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general question for guitar guru

olddude 10 Jul 09 - 01:47 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 10 Jul 09 - 02:13 PM
Zen 10 Jul 09 - 02:26 PM
Richard Bridge 10 Jul 09 - 02:32 PM
Murray MacLeod 10 Jul 09 - 02:47 PM
John P 10 Jul 09 - 02:55 PM
olddude 10 Jul 09 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Richard 10 Jul 09 - 03:15 PM
Amos 10 Jul 09 - 03:29 PM
olddude 10 Jul 09 - 05:38 PM
eddie1 11 Jul 09 - 02:47 AM
GUEST,Peace 11 Jul 09 - 02:53 AM
GUEST 11 Jul 09 - 04:26 AM
Richard Bridge 11 Jul 09 - 04:57 AM
Will Fly 11 Jul 09 - 05:15 AM
catspaw49 11 Jul 09 - 08:26 AM
olddude 11 Jul 09 - 11:27 AM
Jack Campin 11 Jul 09 - 11:41 AM
Waddon Pete 11 Jul 09 - 11:44 AM
Jack Campin 11 Jul 09 - 11:47 AM
olddude 11 Jul 09 - 11:53 AM
Peace 11 Jul 09 - 01:48 PM
GUEST, Richard Bridge elsewhere 11 Jul 09 - 01:49 PM
Will Fly 11 Jul 09 - 02:22 PM
Murray MacLeod 11 Jul 09 - 03:58 PM
banjoman 12 Jul 09 - 07:12 AM
Melissa 13 Jul 09 - 01:53 AM
catspaw49 13 Jul 09 - 08:20 AM
catspaw49 13 Jul 09 - 08:28 AM
olddude 13 Jul 09 - 08:49 AM
M.Ted 13 Jul 09 - 10:26 AM
catspaw49 14 Jul 09 - 10:10 AM
Bernard 14 Jul 09 - 11:43 AM
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Subject: general question for guitar guru
From: olddude
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 01:47 PM

I haven't played my old Alvarez for awhile. It was sounding dull even with new strings. the last month I been playing it everyday. Now the ring is clear and sharp and it sound great again. A buddie told me that if a guitar isn't played for a bit it take a little while to get it back the way it was. Is that true, and if so why?   does it have something to do with the wood expanding and contracting during play ...

hmmmm a question for someone who knows a heck of a lot more than me


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 02:13 PM

.. reminded me of this kind of guitar wood/sonic experiment

http://www.acousticguitar.com/gear/advice/vibration.shtml


I can't remember how many years it is since I last discussed it with anybody ???

probably here ???


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Zen
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 02:26 PM

There's loads of discussion about this in relation to mandolins over at the Mandolin Cafe. Search "opening up" for example.

The general consensus amongst playersis that this is a common phenomenon, especially with a good quality instrument. Certainly the better instruments I've owned over nearly 50 years playing have shown this "waking up" characteristic. There are some scientific studies which were mentioned there on a recent thread but no major scientific conclusions. I originally trained as a wood scientist and could think of some reasons why this might happen but don't have any recent studies I can reference to back this up.

Zen


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 02:32 PM

Violinmakers say that eventually flat-top guitars "die" - the wood loses its elasticity and sound, whereas violins do not, because the wood is stressed differently.

I am not sure that I believe that guitars "die" in that sense.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 02:47 PM

solid top guitars undoubtedly sound better the less the relative humidity.

humidity apart, I have noticed that my D28-S always sounds better after about half an hour's playing. My theory, which could be total bollocks, is that the slight rise in soundboard temperature after being played for a while enables faster molecular reaction with consequent improvement in sound.

then again, I could just be imagining it ...


