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Old 05-29-2019, 02:20 PM
silvereagle48 silvereagle48 is offline
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Default Parts of the whole

Was just sitting here thinking about guitars and wondering what this learned group of aficionados believes the various parts of the instrument contribute to the whole tonal experience. In other words, what percentage do you think the top, back, sides, bridge et al contribute to the perceived tone?
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:34 PM
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fazool fazool is offline
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my unofficial estimate would be this:

65% builder/luthier methods, techniques and skill
25% shape/size
5% top wood choice
2% string choice
1% body wood choice
1% everything else combined (neck, bridge, scale, tuners, saddle, nut, binding, glue, pickguard,etc.)
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:35 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Builder* = 80%
Soundboard = 10%
B&S = 5%
Strings = 3%
Finish = 1%
Everything else = 1%

*includes bracing and voicing, as well as body shape/size
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:59 PM
Goodallboy Goodallboy is offline
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Builder 95%...……..Where the focus usually isn't, but should be.
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Old 05-29-2019, 03:30 PM
L20A L20A is offline
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It will be very hard to include the builder in the equation.
Sense the builder was not part of the OP's question, I will leave that out.

Top wool 50%
B and S 20%
Bracing 10%
Neck/Fret Board and Bridge 10%
All other parts 10%
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Old 05-29-2019, 04:41 PM
mcduffnw mcduffnw is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fazool View Post
my unofficial estimate would be this:

65% builder/luthier methods, techniques and skill
25% shape/size
5% top wood choice
2% string choice
1% body wood choice
1% everything else combined (neck, bridge, scale, tuners, saddle, nut, binding, glue, pickguard,etc.)

I pretty much agree with fazool with slight adjustments:

50% Builder = Factory, Boutique, or Solo Luthier and their caliber of skill
25% Shape, Size, Dimensions of the Soundbox...Top, Sides, Back & Bracing
15% Top Wood Choice...As John Greven says..."The top IS the voice"
7% Back/Side Wood Choice
2% String Choice
1% Everything Else Combined (Neck, Bridge, Scale, Tuners, Saddle, Nut)

The real crux of the whole matter is the "Soundbox" and how all the parts and pieces and size and shape dimensions go together and work as a symbiotic/cohesive unit. This is where the builders skill comes to bear, both in choosing good quality materials, and them working them properly.

Here is what my best friend...Luthier John Greven says...paraphrased very accurately by me...he of 57 years building experience and 2,376 acoustic guitars made to date:

You use all of your skill, your knowledge, your intuition, your past experience, your tools, and your building style/process, to do the very best work you can...but...at the end of the day...you are basically making very educated guesses about what will work with what and how...and you hope when you are finished that you guessed right and get lucky and it turns out like you wanted it to"

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Old 05-29-2019, 04:54 PM
Russ C Russ C is offline
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Since we don't get to hear the builder but we do hear the top, back and sides I'd acknowledge the luthier's skill and start with the soundboard - the loudest part of a guitar by far.
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Old 05-29-2019, 05:18 PM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russ C View Post
Since we don't get to hear the builder
How so?
Surely when a Martin sounds like a Martin and a Somogyi like a Somogyi it is precisely because we are hearing the builder? Isn't that more than "acknowledg[ing] the luthier's skill" in that we can hear a distinct timbral signature (or at least a timbral school in the sense that many luthiers build in a more traditional vein while others are known for their modern voicings)?

Before materials are ever involved the luthier/manufacturer has already shaped the final result because of the structural choices made: e.g. the design (shape/size) of the box; the radius of the top and back; the bracing pattern; the locations of the bridge, the soundhole, the waist; the choice of doubled sides or not; an active back or not; etc. How the materials are then worked with is further shaped by the builder, of course, but I agree that one cannot so easily separate the elements at that point--the fundamental structure of the instrument, though, is entirely the builder's voice.
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Old 05-29-2019, 05:26 PM
Russ C Russ C is offline
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Hi Erithon, it's just that the op asked about about how various parts of a guitar contribute to its tone.
No arguement from me that the skill of a builder contributes hugely to the quality of the instrument but that's not how I read the question.
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Old 05-29-2019, 09:14 PM
Mark L Mark L is offline
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Hi OP.

