How many guitars "sing"?

bloomz

Senior Member
Messages
4,228
The thread about buying online led me to revisit this topic.

I put this in general guitars because he currently plays a PRS (with a flat radius), after years of a gold top LP

Bruce Conte (formerly Tower of Power) and a great player - is a friend of mine - told me last January when we hanging out together (he lives in Asia now)

He told me that of all guitars - that only about one 1 in a hundred is a quality he likes - a guitar that "sings". He was speaking of all brands of guitars.

Anybody think that's true?

open for discussion
 
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ksandvik

Member
Messages
6,328
Sure. And 'sings' is a subjective definition, for many 'sings' means different from others. Someone could write two pages here about how a guitar 'sings' and it might be that it's not what you personally experience, anyway.
 
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6,839
A guitar sings because the player MAKES it sing. Thats all. Some have better voices, but a Les Paul Custom in a store or a Suhr in a case does't sing better than a Squier at the bottom of the ocean.

I think if you have to go through 100 to find one you like, you're shopping in the wrong place, playing guitars you should already know you won't like, or your expectations are flat-out unrealistic. You might even be a bad player. I'm sure Conte is a solid player.
 

bloomz

Senior Member
Messages
4,228
All guitars sing, albeit with different voices.
Slightly missing the point?

A guitar sings because the player MAKES it sing. Thats all. Some have better voices, but a Les Paul Custom in a store or a Suhr in a case does't sing better than a Squier at the bottom of the ocean.

SRSLY?

I think if you have to go through 100 to find one you like, you're shopping in the wrong place, playing guitars you should already know you won't like, or your expectations are flat-out unrealistic. You might even be a bad player. I'm sure Conte is a solid player.
Knowing Bruce is a solid player - and knowing he has access to the best - plus plenty of years playing and buying - apparently/obviously he told me this because he feels it to be true?

In the context of the conversation - he was telling me of having this discussion with builders - one (can't remember which darnit) had a guitar he wanted and they said they would make him an exact duplicate and he said no he wanted that particular one "because it sings".

I doubt he's shopping in the wrong place (Guitar Center? LOL) - but it's also good food for thought.

Maybe we're all too easy to please?

And there is that magic 1 in 100 that takes it over the top?

I'd love to hear from another pro on this as well. I'm guessing they're all pretty fussy and not many of them play "off the rack" guitars.

Maybe one of these guys? http://www.bruceconte.com/Photos1.htm

 
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Messages
6,839
Slightly missing the point?



Knowing Bruce is a solid player - and knowing he has access to the best - plus plenty of years playing and buying - apparently/obviously he told me this because he feels it to be true?

In the context of the conversation - he was telling me of having this discussion with builders - one (can't remember which darnit) had a guitar he wanted and they said they would make him an exact duplicate and he said no he wanted that particular one "because it sings".

I doubt he's shopping in the wrong place (Guitar Center? LOL) - but it's also good food for thought.

Maybe we're all too easy to please?

And there is that magic 1 in 100 that takes it over the top?

I'd love to hear from another pro on this as well. I'm guessing they're all pretty fussy and not many of them play "off the rack" guitars.

Maybe one of these guys? http://www.bruceconte.com/Photos1.htm


I don’t think its that we're too easy to please, but some people will claim they can hear tonal differences in speaker cabinets that are built with different types of screw materials. At that point, you’re so full of yourself that you’re delusional.

I believe there COULD be 1 out of 100 that would take it over the top, but after playing 99 Les Pauls and saying #100 was THE ONE, you don’t even remember what #17 sounded like (or if it was even in the same situation), and #98 and #99 may have been dogs so “The one” is simply a noticeable step up from the dogs.

I’m not bashing Bruce, and I’m not discrediting his experience or ability. I’ve only been playing for 24 years, in various situations, and I’ve played more guitars than I can remember. I’m picky, but I don’t feel it takes much to make a guitar sing. A particular guitar may not sing with the voice that I am searching for at the moment, but in another application, it would. What about amp settings..? What about the TYPE of amp, or the condition of the tubes?

I may not be at Bruce’s level, in fact I can guarantee I am not. And if that means I am not qualified in someone’s mind to make the statements that I have, then oh well. I guarantee if a guitar speaks to Bruce, its because HE MADE IT SING with the way his playing translated through the guitar, or because he was more inspired, not because the guitar was so much better. I prefer to give credit where its due, and to me, thats the player.
 

