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  1. #1

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    Dear all,

    As a vintage guitar collector, I recently got into some custom archtops. While custom archtops are perfect in construction/tone and pitch consistency when out of the gate, they do not appear as open as the vintage stuff. I guess it takes hours or years of playing before they really open up and reach their true potential. What break in period does it typically take for new custom built archtops to really open up?

    Appreciate your views.

    Much thanks

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  3. #2

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    Try a ToneRite,leave it on for a few days,there will be a difference. How much of a difference? I dont know. Ive have one and had exceptional results on some guitars and marginal results at best on others. For my $ its worth trying one out.If you are looking to open up the guitar a bit give it a try.Hell ,if you have to work all day, leaving it on certainly cant hurt. This is just my 2 cents. T.O.T.A.

  4. #3

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    I have 2 archtops that were custom ordered, so I've had them from the start and watched them grow. One's from 2009 and the other is from 2011. I've heard and felt changes with each passing year. The '09 is pretty much open now. The '11 is a lot more so than when she arrived, but I'll bet she's got more to give up still.

    I also use a ToneRite on all of my acoustics, with similar results as TOTA reports (that is, mixed, but worth trying).
    Permanent favorites: 2016 Gibson L-5 WesMo, 1999 Gibson L-5CESN, 1928 Gibson L-5
    Play more, buy less

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by gasvictim View Post
    Dear all,

    As a vintage guitar collector, I recently got into some custom archtops. While custom archtops are perfect in construction/tone and pitch consistency when out of the gate, they do not appear as open as the vintage stuff. I guess it takes hours or years of playing before they really open up and reach their true potential. What break in period does it typically take for new custom built archtops to really open up?

    Appreciate your views.

    Much thanks
    There are no real answers to your questions . . . only questions in response to yours, to further clarify your questions and exactly what it is you're looking for.

    <<< While custom arch tops are perfect in construction/tone and pitch consistency >>>

    Really?? "Perfect" is a very big word. Very subjective too. Perfect to whom?

    <<< when out of the gate they do not appear as open as the vintage stuff >>>

    How would you accurately describe "open"? What is your definition of vintage? A 30 year old guitar was made in 1982. Is that vintage to you?

    <<< I guess it takes hours or years before they open up and reach their true potential >>>

    Who determines what their true potential actually is? Who actually knows the true potential of any crafted instrument?

    <<< What break in period does it typically take for new custom built arch tops to really open up?? >>>

    Good Lord!!! Where do I start?? Which arch tops? Laminated or carved? Sitka spruce or Engleman? X braced or parallel? Inset pups or floaters? 16" . .17" 18" or 19"??? Depth? True and pure nitro cel laq . . or the shit with plastisizers blended in to prevent crazing? Relative humidity in the area where the guitar is kept?? Dry or humid?? How well was the wood dried before carving? HOW . . was the wood dried before carving . . naturally storage or kiln dried?? How thick/thin was the carve of the top? Was it tap tuned? Was the luthier whistling, humming or singing as he was carving the top?? Was he wearing boxers or tighty whities when he was carving?? I could go on and on with the variables.

    If you've got a decent set of good sized stereo speakers and you listen to music frequently, keep the guitars on stands directly in front of the speakers, with the top and the sound holes facing the speakers. You'll get similar molecular movement from the sound waves of the music . . as you would from the constant vibrations of the strings when playing the guitar.

    Then, just take the improvements as they come . . and IF they come at all. It's a waste of time to wonder/worry about "how long".
    Last edited by Patrick2; 11-28-2012 at 11:04 AM.
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  6. #5

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    Relax Patrick,backup and take a deep breath! Count to 20! LOL!!!!

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Top of the Arch! View Post
    Relax Patrick,backup and take a deep breath! Count to 20! LOL!!!!
    LOLOLOLOL . . . a little intense . . . huh?? Well . . as Gov Rick Perry once said . . . . . . "OOPS!!"
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  8. #7

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    The answer is: As Long As It Takes.

    There is no acceleration for the sheer good old aging that comes from the passing of time. Just play it and it will reveal its colors in time. Patience is key, grasshopper.

    *Yeah, I read about placing your git in front of the loudspeaker trick. Who knows whether it works but doesn't hurt, does it? Make sure that they are some bespoke sh$t like a pair of Magneplanars MG20.7 or Wilson Audio Maxx 3. Cheap speakers give out cheap frequencies that will excite and imbue the fibers of your custom archtop with all the wrong molecular energies. So, stow your Genius in the White Coat Polk Audios away.

