Judging Teles Unplugged

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by digthosetubes, Jan 27, 2008.


  1. digthosetubes

    digthosetubes Senior Member

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    Can you predict the good sound potential of a Tele -- unplugged -- simply by gauging body, neck, and pegboard vibration? Of course you want to plug the guitar in at some point. But I am thinking that the better teles are going to be more lively and better sounding before any amp comes into the picture. The pickups I am thinking of for the plugged-in part of the evaluation are the Nocaster Custom Shops.

    Does playing the guitar a lot make it sound better? And if so, how.

    Are there other guitars where the pegboard will vibrate as much as a good tele when you thwonk the strings?

    I'm new to all this Tele business but am impressed with how lively they can be -- in terms of vibrating.
     
  2. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    In my opinion, no - there's not necessarily a lot of correlation between the sound of a Tele, or any other guitar, unplugged to the sound of one plugged.

    That's because when they're plugged in, what you're mostly hearing is the pickup, cab and amp, colored by wood and setup. I think you can tell things like sustain when the guitar's unplugged, but I think things like 'spank' and whether the high end is 'ice picky' or smooth can only be heard plugged in.

    If you've played your Tele for a long time and are used to it's nuances, you may be able to discern more detail on your own Tele. That's especially true if you change some critical part of the setup, like lowering or raising the action. In fact, I think all electric guitar setups shoud be done unplugged initially. Then they should be plugged in, and the electric part of the setup done. I think that this applies to Teles in general, and to guitars in general. I'm saying that two Teles that sound similar acoustically that have different pickups will sound very different plugged in - imagine one guitar with low output Lollars and another one with Bardens.

    I think there are a lot of things you can tell about a Tele acoustically, but you can tell way more plugged in. Things like intonation, sustain (I repeat myself) whether the notes ring clearly, like that. I think that if you listen to a LOT of Teles you can begin to get a feel for how different woods will sound when plugged in, but for me it's been a very general feeling, like that Swamp Ash is spankier than say, Maple. But not every piece of Swamp Ash is spankier than every piece of Maple.

    Plugging in reveals all eventually, IMHO.

    My opinion only, Dana O.
     
  3. bluesrules

    bluesrules Member

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    I hope by saying "Pegboard" you mean "headstock". Pegboard is something I hang in the garage and it only vibrates when the girlfriend drives her car into it! Not much sustain either.

    Plug that Tele in and enjoy.
     
  4. Simpy

    Simpy Member

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    I always judge a guitar first based on the "unplugged" sound. Pickups can be changed, most guitars will need some sort of set-up to personalized for you, but, when you pick up a guitar and just play it, I listen for volume. A loud solid body guitar will always be a great choice.

    Not to hijack your thread, but, I played a few of the "new" 08 Strats and Teles, and I guess I'm just used to playing my used, broken in stuff. The new strats and teles just feel stiff to me. Maybe I should start looking into the Suhr/Anderson market?

    Anyway, I like loud unplugged guitars, if that makes sense to you.
     
  5. rdnzl

    rdnzl Member

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    I have found that if a Tele sounds relatively loud when played unplugged, it will have the potential to be a good one. At the very least, you know that the wood is not "dead". BUT....as was stated above, the plugged in sound is whats important. After all, it IS an ELECTRIC guitar.

    Added: My 08 Tele is very loud unplugged, and it is an instant classic, at least for me.
     
  6. hunter

    hunter Supporting Member

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    I think unplugged body, neck, etc vibration, especially magnitude of vibration, is not the end-all determination of a solid-body electric good guitar. I do think that listening to a guitar unplugged will reveal the basic timbre of the instrument. Does it ring or thud for example, is it bright or dark, how does it naturally sustain or decay. In this way I can make certain determinations about an unplugged guitar's voice. However, for me, loud acoustic properties don't necessarily translate into an effective amplified guitar sound.

    Hollows and to some extent even semi-hollows are a slightly different story but for those styles the proof is ultimately still in the relationship between the guitar and the amp (and the player and music of course).

    hunter
     
  7. mprvise

    mprvise Member

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    I judge all guitars by playing uplugged first. If it doesn't do it for me unplugged (no only the sound/vibration, but more importantly the overall feel) then it ain't gonna be happening when I plug it in.
     
  8. Tommy Tourbus

    Tommy Tourbus Senior Member

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    when trying one out If it doesn't sound good unplugged, i'm not inspired to plug it in
     
  9. macmax77

    macmax77 Supporting Member

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    if the guitar i am buying doesn't pass 4 tests i do to them (unplugged) i won't buy it.
     
  10. digthosetubes

    digthosetubes Senior Member

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    Can you share those four tests with us?
    And any others tests you do?
    You sound informed. And I am intrigued about the tests.
    We thank you.
     
