Guitar Age and Guitar Tone

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by mmasters, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. mmasters

    mmasters Senior Member

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    I was wondering the relationship between the age of a guitar and a guitar's tone. Can they change that drastically in sound over time say 20, 30 or even 10 years. I haven't really done much research but do notice a different and pleasant vibe with the vintage instruments. Can anybody around here accurately compare a 50s or 60s strat or les paul's sound from back in the day to what they sound like today? Are there some woods that sound significantly better the older and dryer they get, some much less so? Does the finish have a lot to do with the wood's ability to dry? Is there a specific breaking in period with electric guitars? i.e. over 20 years of aging and playing does it happen more in the first 10 years or the latter 10 years? Does the wood fully or mostly dry out after a certain period of time, say 20 years? Wondered about this from time to time and can tell there's something to it but haven't done much in the way of research or fact finding. I'm sure there's a number of factors in all this so generalizations may not be possible.
     
  2. Polynitro

    Polynitro Member

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    Listen to old recordings of The Shadows, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck etc and all thier guitars sound great brand new or maybe 10 years old at the most...Jeff Becks '54 Esquire sounds great in '66 for example which leads me to believe it sounded great in '54 as well...vintage Fenders didn't even exist untill 1970.
     
  3. Red Barchetta

    Red Barchetta Member

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    I agree that if a guitar is a great one, it will sound great new, not-so-new, or old....but I do notice "better" i.e. "different" quality of tone with guitars whos wood is older, probably drier....but its most noticable to me with acoustics or semi-hollows. I think its kinda the same as with old violins, as I am oft to hear from violinists (on tv.)

    RB
     
  4. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    Not a scientific observation by any means, but I do hear differences in my '61 strat. Got it in '75. Same basic sound then and now, but I hear somewhat more resonance, more depth in various tones. Why is anyone's guess. Could be me that has changed, not the guitar. Or it could simply be that I've learned a little more about how to use it.
     
  5. MartinC

    MartinC Member

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    Don't know about electrics ... I have an Ibanez Artist built in 1980 (I know this isn't really most people's idea of a vintage guitar, but jap-built Ibanez's from this era were really high quality instruments) and I don't believe it sounds any different now to when I first got it.

    My Maton acoustic ... different story. It's about 9 years old now and it just keeps getting nicer sounding. I have NO acoustic G.A.S. as a result.
     
  6. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    While I have played dog vintage Strats, for the most part (to my ears) vintage Strats tend to have a solid depth of tone that I have yet to experience in any modern counterpart. Is it the wood, its age, the pickups, sum of the parts, all of the above, none of the above?...I don't know, but my ears definitely hear it ;).
     
  7. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

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    Hard to get guitar tone on a CD, its limited frequency range does not reproduce guitars well, the vinyl records did get the tone a lot better, just sucked on the the bass.

    I think the reason the LP failed intially was there was not an amp that it sounded good with, and the tone was not that great, when the LPs get to be 10 years or older they really start sounding great, a 20 or 30 year old LP is incredible. Strats also improve with age I have noticed.
     
  8. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Yeah but the wood (tree) could've still been quite old, though the guitar was new, and maybe air dried for many years, instead of kiln dried.
     
  9. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    I think the speed with which wood is grown and environmental conditions during its growth plays/played a huge part in how things sound(ed).

    I tend to like old guitars, I know that much.
     
  10. DBBlues

    DBBlues Formerly fullertone Silver Supporting Member

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  11. DonM

    DonM Member

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    What I find funny is the "lack Of Knowledge" over all these years - as magazines and enthusiasts and all the experts in the field.. all FAILED to really consider just how darn important the old hand wound pickups played into all this -

    I blamed this on the spamming of the market with so called "VINTAGE" units re-issues and on & on

    only a few real talented hand winders to this day can finish the task or recreating those old instruments -

    what we found out was getting old pickups or a talented hand winder was the first task at hand! next was getting the grain right and knowing the woods and the resonance -- how a good neck mates with the perfect body -

    we found that on the body we liked the grain to be 1/8" apart not closer the 1?8" this is viewed at the edges where the strap pin goes - remeber when you saw a tree in half you can count its age by the rings -- that the ones "the Rings" you do not want those closer the 1/8" inch - and you want as many at 1/8" as you can find and it can spread out in some ares to 3/4" -- meaning the tree was getting more water that year.