  9. #8

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    I've been curious about this same thing. I'm guessing that this is roughly analogous to flat tops. Does it apply mostly to solid sitka spruce tops? I've watched flat tops open up over months and years and it's actually kind of gratifying. And yes, many variables and some people believe it's in your head but I don't think so. Too much difference and everyone describes it the same: the guitar 'opens up'. Wouldn't think this would apply to maple tops in the same way and not at all to laminates, but that is purely speculative.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spook410 View Post
    I've been curious about this same thing. I'm guessing that this is roughly analogous to flat tops. Does it apply mostly to solid sitka spruce tops? I've watched flat tops open up over months and years and it's actually kind of gratifying. And yes, many variables and some people believe it's in your head but I don't think so. Too much difference and everyone describes it the same: the guitar 'opens up'. Wouldn't think this would apply to maple tops in the same way and not at all to laminates, but that is purely speculative.
    I believe that this is one of those actions and reactions of matter, that can be proved or disproved by genuine scientific data . . as to whether or not it really does occur. But, I doubt that any amount of testing, studying or any uber sophisticated testing/measuring equipment could ever predict, with even the least but of accuracy and/or certainty . . . when it will occur . . how long it will take to occur . . or, if a stringed instrument has actually reach it's peak in improvement.

    But, as you say . . it's really fun and exciting to experience its occurence. I too do not believe it's "in your head".
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  11. #10

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    I agree this is something that may never be quantified, if proven to exist at all.

    I do break in all of my new stereo and amp speakers and always notice them "loosening up" considerably when a continuous alternating load is applied for a time. One could reasonably compare the carved top of an archtop guitar to a traditionally designed speaker cone, the "m" roll of the speaker yielding to oscillations, not unlike the re-curve of a well carved guitar.

    That said, I've subjected my new or "stiff" sounding guitars to a full day suspended in front of a blasting stereo and noted significant improvement in response afterwards. I have two favorite CDs that I always use for this purpose, and I am not going to tell you which, but I feel that content is part of the magic formula, lol.

    Whether it works or not, what's the harm?

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeSF View Post
    ....

    Whether it works or not, what's the harm?
    Suffering house-mates, significant other or spouse?

    How about this one: Amazon.com: XLO/Reference Test & Burn In: Xlo Reference Recordings, Various Artists: Music ?

    Used to drive my mateys crazy when I was an audiophool. I can still remember the sequence of the break-in tracks. Whooo, WHOOOO, Whoooo, WHOOOOO, Whoooo, WHOOOOO,Tzzzzzzzzzzzzz, white noise, pink noise, brown noise, black noise, sounded like car alarms all going off at the same time in the neighborhood.

    About the only thing that it broke-in was.....me.

  13. #12

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    LOL! Good one.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
    Suffering house-mates, significant other or spouse?

    ...

    haha, i was going to change that to, "...IF you live alone"

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
    Suffering house-mates, significant other or spouse?

    How about this one: Amazon.com: XLO/Reference Test & Burn In: Xlo Reference Recordings, Various Artists: Music ?

    Used to drive my mateys crazy when I was an audiophool. I can still remember the sequence of the break-in tracks. Whooo, WHOOOO, Whoooo, WHOOOOO, Whoooo, WHOOOOO,Tzzzzzzzzzzzzz, white noise, pink noise, brown noise, black noise, sounded like car alarms all going off at the same time in the neighborhood.

    About the only thing that it broke-in was.....me.

    this looks more like something used to calibrate audio equipment. no wonder the neighbors were challenged to like you.

  16. #15

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    I have some guitars that improve with more playing. Most. But I have a Taylor 810 flattop, that seems to be great no matter how long it sits unplayed.

    Shame on me.

    I am more concerned with the aspect of not playing them. I need to play them more - or I have too many. That may well be the case - from the guitars' POV.

    I'd have to say: that each guitar (each collection of woods) will vary.

  17. #16

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    cant tell you
    i can give you my experience

    my 2002 F5 mando was barely played when i bought it in 2009
    ive been banging on it hard , almost daily, for over an hour, often 2-3 daily, -it has opened and is still opening-mandos are notorious for being tight and taking decades to really bloom

    my 06 triggs was also barely played when i got it in 2010-been banging on it as well fingerstyle, and its opening a lot in about a year and a half- i use it not only for jazz, but folk and rock and drop and open tunings -just everything i play, no switching between it and my martin or other guitars that i own-i use it a lot

    my very old martin, which sometimes i dont play for some time, closes and reopens within about 2-3 weeks of daily playing-

    the stereo speaker method by patrick does apparently help to loosen the instrument while not being played

    otoh......captain bringdown here...i had an older D-41 which never opened-not after 5 years , with heavy and medium strings and lots of playing
    was tight when built and stayed that way, despite builder perfect woods-ie top grain so tight you could barely see it -and so tight it never let loose

    to some extent, i believe that as the woods season-ie dry out and harden even more, presuming they are typical, and either kiln dried or seasoned about 2-3 years at best, at the time of construction and fiinishing, time may help with the wood getting a bit more bounce

    crudely put and simple to a point of dismissal-play the hell out of it, especially if you have a bevy of beauties at hand over which you spread and bestow your 'love and attention'-
    i find that the daily and vigorous playing seems to really pay off in about 2 years
    Last edited by stevedenver; 11-29-2012 at 02:30 PM.