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: John P
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 02:55 PM

I work for a company that builds harps, and this phenomenon is even more noticeable with harps than with guitars. All solid wood instruments do this. Plywood instruments don't, or at least nowhere as much. It has something to do with the wood being put under tension and then vibrated. It's like it settles into a place that it likes more. Stop vibrating it and it gets lazy and loses tone. Start vibrating it again and it comes alive again. I'd love to know the science behind it. I often get asked about it by customers.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: olddude
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 03:04 PM

I thought it was just me. It is nice to know that this is a known issue for many ... for my Alvarez it was really quite noticeable after playing it for a while. It seemed to happen to my28 Martin after i had it in the case for years also. It now sings ...I though it was just me until I had it happen with the other guitar -crazy thing huh


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: GUEST,Richard
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 03:15 PM

With particular reference to Richard Bridge's point, I've heard (sorry, no idea where!) that flat-top guitars reach their peak in about 60 years, whereas carved arch-top instruments, presumably including mandolins and guitars, can take up to 300 years, thereby explaining the irreproducible qualities of Strads, Amatis etc. But they all sulk if you don't play them.
Richard


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Amos
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 03:29 PM

I've noticed this; I thought it was me warming up!


A


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: olddude
Date: 10 Jul 09 - 05:38 PM

Everyone should read that article punkfolkrocker suggested it is quite interesting ... who would have thunk it


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: eddie1
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 02:47 AM

If I can add my tuppensworth, two stories – one fact, the other maybe apochryphal.

Some 35 years ago, Martin Carthy (please excuse the name-dropping!) told me the story of his beautiful little Martin (guitar that is). He heard it was for sale in a shop in London, went in early on a Saturday morning and saw this poor thing with some broken, and some rusty, strings. He assured them he was genuinely interested and asked them to put on a new set of strings. Went off for a coffee and returned a bit later to try it – it sounded pretty dead when he played it. Five hours later, he was still playing it and the sound simply "grew". That was when he bought it. His explanation was that when a guitar is not played, the molecules in the wood get lazy and out of alignment. Regular and hard playing pushes them back into line. All these years later, the guitar sounds wonderful.

I have heard, from several sources that, in the good old days, Spanish luthiers would build a guitar to the final stage with the exception of the top. They would string it, tune it to an open chord and lay it on its back on the workbench. The next step was to cover the top with very fine sand and play the chord. The sand would form lines and where the lines were blurred was where they would gently sandpaper the wood until the lines were clear. Then they would finish the top. This seems to follow the old science lab experiment at school which involved laying a sheet of paper on top of a magnet then sprinkling iron filings on the paper. By tapping the paper, the filings would settle into what, if I remember correctly, were called "lines of force" – well, it was over 60 years ago!

Maybe this is relevant – maybe not.

Eddie


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: GUEST,Peace
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 02:53 AM

It happened big time when I took my old Martin from the case after about 25 years. Sounded like my first-ever guitar: a Stella. Hell, with the Stell--I painted it with white kitchen enamel. I think it was the enamel that gave it its 'tone'. The Martin took about two years to find its tone again, and now it is sweet, good bass, etc.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 04:26 AM

So, did you do the Martin white too?


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 04:57 AM

Hell, no, Peace is no racist!


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Will Fly
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 05:15 AM

I had an old (1964) Epiphone Texan for many years. Eventually, I got it refretted, played it back in - and it still sounded dull. In the end, I sold it, because the wood had just died and there was no brightness to it.

I bought a Larrivée OM guitar last year - and the booklet that comes with it states that it should last, with care, 100 years. Guitars - unlike violins, can die, whereas violins will last a very long time and their tonal qualities will often improve.

I bought a violin at Christmas, made in 1925 and rarely played - certainly not for the last 40 years or so. Since I've been playing it every day, the instrument is starting to sing, and I can now hear the vibrations in certain notes going all the way down my arm and down into my socks!


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: catspaw49
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 08:26 AM

We ran a thread many moons ago about breaking in a guitar which, like many Mudcat threads, is filled with some good info, some questionable "facts," and some generally fun bullshit........You just have to sort it out.....LOL

Breaking In A New Guitar


Spaw


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: olddude
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 11:27 AM

Ok,
here is another question, if most of the sound comes from the top, and an old guitar is pretty much dead sounding, does refinishing the guitar help, would that bring it back. Not that I am going to but was a wondering if I should paint my old martin white since my hero bruce does that to guitars LOL ...

seriously however, what effect does refinish have on a guitar?


