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  1. #1

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    I've heard a number of different takes on what exactly happens to a spruce top as it ages. Ive heard the following... more responsiveness, greater projection, warmer tone, more fundamental tone, more overtones, more bass. Which of these claims carry any truth?

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  3. #2

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    Some say the resin in the cell walls of some woods eventually kind of crystallizes, changing its density and stiffness... who knows?

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Louiss97 View Post
    I've heard a number of different takes on what exactly happens to a spruce top as it ages. Ive heard the following... more responsiveness, greater projection, warmer tone, more fundamental tone, more overtones, more bass. Which of these claims carry any truth?


    My personal opinion is that playing (thus getting the top in motion) over time makes the top more flexible and thus more responsive. My archtops sound better after a hour of play than they do at first, although this may be a matter of getting my technique together.

  5. #4

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    Yes playing them gets the guitar out and changes the environment. I believe guitars that are built and carved correct respond better the more they are played. If the guitar is too heavy and too much wood left in they it does not make a difference it will not open up like I could. Another factor is if the top is glued to the sides against any tension or unevenness.

  6. #5

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    According to two Classical luthiers I know, the sound of a Spruce guitar is stable at inception and changes very little from its birth to its death. However, Cedar guitars built by a quality luthier with quality tonewoods can undergo some remarkable transformations as I can attest with my Brune, Esteve, and LoPrinzi Classical guitars--all of which have undergone changes in sound since new. I hope this helps you. Good playing . . . Marinero

  7. #6

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    I think it's more about the instrument being "in shape" from recent playing than age. If I don't play a carved top for a while, it sounds tight...I've noticed this in many different guitars. Age probably also have an effect but I'm not sure I've owned any carved top guitars for long enough to really assess this.

    I guess the question is...will a new-and-recently played top sound more open than an old-but-not-recently played one? Hard to answer I think.

  8. #7

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    I think the playing has some effect. My brother stopped in Manny's NY to get a Martin on one of his travels. He played one hanging on the wall for a while and then the guy brought out a half dozen brand new ones for him to evaluate. He ended up preferring the tone of the one off the wall!

  9. #8

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    Hi, V,
    For what it is worth, luthier Agostino LoPrinzi once told me that he could tell the style and manner of a player of one of his guitars after it had been played for some time--whether the player was timid, aggressive, big sound, small sound. Anyone know what happened to Augie? Good playing . . . Marinero

  10. #9

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    It varies from guitar to guitar. I have an old L-5 that sounds excellent if it sits for awhile, but unbelievable after an hour of playing.

    Augie's still building to the best of my.knowledge but must be in his 80s if not 90s.
    My pal the late great John Zeidler apprenticed w him maybe 45 yrs ago
    Last edited by wintermoon; 07-16-2020 at 11:26 AM.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    According to two Classical luthiers I know, the sound of a Spruce guitar is stable at inception and changes very little from its birth to its death. However, Cedar guitars built by a quality luthier with quality tonewoods can undergo some remarkable transformations as I can attest with my Brune, Esteve, and LoPrinzi Classical guitars--all of which have undergone changes in sound since new. I hope this helps you. Good playing . . . Marinero
    Interesting. I have heard the exact opposite from luthiers: that cedar is very stable over the life of the guitar and does not change much, whereas spruce changes dramatically as the guitar breaks in and is used over a period of years. It is a funny thing with luthiery and guitars; different people will earnestly tell you different things that are completely opposite and will believe they are speaking the truth.

    To be honest, I have never been able to tell whether the top "opened up" with any of my guitars- even owning and playing them for 40 years in some cases. The problem, of course, is that I don't really remember what the guitar sounded like 40 years ago. And my hearing has changed in the interim with some high end loss, so I don't even hear it the way I used to. On top of that, my technique on each guitar is slightly different to get the sound that I want from it; I play my Telecaster differently than my archtop and my flattop differently than both of those (pick attack, pick material, etc., all of which kind of regresses to the mean in terms of sounding like me). That has changed over the years as well.