Dharmajester

Member
Messages
299
I've been playing on and off at a pro level for over 40 years and was involved in a vintage guitar store back in the 70's for a while. In that time I have owned most of the classic guitars and agree completely that the percentage of really exceptional 'singing' guitars vs production numbers is pretty low. We sold several vintage sunburst Lp's back then, all of them were average sounding instruments the one exception being the one we sold Mark Knopfler which most of you will be familiar with from the subsequent DS recordings. Really nice Fenders were unbelievably hard to find….

While I think truly magical, voice of god instruments will always be rare ( I've only ever played one, a 58 korina V which sung like a cross between pavarotti and steven tyler ) I believe modern quality control and tighter manufacturing tolerances have upped the standard of an average production guitar immensely and these days I'm quite happy to buy stuff online without playing it and am rarely disappointed.
 

prototype

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,870
no two guitars are alike. take two strats.

the wood in the neck came from a different tree than the wood in the body. maybe one piece of wood grew to different density than another because of atmospheric conditions, or from the area on the tree from which it was cut. pickups aren't wound to perfect tolerances. the fitment on machined pieces isn't uniformly standard.

guitars are a system with different, imperfect pieces contributing to them. the electronics are things that we can change and swap out and boil over endlessly, but when you get two pieces of wood that sync perfectly together. that's something special man. that's why i'll never buy a guitar without playing first.
 

WoodyStrat

Member
Messages
2,109
I think "sings" depends on how a guitar strikes a player. I will agree with Bruce (great friend you have access to there BTW, I would love to bend his ear about TOP although, I am sure he is sick of that topic!) that there are not many guitars that I connect with on the wall in any store. In fact even if I find one that I connect with and actually take it home, I still have to make changes to suit my preferences. However, I can't tell you how many times I have created a sonic masterpiece and handed it to another player and they are like "meh." Crushing! :))

Now I will say that there is no such thing as a duplicate. I don't think you can duplicate that kind of a connection. Even when you go custom, you will definitely get what you asked for, but not necessarily what you want.

I see what he is saying but I suspect he is making a broad statement about something a little more specific.
 

mudster

High Prairie Wrangler
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,501
There is no doubt in my mind and in my experience that, all else being equal, certain instruments stand out from the pack. It is a typical bell curve type probability: It is highly likely that a few instruments will be exceptionally good and a few exceptionally poor. This is before we even consider human perception.
Anyway, I've found that some instruments just stand out. I live near a Collings dealer. Their acoustics always sound great, yet every once in a while a guitar comes through that has something special. It stands out. It is obvious.
Once I was picking from 7 identical guitars. I played the same 2 or 3 songs over and over trying each one. I picked up the 5th or 6th one I tried and a couple salesman who were across the store helping someone else piped up at the same time saying, "that one!" more or less. One of them just stood out.
I think the statement is obviously true - some instruments are exceptional, others are not.
 

jads57

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,139
So there are guitars that just "Sing" acoustically! Case in point of all of the hundreds of guitars I've owned 3 come to mind

1.)1958 Goldtop very worn and played I owned back in 1976
2.)1989 or 90 Squier Strat( horrible poly finish and too skinny of a neck)
3.)2014 ES-339 Studio 2 unbeleivable sustain!

I've also had various cheaper instruments like PRS SE Soapbar 2 that has great sustain and very warm tone. And many expensive guitars that were excellent as well!
Sure there are no 2 instruments exactly the same, but nowadays the difference is more like 5-10% at most, compared to pre 1990's instruments. And then once in awhile one will just stand out above the rest! This why we all chase gear,right?
 

aman74

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,057
Maybe we're all too easy to please?

And there is that magic 1 in 100 that takes it over the top?

I'd love to hear from another pro on this as well. I'm guessing they're all pretty fussy and not many of them play "off the rack" guitars.
I think there's a middle ground here and Bruce's point is probably getting distorted a bit. People are being a bit ticky-tacky about it all. I'd venture to guess that Bruce, just like most players, would say that "sing" is subjective and is highly personal and the general point is that it's worth "running the racks". I guess I just don't see what's so novel about this point.

