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  #46  
Old 06-27-2009, 07:50 PM
dawhealer dawhealer is offline
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Originally Posted by brian a. View Post
If we had forty (50, 60 or 70) years, we could do a controlled test of several guitars (and/or any thing else) by recording them in a controlled environment. Then each year record them again using the exact same parameters - same strings, same room, same mics, same recording format etc etc. We could measure volume and forces required to attain a certain volume. Measure sustain, etc etc. After forty years we could listen to and examine the data for the forty different recordings to see if in fact the guitars sound/tone changed. Then we would know from a factual basis not a presumed basis.
Today is the 50th anniversary of me getting my first real wood guitar. PLYwood, but at least it was some kind of wood. I don't have that one any more. It was a horrible guitar, but a start. The oldest guitar that I currently have is an all lammie Alvarez that's a J-200 copy. I liked the way it sounded when I bought it new in '73 and I still like it. I was looking for a loud guitar that would make a good workhorse and I couldn't afford solid wood at the time. I DID finally get around to replacing the saddle with a bone saddle a few months ago and that "perked" it up a bit. It's a nice guitar. I've gigged a bunch with it and it's been a good friend. Being all lammie it's also been very consistent and forgiving.

I think some of my all solid wood guitars have "opened up" over the years, but that COULD just be me. I've bought a couple of all solid wood used dreads within the last year. They're both fairly new and one has clearly been played more than the other. Both are the same maker and model, just a year apart in age. The older one that has been played more is throatier and has a much more pronounced "presence" than the newer one. I'm waiting to see if the newer one "catches up" but I'm not holding my breath. Doesn't matter if it does, as I like the way they both sound, but I DO end up playing the older, throatier one more.

I've never bought a guitar on the speculation that it will sound better as it ages. If it sounds good now, it's probably going to sound good in forty or so years. If it sounds great now, same applies. I've never had a guitar so "sour" on me, but I HAVE become jaded and sold a couple.

Just my two bits.

Good thread, btw.
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  #47  
Old 06-27-2009, 08:01 PM
jeremy3220 jeremy3220 is offline
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Originally Posted by Jeff M View Post
There are as many "vintage" duds out there as there are nice ones.
I don't have any idea what the ratio is but I agree there are definitely some vintage duds out there. One of the worst guitars I've ever heard was a 60's Gibson.
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  #48  
Old 06-27-2009, 08:12 PM
handers handers is offline
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Ultimately this issue of opening is real a trivial matter. Either a guitar is good or not at the time you play it.

But this neurosciences memory thing begs the question about the vintage guitar and how great older guitars sound.... when I play them for the first time 30-50 years after they are built. Do we think they always sounded that way?

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  #49  
Old 06-27-2009, 10:43 PM
JTFoote JTFoote is offline
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Originally Posted by Jeff M View Post
I'll say SOME older guitars.
There are as many "vintage" duds out there as there are nice ones.
Just as there are many great new guitars, and many duds.

How many of those great ones changed to become that, and how many started out that way?
And how many duds "aged" into becoming such?
I'm in absolute agreement. Age is not a guarantee that a guitar isn't a dud. I think a dub is a dub is a dub, whether right from the beginning, or 70 years later. Note that I said well-made guitars, implying that with all else being equal, the instrument has to be a good one from the first day it's strung up. No instrument can realize its potential if hampered by shoddy construction, for example, regardless of how expensive, how old, collectibility, etc.

In other words, I think all the great ones started out as exceptional instruments. And the duds? Well, they may have gotten a little better as time went by, but I can't imagine how any guitar that started out badly could possibly be anything other than a dud.

Two quick examples that stick out in my mind ...

Back in the late 80's, my family bought me a gift; a 1972 Gibson Country-Western. None of them really knew anything about guitars, but they were good-intentioned. My great uncle had kept it under his bed for most of the preceding 10 years, so it was around 15 years old at the time. It was mint, and it was an attractive guitar. I was amazed at their generosity, and very pleased. I had always wanted a Gibson, 'cause my deceased father, a jazz player, had always favored them.

