The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    There are different types of lacquers to cover the guitar.
    Does the choice of laquer affect the sound of the instrument?

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    There are different types of lacquers to cover the guitar.
    Does the choice of laquer affect the sound of the instrument?
    Most seem to believe so. I have only built half a dozen solid body guitars, only 3 of them from scratch, and I imagine the finish has less effect on them, being solid.

    But, I wanted to add, what about other finishes, like oil finishes? shellac?

  4. #3

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    I`ll bite. One factor is the thickness of the finish, a poly finish is many times thicker than a nitro laquer, which does affect the wood. On a carved spruce top yes, on a solid piece of ash not so much.

    A neglected aspect is what is under the finish, anyone who has stripped a 70s fender know what I mean…

  5. #4

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    I think after the type of the guitar, and the quality and condition of the woods involved, the finish is the most important thing, sound wise.

    I've seen acoustic and classical guitars having just the top refinished, where you'd have a different instrument afterwards. Even in electrics refinishing changes the sound considerably.

    Usually the best quality instruments have a very thin coating of whatever the builder chooses to use, to let the woods breathe and develop their acoustic sound. Especially in high end non-electric instruments that focus on this type of sound.

    Of course there's also use for the dampening and compressing effect thicker coatings have, if that's what a builder is after (to battle feedback or to focus on distortion for example).

    The wide use of poly over nitro has been a case of nitro being more difficult and time consuming to apply, less durable, and less environmentally friendly.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter

    Usually the best quality instruments have a very thin coating of whatever the builder chooses to use, to let the woods breathe and develop their acoustic sound. Especially in high end non-electric instruments that focus on this type of sound.
    Hence my thinking I might try an oil finish. Leaving the wood as natural as possible.

  7. #6

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    I once heared a solid carved archtop from a well known archtop maker before coating and after application of a thin nitro laquer finish.
    I kept in mind that the uncoated guitar was louder and with some bit in the tone which cut through. Some sort of aggressive tone. After coating the guitar had the nice and clear tone for which his archtops are known for.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by j4zz
    Hence my thinking I might try an oil finish. Leaving the wood as natural as possible.
    Shellac is interesting.
    I think it is use on classical guitars.
    The thin shellac coatings certainly do not muffle the sound.

  9. #8

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    I wonder if shellac is used on jazz arch-top guitars ...

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    Shellac is interesting.
    I think it is use on classical guitars.
    The thin shellac coatings certainly do not muffle the sound.
    It's the basis of french polishing. Not easy to perfect the technique.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    I wonder if shellac is used on jazz arch-top guitars ...
    The Hofner Chancellor is available with shellac coating.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluenote61
    The Hofner Chancellor is available with shellac coating.
    This is a great sounding jazz box.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by j4zz
    It's the basis of french polishing. Not easy to perfect the technique.
    In my experience it is a lot easier, and requiring a lot less equipment, to get a good shellac finish compared to spraying nitro.

    Shellac is close to a perfect instrument finish, with the rather big but that it is not durable enough. Just the fact that it dissolves in alcohol is a big problem for some genres…

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    In my experience it is a lot easier, and requiring a lot less equipment, to get a good shellac finish compared to spraying nitro.
    I need to take lessons from you then

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    In my experience it is a lot easier, and requiring a lot less equipment, to get a good shellac finish compared to spraying nitro.

    Shellac is close to a perfect instrument finish, with the rather big but that it is not durable enough. Just the fact that it dissolves in alcohol is a big problem for some genres…
    You mean someone can spill whisky on a guitar?

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by j4zz
    I need to take lessons from you then
    sorry it is in Polish...:

  17. #16

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    A very deep subject because I've determined that the finish does affect the tone a lot, and that bare wood does sound great as would oil or minimal finishes. But that emphasizes the middy sound of the wood and you can also get great tone using more substantial finishes. Some sound horrible. Once I finished a guitar using polyester resin and it was the worst. Basically it sounds how it resonates. It's a holistic system.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluenote61
    I once heared a solid carved archtop from a well known archtop maker before coating and after application of a thin nitro laquer finish.
    I kept in mind that the uncoated guitar was louder and with some bit in the tone which cut through. Some sort of aggressive tone. After coating the guitar had the nice and clear tone for which his archtops are known for.
    Also keep in mind that after you finish a guitar, it will take time, sometimes a LOT of time for that finish to cure and harden. Over this period, the guitar will be changing continually and it will start a tendency towards what the guitar in the white (unfinished) sounded like.
    A green guitar, just freshly strung up, also is nowhere near what the mature guitar will sound like, so a newly strung guitar in the white is not the sound of the guitar it will become over time, finished or not. (of course the wood thicknesses, material and construction...all this contributes to a profound degree...blah blah you've heard it before)
    The curing and breaking process is effected by how the wood, its sap lines (resin) are 'taught' to vibrate, how the finish hardens as the plasticizers are off gassed, and especially how much that guitar is played in. So whether you're a player or a collector, it's the obligation and deeded responsibility for the first owner to take special care and play the new guitar maybe even more than it will ever be played, and put those modal vibrational patterns onto and into the guitar. A well broken in guitar will sing, and be imparted with a voice that is influenced by the type of playing of the owner. Finger style dynamics will break a guitar in differently from Freddie Green driven playing.
    Poly sets up right away and epoxy or water based finishes (of which some are really good and HARD) set up faster so the breaking in is not so much a process over time as a good nitro lacquer is.
    Now there will be some here who say this is pure bunk. I'll just say this is based on my own experience as a player and builder for over 3 decades but it's still just my opinion.
    Hope you all find the right guitar for you.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by j4zz
    I need to take lessons from you then
    Could just be that you talked about perfection, and I talked about good