  18. #17

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    Here's another possibility. Maybe solid wood guitars dry out and get more resonant with age even if you don't play them. If this is true, solid wood guitars will get better as you play them because they are also getting older and drying out more. Don't shoot me. I love older guitars because they sound great and because they are lighter and more resonant than their modern counterparts. Physics of dessication is certainly a part. Not sure how significant playing the guitar is relatively. Am sure I'll get banned for this post.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by DC Ron View Post
    Here's another possibility. Maybe solid wood guitars dry out and get more resonant with age even if you don't play them. If this is true, solid wood guitars will get better as you play them because they are also getting older and drying out more. Don't shoot me. I love older guitars because they sound great and because they are lighter and more resonant than their modern counterparts. Physics of dessication is certainly a part. Not sure how significant playing the guitar is relatively. Am sure I'll get banned for this post.
    So what's wrong with getting banned?? Been there . . done that! It actually caused me to find this place . . . a better fit for me.

    But, your observations are, in my opinion astute and dead nuts on. There are reasons a '59 burst sounds like it does. It's not at all magic. It has to do with the aging of the entire guitar . . . including the wood. Similar with arch tops. It's too bad that PTChristopher got pissed off and took a hiatus from posting. (what a wuss . . . Hi Chris!!)He has commented more than once . . with eloquence and considerable knowledge on how the molecular structure of wood reacts in most conditions . . . including aging.
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  20. #19

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    Thx Patrick. Know this is not black and white. Still hope I don't get banned, your positive experience notwithstanding...

  21. #20

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    Well spruce will age and the sound colour for the better over a very long time. If you want the final sound, day one, go for cedar tops.

    If you think about it logically, those old violins have been played since the 1600s and as most have been professional instruments (reaches for calculator) lets say they are played for an average of 4 hours every day - that's 4x365xsay350 years = 58 years of continual playing!!!

    In my experience you will hear a big difference in the first three to four years - after that its changing at quite a slow pace. But this is why old instruments are so sought afterr if they are constructed in such a way that time and playing counts. Time doesn't really count for cedar tops, ply tops, and anything built on a tight budget.

    Get a cedar top guitar and you know what it is on day one.
    After 60 years playing, I've obviously not done my 10,000 hours of practice yet!!!

  22. #21

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    I find that even my Cedar archtop gets stiff if I don't play it for a while and puts out less volume. If I play it regularly it does seem to produce a fuller sound.

  23. #22
    What a shitty reply from you Patrick ...insulting in fact. THank God I never owned a heritage

    my collection is definitely better than a heritage. That includes a vintage 54 d Angelico New Yorker, a 38 d Angelico b-1,a 59 Gibson l5 and custom archtops from Lower end luthiers such as buscarino, bill comins, triggs, thorell, Andersen, victor baker, Benedetto, and ric mccurdy.

    I am outta here

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by gasvictim View Post
    What a shitty reply from you Patrick ...insulting in fact. THank God I never owned a heritage

    my collection is definitely better than a heritage. That includes a vintage 54 d Angelico New Yorker, a 38 d Angelico b-1,a 59 Gibson l5 and custom archtops from Lower end luthiers such as buscarino, bill comins, triggs, thorell, Andersen, victor baker, Benedetto, and ric mccurdy.

    I am outta here
    Zombie threads are great. We get to go back in time and bring them back to life. Pick at old wounds. Open them up and pour salt in. Cool.
    As far as break in, on my guitars, up to 4 years of almost day to day improvement to plateau, on a flat top, it can mature in days or weeks. This has always been an issue, and not one with a simple answer albeit initialized from a simple question.
    Stradivarius built good violins, everyone knows that. During his lifetime and the lifetime of his children, they never heard how great. That's the truth. Arch tops have a break in period of years when they are built with certain arches. Some break in early, burn out early, some break in slow, stay good a long time, some never do.
    Breaking in an instrument through a sound box tends to be short to medium term because the micro fractures in the wood resins will return to their initial resting state over time. Play it a lot and love what it can do.
    David

  25. #24

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    Forgetaboutallthat

    Set your guitar up as follows...

    mute all strings ezcept the d with cotton put it and in a stand turn on amp
    hit the d and increase volume till the string vibrates by itself and lower volume
    just to keep the string vibrating. come back in 2weeks


    Ur done !!! :-)

    Better still play till u hurt for a couple of months the guitar AND you will sound a whole lot better!!!
    Regards,