    I think that at least some of this is a psychoacoustic phenomenon rather than a change in the sound source. Our ears just adapt but the guitar has not actually changed.

  12. #11

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    This has been studied scientifically.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny
    I think it's more about the instrument being "in shape" from recent playing than age. If I don't play a carved top for a while, it sounds tight...I've noticed this in many different guitars. Age probably also have an effect but I'm not sure I've owned any carved top guitars for long enough to really assess this.

    I guess the question is...will a new-and-recently played top sound more open than an old-but-not-recently played one? Hard to answer I think.
    This has been my experience

  14. #13

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    I think the bottom line is based on personality and musical sound preference. I own 3 cedar guitars and one spruce top. I rarely play the Spruce since I don't find its sound personally satisfying. I would describe its sound as neutral/non-committal. However, my Cedar guitars display a warmth and emotional potential I cannot get, for my ears, on the Spruce. My interest in Classical music is 19th/early 20th Century Romantic Era Music: Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann, Aguado, Coste, Mertz, Tarrega, Villa Lobos, and 20th Century Latin American Music. For me, Cedar is the more poetic instrument--probably like when some men prefer brunettes to blonds. It might be all in the head. Play live! . . . Marinero

  15. #14

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    Just because it's all in your head doesn't mean that it's not real.

  16. #15

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    Some myths will never disappear.

    Let's have a differentiated look on the facts. I know 'facts' will provoke abysmal feelings among some crowds these days, the more 'scientific facts'.
    It's no science if musicians say "that the sound of an instrument gets better the more you play it, and scientists have found the proof for that."
    It's no science as well if musicians say that an instrument's smoothes out if broken in properly, and if it is not used for a long time it "goes to sleep and requires regular playing to bring back its luscious sound."


    How would you define "aging" of wood? In terms of 3, 30 or 300 years?
    Let's just think through: if a 300 years old "aged" carved spruce top would lead to "more responsiveness, greater projection, warmer tone, more fundamental tone, more overtones, more bass", you'd expect that all violins from the 17th century should sound divine, at least better than the new ones, not just some original Stradivaris or Guarneris. Well, this is certainly not the case.
    The same is for a spruce top that is only 30 years old, and spruce wood harvested only three years ago would be too young or too wet for being touched by a master maker.


    What says science about the changes of wood when it ages?
    The hemicellulose degrades to some degree, the lignin oxidizes somewhat, and the cellulose remains very stable.
    I don't know if the spruce tops of highly valuable Strads and Guarneris have been examined by now, but their maple components have been examined. The results, compared to modern European maple woods, in a nutshell: the average hemicellulose loss after 300 years was 35%. If the maple had 25% hemicellulose, then 9% of the wood mass was lost after 300 years. Of course, the results for spruce could be in a slightly different ball park, but you get the idea. We all know that older wood is somewhat lighter than newer wood, and definitely a bit harder to handle.

    So this is mostly about the stiffness-mass relation of wood, and countless attempts of artificially aging wood by baking, UV, acids, bases and funghi have been done. None of these procedures has proven to degrade the wood in the same way like natural aging does, and not to be detrimental to the wood cells. It has been nothing but marketing efforts and attempts of influencing customers (the concept of which is not new at all, but the internet accelerates and duplicates such efforts).
    The search for light and lighter spruce wood, what has been happening and preaching during the last two or three decades is questionable, not only in the acoustic realm of bowed archtop instruments. Guarneri del Gesu already knew that, and often used spruce with a significantly higher density than his neighbor and rival Stradivari. Del Gesu's are said to offer more energy and a darker, nevertheless rich sound than Stradivaris.