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by j4zz
    It's the basis of french polishing. Not easy to perfect the technique.
    And REALLY easy to screw up. It's a matter of medium, reading the cheese (I learned it applied to a cheese cloth and applied constantly moving with just the right amount of pressure, reading the tacky-ness and most important, knowing JUST when enough is enough. Lot of trial and error and finger sense on learning a good french polish).
    I've also known french polish guitars to discolour and cloud up in reaction to sweat and heat when played. It can also get tacky under the fingers when applied to the neck, but that might be a result of the finish formula too. I just avoid it. I would use it on a classical myself, not on an archtop. Too fragile.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    And REALLY easy to screw up. It's a matter of medium, reading the cheese (I learned it applied to a cheese cloth and applied constantly moving with just the right amount of pressure, reading the tacky-ness and most important, knowing JUST when enough is enough. Lot of trial and error and finger sense on learning a good french polish).
    I've also known french polish guitars to discolour and cloud up in reaction to sweat and heat when played. It can also get tacky under the fingers when applied to the neck, but that might be a result of the finish formula too. I just avoid it. I would use it on a classical myself, not on an archtop. Too fragile.
    My only experience with french polish was on a dining room table. Every thing leaves marks on it.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    Could just be that you talked about perfection, and I talked about good
    yep, maybe.

    I have read shellac makes a good sealer coat. Also, it isn't clear, it seems amberish in colour and with age in examples I have seen. I really like a natural colour finish, so maybe not a good choice for that.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohanAbrandt
    In my experience it is a lot easier, and requiring a lot less equipment, to get a good shellac finish compared to spraying nitro.
    I never tried shellac but I finished two of my DIY guitars in spray can nitro and it doesn't get much easier than that (I spray outside on a wind-free and sunny day when the temperature's over 15 Celcius). 1 thin layer of nitro is litterally dry to the touch after 1 minute and then you use a fine sanding paper to wipe off any particles that got on there. Within an hour you can easily do 10 thin layers and then you're done. And then it polishes up nicely to a great shine. I wait a week before I start sanding and polishing but I think you can do it already after two-three days. No special tools needed, just a spray can of nitro (but make sure not to inhale the fumes). Easy-peasy!

    Both the guitars (a 50ies tele and an ES-330) that I made/assembled sound exeptionally good and I like to think the nitro plays a role in that, but to be honest I don't really know..... my best sounding Strat is a partscaster with a Squier body finished in poly, so.......

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by j4zz
    My only experience with french polish was on a dining room table. Every thing leaves marks on it.
    A dining room table is the one thing thick poly would be ideal for...... ;-)

  25. #24

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    My finish of choice for woodworking these days is Danish oil, though I do use shellac sometimes as well. The former really brings out the wood grain, and the latter provides a nice warm vintage amber which can be adjusted depending on how it’s mixed.

    Danish oil finish:

    Types of lacquer and the sound of the guitar.-3ea8cd26-c80c-4f15-8884-5d73cfdf0ecb-jpg

    I did a bit of refinishing of vintage display cases recently and wanted that antique glow, so I went with amber shellac.

    Types of lacquer and the sound of the guitar.-50e44f42-c1e9-4542-ae93-ff51405db6c3-jpg

    I wonder how Danish oil would affect the sound? It does take a long time to cure, and is still somewhat oily even days or weeks later, so probably not a great choice for instruments.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Jay
    I never tried shellac but I finished two of my DIY guitars in spray can nitro and it doesn't get much easier than that (I spray outside on a wind-free and sunny day when the temperature's over 15 Celcius). 1 thin layer of nitro is litterally dry to the touch after 1 minute and then you use a fine sanding paper to wipe off any particles that got on there. Within an hour you can easily do 10 thin layers and then you're done. And then it polishes up nicely to a great shine. I wait a week before I start sanding and polishing but I think you can do it already after two-three days. No special tools needed, just a spray can of nitro (but make sure not to inhale the fumes). Easy-peasy!

    Both the guitars (a 50ies tele and an ES-330) that I made/assembled sound exeptionally good and I like to think the nitro plays a role in that, but to be honest I don't really know..... my best sounding Strat is a partscaster with a Squier body finished in poly, so.......
    Yeah, 1 hour and then you are done =)

    https://www.lmii.com/blog/2017/10/07...acquer-finish/

    I have tried the spray can way also, and its only good enough if you have a really agreeable customer - like when you diy