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'Opening up'

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by AaeCee, Jun 22, 2006.

  1. AaeCee

    AaeCee Member

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    Excuse this question, as I still consider myself a bit of an acoustic novice, but will my acoustic still 'open up' even if played minimally? In other words, is the actual playing of the guitar a functional part of that process, or is it mostly/all dependent on the aging of the wood? Thanks, AC
     
  2. Bruce O'D

    Bruce O'D Member

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    The soundboard of the guitar (top) is still relatively stiff when new, the term "opening up" or "played in" refers to the natural break-in of the top. Playing the guitar makes the top vibrate, which in time makes it more flexible and better able to respond to the subleties of the string vibration. I have several quotes somewhere that claim it also matters if a top is broken in by someone who plays well rather than a poor player. There are companies who will bombard your guitar with acoustic soundwaves in a tank to speed up this process. Checkout this link:

    http://www.acousticguitar.com/Gear/advice/vibration.shtml

    BTW, if the top is laminate, the guitar will never open up and sound the same 100 years from now as the day you bought it. Ditto any of the carbon fiber composite tops, like Rainsong and Ovation/Adamas. Although having played several Rainsong, I have to admit to being somewhat impressed with the tone.
     
  3. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    Yes, definitely. I recently bought a 20 year old guitar that had not been played. It's still opening up as I play it now.
     
  4. PHLOW

    PHLOW Member

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    Spruce tops in particular will get better with age. Playing, putting the top in motion is essential to them achieving their potential voice. With a brand new guitar, there is also some opening up that occurs as the finish (particularly lacquer or varnish) continues to fully cure. I have had spruce top guitars that after a few years of regular playing sounded like totally different guitars!

    I also once played a guitar before and after it had been excessively vibrated for 48 hours (However by a much less intimidating method than that behemoth machine in the above post!) You could hear that the tone had loosened up a bit with more noticeable overtones.
     
  5. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    I've had my S+P pro flame maple for 5 years and it is opening up beautifully (and still is). It's starting to sound so nice that I have less of a want for a martin or a taylor. It's got a sitica top and maple back and sides.
     
  6. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I've heard people say that, but anyone can say anything on the internet.

    The wood drying out is the main thing. As it dries it becomes more resonant, but it also shrinks. So the component pieces pull against each other, creating more tension all around but particularly across the top and back, like drum heads being tightened. That makes a big difference.

    I can see that it *might* be true that vibrations have some effect. It certainly feels like that because as you're playing it more and more it's opening up more and more, so your body and emotions draw the connection, "my playing is opening it up!" But that hardly qualifies as scientific proof. There's no way to know because it's so subjective.

    I don't doubt that a 20-year old guitar could open up if it's been unplayed, but it could be because of the way it was stored.

    When someone makes a claim like "a good player makes a guitar open up more than a bad player" you have to apply a little common sense. How can anyone possibly know that? How can you compare the same guitar to itself as it would have been if played by a different player? And let's say, for the sake of argument, that vibrations do in fact have a positive effect. Has anyone drawn the connection between "good player = plays often" and "bad player = plays infrequently?" Has anyone done a scientific study with identical guitars being played the same number of hours every week by good players, bad players and a control group of bass players?? ;)
     
  7. Bruce O'D

    Bruce O'D Member

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    You are 100% correct about that - people can write anything on the internet ;)
    I agree, but that primarily applies to kiln dried woods. The luthier who built Franklin OM's, Nick Kukich, which I have had the brief pleasure of caring for one for a friend, had a stash of Adirondack spruce tops that had air-dried for 30 years before it went on this particular guitar. That wood was as dry as it ever was going to get, before a note had even been played. And despite that, the guitar still went through a period of about 6 months of continuous playing before the top had the touch responsiveness and sustain that it ultimately achieved. As riffmeister noted, his 20 year old guitar is still opening up, and after 20 years I'm pretty sure it's plenty dry.
     
  8. AaeCee

    AaeCee Member

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    I dunno about that Michael. Sometimes I swear I can sense my acoustic copping an attitude, and can even discern a snicker as it's thinking to itself "bad player"! [​IMG] BTW, it's a 2003 Martin D-41 SP that I got mint but used. AC
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Well, I never said it's impossible. To be honest, that's how it felt to me the first two years I played my Santa Cruz, during which time it matured dramatically. It really felt, viscerally, like my playing was affecting the change. So I'll concede that maybe there's something to it.

    But I don't think I'm ever coming around to that good player/bad player thing. ;)
     
  10. gtrnstuff

    gtrnstuff Member

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    Trouble is, there's no such thing as two identical guitars. Variations in the wood grain, even from the same tree, will see to that, won't they? On at least one occasion I've played two of the same model, one serial number apart, and found significant differences in response.
     
  11. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    I always thought you had to play to open up. Some woods start with a more open sound then others like Adirondack vs. Sitka or Cedar vs. Red Cedar.
     
  12. Jerrod

    Jerrod Silver Supporting Member

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    Hahahaha! What does that MEAN? :NUTS

    Are guitars sensitive to genre and like bluegrass more than folk? Or are they partial to fingerstyle over flatpicking? Maybe they're really fussy about phrasing... "I wouldn't have chosen that #5 so I'm not going to 'open up' for that note."

    Crazy.
     
  13. soulohio

    soulohio Member

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    i set my old spruce top Alvarez in front of a stereo speaker for about a day with music playing and it made a difference...laminate body but I think solid spruce top...guitar was more responsive and sounded better..
     
  14. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I just strapped my Santa Cruz to the washing machine with bungee cord and ran the spin cycle a few times. Took less than a hour and it sounds like the London Philharmonic.
     
  15. Bruce O'D

    Bruce O'D Member

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    Pfffftt. Doubtful. Everyone knows that after the spin cycle you have to strap it to the dryer, put a dryer sheet in the soundhole (Bounce Spring Fresh is best) and run it on the "cool down" cycle in order to capture that London Philharmonic sound. The best you can hope for with washing machine alone is Boston Symphony at Carnegie Hall. There are no shortcuts to great tone.
     
  16. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Not if you have a top of the line Maytag.

    Shows what YOU know about classical music.
     
  17. Brett Valentine

    Brett Valentine Member

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    :FMYou are BOTH wrong! :BITCH It should be common knowledge that the only thing that matters is RPM's not the brand of dryer!!

    On the other hand, you could also just stand in front of a large floor wedge and let the low end feedback for about 5 minutes. . . of course, everybody else just flees the room, and yeah, okay, your hearing does suffer for about a week, but hey.:D

    Brett
     
  18. gnugear

    gnugear Member

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    I used to keep my guitar in a case and noticed that after prolonged breaks it would take about 20 minutes before it loosened up. Now I just leave it out in the room with my amps. I'm sure that vibrates the thing nicely.
     
  19. pickaguitar

    pickaguitar 2011 TGP Silver Medalist Silver Supporting Member

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    It needs to time to realize that it's not a tree.
     

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