    We did some own experiments and built a number of "identical" large archtop guitars according to Lang specifications. Some guitars were made by using original precarved Lang plates that were at least 40 years old (the same leftover NOS that Theo Scharpach in the Netherlands is still working on), for some others new properly dried wedges were acquired from a tonewood dealer and carved to the original measurements and archings. The instruments got the same elaborate finish, same strings, etc. Even for trained ears it's hardly possible to detect a tonal difference between these guitars, at least a difference that you could reliably correlate with the presence of older or newer wood plates.
    In the Lang thread I wrote about the (proven) use of 500 years old "cathedral" spruce by Lang in the beginning of his career. These guitars sound different to his younger designs (IMO, really great), but Lang developed many different lines over the years, and it wasn't possible to detect Lang's generally most revered big-body archtops (44.0 to 44.5cm lower bout) sporting cathedral spruce tops. He acquired new tonewood from the nearby dealer.


    Let's have a brief look what's it about if a luthier says a new guitar would need some time or several years "to open up", and the player takes this for granted, and repeats that mantra-like.
    Well, imagine the realistic situation: the customer commissioned a new guitar for a pretty penny at a luthier. When he plucks the instrument for the first time in the luthier's workshop, the guitar doesn't meet his full expectations, real or dreamt, and his face is telling it - how would the luthier react? You guess it. How would the customer who not only spent expectations but also money react? Yes, by repeating that mantra.

    A new archtop instrument will show about 98% of its maximal tonal capacity "in the white", i.e., before the finish procedure starts. Set it up in the white, put on strings, and play it. That's essentially it. Depending on the finishing skills of the luthier, most instruments will suffer tonewise after the finish was applied, some will be equal, and just very few will be better. It's hard for a player to hear that (our brain is quite deceivable in terms of sound subtleties, due to it's short tonal memory power), but a good luthier who made hundreds of guitars will be able to notice.


    So is there no "break-in" period for a new archtop guitar?
    Of course, there is! What appears to the player to be a smoothed out tone, reducing the initial "dampening" after some weeks or months, is the "breaking-in" of the glued parts of an instrument. The result can be a better synchronisation and amplitude of the vibrations - but the overall effect is very small! The wood itself has nothing to do with it. The by far biggest effect is psychoacoustical: the player has become more accustomed to the characteristics of the guitar.

    If people claim that a guitar in their possession really opened-up tonewise after 30 or 40 years, you can bet it's due to an impeding finish a priori (too thick and/or too rigid), that finally has given way. It's often the group (including the dealers) going for the preservation of "vintage" cracks of the "unrivaled" nitro-lacquer - phew!


    To the last point, a guitar that "went to sleep" for a long time would need regular playing, just a quote by Charles Beare, one of the unarguably most experienced senior experts when it comes to valuable Stradivaris, Gua
    rneris, etc.: A good violin wakes up within ten minutes, no matter how long it has been lying around. No reason to believe it could be basically different with guitars.


    Bottom line of what counts if it comes to the most salient points of fine archtop guitar making:
    1. the design (size, proportions, plate arching curves, plate thickness and graduation, recurve, bracing, etc.)
    2. the quality selection of the particular wood for the plate (eveness, stiffness-mass relation, sound velocity, etc. - not the outstanding figure)
    3. the quality of the craftmanship
    4. the quality of the finish

    The absolute age of the woods, or the age of the instrument, is certainly not among these points. It's more a matter among amateur enthusiasts, tricky dealers and their collectors or investment guys. Both Stradivari and Guarneri, et al., used wood that was cut 5 to 7 years before they started to use it. That's the gold standard until today for archtop instruments. It certainly doesn't hurt if the wood is older, but it doesn't get drier or any "better" after reaching 6% to 8% wood moisture.
    The 5 to 7 years relate to air-drying. Of course, wood that went through several annual cycles of seasonal RH changes should in most cases be a bit more stable than wood that was kiln-dried in the process of some weeks. The latter process can be ok, if done slowly and properly, but could also lead to cheating: today time is money in most parts of the world!



    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 07-26-2020 at 04:36 PM.