Unfortunately, it was also deader than an old stump. I didn't know at the time about the changes Gibson had implemented in '69 when Norlin took over. All I knew was, that guitar was about one step away from firewood. I held onto it for a while, since it was a gift, (and I felt guilty for not liking it) but eventually gave it away to a friend who really wanted it, despite my warnings.

Had that guitar opened up? Had age matured the tone? Was it a dud that might one day become a great one?

Uh, no. Not in my opinion.

I wish I had it now, so I could re-sell it. But the buyer's market was different then, and there was no Internet. It would have been hard to hold onto that hunk of junk for 22 years, even if I had had some kind of collector's prescience.

Second example:

It was 1991, and I wanted a good Martin in the worst way. I played every one I could get my hands on. Finally, I settled on a brand-new D-45. It was absolutely beautiful, and everyone I knew had told me that a top end Martin was the end of the road, if you wanted the best.

I took that guitar home, and played it on a three day test drive. I "knew" that it didn't get any better than this ... intellectually, anyway. But my ears kept telling me a different story. I just didn't care for the sound. I wanted to like it, very badly I might note, but something seemed to be missing, even though I was too inexperienced to put my finger on what was wrong. At the end of the three days, I sadly brought the guitar back.

The salesman studied me after I hung the guitar back on the wall, and then took me back in the back, and pulled out two Guild guitars, one jumbo, and one mini-jumbo. I told him I had never heard of Guild, but he just smiled, and told me to try them out. I thought the jumbo was a little too bass-heavy, but the mini-jumbo grabbed me like no guitar ever had, probably not until this year.

Was the D-45 a dud? IMHO, yes. Did it perhaps improve over time? I hope so, for the sake of the person who finally bought it ... but I doubt it suddenly made a transition from so-so to amazing. But the guitar I selected, based on my ear, turned out to be a pre-CBS Gruhn-designed GF-55, and it is still one of the finest guitars I've ever had the chance to play. Did it open up? Yes, but not all at once. There's no doubt it improved ... over time the projection and resonance increased, the over-all tonal balance became even better; the whole instrument became more musical.

My little brother has it now, and plays it regularly. He thinks it is the sweetest, most-balanced guitar he's ever heard. I agree with him, but I also think the guitar probably reached the limit of its' potential after about 10-12 years. After that, I never again heard any defining change.

Will it be considered a great one, someday? Your guess is as good as mine. Probably not, but at least it's a good one.

Right now I'm playing a Collings that is developing at a rapid pace. I play all my guitars, but this one is something special ... I can feel it. Week by week, I hear improvement; increased volume, resonance, warmer trebles, clearer-more defined bass. I would call this process opening up, for lack of a better turn of phrase.

Personal conclusion: Some guitars never open up. Some do it very gradually. Some open up faster, and level off ... that's all you'll ever get, whether that's just an acceptable tone, or even one that is very,very good. (The latter would be my Guild) A few, a very few, start out great. Some of those can develop at astonishing rates. And an even smaller amount of those might eventually become the ultimate testament to a builder's skill and craftsmanship. Much like the 1910 Martin 000-28 I had the privilege to play a couple of weeks ago. THAT guitar could make a grown man cry. I don't know if it can possibly get any better, but I've learned to never say never. For a truly great one, who knows where it could eventually end up. If I had 40 grand, maybe I'd find out.

Finally, it's not about being vintage. I kinda consider any guitar made before 1969 as being vintage, just to have a starting point for the definition. Again, it's about potential, and the myriad of particular elements that must come together before you can say a guitar is great.

Again, IMHO, for what it's worth.

... JT
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  #50  
Old 07-03-2009, 09:43 AM
Magnumb Magnumb is offline
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I have the proof:
Aging
"How about this? You buy a new TV and it's great but it keeps getting better the more you watch it! Okay, that's not likely to happen with your TV but it will happen with your solid top guitar. A solid top vibrates much more freely than a laminated (plywood) top. This results in richer tone, better dynamic range and better balance of tone. Not only does a solid top sound better initially, over time the vibrations from playing the guitar result in the top vibrating more and more freely. This phenomenon is called 'aging' which means that the more the guitar is played, the better the guitar will sound. It is important to remember in order for a guitar to age it must be played. A guitar left in its case for 5 years will get older, but it will not 'age'."