    Gary

  26. #25

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    I believe that the most significant improvements I get in a guitar over time are from two sources:

    1) I get more comfortable playing it and as a result I get better at exploiting the nuances of the instrument

    2) I learn what has to be done to adapt the guitar to my playing style and have it set up accordingly

    Those will improve the musical value of the instrument more than any changes in the wood of the guitar. The guitar may improve over time but not by nearly by as much as my relationship with the guitar does (in the same way that my wife may or may not have really grown more beautiful over the last twenty years, but she certainly has to me).
    Last edited by Jim Soloway; 01-22-2015 at 12:49 PM.
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com
    http://jimsoloway.bandcamp.com/album/bare-handed

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by DC Ron View Post
    Here's another possibility. Maybe solid wood guitars dry out and get more resonant with age even if you don't play them. If this is true, solid wood guitars will get better as you play them because they are also getting older and drying out more.
    An old Danish violin maker wrote a book on violin making. One of his points was that it took violins 7 years to open up sound wise - played or unplayed didn't matter. He claimed that it was due to changes in the structure of the wood and particularly due to the fact that the tensions always left in the wood of a newly assembled instrument will lessen over time because the wood will gradually mold itself to the shape it is forced into when building the instrument. Now, I don't know why he wrote exacly 7 years. I'm also aware of that violins are often deliberately made with built in tension - the bass bar is supposed to have some spring when glued in - but that was not the way this violin maker did it. He believed in building the violin with as little tension as possible, just like archtops which ideally should not have such a tension built in. However, i figure it's hard to avoid altogether. Maybe a gradual relief of tension over time also plays the role in the "opening up", "maturing" (or whatever we prefer to call it) of the sound.

    But then there are those who say that a guitar doesn't really "open up". It's the player who adapts himself to the instrument - both in how he hears it and in how he plays it. I don't know what's the truth.
    "But if they all play like me, then who am I?" (Lester Young)

  28. #27

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    Let's put it this way--I ain't waiting for a guitar to change. It better sound good when I first pick it up. Otherwise there's always another that will.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by gasvictim View Post
    What a shitty reply from you Patrick ...insulting in fact. THank God I never owned a heritage

    my collection is definitely better than a heritage. That includes a vintage 54 d Angelico New Yorker, a 38 d Angelico b-1,a 59 Gibson l5 and custom archtops from Lower end luthiers such as buscarino, bill comins, triggs, thorell, Andersen, victor baker, Benedetto, and ric mccurdy.

    I am outta here

    Sounds like a provocateur to me.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Soloway View Post
    Those will improve the musical value of the instrument more than any changes in the wood of the guitar. The guitar may improve over time but not by nearly by as much as my relationship with the guitar does (in the same way that my wife may or may not have really grown more beautiful over the last twenty years, but she certainly has to me).
    That's about as sweet a sentiment as I've ever come across on an internet forum. Make sure to leave this page up on your computer with your post cued up so that your wife can "accidentally stumble" on it.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by gasvictim View Post
    What a shitty reply from you Patrick ...insulting in fact. THank God I never owned a heritage

    my collection is definitely better than a heritage. That includes a vintage 54 d Angelico New Yorker, a 38 d Angelico b-1,a 59 Gibson l5 and custom archtops from Lower end luthiers such as buscarino, bill comins, triggs, thorell, Andersen, victor baker, Benedetto, and ric mccurdy.

    I am outta here
    I thought it was quite bland for Patrick

  32. #31

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    I agree with the views expressed by archtop and RP. I have a tonerite and have used it on all my acoustics, and the results vary widely, but interestingly.
    Not interested in arguing fors and againsts, no one has to do it! The reason I did was simple, I don't know that have enough years left to wait for it to open up over 10/20/30 years, and I'd like the guitar to sound as good as I can get it to, now.
    OP - it may be worth you considering. Don't get put off by what may seem like over-reaction by some, its only an opinion.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by DC Ron View Post
    Here's another possibility. Maybe solid wood guitars dry out and get more resonant with age even if you don't play them. If this is true, solid wood guitars will get better as you play them because they are also getting older and drying out more. Don't shoot me. I love older guitars because they sound great and because they are lighter and more resonant than their modern counterparts. Physics of dessication is certainly a part. Not sure how significant playing the guitar is relatively. Am sure I'll get banned for this post.
    I totally agree with you. My personal experience is that it is time, not playing, that causes the biggest change. If you leave a brand new guitar (carved archtop) hanging on the wall for a year it is going to sound much better than when you got it. If it is a dog, it will be a slightly nicer dog. If it is an angel on day 1, it will be an angelic doo wop group on day 366—and a choir in 3 years, maybe. So I'm totally on board with the drying out / hardening train.