  17. #16

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    "So is there no "break-in" period for a new archtop guitar?
    Of course, there is! What appears to the player to be a smoothed out tone, reducing the initial "dampening" after some weeks or months, is the "breaking-in" of the glued parts of an instrument. The result can be a better synchronisation and amplitude of the vibrations - but the overall effect is very small! The wood itself has nothing to do with it. The by far biggest effect is psychoacoustical: the player has become more accustomed to the characteristics of the guitar." Ol' Fret


    Thanks, OF, for the excellent above description. However, I would like an explanation of an experience I had with one of my classical guitars. About 20 years ago, I got a very good deal on a good guitar from a respected Spanish luthier. It had a Spanish Red cedar top and Rosewood back and sides. I bought it so that I didn't have to bring either of my two concert guitars to restaurant/wedding gigs. When I initially played it, it had a dark, sombre timbre in the trebles but, otherwise, had great projection and a very sweet, rounded sound. So, I played it for a few weeks but the trebles were just too dark for my taste so for a few years, I used Savarez HT strings with Carbon fiber trebles(brighter) on the guitar and I got the sound I wanted to hear. Then, one day, I had the idea that I wanted to know the real personalities of my instruments and restrung all of them with D'addario EJ46HT strings(non carbon trebles)--very neutral strings, in my opinion. And, to my surprise, the guitar had maintained a brighter(not the same) sound without the carbons. And, although it is not as bright as my other two cedars, it is actually my preferred instrument when performing 19th Century Romantic guitar music. Am I a psycho-acoustic player?
    Play live! . . . Marinero

  18. #17

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    Hooray for the good doctor! A rational man in an irrational world.
    Most importantly, I need to see pix of these "identical" large archtop guitars according to Lang specifications.
    Who built the guitars? I have a few sets of the old precarved Lang plates around here somewhere and will eventually do something with them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Fret View Post
    We did some own experiments and built a number of "identical" large archtop guitars according to Lang specifications. Some guitars were made by using original precarved Lang plates that were at least 40 years old ..., for some others new properly dried wedges were acquired from a tonewood dealer and carved to the original measurements and archings. The instruments got the same elaborate finish, same strings, etc. Even for trained ears it's hardly possible to detect a tonal difference between these guitars, at least a difference that you could reliably correlate with the presence of older or newer wood plates...

  19. #18

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    Plenty of experts here who know far more than me. The best sounding acoustic guitar I ever played was a 1937 Martin Herringbone D-28. I'm sure there were structural details (scalloped braces etc) that contributed to the overall sound. But this thing was incredible. Couldn't put it down incredible.

  20. #19

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    I have experienced the effect of a flattop/steelstring + a classical guitar "waking up" after a long period of hibernation in their cases. A few days or a week of regular playing brought both of them back to their former sound. As for the sound of a pre-war Martin compared to a modern guitar : I played such a guitar (1938 D-28) at Mandolin Bros. some 25 years ago and it was a true cannon but the sound did not inspire me to play it for a longer while. Fast forward to 2018 : played a few modern high-$ Collings steelstrings and their tone immediately reminded me of that old Martin - my guess is that when played consistently for the next 3 years these Collings guitars will be indistinguishable when played side by side with their vintage sisters.
    My take on the "aging" is this : a guitar needs to settle in, get used to the string-force, the player's touch etc. AND the player has to learn to play to the guitar's strengths - when that happens one can truly hear a remarkable improvement in tone, response and clarity . Happened with my Banjo even !

  21. #20

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    i'm personally in the "in your head" (cynical) camp. One thing that has always amazed me up about speaker breakin, spruce opening up, etc., is this:

    If there is truth to this and it makes such an audible difference, why is it that in 100% of the cases, it always makes the speaker or guitar sound better? Statistically, it's an impossibility.

  22. #21

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    That's awesome Jack. Mr Logic!

    "I have this vintage Epi, and it's the weirdest thing. I can only play it for about 30 minutes at a time and then it starts to sound like crap. Get's all loose and baggy sounding. I have to put it away for a month so's it can seize back up!"

  23. #22

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    About classical guitars, I've heard a few of the same ones brand new and then 10 years later.

    Now, I'm far from being an expert of wood and stuff. But brand new (with proper wood - dried and already aged for some time) were better.
    Also I've played one 25 years old guitar. Hm, I wouldnt have bought it to myself like that.