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 11:41 AM

The next step was to cover the top with very fine sand and play the chord. The sand would form lines and where the lines were blurred was where they would gently sandpaper the wood until the lines were clear. Then they would finish the top. This seems to follow the old science lab experiment at school which involved laying a sheet of paper on top of a magnet then sprinkling iron filings on the paper. By tapping the paper, the filings would settle into what, if I remember correctly, were called "lines of force"

The vibrational patterns are called "Chladni figures" - the physics behind them is quite different from magnetic field lines.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 11:44 AM

What an interesting discussion. For my six pennyworth, I have my original 1st bought guitar, an old Barnes and Mullins, worth zip, as my second guitar. I left it alone in its case for longer than I care to remember. When I finally took it out, the bridge had parted company with the top. I had half a mind to chuck it in the recycled wood bin at our local tip, but was lucky enough to be put in touch with a local luthier. I was a little reluctant to take it to him as I thought that I would be sympathetically shown the door!" However, the luthier treated it with loving care and refurbished it for me with all sort of arcane luthier-like ceremonies. It sulked for a while and then came back into its own. Now it sounds better than when I bought it and , when I take it out as my second guitar, it gets complimented for the sound and tone!

So, if you want to refinish, refurbish, resurrect, I would say, "Yes, go for it!"

Best wishes,

Peter


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 11:47 AM

seriously however, what effect does refinish have on a guitar?

With ouds you can often improve the tone by scraping the soundboard down to bare wood. Turkish uds are usually sold with the soundboard bare.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: olddude
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 11:53 AM

Thanks Jack
what kind of bridge pins should I use on my old D-28 this last string change they look pretty whipped after 40 years. I went online, heck they make em now in bone, in brass, in plastic, in buffalo horn ... the list goes on an on. Anyone have a type they recommend. I even saw some in wood?


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Peace
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 01:48 PM

I recall someone--I just can't recall who that someone is--telling me that the 'majority' of the sound from a guitar is caused by the face, not the back or sides. That makes sense to me. The face resonates. The back can't really because it's often against your belly and the sides are too narrow to resonate much. I might be wrong, but I've been wrong before. If anyone has something definitive on this, please post it.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: GUEST, Richard Bridge elsewhere
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 01:49 PM

Bare wood is very vulnerable to moisture. I think Stew-Mac sell an oil that can be applied very thinly with a rag, to wood that has had its finish entirely removed. If my memory serves, it does not build a film so as to deaden, but does slightly dye and seal the wood.

I am subjectively clear that bridge pins affect the sound, and also the difference between the usual shaped ones and the ones that the ball comes out the back makes a subjective difference to me. Brass bridge pins have a nice bright resonance to my taste, but if your guitar is already bright they could be too much. If you want to take "zizz" off the sound, try ebony bridge pins.

If your inner bridge plate is sufffering, there is a guy who sells little brass plates to go inside, to the ball-ends do not rip into the wood inside anymore.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Will Fly
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 02:22 PM

My luthier friend tells me that Torres, the classical guitar maker, was of the opinion that the face was what gave the guitar most of its tone and volume. To prove his point, he made a guitar with the back and sides made from papier-maché - and it sounded not much different from one made with conventional wood. The papier-maché perished, of course, so it wouldn't have done as a matter of course.

Having said that, my luthier friend has also just finished a parlour guitar made from very high quality Brazilian rosewood (old stock), and it sounds superb!


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 11 Jul 09 - 03:58 PM

Bruce, undoubtedly the soundboard is the most important factor in the sound of a guitar, but the fact is that all the parts resonate.

Try putting your ear against the upper bout of your Martin while you play it and you will hear this.

I had my eyes opened regarding sound production when I reshaped the neck of my Lakewood dreadnought to suit my hand. The first stage of the process was to remove all the lacquer off of the neck with a cabinet scraper. I could not believe the improvement (totally unexpected ) in the sound which resulted from doing this. I left the neck unfinished after reshaping, and it continued to sound amazing right up to the day it died.

I am sorely tempted to do the same to my Martin, but so far have resisted temptation..