    I've had 4 archtops, brand new, all with wildly varying hours of play on them. One that sat in the case because I couldn't play it (sticky neck) took a full year to fully dry to the point where I could play it more than 10 minutes. The change was dramatic. I hated it when I got it, but a year later it was rich and resonant. I'm sure much of that had to do with the finish hardening.

    Years ago Gryphon Strings had written an article about 2 of the same model guitar, one was never played but they were both vintage (or some scenario like that) and the conclusion was they sounded very similar despite one having many hours and the other having none. I know that is second-hand anecdotal from memory but it was interesting. I've not been able to dig it up.

  34. #33

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    Hey Patrick's job is to keep us all in check. He is just doing his job very well. :-). All I can say is my guitars never sound good in Dec. Jan. Feb. like me they don't like the cold. When the birds are singing so are my gits.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Para View Post
    I thought it was quite bland for Patrick
    Actually Para . . it was quite bland. I had to re read my post several times to see exactly what it might have been that gasvictim objected to. I think it might have been this;

    "Was the luthier whistling, humming or singing as he was carving the top?? Was he wearing boxers or tighty whities when he was carving?? I could go on and on with the variables."

    Shame on me for not realizing that some here just don't understand my style and sense of humor.

    Also, I did preface my post with the comment that any answer to his question, whether the answer would be correct or incorrect, would need additional info. I posted what I felt were very relavent questions that needed to be answered before anyone could give any type of a response except one with very broad generalities.

    Anyway, this guy signed off with . .. "I'm outta here" . . so I don't know if he's still looking in. But, I regret any offense my post my have caused him, and if he feels like I owe him an apology . . then, I do apologize.
    Last edited by Patrick2; 01-22-2015 at 05:20 PM.
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  36. #35

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    Well Patrick's remarks were made well over a year ago.

    TruthHertz - pretty much exactly what I said last year - cedar doesn't seem to change much but spruce ages and changes in the first few years according to how much you play. But you are not going to experience those changes to the same extent as a violin or cello player - different technique to get the string vibrating and sustaining I guess (not being a string player - or asking advice from one either!)

    Mr Beaumont - yes agree and would want it on day one to sound good - but would live in hope it would get even better over the decades. I would never ever buy a guitar like wine on the promise it will sound great in five years. Good wine doesn't start out tasting like drain cleaner even when its two weeks old - a bad sounding guitar will stay that way.

    It adds to the aguement that a twenty year old guitaris a good buy if everything is working and sound good - not likely to get any sudden surprises like a warping neck after twenty years. (Just go and talk to any repairer about how many new guitars they see that need attention in the first couple of years).
    Last edited by ChrisDowning; 01-22-2015 at 02:37 PM.
    After 60 years playing, I've obviously not done my 10,000 hours of practice yet!!!

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisDowning View Post
    Well Patrick's remarks were made well over a year ago.
    Yeah . . but, I'm still the same guy! :-) And, I still stand by the content of the post . . (not withstanding the tighty-whities)

    TruthHertz - pretty much exactly what I said last year - cedar doesn't seem to change much but spruce ages and chages in the first few ears according to how much you play. But you are not going to experience those changes to the same extent as a violin or cello player - different technique to get the string vibrating and sustaining I guess (not being a string player - or asking advice from one either!)
    There are quite a few classical guitar players here, so maybe they'll chime in on this; I've heard that with a classical guitar topped with a very fine piece of spruce, there is indeed a period of time of continuous playing, over which the guitar's voice will *open up* . . . to what ever degree. Further, I've heard that the same guitar's voice will once again tighten, if the guitar is left unplayed for long periods of time . . and therefore need another, albeit shorter break in period. Not sure if that true . . but, from what I've learned from some very knowledgeable people, this does sound plausible. Likewise with very high end violins, I've heard that they are played periodically specfically to prevent them from, *going to sleep* of I may use that expression.

    Mr Beaumont - yes agree and would want it on day one to sound good - but would live in hope it would get even better over the decades. I would never ever buy a guitar like wine on the promise it will sound great in five years.
    Ahhh . . but, this is where it gets interesting. When a knowledgeable wine connoiseur does a barrel sampling, or even a wine tasting after bottling . . and tells you that the wine will be far better in five years, it's usually an assessment based upon an many factors about the wine . . dating back to the vines and up through the aging. Similarly, when a talented and knowledgeable luthier makes an assessment of a guitar's charachteristics, it also based upon many factors. From the type tree the wood came from, where that tree grew, how it was felled, how the billets were split, how the wood was aged . . so on and so forth. That's why I asked all of the questions I did. However, to Mr.B's point . . if the wine tastes like shit when it's first bottled . . I'm not going to buy it and lay it down for 5 years in the hopes it will get better.

