you’re loaded or have been saving up for a long time, this guitar could well be totally unaffordable
Wow, we sure have covered a ton of information! From the history of this fantastically accessible guitar brand to its standout properties and masterpiece guitars, we truly have gone on a comprehensive journey through the world of Zager. I don’t want to leave you feeling overwhelmed or confused, so let’s finish up with a quick FAQ to cover any final questions you may have!
Answer: Zager guitars was begun by Denny Zager in the late ‘60s with the mission to make it easier for guitarists to practice and learn the acoustic guitar.
Answer: The most stand-out feature of Zager guitars is the way that Denny Zager designs every guitar to be as easy to play as possible.
Answer: Unfortunately not, although Zager does build most of its acoustic guitars with an electrics board and pickups to facilitate electric amplification.
Answer: Whilst the hand-made nature of Zager Guitars generally makes them more expensive than mass-produced models, the brand still sells plenty of budget guitars with some being as cheap as $500.
Well, that just about covers everything I know about Zager guitars! I truly hope that it has helped shed light on the fantastic service that Zager has provided to the guitar community.
From his innovations in guitar teaching to his uniquely modified EZ guitars, Denny Zager should be knighted for his work in my opinion! Whilst it’s undeniable that not everyone can afford a guitar such as the top-of-the-range ZAD900CE, there are plenty of cheaper options such as the budget alternative ZAD20E, so there really is something for everyone.
Whether you end up purchasing a guitar from Zager or simply checking out their online tutorials and content, I wish you the best of luck on your guitar learning journey. Thanks for reading!