    Weight on a Tele or Strats bare body should be 4 pounds or less --be carefull on the extra lightweights that they are not a sound adsorbing sponge !!! those will not resonate - they just soak up sound..

    with the neck;
    we found tight grain and partially quarter sawn is best but not fully quarter sawn - because those sometimes are so strong that you can't get them to relief at all. so we like less then a true quarter sawn -- get the grain tight - less water the better - you want the neck ROCK_HARD and its job is to send all the sound right back down into the body -- at it does work!

    I still buy old real vintage pickups on ebay all the time as well as recreate the Fenders here- with the Rosie/Josie 50's wind pattern --that pattern I have proof contributed greatly to those killer -rare - better sounding instruments that blew others of the same vintage away from 1949 to 1964 the Hand Wound era....

    I hope this helps!
    Don Mare
     
  12. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    I think you're close to on target there- Look at what guitar sounds were big at the time, and that's not the humbuckered Les Paul sound. Not until the rock guitar sound was pretty well defined by Clapton, that overdriven sound is really hit with an LP with humbuckers.

    I find the 20-30 year old LPs (now) to be bright and so narrowly focused that I really don't like them.
     
  13. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    My idea of what a "good" and "awesome" guitar sound has changed over the years. In 1991, I thought my LP Deluxe into a cranked Big Muff into a dimed 100w Marshall was the ****. In 1995, I REALLY wanted my guitar to sound like Johnny Rzeznik's from the Goo Goo Dolls. It's only within the past 10 years that I've really dug backing off the gain from the amp and hearing the space and the breath of the guitar. I still like hearing it snarl though.
     
  14. stormin1155

    stormin1155 Member

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    I know that my ears have changed more in the past 30 years than the tone of any of my guitars, so it's pretty hard to tell. I'm quite convenced that old wood makes acoustic guitars sound noticably better. If electrics improve with age due to the wood aging, I'm guessing those would be very subtle at most.

    Since the biggest part of tone is the player, not the equipment, comparing a current recording of a guitar with one played by the same person 30 years ago wouldn't necessarily prove anything. I know my playing sounds different than it did 30 years ago.
     
  15. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    That's really awesome info
     
  16. SgtThump

    SgtThump Member

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    I think alot of it is psychological. Of course, there's no data to back that up. Just a gut feeling. It's awesome to play or own an old instrument and think about how many hands it's gone through or how many smokey bars it's been in. Cool stuff for sure! Tons and tons of MOJO!

    I think differences in construction has alot more to do with differences in tone than simply older wood. But again, no data to back it up. Just my thoughts.
     
  17. Phil Harmoneeek

    Phil Harmoneeek Member

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    What about the fact that a vibrating string(s) over years of playing gets "ingrained" (for lack of a better term) within the wood ... creating a better "flow/transfer" of tone ... I'm sure this is another contributing factor. An interesting thing with my pickup rings is that the plastic is all concave under each string (the strings have never touched them), it's cause by the sonic waves ... !!! Play 'em & they get better me thinks.

    Randall
     
  18. SgtThump

    SgtThump Member

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    My '71 LP Custom had those "dips" or whatever on the pickup rings under the strings. You mean to tell me that's from "sonic waves?" That sounds ridiculous.
     
  19. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    more likely it's caused by either:

    1) heat, warping the plastic
    2) plastic deteriorating and gases escaping, shrinking and warping the plastic, as on virtually all vintage celluloid pickguards.

    But hey, "sonic waves warped my pickup bezels" sure sounds way cooler! Whatever works! :)
     
  20. JDJ

    JDJ Member

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    With respect to Don's post, here is the neck on my WW10 Tele:

    [​IMG]

    Notice how it is rift-sawn? I think that this neck, along with the tight pocket and swamp ash is what makes my guitar so resonant. And a set of Don's p'ups help, too.
     

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