This was lifted off Seagull's own website. They wouldn't lie... would they?
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  #51  
Old 07-03-2009, 09:56 AM
SongwriterFan SongwriterFan is offline
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This was lifted off Seagull's own website. They wouldn't lie... would they?
It's called marketing.
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  #52  
Old 07-03-2009, 12:47 PM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Originally Posted by Magnumb View Post
I have the proof:
Aging
"How about this? You buy a new TV and it's great but it keeps getting better the more you watch it! Okay, that's not likely to happen with your TV but it will happen with your solid top guitar. A solid top vibrates much more freely than a laminated (plywood) top. This results in richer tone, better dynamic range and better balance of tone. Not only does a solid top sound better initially, over time the vibrations from playing the guitar result in the top vibrating more and more freely. This phenomenon is called 'aging' which means that the more the guitar is played, the better the guitar will sound. It is important to remember in order for a guitar to age it must be played. A guitar left in its case for 5 years will get older, but it will not 'age'."

This was lifted off Seagull's own website. They wouldn't lie... would they?
Quote:
Originally Posted by SongwriterFan View Post
It's called marketing.
I rest my case.
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  #53  
Old 07-03-2009, 11:34 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Originally Posted by jmagill View Post
I knew there was a very real possibility this thread would devolve into yet another tedious debate about 'opening up,' which was not my intent, so to try to direct it back toward the point I was trying to make, let me clarify. ..... My goal was to try to add a cautionary note to the tendency of some to promote without question their subjective experience as objective truth, and to encourage them with good reasons to, in fact, question that subjective experience....
Jim,

Thanks for the post. It's interesting to see what happened to this thread in spite of your opening post. In fairness, I do think there are a fair number of people here who try to be careful about how they express their opinions. But the fact that so many people went on to discuss the "opening up" issue shows what a magnet for discussion this is.

Regards, Glenn
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  #54  
Old 07-04-2009, 06:05 AM
Hambone Hambone is offline
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Playing my guitars becomes a daily "experiment" in tone. Different strings, pick, attack, humidity, etc all influence the results of my experiments.

Over time I conduct certain tonal experiments that have controls on them. For instance, right now I have a 2 year old D18A and a 3 month old D28MM that I'm comparing daily. They have the same flavor of strings, changed at the same time, get about the same amount of play.

I've been doing this to see how the new guitar changes over time in comparison to the 2 year old.

There have been significant changes since the D28MM came out of the box. (It was a factory order and other than the store's luthier giviing it a quick once over to check the action, etc. I was the first person to play it.)

If I "hear something identifiably different" as part of my daily "experiments" in tone, that to me is a first hand experience and therefore becomes something I know to be true.

If I know it to be true, it becomes a "fact" in my mind. Other's may dispute my claim, other's may not be able to discern what I hear, but it does not alter my reality. Therefore, I feel quite comfortable describing my experience and making the claim that what I hear is, in fact, a fact.

Without getting political, we can look at the ongoing debate over AGW. There are scientists and politicians on both sides of the debate convinced of the "rightness" of their conclusions. Both sides can't be right, but they are entitled to put forth what their conclusions and beliefs are for all to hear.

As I often say, I have friends who can't tell the difference between a $5 bottle of "Merlot" and a $100 bottle of Opus One. That doesn't mean I can't write a review that extoles the virtues of the top end Cab, while dismissing the cheap generic. It's my taste, and frankly I don't care about anyone else's taste. If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fecking Merlot!

Believe what you want, but to tell someone that they shouldn't believe what they believe, and defend those beliefs, strikes me as arrogant and dismissive.