    It adds to the aguement that a twenty year old guitaris a good buy if everything is working and sound good - not likely to get any sudden surprises like a warping neck after twenty years. (Just go and talk to any repairer about how many new guitars they see that need attention in the first couple of years).
    This brings up another great point. A 50 year old L5C, which has been cared for correctly . . and played often, will more than likely have had any problems or deficiencies from when it was new, already worked and and corrected. It will almost always sound *different* than a brand new guitar of similar brand, material and craftsmanship will.
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  38. #37

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    I think the more relevant question (referring to the original post) is...through an amp, does it matter?

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny View Post
    I think the more relevant question (referring to the original post) is...through an amp, does it matter?
    I'm not sure how much the acoustic tone matters when you play through an amp but I do know that my two Heritage archtops with the same scale length, near identical necks, the same pickup, the same fingerboard wood, the same construction method but different body woods and different body thickness sound very different acoustically and the difference is even more pronounced when I play them through an amp using the same settings.
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com
    http://jimsoloway.bandcamp.com/album/bare-handed

  40. #39

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    Living in the south, where there are lots of traditional and bluegrass players, I've been around quite a few pre-war Martin guitars. There are also 4 (that I know of) signed Lloyd Loar mandolins in the area. A friend of mine has a 1939 L5. I recently had the opportunity to play a 1941 Epiphone Deluxe. I was fortunate to have had a job recording classical music (and jazz) for about a decade; when the soloist is playing a Strad, believe me, you can tell. My main instrument is a relatively new Campellone, so I hate to say this, but I think that it may take a VERY long time for an instrument to mature. Someday, decades after I'm gone, I'm pretty confident that my Campellone will have developed a fantastic acoustic voice. Not that there's anything wrong with the way it sounds today, but I suspect that it will improve greatly over time.

  41. #40

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    Jim - I used to think that but then I came across a Tokai Strat in a shop that just sounded great acoustically and I felt it would play great through an amp. Well it did to some degree and a couple of years later I was persuaded by a shop owner who had the same guitar to change the PUs to Alnico 2 SDs. Huge difference- it sounds great now. So I think great sounding guitars can sound great through an amp as well if the electronics are top quality - but I have never played a poor sounding guitar that sounded better once plugged in.
    After 60 years playing, I've obviously not done my 10,000 hours of practice yet!!!

  42. #41

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    Not knowing which modern instruments you are referring to it is difficult to comment specifically on your observation. But I am happy to share my general perspective and experience. My comments relate to the acoustic tone and not to the electric tone through an amplifier:

    The more a "modern instrument" has been designed for acoustic play vs. electric play, the more you will notice that it timbre and perceived openness evolve over years in my experience. Particularly if it was made by an experienced luthier skilled in the art. I say this because they are more lightly constructed (thinner plates, shallower arch etc.), the more rapidly they open up like a steel string flattop or classical guitar with play. Many archtops are heavily built by design. Many of my recent custom guitars are made from hardwoods and softwoods that have been seasoning in a luthier's wood locker for 20-30 years before it was used to craft a guitar.

    Unfortunately, these guitars can also tend to feed back a bit more easily at amplified band gig volumes. I believe much of this transformation occurs over the first few years of play but likely continues to some further degree over time (first order transformation). I think however, you need to like the tone from the "get go" because if you don't, time wont make you like it in my experience. Learning the nuances of your guitar and how to make it respond, strings, setup and humidification are likely influencing factors as well.

    So in short, be able to articulate your goals for an instrument, choose the right luthier and you will likely get >90% to where you want to be. The last 10% is in you getting to know your guitar, string experimentation, set up adjustments and a few years of play.
    Last edited by iim7V7IM7; 01-22-2015 at 09:55 PM.
    __________________________________________________ ____________________________________
    Bob


  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by patrick2 View Post
    however, to mr.b's point . . If the wine tastes like shit when it's first bottled . . I'm not going to buy it and lay it down for 5 years in the hopes it will get better.
    lol

  44. #43

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    Apparently, it takes just over 2 years for a thread to open up....

  45. #44

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    Quote -.Not knowing which modern instruments you are referring to it is difficult to comment specifically on your observation. But I am happy to share my general perspective and experience - Quote

    I didn't want to get into name calling - but for example, repairers seem to see slab cut necks that go out of true in the first few years for example and it is pretty easy tobunderstand how that happens with mass manufacturing. Interestingly,for example, Ibanez produce multi layered necks on some of their best models that counters that ageing of the wood as each element pulls against the next one and should cancel out warping to a large degree. The neck on my Tom Waghorn is made like that with two side blocks of mahogany with the grain set at 90deg. (if I remember rightly when I saw it being made) and a centre section of 5 laminated woods between the join.