  11. digthosetubes

    digthosetubes Senior Member

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    http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5383385-description.html See attached US Patent. It's sometimes called a pegboard. For example many early guitars used tuning pegs. The tuning pegs were fitted into a pegboard. No garage required. But I get your drift. My 1963 Juan Pimentel used six Viola pegs. :eek:
     
  12. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

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    If you compare a semi-hollow to a similarly equipped solid you can hear vast differences in the acoustic tone and have them disappear when plugged in. Semis generaly sound quite bad to me, unplugged, as they have neither good acoustic tone nor the more even tone of solids.(Not saying that the body construction has no effect.)
    As mentioned, playability and setup can be checked and some of the mojo can be felt, no?
     
  13. bwc3000

    bwc3000 Member

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    It took me a good ten years to find the Tele I'd been looking for, and I judged all of them by their un-plugged sound first. I've always tried out electric guitars by first trying them out acoustically to see how much sustain they have and how well they resonate. I've always done a lot of practicing unplugged as well, so a resonant acoustic sound is really important to me. Before recently picking up a used (and pretty beaten-up!) '04/'05 American Series Tele, I had an MIM natural ash Tele for a while and, in the '90s, one of those American/Mexican-made hybrids with the humbucker in the neck. Were those called Tex-Mex Teles? I can't remember the name.
    For me a guitar definitely breaks in and sounds better as I play it. I had a Rickenbacker 330 which I got new in the early '90s and ten years in it looked and sounded radically different than it did when I first got it. I think this is even more true of lightly-finished maple necks, which mellow and break in nicely the more they're played.
    For full disclosure, I should say that one of the first electric guitars I had was a butterscotch Grand Prix Tele knock-off--with a pointy headstock! :) I loved it until the nut fell off one day while I was practicing. That's when my search for a good Tele began! I'm pretty happy with this American Series one I have now that I've got the pick-ups wired in correctly...like I said, it was a mess when I got it but it just needed a little care.
     
  14. mrfjones

    mrfjones Member

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    you can tell everything you need to know about a guitar without plugging it in, everything can be changed or tweaked with the exception of the basic makeup of the guitar. No matter what you do with pickups and amps a dead sounding unplugged guitar will not sound good when plugged in. Find a lively guitar unplugged and even with low output pickups it will be a lively guitar plugged in.
     
  15. Grenville

    Grenville Member

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    I think it's a myth, albeit a believable one, that a guitar has to be unbelievable unplugged to be unbelievable plugged-in.

    I had one electric that was a bit of a dead duck unplugged that was great when plugged in.

    I also briefly owned a 1960s Hagstrom Futurama guitar made out of plastic, chipboard and tolex that was a beautiful, ringing instrument when plugged in. I sold it to an interstate producer and it has been used on many albums.

    That said, my current main guitar vibrates nicely and sustains well unplugged, and I mainly play it that way (at home). When I do plug it in for gigs it's all there and more.
     
  16. studiodunn

    studiodunn Member

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    Really for me I only judge a tele by the acoustic sound. All my LP type guitars were picked on playability, but for my tele selections I need to hear it ring. With single coils I want to know that the body has plenty of sustain and little to no rattles.
    Now the science of this is a whole-nother story. I've owned ugly 3pc alder bodies that have blown away 1pc Ash in the acoustic department. I usaully found the more resonant bodies to have a woodier tone no matter what pups were in it.
     
  17. DrSax

    DrSax Member

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    yep, same here. If I sit down with it unplugged and I'm not happy with the feel of it, there's no way I'll be happy with it plugged in.
     
  18. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

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    As many have said, set up unplugged, then do the plugged in pup setup. I have also had an unplugged dud, but plugged up, wow! If there was a golder rule to guitar tone, TGP would not exist, we would all have the perfect tone machines. They are like wine vintages, one year may be the best, the next bottle, not so much.
     
  19. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

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    As I wrote earlier, I'm with Chris on this one.

    IMHO, ya gotta set 'em up unplugged. That said, I've (in the past) had people come in with Teles where the neck screws and bridge screws were loose, saddles and intonation screwed up, control panel loose, loose tuners and pickguard, loose truss rod, cheap plastic nut - you get the picture.

    They sound SO DIFFERENT, acoustically, when everything is tightened up and adjusted, like they were different guitars all together. I think you can begin to tell something about the wood's resonance and sonic 'nature' of the Tele once it's in working order, but I think it's hard to do that before.

    And after all that, if the guitar has cheap or broken pots, switches, or pickups, or bad soldering or layout, they can still sound bad plugged in. I'm just saying that it's a package deal - the entirety of the guitar and the sum of the parts greater than the whole type of thing.

    I can't tell you how many Teles I've heard that have gone from sounding thin and bright icepick w/ no sustain to fat, ringing sustain, but with loads of clear highs just by loosening the truss rod 1/4 turn, or by lowering the pickups 1/16". Before the adjustment, you'd have thought it had no sustain and was a real dog of a Tele.

    OK, I'll stop now (GRIN), Dana O.
     
  20. XKnight

    XKnight Member

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    I had no idea Teles were meant to be plugged into anything since the ones I have sound so good unplugged.
     

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