Last edited by Hambone; 07-04-2009 at 06:13 AM.
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  #55  
Old 07-04-2009, 06:45 AM
runamuck runamuck is offline
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Believe what you want, but to tell someone that they shouldn't believe what they believe, and defend those beliefs, strikes me as arrogant and dismissive.
I have respect for opinions that are backed by evidence. Some people seem to think that an opinion or belief that is supported by another opinion is enough.

I don't.

Jim McCarthy
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  #56  
Old 07-04-2009, 07:14 AM
HHP HHP is offline
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The opening up phenomena is more like a religion than a science. If you believe, the sonic benefits that are experienced are proportionate to the strength of the belief.

My own doubts are not centered on whether or not it happens but on the ability to objectively recognize it. Guitar sound is a sensory memory that is very short lived and does not translate well into long term memory due to the way we are wired up.

The doubts are enhanced by the myriad of explanations of what actually happens on a physical level to cause the effect. Advocates of the open up process have dozens of contradictory explanations of its cause and generally concede to happens over different periods of time, with different effects, and may not happen on some guitars. They do agree it takes a significant period of time to occur but tend to dismiss the possibility that the player got better or more familiar with the instrument over that time period.

I put it at 50/50 in terms of happening and zero concern about it since it affects me in no way. I will play the same guitars, the same way, for the same period of time regardless.
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  #57  
Old 07-04-2009, 08:28 AM
ewalling ewalling is offline
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Originally Posted by Glennwillow View Post
Jim,

Thanks for the post. It's interesting to see what happened to this thread in spite of your opening post. In fairness, I do think there are a fair number of people here who try to be careful about how they express their opinions. But the fact that so many people went on to discuss the "opening up" issue shows what a magnet for discussion this is.

Regards, Glenn
I think the problem was that Magill's original post was so convoluted and confused that it was little surprise people began to discuss opening up. I've reread it and it still looks as though this is his main idea, although there are some references to brain activity over time that are more general. My feeling is that if you want a more focused response, take care to express yourself with sufficient clarity and conciseness.
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  #58  
Old 07-04-2009, 08:34 AM
SongwriterFan SongwriterFan is offline
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My own doubts are not centered on whether or not it happens but on the ability to objectively recognize it.
I think that sums up my view, as well.
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  #59  
Old 07-04-2009, 08:47 AM
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ljguitar ljguitar is offline
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Originally Posted by HHP View Post
...Guitar sound is a sensory memory that is very short lived and does not translate well into long term memory due to the way we are wired up.
Hi HHP...
Perhaps so for you, and not for others.

My wife can be walking through a store and see a pair of earrings and tell me they will perfectly match a specific color in a blouse that is at home, and buy them. Sure enough - she's spot on every time - and we are not talking only basic colors...she remembers subtle shades of color.

After nearly 40 years of marriage to her, I've grown to believe in her ability to remember color...I don't have it, but recognize and acknowledge it in her. My inability to do this does not invalidate her capability.

I remember sounds, resonance, tone and response of acoustic instruments I've played - usually after only playing them once. When I bring them to mind, I can remember them as though I'm still playing them. I can recall the tension of the strings in my plucking hand, and the action it was set at, and probably what weight and type (coated or non-coated) were on it, and whether they were fresh, partially used or dead). I don't try to do this, it just happens when I play. It's more an involuntary thing that I can resurrect at will.

I can also hear any singer I want singing any song in my head, to any accompaniment, and in any style I choose any time I want to. Handy when it comes to arranging...I didn't know for years all musicians could not do that. Found I had to be careful describing it so people didn't classify me as delusional.

I think it's entirely possible one person can/does hear instruments opening up and another doesn't.
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  #60  
Old 07-04-2009, 09:02 AM
SongwriterFan SongwriterFan is offline
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Perhaps so for you, and not for others.

My wife can be walking through a store and see a pair of earrings and tell me they will perfectly match a specific color in a blouse that is at home, and buy them. Sure enough - she's spot on every time . . .

I remember sounds, resonance, tone and response of acoustic instruments I've played - usually after only playing them once.

The difference is, your wife has a way of proving it.

Proving that one can remember exactly how a guitar sounded 1, 5, 10, 20, etc years ago is a bit more difficult to accomplish.
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