    And you arevright about custom made guitars being made lighter / looser - my Tom Waghorn has lots of openness about it's tone and response and is way lighter than my Yamaha LL16 - or some Martins I have tried. I guess if you are designing at Martin or Yamaha you make guitars to go all over the World and they have to be tough enough to withstand the dry cold of Alaska and the hot humid conditions of Singapore - havingnto design a guitarbfor those conditions probably compromises what you would do for a guitar that's going to spend its life in 'neutral' humidity and temprature.

    A you can often get a guitar custom made for the same price as a stock guitar, it is worth considering. However you do have to be patient - I think I waited 18 months. And strangely that guitar became one of Tom's standard designs because another player ordered one after seeing mine waiting for me to pick it up - he wanted one EXACTLY the same - so is that still a custom made guitar if you do that? I think it was because I had it made in very traditional colours and had the spruce top toned down to somewhere between spruce and cedar. It kind of looked older on day one. If I can work out how to post a photo I will (anyone can help?)
    After 60 years playing, I've obviously not done my 10,000 hours of practice yet!!!

  46. #45

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    What does it mean for a guitar to "open up"?
    What does a "tight" guitar sound like?

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by Broyale View Post
    What does it mean for a guitar to "open up"?
    What does a "tight" guitar sound like?
    I always love that nebulous descriptive gap between what a player's experiencing and what a luthier needs to know. We used to discuss creating a translator's book for that purpose. That being said, a good instrument has a complex voice that imparts a rich sound that changes from the immediate attack, through the sustain envelope to the decay. During this time, the personality of the instrument can be revealed. Words like "thunky", "woody", "dead", "cardboardy", "singing", "rich", "cheap"...etc (you get it), have been thrown around. And no two people feel it the same. We would hope the luthier and the player can hear the same thing.

    That being said, from a physical point of view, what you hear and feel is due in no small part to the contributions of the overtone series, a harmonic choir, if you may, of notes within a note. The more of them you hear, the more interesting the sound ( in general of course). This series of harmonic overtones depends on certain "members of the choir" dying out at different rates so though many actual notes are present at the attack, certain ones will retain their strength and they will all die out at different rates. This is decay envelope. And THAT is a function of how subtly a piece of wood can be manipulated by the luthier. Too thin and the energy dissipates, it sounds weak and lacks power. Too thick and the string vibration stays within the string, the overtones are rich there but they don't get heard through the wood (hey, somebody get an electromagnetic device so we can hear those!), and in between, is a sweet zone of balance.

    A balanced instrument vibrates well for all the overtones, of all the notes you play, and allows the top and back vibrations to freely radiate along clean nodal lines of the wood; that and the air resonance will give you the frequency signature of the guitar (in general) and here's the rub: the wood does not learn where those nodal lines are, and does not break the resin fibres of the wood on a microscopic level in order for the wood to vibrate freely, until it's played...throughout the frequency spectrum.
    A new guitar has a strong fundamental. You can hear a recognizable note, but it can sound like a black and white picture, or a charcoal sketch waiting for detail. That's a little like "tight". As the instrument lives and is played, like a pair of leather shoes or gloves, it learns where to bend so the patterns of vibration natural to a note, can be heard. Like those shoes, it learns where to bend, to be natural, to wear music, to be comfortable to vibration, the overtone modes. And as this happens, the air will be moved in those patterns and the instrument "opens up"...the black and white picture takes on shading and colour and detail.

    Sure this is a generalization and I know from years of building and acoustical research that there is much to the picture. Too, what one person hears is very different from what another does. I had a colleague who would complain that customers were fussy and too demanding with imagination and silly descriptives. But I heard exactly what they were after; he didn't. A good luthier hears, and understands what needs to come out and what in the wood needs to be retained and what taken off. And still, when it's new, it won't be there. It needs time for wood to learn what to do to transition from a piece of strange sculpture to a musical tool. That's the way I see the luthier's craft and the life of a piece of wood.

    This is one person's take, it's just me, and other builders here will surely take issue with my take. So take this with your grain of salt and a bit of sawdust.
    Hope this clears up your nodal lines for the moment.
    David
    Last edited by TH; 01-23-2015 at 07:36 AM.

  48. #47

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    Thank you TruthHertz, your posts are always so interesting !

    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    the wood does not learn where those nodal lines are, and does not break the resin fibres of the wood on a microscopic level in order for the wood to vibrate freely, until it's played...throughout the frequency spectrum.
    Personally, i sold my Tonerite: it was more or less explicitly described that one could choose the harmonic content of the vibration and ... in the box was just a kind of aquarium pump with only a strength button.
    I tried it on a few guitars with not enough effect to surely discard the placebo effect.
    And the whole idea that it's just a basic Bb or whatever drone just goes against my instinct.

    If i have to wake up an acoustic guitar, i clamp an old dislocated MDR-7506 pair of headphones with loud and carefully selected high end guitars playing all sorts of beautiful music.
    I did once, i have the feeling it did good things on a flat top i have (takes longer than a TR though).