    I never thought about too much but heard a theory - the springs get tired.. nothing much happens with the wood though.
    So to freshen it up, they just have to take it all open, re-glue everything.. maybe change the springs.
    I wouldn't have even written this note but this acually happened with my old guitar. Sounded dull, I sold it (just got another one that I liked much better), it got a new back and some fixes - and sounded so much nicer after that.

    Also, when you're not playing for longer periods, loosen up the strings. And.. the luthiers, some keep the guitars for years but don't keep any tention on the strings.
    Then, when a client comes, they tune the guitars up and they sound fresh again.


    Now..... this is still all rumor and anectotal.
    I was curious about this matter but not enough to do some serious research.

  24. #23

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    "I never thought about too much but heard a theory - the springs get tired." emanresu

    Hi, E,
    What are "springs" on a Classical guitar? Play live! . . . Marinero

  25. #24

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    Um. its "bracing". In my language these were called "springs". Didn't even check

  26. #25

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    Just back from replacing the OEM springs on my classical to a nice set of hard racing springs. Should sound much better.


  27. #26

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    My story with my current classical guitar went like that. When it got finished, it had all sorts of overtones, like I never heard before.
    The sound of the chords was so rich... jeez. Spent an hour just playing all kinds of those without bothering to play a damn tune.
    But it wasn't made for me. And I got it about 5 years later. It was still in good shape but wasn't as amazing as fresh out of the workshop.
    I liked it very much though, so I got it. Already knew about the "theory" and the possible fix for later.

    With classical guitars, aging will be a problem at some point. There are a few articles how they get better and better over time but I doubt it.
    Rather, I find those misleading and subjective since I've tried plenty of old ones. A few (from respectable quality maker) were pretty damn numb.
    That pleasing "round smooth" sound can also mean that the overtones are lost.

    edit: forgot one interesting case. One guitar here, very nice big sharp sound. It got broken - got a heavy bang to the "head" and it split off. So it went to repair, got fixed (by the original luthier). Nothing else was broken or loose. But it didn't sound good anymore.
    Can't believe it was just the head part that ruined it. The bang... you know, it did something bad to the rest of the guitar also. Who knows what it was.

  28. #27

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    "With classical guitars, aging will be a problem at some point. There are a few articles how they get better and better over time but I doubt it." emanresu


    Hi, E,
    General consensus is that a luthier-built artist model Classical guitar should last 20 years of professional playing(4 plus hours daily) before it begins to "fade." Segovia replaced his Ramirez with a Wagner after about 20 years ,as an example since, it was said, he noticed a real difference in sound. Twenty years of professional playing is a long time! Play live! . . . Marinero

  29. #28

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    I had a carved top/floater guitar a few years ago that I purchased new from the builder. At first it sounded amazing plugged in - better than my laminate/routed model from the same builder. At first the carved top/floater was also quite subdued acoustically...kind of disappointing to be honest.

    Over time it started becoming kind of a bear to play plugged-in, with feedback increasingly becoming an issue, and after about a year I stopped. The acoustic voice was however becoming bigger and more pleasing.

  30. #29

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    All I can expect with time is that my playing goes better.
    Unfortunately, it ain't so.
    Still wondering about my ageing guitars as I can't feel it due to my lack of ability

    Note aside :
    A friend of mine gave me a T-shirt marked "Vintage Guitar Player"
    Always wondered what is supposed to be vintage : the guitar or the player ?

  31. #30

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    In my case, the player would be vintage. I have a t-shirt that says "Never underestimate an old man with a guitar", along with a picture. I'm an old man, and I have a guitar, so it seems appropriate.

  32. #31

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    I am convinced that wood changes over time. I've seen pine timbers that have been in buildings for a half century or more, under load, that had become so hard that it was impossible to drive a nail into them. But I can't say for sure what effect that may have on the sound of a guitar. I am convinced that psychoacoustics is a real thing. I encounter it all the time. If I play a guitar through an amp over a period of time, it becomes the sound I prefer. But it's ephemeral, and eventually I don't like the sound and change amps. I adjust that one, play it for a few weeks or months, and tire of it, and swap again. They are all in the same place, never move, and the sound I perceive changes. It's me, no doubt. I'm also convinced that my memory of what I heard in the past is faulty.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    Am I a psycho-acoustic player?
    well, of course! That is how humans function, after all. We all do this.