All pretty fussy? I'd venture to guess that the average TGP player is more fussy than the average pro. The pros who've been around for a bit are bound to have better than average instruments, but a lot of that is going to be merely because of access, money, having good techs, availability to them, etc... A lot of guys who are very serious about their music aren't so concerned about the tools. I'm curious what makes evidence you see that makes you feel differently?

I see a lot of pros who seem to have went about finding their guitars the same way the average Joe would. Some guys stick with stuff they started with early, some guys are always trying new things, etc...just using what works it seems to me.

I don't think I am missing the point. With respect, I just think the conclusion you're trying to find evidence to support is flawed.
I largely agree with you, but I do think the general point was a bit glossed over. Sure, they all have a voice, but at the same time don't you agree that some are "special", even if that only means it works for your particular interests, styles or maybe even a very narrow envelope of usage?

I am a pro player that spends a lot of time on stage and among other musicians, and I also have a day job that gives me the opportunity to play lots and lots of guitars, and I think the whole "1 guitar in a 1000 that is special" thing does not describe 1 good instrument and 999 mediocre ones.

What I think it describes is a single musician finding a guitar with a particular voice that suits them perfectly. This doesn't mean the other 999 don't "sing". It just means they sing with a different voice.
Agreed, but I don't that's exclusive to what Conte was saying. It might be in conflict with what the OP is taking from an off-the-cuff remark.

I believe there COULD be 1 out of 100 that would take it over the top, but after playing 99 Les Pauls and saying #100 was THE ONE, you don’t even remember what #17 sounded like (or if it was even in the same situation), and #98 and #99 may have been dogs so “The one” is simply a noticeable step up from the dogs.
Good point that we need to keep in mind when comparing. Is it just better than the ones being compared at the time or does it also stand out amongst other, better instruments. I do think we can gauge that pretty well though for what we like, even if we can't directly A/B at the moment.

I don't buy into 90% of the conventions bantered about on here and when I do find an instrument that speaks to me, I don't attribute that to it having this or that "correct" feature or attribute. I do however think that certain instruments are "better" than others for specific needs and tastes and that the only way to find that sometimes, is to try a lot of them.

It's really funny when some obsess about, let's say, alder vs. ash, when two pieces of alder may very likely sound less alike than some examples of a comparison between an alder and ash instrument. There are differences, but in practice you can't simply say "get this wood and expect that tone", you need to try them.
 

aman74

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,057
So there are guitars that just "Sing" acoustically! Case in point of all of the hundreds of guitars I've owned 3 come to mind

1.)1958 Goldtop very worn and played I owned back in 1976
2.)1989 or 90 Squier Strat( horrible poly finish and too skinny of a neck)
3.)2014 ES-339 Studio 2 unbeleivable sustain!

I've also had various cheaper instruments like PRS SE Soapbar 2 that has great sustain and very warm tone. And many expensive guitars that were excellent as well!
Sure there are no 2 instruments exactly the same, but nowadays the difference is more like 5-10% at most, compared to pre 1990's instruments. And then once in awhile one will just stand out above the rest! This why we all chase gear,right?
But do you find the acoustic tone to matter when amplified? I think that's a trap many fall into. I won't discount that for some players, having a loud acoustic voice translates more often for them into a guitar they like amplified. However, I also think it's often a confirmation bias and A/B testing would surprise many of them. The way a guitar actually works is far different than what most people seem to think intuitively. Pickups get compared to being the microphone of the guitar...it's a poor analogy and leads to incorrect conclusions.
 

jads57

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,139
I guess I'm of the opinion if it doesn't sound good unplugged, it won't sound good amplified. I have no scientific proof to back that up. But after playing for proffesionally for 40 years it works for me.
 

rhinocaster

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
23,604
Guitars don't sing, amps do. :D

I've watched lots and lots and lots of people demoing guitars in shops (I worked in a very nice vintage shop for a while and several top players came by and purchased instruments) and not a single one of them ever asked for a screwdriver to adjust pickups or tweak a guitar.

I think that too many of the uber, ultra, singing, organic guitars that we've experienced just happened to be good guitars with everything adjusted basically in the sweet spot.

There certainly must be guitars with bigger "Sweet Spot" windows, but I think that we tend to evaluate guitars as they sit rather than looking deeper....
 






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