    And i feel i am truer to my guitar sending it friendly voices than raping it with a sinister indifferent buzz.
    Plus TR kills strings.
    Last edited by xuoham; 01-23-2015 at 07:56 AM.

  49. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by xuoham View Post
    Thank you TruthHertz, your posts are always so interesting !



    Personally, i sold my Tonerite: ...
    And the whole idea that it's just a basic Bb or whatever drone just goes against my instinct.

    If i have to wake up an acoustic guitar, i clamp an old dislocated MDR-7506 pair of headphones with loud and carefully selected high end guitars playing all sorts of beautiful music.
    I did once, i have the feeling it did good things on a flat top i have (takes longer than a TR though).

    And i feel i am truer to my guitar sending it friendly voices than raping it with a sinister indifferent buzz.
    ....
    Interesting. I don't know how the Tonerite works, I don't have one so I can't say, but this is a really interesting topic. We'd take a new guitar and put it by the stereo speaker, or take a speaker driver and attach it to the bridge, or attach a constant sine wave sweep generator to the bridge (if it's not soundproofed, it'll drive you crazy) and enforce the wood resonances.
    It's not a guarantee or a number of reasons.
    -The aforementioned nodal lines are where the top needs to become compliant. If the finish is new, it'll cure over time. -The wood may acquire a "memory" but the finish will dampen it. That's why play in over a long period of time works the way it does, it works with the hardening finish.
    -If the top is too thick, it won't drive the top hard enough to get it really moving at those thousands of vibrations per seconds it needs to move to break in.
    -If the top resonances are not tap tuned precisely, the frequencies enforced will not coincide with the notes of a properly tuned guitar and it'll never be as strong as it can be. (regraduating and re-tuning an archtop is another controversial practice I've done with great success but it's not worth the man hours and it does border on lutherie blasphemy)
    There are resins in the wood, concentrated in the fine lines of the winter wood bands. They are excited by the vibrations and when they are heated by high frequency vibration (playing a lot) they break down and become more compliant. Literally "warming up". In fact, most of the energy of a radiating top is lost through heat, not movement or sound wave generation. So the resins heat up, they find the music, the top gets looser, it sounds better and you put the guitar down...it will gradually return to entropy and it won't sound or feel quite as good when you pick it up the next day. Good news, the warm up time decreases with time. I had an instrument that would feel "tight" and I knew within 20 minutes it would feel great. And that time decreased gradually over time. Yes, on this guitar, which was build well and tuned, I could feel and hear the change.

    Pretty interesting stuff, eh?
    Maybe more information than necessary, and only the tiniest fraction of what's out there.
    Time to play
    David

  50. #49

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    David - I think you will find a whole lot of players out there that have never heard what is possible from different designs of guitar (dreadnought, archtop, classical, etc.). Rather like a current generation brought up on iPhone speakers, iPhone docking bay speakers and the like, and fed with 64kbs MP3 tracks. I guess at some point thiat generation will rediscover full size speakers with 15" bass drivers and a three way crossovers driven by a good amp, fed with a high quality audio signal. In a similar way players need to get in touch with what guitars sound like at the top end of what is available, and measure where they are with their own instrument and where they want to improve their tone, attack, decay, and complexity of what they project.

    As with audio reproduction becoming inexpensive and everywhere, I think we may have drifted over time into a parallel expectation that guitars should be inexpensive whilst not costing a lot. I have said this so many times - as guitarists we expect so much more from our instruments compared to, for example, a violinist or cello player. A pro violinist wouldn't expect to use an instrument costing what we consider reasonable for a top quality guitar. They pay at least ten times more. I would say their starting price would be at least $20,000 for a violin and our guitars seem to be $2,000. Veiwed that way Collings, Martin, Taylor mid range guitars at $2-4,000 seem cheap and the best archtops are priced very modestly at $5-7,000.

    Talking about getting GREAT tone from a guitar costing $1500 is just unrealistic - unless you are prepared to play with the bell curve of manufacturing quality and try 50 guitars, all the same, before you choose the one which is at the far end of the quality spectrum. (As one luthier I met did for a client who had a deal to play an inexpensive model from a top manufacturer - he found in the warehouse, THE one that he said played like a $5,000 instrument. But they were all about to be shipped as identical $750 instuments.)
    Last edited by ChrisDowning; 01-23-2015 at 11:26 AM.
    After 60 years playing, I've obviously not done my 10,000 hours of practice yet!!!

  51. #50

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    About 3 months, playing the instrument a couple hours a day. That's not to say the sound won't continue to change over time. I find that the mid-range gets more focused after the instrument is broken in. Also the ax gets more responsive (quicker projection).