    In addition to the psychoacoustic phenomena that have already been alluded to, my personal belief is that my technique changes slightly with different guitars seeking the sound that I am looking for in the context of the tunnel response of the instrument. With a dark instrument I play a bit more sharply and with a bright instrument I play with a softer attack. I may move my picking hand toward or away from the bridge. I may hold the instrument slightly differently. As a result, I can get a sound that I recognize as "me" out of very disparate instruments- especially after having played it for an hour or so because my "ears" (really, my brain) adjust.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara View Post
    well, of course! That is how humans function, after all. We all do this.

    In addition to the psychoacoustic phenomena that have already been alluded to, my personal belief is that my technique changes slightly with different guitars seeking the sound that I am looking for in the context of the tunnel response of the instrument. With a dark instrument I play a bit more sharply and with a bright instrument I play with a softer attack. I may move my picking hand toward or away from the bridge. I may hold the instrument slightly differently. As a result, I can get a sound that I recognize as "me" out of very disparate instruments- especially after having played it for an hour or so because my "ears" (really, my brain) adjust.

    Hi, C,
    Interesting! It's difficult to refute the adaptability of the mind/psyche. Once a musician reaches a certain level of musicianship, I believe they have inculcated in their mind/psyche their "sound." In the best of cases, it represents their unique view of musical communication and how they perceive their voices in the miasma of sounds unpleasant to their ears. I believe when I play, my voice is unique and to other musicians . . . recognizable. It combines the talents of the musician with the personality of the instrument. And, what you say about adapting to instruments(above) is true, but if you follow that approach you will never become intimate with your individual instruments. You will always be ignoring the instrument's personality. For example, let's say you are a man who is always attracted to intelligent women. But, one day, you meet a stunning woman with a great personality to whom you are very physically attracted but is less than your requirements for intelligence. Do you accept her for her personality and physical beauty or do you seek to change her into something of which she is not capable of being? Can you ever know her if you are constantly trying to change her? This is my point with instruments. We must discover each instrument's voice for what it is and if it doesn't work for you . . . what's the point?
    Play live! . . . Marinero

    P.S. I do, however, believe that both we and our instruments change. The degree, however, is still debatable.

  35. #34

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    Yes it does sound better the more it's played. Especially with acoustic guitars with spruce tops. But that said unless you primarily play without amplification, the results are somewhat moot.
    I totally get it if you play totally acoustic or record acoustically. But I would think better time spent on working on playing.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    Hi, C,
    Interesting! It's difficult to refute the adaptability of the mind/psyche. Once a musician reaches a certain level of musicianship, I believe they have inculcated in their mind/psyche their "sound." In the best of cases, it represents their unique view of musical communication and how they perceive their voices in the miasma of sounds unpleasant to their ears. I believe when I play, my voice is unique and to other musicians . . . recognizable. It combines the talents of the musician with the personality of the instrument.
    yes, I think that is a very good way to describe it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    And, what you say about adapting to instruments(above) is true, but if you follow that approach you will never become intimate with your individual instruments. You will always be ignoring the instrument's personality. For example, let's say you are a man who is always attracted to intelligent women. But, one day, you meet a stunning woman with a great personality to whom you are very physically attracted but is less than your requirements for intelligence. Do you accept her for her personality and physical beauty or do you seek to change her into something of which she is not capable of being? Can you ever know her if you are constantly trying to change her? This is my point with instruments. We must discover each instrument's voice for what it is and if it doesn't work for you . . . what's the point?
    Play live! . . . Marinero
    That is an interesting point. Different instruments do offer different things and no two sound exactly alike. And the same instrument, if it's voice is distinctive enough, can be identifiable in the hands of different musicians. For example, if you were to go to YouTube and watch videos of Jerry Garcia, Warren Haynes, and John Mayer, playing the same guitar (called "Wolf" by luthier Doug Irwin) it is striking how consistent the sound is even though those three players are quite different in their approach to the guitar and in their amplification, etc., and they are playing it decades apart. There is a persistent personality to that guitar. Granted, that is a solidbody instrument rather than an archtop, so perhaps it is less adaptable in some way.