Clearly, to me anyway, the player, and his/her picking hand technique and equipment, is the predominant contributor to tone.

But, that’s not what you asked, OP.

So, it’s some combination of materials, methods, and geometry of the soundbox.

Other than that, I need the specific instrument(s) in my hand. There are so many variables, which interact in a lot of ways. Neck mass, for example. Scale length, and bridge position. And set up of the specific instrument.

While you’re at it, sneak in a decent carbon fiber guitar in a well constructed blind test, and let me know what you think you’re hearing.

Or, you could just say body geometry including bracing, top, and back, set up, strings, and then everything else.
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Old 05-30-2019, 06:03 AM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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I think the answer would depend on what type of sound is desired. No offense but the question seems a little broad.
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Old 05-30-2019, 08:52 AM
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Erithon Erithon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russ C View Post
Hi Erithon, it's just that the op asked about about how various parts of a guitar contribute to its tone.
No arguement from me that the skill of a builder contributes hugely to the quality of the instrument but that's not how I read the question.
Ah, gotcha. I now see how you are understanding the OP's question. Thanks for clarifying.
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Old 05-30-2019, 09:01 AM
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Top = a lot.
Other parts = some.
Strings = a pretty good amount.
Bridge pins = not much at all.
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Old 05-30-2019, 10:09 AM
merlin666 merlin666 is offline
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Player - 90%, 10% for the guitar inherent specs (including strings).
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Old 05-30-2019, 04:12 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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Mark Blanchard says that; "The sound is in the top", and it's hard to argue with that. It's the only part that can produce much sound that is also directly driven by the strings: everything else 'steals' it's energy from the top, and generally doesn't work as well to turn that energy into sound. So, the bridge and pins, and the bracing, which work as parts of the top, may have more effect than the sides or the back, and so on.

The trick is to get all of the other parts to work with the top, rather than against it. This is where good design, and the skill of the maker, factor in. It's distressingly easy to make a bad guitar from good wood by getting something 'wrong'. And note that what's 'right' for one top may be 'wrong' for another of the same species that looks similar.

A lot of that is taken care of in the designs, of course. The traditional designs have been worked out by trial and error over centuries to produce at least reasonable tone reliably. That's why factories can make large numbers of guitars 'by the numbers' and end up with most of them sounding pretty good.

There's a law of diminishing return. As a rule of thumb, you can get halfway from where you are to 'perfect' by simply doubling the effort. If a good design, well made of decent wood, takes 50 hours to make in a factory (I'm pulling a number out of the air), and is, say, 80% 'perfect' (whatever that is), then with 100 hours of work at the same level you'd get to 90%, 200 hours would take you to 95%, and so on. Increased skill and understanding can substitute for hours to some extent, but then, you're also substituting 'workmanship of risk' for 'workmanship of certainty', which goes slower in general. Shaving braces by hand to the 'best' profile for that top takes more time than cutting them all the same with a CNC or shaper.

At some point you get to the level where the differences are small and hard to hear, but that doesn't mean they're not important, at least to the folks who can hear them. In any highly evolved system the difference between the best and the second best is tiny, in objective terms, but important to survival. If a cheetah can run 100 yards at 75 MPH, the survival value of an extra couple of yards or MPH might be very high if the cost is not to great: it won't do much good if the animal is so tired out that it can't defend it's kill from the first hyena that comes by. All the cheetahs that can't meet the 'standard' for whatever reason are out competed by the ones that can, and don't pass their traits on.

Which is why I'd have to amend Mark's saying by adding:"all else equal". For a given maker the sound is in the top, in the sense that they will know how to get the sound they want from any decent top. They may well be able to make a 'great' instrument from a top that another maker, or a manufacturer, would (rightly) see as a 'reject' in their hands. It's easier to make nice instruments from good wood, of course, whether you're a factory or an individual. Of course, what's acoustically 'good' may not be cosmetically wonderful. That's a whole other topic, though.
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