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: banjoman
Date: 12 Jul 09 - 07:12 AM

A really interesting thread thanks for all the info. It has made me think about the instruments I have owned. I bought a limited edition Ovation in 1982 with my redundancy money, and yes I know it has a "plastic" back. However the tone has gradually get better and better over the years and it now sounds really good despite a bit of crazing in the varnish on the wooden surface. I did once hear that the secret of the famous violin makers lay in their formulas for the varnish they applied rather than the wood or the construction but this could be an old wives (or luthiers) tale.
I am now hoping that the Lakewood I bought about 15 years or so ago will also get better with age although it sounds pretty good now.
Most of my banjos have velum skins which also vary a lot with weather conditions unlike the modern plastic ones which are designed to aleviate this problem - in my opinion to the detriment of the sound.
Thanks again for an interesting thread

Pete


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Melissa
Date: 13 Jul 09 - 01:53 AM

I think of the dead/revived sound as being sort of like priming a pump. You have to put water in to get water out and sometimes you need to play some music into a guitar to get music out.
I'm almost superstitious about it. I hand my guitar to all sorts of everybody..because it seems to me that they 'play music into it' which gives me more to draw from. Silly, but it works for me.

My guitar looks ratty. The finish is in pretty bad shape.
One interesting thing I've noticed is that it attracts people (I think it is curiosity and the possibility that since I'm a girl and not in the same age group as the folks I play with, I might be dumb enough to sell cheap..so I could buy a shiny guitar)
Old Timers say "don't you EVER refinish that!"
Others say "..looks like you need to get that thing refinished!"


The finish getting thinner (and chipping off in places) might or might not having something to do with the guitar's sound improving as it ages. I know I enjoy hearing it age and it feels like the music is easier to get than it used to be--and it also seems to be easier for other hands to pull it out than is was.

Isn't the theory about keeping your guitar by the tv/stereo (for the vibrations) supposed to be a trick to keep the 'dying' at bay?

I'm absolutely enchanted when somebody pulls an old guitar out from under the bed and I get to do a turn at priming..


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: catspaw49
Date: 13 Jul 09 - 08:20 AM

I hate to always harp on a subject, but there is a wealth of info in older threads. Some of it is pretty average but some of it is pure gold.......which is the way of most threads. Regarding bridge pins for instance.......Try this one.

Note too that there is a list at the top of that one with other related guitar question threads as well including this thread. Try some of them. And we've had threads and discussions about woods and finishes and soundboards and bridges and nuts and bracing and machine heads and glues and..............get my drift? Get all the new info you can but don't forget the wealth of material archived here that can be pulled up and refreshed.

And before anyone goes batshit over the importance of woods and finishes and soundboards and bridges and nuts and bracing and machine heads and glues and..............Look at THIS PICTURE and try not to worry too much about it.


Spaw


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: catspaw49
Date: 13 Jul 09 - 08:28 AM

BTW.......I think the tone of most ouds can be improved by submersion in salt water for a year then given thorough drying in the desert sun for say, oh, about a year or so as well......maybe two or three...............The instrument you have after that would be the perfect oud, unless of course it was still playable.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: olddude
Date: 13 Jul 09 - 08:49 AM

Good Point Spaw,
I don't know why I keep forgetting to check the old threads first .. dang .. brain not working anymore. Probably the effects of living through the 60's LOL

ahh whats and oud? never heard of it no kiddin


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Jul 09 - 10:26 AM

Spaw-For more than a thousand years, the master of the oud have developed a subtle and complex music that is second to no other--which is amazing when you consider that the instrument sounds like rubber bands stretched across a cigar box.


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: catspaw49
Date: 14 Jul 09 - 10:10 AM

LMAO.......I needed a great line this morning Ted......Well delivered! I am in your debt

Thanks!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: general question for guitar guru
From: Bernard
Date: 14 Jul 09 - 11:43 AM

Slightly different, but nonetheless interesting story...

I bought a cheap Yamaha f340 (entry-level) to take to singarounds and the like, so I wouldn't risk damaging my gigging instruments.

I decided to add an under-bridge transducer and electronics, thinking that it wouldn't matter much if the acoustic sound deteriorated, because it was pretty much dead to start with!

Anyway, I discovered that the amount of wood I needed to remove from the slot in the bridge to keep the bridge nut at the right height with the transducer underneath it meant that the transducer would actually sit on the belly of the instrument, and the result was a significant improvement in volume and tone...

I suppose the explanation is that it came from the factory with a slight air gap under the bridge?

Whatever the explanation, I was happy with the outcome!! I've heard so many tales of woe where people haven't managed to get an under-bridge transducer to work properly, but I got lucky!


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