    I have an archtop on which I have tried at least five different pickups, sometimes the same pick up more than once, looking for the amplified sound that I want from it. The acoustic sound is basically perfect. It is my favorite guitar to play. But amplified I have never been satisfied with the sound. I have other electric guitars with which it is simple and easy to get a sound that I like, two of them being solidbodies (Tele and Strat) and one of them being an Ibanez GB 10. But the carved archtop confounds me in that regard, even though it sounds so good to me acoustically. So your point is certainly worth pondering, that I am trying to impose a sound onto that guitar and missing what it has to offer that is unique.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    P.S. I do, however, believe that both we and our instruments change. The degree, however, is still debatable.
    I certainly agree that the musician adapts to the instrument; I am less sure that the instrument adapts to the musician but certainly many people have believed that over many years. Some of the things that have been discussed in this thread are the moisture content of the word, changes to constituent components such as lignin, hemilignin, resins, etc. Time and aging probably account for much of that. I wonder to what extent if any that vibration accounts for changes in the structure of the wood, glue, etc.

  37. #36

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    I am convinced it is not in my head at all. I bought Gibson LeGrand about 5 weeks ago. I is basically mint and I don't think played much at all. I have been playing in especially the last week about 2 hours a day on average. Today I notice it has opened up and I even think it has much more power and presence. Now to be honest I did move the action but as this was really low action when I got it. But I did that few days after getting the guitar but now I think the top is responding to the touch. I have been playing acoustically almost entirely.

    I know many what to tell me it is in my head......but my ears say otherwise.

  38. #37

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    Your ears are on your head, and lead directly inside. As you become accustomed to a sound, it starts to sound better. I've found that to be the case many times.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    Your ears are on your head, and lead directly inside. As you become accustomed to a sound, it starts to sound better. I've found that to be the case many times.
    I read that is your are telling me in effect that it is all in my head?

  40. #39

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    I'm pretty sure it's all in mine, so it could be in yours.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    I'm pretty sure it's all in mine, so it could be in yours.
    Your head is not mine and my ears judge. We simply agree to disagree about the topic. My ears are far more relied that my head.?

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ol' Fret View Post
    Let's just think through: if a 300 years old "aged" carved spruce top would lead to "more responsiveness, greater projection, warmer tone, more fundamental tone, more overtones, more bass", you'd expect that all violins from the 17th century should sound divine
    That would not be my expectation. Other factors come into play. The general build quality, the type of glue used, how the instrument had been stored or played or abused for centuries, etc.

    That's like saying if wisdom does in fact come with age, all old people should be brilliant--which is quite obviously not the case. I offer myself as a prime example.
    Last edited by Flat; 08-05-2020 at 10:19 AM.

  43. #42

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    Your ears only sense the vibrations in the air and transmit those to your brain, which interprets them. So technically, it's all in your head. How your brain interprets what it receives from your ears is something I can't see or explain. I do believe that my brain interprets some sounds differently at different times.

  44. #43

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    Hearing is ultimately an act of consciousness. How our brains process sensory input and how that is experienced consciously is unique to each person. And even the input into the brain is unique to each person. From the ambient vibrations in the air of the world around us, the energy of those sound waves enters my ears, activates my tympanic membrane which in turn activates the other structures of the middle ear and inner which then transduce that mechanical energy into a neurological signal, sending it to the brain for experience and interpretation. Once that sound is in my consciousness, a number of additional things can be applied to it. I may be comparing that sound to other songs that I have heard, for example. I may be judging whether I like the sound I am hearing or not. I am applying the values of what I believe is a "good" or "bad" guitar tone. My mood and thoughts unrelated to the experience of hearing that sound may also affect my interpretation of it. We each hear part of the world as it is- within biological limitations- but that pure sensory experience is overlaid with a lot of other stuff that is difficult if impossible to separate.

