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#1332756 - 12/14/00 01:22 PM Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
Anonymous
Unregistered


I've heard that phrase ever since I first became interest in guitar playing. I've always believed there to be truth in the saying.

Well I guess I've been around long enough to really say that I have experienced the truth.

My brother in law and probably my longest good friend and oldest musical acquaintance has a mid 70's telecaster that he's had some 22 years that I've absolutely hated through the years. I had the opportunity many times to use it and didn't like a damn thing about it.

Anyways to be short, yesterday on the way back from a run I had to make I stopped in with my guitar so that he could show me a couple of songs he's written and wants to record.

That telly sounded kind of good and I was curious so we traded axes and I'll be dammned the thing (6 years since I last touched it) changed from sour cider to honey!!

Anyone had the same experience?

------------------
William F. Turner
Guitarist, Composer, Songwriter

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#1332757 - 12/14/00 03:11 PM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
Lisa Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/16/00
Posts: 235
Loc: New York,NY,UNITED STATES
I've found that the more a guitar is played and the more the wood vibrates, the better it usually sounds. I've especially found this true of acoustic guitars. Electric guitars seem to take longer to open up, but the more an acoustic is played - even just over a few days of serious playing - it can definitely start to sound noticeably better.

There is a company that did some experimentation with the sound quality of wood by actually putting guitars on a machine that shakes them to vibrate the wood. At the moment, the name of the company has escaped from my brain.... I know that Joe Perry had a guitar that went through this process and both he and his tech claim that it made a big difference in the guitar's inherent qualities. I bought a Les Paul Junior which had gone through that process, but it was done before I acquired it, so I never had the opportunity to hear it beforehand. My guitar sounds great in its current state. I've done some experimentation on my own, with acoustics that seem to sound a bit stiff.
To loosen them up, what I've done is to play them as much as possible and when I wasn't able to be playing them, then I'd put them in front of loud speaker or a bass drum. The guitars were played and recorded before and after, and it seemed that the process of vibrating the wood did make a difference in the way the guitars sounded. Over all, it seemed to be a speedier way to do the same thing that happens to a guitar over time.

Guys and girls reading this, especially those of you who work in studios - Try some experimenting of your own and let us know what you discover with your own guitars.

Lisa

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#1332758 - 12/15/00 07:07 PM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
michael saulnier Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 12/06/00
Posts: 4070
Loc: San Diego,CA,UNITED STATES
Lisa,

That's an interesting theory I hadn't heard before. I'll have to take one of my guitars down to my local Home Depot for a few hour ride on a paint shaker...

I had always thought the "vintage" sound came more from the weakening of the magnets in the pickups... the whole Duncan Antiquities thing. Do you think this is a factor as well?

I also am curious about the logic behind the current desire for vintage gear.

Most of my guitar heroes from the 60's and 70's relied on fairly new gear of the day.

As far as I know, Hendrix didn't have a 50's era "#1" like SRV, and tended to buy, sell, hock, and play a variety of guitars from his day. The only time many of these guys played older guitars was when they couldn't afford a new one... and they had to pickup a cheaper older one from the local pawn shop, (no vintage market back then made the older ones less expensive).

It seems to me that if you wanted to have the same "guitar sound" today, that Hendrix had then, you wouldn't want a '68 strat since it would have "aged" wood and pickups, and wouldn't have the same sound he got then... right?

Anyway, I'm not against vintage gear, or collectors. I'm also not saying the older stuff doesn't sound good... I'm just saying if you believe time and playing changes the sound, and you're buying it so you can have the same guitar tools as your 60's hero, you're chasing the wrong toys.

guitplayer
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#1332759 - 12/15/00 07:48 PM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
Lee Flier Offline
10k Club

Registered: 09/13/00
Posts: 15398
Loc: Atlanta,GA,UNITED STATES
guitplayer, I'd say it's both: aging is a factor in the improvement of a guitar, but so is the way it's made and the wood and other materials used, which have changed over the years.

Just as an example, you may have read a post about a friend of mine who had a '54 Les Paul which he had bought new in '54 and was now well broken in as he'd been playing it all those years. It was the best guitar I've ever played. Then it was stolen (he did get it back, in case you didn't see the story and are depressed ), and he got another '54 Paul, which was only 600 serial numbers off from the previous one, but which had been basically sitting in a closet for 30 years and had hardly been played.

The guitar he'd had previously beat the pants off the "new" one hands down. No question. However, the "new" '54 Paul STILL beat the pants off any currently made Paul, or at the very least, still sounds and plays like a '54 Paul which you may or may not prefer to the sound of a new one, but you can certainly tell the difference. I had for several years a well-broken-in '70's Les Paul which was a nice guitar, but does not compare to my '52 at all.

So yes, aging helps, but there's more to the "vintage" label than that.

--Lee
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#1332760 - 12/16/00 04:33 AM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
tonemonkey@yahoo.com Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 10/21/00
Posts: 73
Loc: ,CA,UNITED STATES
Caveat: Strictly my .02, your mileage may vary.

Yes, electrics do get better with age. Especially if they have a nitrocellulose finish (moisture continues to escape from the wood, albeit very slowly... it takes years). Even better is leaving them out of the case - hang them on a wall.

The first relics were rumored to gone thru a "shake and bake" process. Whether they did or not, Brian Gerhard of Top Hat amps built a partscaster last year with a body that he would alternately freeze then set in the rear window of his car during the California summer in an effort to drive the moisture out. Crazy? Maybe, it sounds very good.

IMHO, moisture in wood makes it take on the properties of a sponge - not very musical. Modern poly finishes tend to trap any residual moisture in the wood. So unless you are absolutely confident that the luthier knows how and when to dry his wood out thoroughly, you're better off with nitro.

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#1332761 - 12/17/00 12:52 AM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
Lisa Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 11/16/00
Posts: 235
Loc: New York,NY,UNITED STATES
One thing I should add is that not every guitar will change or sound better with age. As mentioned above by Guitplayer, on an electric guitar, the pickups may change with age and that can affect the way a guitar sounds. The wood used, type of construction, glue, electronics and hardware all can change and affect tone. As Lee mentioned in his story about the '54 Les Paul, sometimes you will find that a guitar may sound better after time. But, as a wise man once told me - you can't always polish turd! A really awful-sounding guitar may always stay that way, so don't expect miracles.

Lisa

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#1332762 - 12/17/00 11:34 AM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
Anonymous
Unregistered


Some interesting concepts here... think I'll pass on giving mine a ride on the paint shaker. I'm in no hurry

------------------
William F. Turner
Guitarist, Composer, Songwriter

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#1332763 - 12/18/00 02:01 AM Re: Guitars: Grow sweeter with age?
michael saulnier Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 12/06/00
Posts: 4070
Loc: San Diego,CA,UNITED STATES
One of the posts suggested keeping your guitar out of the case to help "age" it...

I've heard different ideas about this. Most manufacturers suggest keeping them in the case, right?

You've got 50 or so guitars Lisa, are they on stands everywhere in your house? Or is there a case farm somewhere that holds all your gems?

Also, Lisa suggested that guitars can improve with playing... do you all try to find time to play all of your guitars once in a while... or are there a select few that get most of your time and attention?

I typically have about 5 to 8 out at any one time in my studio area depending on the project I'm working on, space availability, and my mood. But I actually like to bring out one of the "old friends" I haven't played for a while and rediscover the vibe in that guitar.

It's kinda like forgotten love.

guitplayer
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Check out my music if you like...

http://www.michaelsaulnier.com

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