    I think we can all agree that guitars have a unique tonal signature and each will sound different in larger or smaller ways. Compare two real D'Angelicos and they will sound different as well two D'Aquistos, two Gibson Johnny Smiths, two L5s, etc.; compare those with a Telecaster or a Stratocaster or a Les Paul. You can hear a difference. Two different amplifiers, even of the same model, often sound different. Speakers sound different even in the same amp. By the same token, ears "sound" different. The shape of the inner and outer ear, the flexibility and responsiveness of the tympanic membrane, etc., all affect how we hear. When audiologists test one's hearing, they generate a graph of how people hear different frequencies and everyone's will be slightly different. As a result, the same note played on a guitar will sound different to different people. Over a period of decades, that same note would sound different to the same person because the mechanical aspect of our hearing changes with aging, exposure to loud noises, etc. One of the things that I have noticed in my favorite guitarists following their career for decades is that as they get older their sound tends to get brighter. I think it probably sounds the same to them but as their ear function has been impacted by a lifetime of playing in loud environments, the adjustments they make to get "their" sound result in a different experience for them than for the audience.

    It is very clear to me that at 60 I do not hear the same way that I did when I was 30. I am less sensitive to higher frequencies, a process that I expect to have continue. I used to be able to open the basement door and from the top of the stairs could hear whether or not the dehumidifier was running in the basement. Now I have to walk halfway down the stairs to be able to hear it. As a result, when I try to determine whether the spruce top of my guitar has "opened up" over the last 30 years of playing it, I am not comparing apples to apples because my hearing is different than it was. The instrument may very well have "opened up" but I am not sure that I am really in a position to hear that.

    In practical terms, however, we move forward in life as if what we hear is factually correct. Otherwise we are second-guessing ourselves to the extent of driving ourselves crazy. This is one of the dangers of my profession as a psychologist! If you've ever wondered why most of us are weird, I think I've just explained why.

  45. #44

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    I have a Vestex D'angelico NY 18 inch made in about 2000. This guitar has the pressed top but is solid spruce. My ear says acoustically it sounds better than some Johnny Smith Gibson's and certainly has more acoustic sound than my Super 400CES ( I would expect that) but the S400 top is actually carved. The Vestex has also held its own against some pretty name boutique guitars. It seems to respond acoustically better because the top is generally free to vibrate and wood can do things we always know.

    Now compared to my real 49 New Yorker, it does not cut the sound in terms of depth and sustain or power. The real D'a is much more sensitive to touch and responses much better to how it is played or attacked. It just picks up the whole process of playing better and dynamically. However I might add that in some ways this may not warrant all the fuss of a real D'a. In the end product might not be as much different as we might like to think at least for the average listener. To me the player it is not apples an oranges, but the difference between a my lawn and a putting green. The golf ball rolls better over the green.

  46. #45

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    I think it's easier, and much more reliable, to hear the difference between guitars than it is to hear and remember the sound of one guitar over a period of years or even months. I can certainly hear a difference between any or all of my guitars if I play them sequentially, and even if I play them days apart. I'm not convinced that I can reliably do that with just one guitar played last year and today. My memory was never that good, I don't think, and it certainly isn't now.

  47. #46

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    Funny my 49 D'a sounds to me the same way it did 25 years ago. My ears hear the same but who knows?

  48. #47

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    thing about pressed tops is that the slab of wood is pressed by force (and heat/humidity) into form...so that the wood is still there, it's just been compressed...like a dry sponge...a carved top has the wood removed...carved...gone!..big difference

    compressed wood can expand with temps and humidity..a carved top less so...since the extra wood is gone!

    pressed tops were used early on as a cost saving device...harmony guitars made lots of pressed spruce tops...they can sound good..but are very prone to the elements...many developed cracks around the top ends, near the binding

    i worry more about their survival, than tone

    cheers