1. The Rules have been updated regarding posting as a business on TGP. Thread with details here: Thread Here
    Dismiss Notice

What makes a great guitar great?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by dontstop611, Feb 13, 2009.

  1. dontstop611

    dontstop611 Member

    Messages:
    37
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    I want to buy a ridiculously nice strat. When I talk to professional guitarist about the best guitar they ever played... their eyes LIGHT UP! So, what is it... that makes a great guitar great?

    The quality of the wood of the body and neck?

    1 piece bodies and necks as oppose to 2 piece?

    Pickups?

    Craftsmanship of the guitar?

    anything else you can think of?

    all of the above?

    All opinions welcome!
     
  2. cvansickle

    cvansickle Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,877
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2004
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA USA
    The guitar that you pick up to play, and then never want to stop playing - that's the great guitar.
     
  3. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

    Messages:
    24,838
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2004
    Location:
    Canada-GTA
    I don't have one.
    If I have ever played one it was somebody else's idea of great and didn't hit me the right way for fit, feel or sound. Or maybe the assessment of greatness requires more experience with the guitar or guitars in general than I can bring to the task.

    I have a nasty feeling that a great Strat, in my assessment, may not even exist.
    Show me one that plays well, has a modern radius, wider nut, does not plink, has no dead spots, has even sustain, a non compromised trem system, tonal balance and it would be a contender.:bow no pastel colours either:D
     
  4. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,300
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2005
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    To me, a great guitar is one where the sum is greater than it's parts.
     
  5. johnboho

    johnboho Member

    Messages:
    178
    Joined:
    May 22, 2006
    Location:
    wisconsin
    i have a friend that teaches in grafton wi and every guitar he picks off the wall is the greatest i ever heard
     
  6. Kiwi

    Kiwi Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,799
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2002
    Location:
    In a white room
    It's the one that calls you by your secret name. You'll know.

    =K
     
  7. XKnight

    XKnight Member

    Messages:
    11,095
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2007
    Location:
    Republic of Texas
    The player!
     
  8. Nuclearfishin

    Nuclearfishin Supporting Member

    Messages:
    921
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    The guy playing it!
     
  9. dontstop611

    dontstop611 Member

    Messages:
    37
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    Let's try this from a Luthier's perspective
     
  10. rhinocaster

    rhinocaster Supporting Member

    Messages:
    17,746
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2004
    There are 2 things that make a GREAT guitar.

    1. Synergy. This is how all of the components come together to become greater than the sum of the parts. Even great builders don't know when this is going to happen.

    2. How the resulting instrument hits your ear and feels in your hands.


    There really is no substitute for running the rack when searching for "The One".
     
  11. soldano16

    soldano16 Member

    Messages:
    2,348
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2004
    Location:
    British Columbia
    FIVE FACTORS WHICH CREATE THE '1959 BURST' SOUND

    ACCORDING TO MAX BARANET


    "Various factors all came together in 1959 to produce what I, and many others, consider to be the ultimate electric guitar, the 1959 Burst. I have spent 38 years studying genuine 1950's Bursts and reproducing their sound. I have found that there are five main factors responsible for creating the 1959 Burst sound".


    THE WOOD


    " The Honduras mahogany used in the 1950's to build guitars was cut from trees that were hundreds of years old. This wood is often referred to as 'old growth'. It is a very excellent carving wood. Due to its popularity with furniture makers, boat builders and guitar makers, it is now gone. Used up. The mahogany available now is grown on plantations. For whatever reasons it is very different from old growth mahogany. It might as well be considered a completely different type of wood. I have experimented with it and found it to be very unsatisfactory for reproducing a true 59 Burst tone compared to 'old growth' Honduras mahogany".


    "Since about 80% of the wood used to build a Burst is Honduras mahogany, this is obviously the most important wood contributing to the tone. I used only old growth Honduras mahogany from the 1950's just like the 1950's Bursts were built from. I used old growth Brazilian rosewood for my fretboards and Eastern hard maple for the tops".


    THE GLUE

    "There are four basic pieces of wood that make a Burst style guitar. The fretboard, the neck, the body and the maple top. Obviously then there are three basic glue joints between the nut and bridge. One is between the fretboard and the neck, another between the neck and body and the third is between the body and the maple top. In order to produce good tone these four pieces must resonate as one".


    "For hundreds of years musical instrument builders used 'hide glue' to build guitars. Hide glue was still used in the 1950's. This type of glue soaks into the wood and hardens to a glass like consistency. It leaves a minimal film between the two surfaces being joined. Since it dries to a glass like consistency it resonates with the vibrations in the guitar".



    " If you hold up a piece of glass and tap it lightly with a hard object it will ring. If you do the same with a sheet of plastic, the plastic will not ring, instead it absorbs the vibrations. The same principle is in effect with hide glue, brittle and glasslike, versus modern glues that are not".


    "Modern glues do not penetrate the wood as well as hide glue. They leave a film between each piece of wood. Thus the four basic pieces of the guitar are insulated from each other. The vibrations traveling through the guitar between the nut and the bridge are muffled at all three glue joints. Modern glues kill the tone of the guitar".


    "I used hide glue in the construction of these guitars".


    THE FINISH

    "In the 1950's guitar manufacturers used nitrocellulose lacquer. This lacquer dries very hard and brittle. It becomes a resonant part of the guitar. Unfortunately it also chips and cracks more easily; therefore modern manufacturers don't use it.



    "Modern lacquers use plasticizers that keep the finish soft and flexible. The same principle of the resonance of glass versus plastic applies here. It would be the same as wrapping large rubber bands around an acoustic guitar. The rubber bands would absorb the vibrations of the guitar and deaden the sound".


    "I used old style nitrocellulose lacquer (without plasticizers) on these guitars".




    CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS

    "During my 30+ years experience repairing and restoring musical instruments, I had the opportunity to closely inspect many vintage guitars. Gibson, Fender, Martin, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, etc. Many were damaged beyond repair and consequently I was able to completely dismantle them and blueprint them. It is from this valuable resource of data that I am able to build guitars today".




    "All specifications, dimensions, materials and construction procedures that contribute to the sound of an original 1950's Burst are exactly duplicated in my guitars. Headstock angle, neck angle, scale length, neck profile, cavity sizes, etc., are all identical to an original 1950's Burst".



    THE PICKUPS

    "The original 1950's PAF pickup is definitely a very important factor in creating the '59 Burst tone. These can still be acquired from vintage parts dealers and are highly recommended.
     
  12. Elmer

    Elmer hell is chrome

    Messages:
    2,919
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2006
    Location:
    DFW
    Almost all of the above are true. I currently have 11 guitars and have played countless others, and only one of them do I truly consider to be "great". I don't like finished necks, but... my great guitar has a finished neck. I prefer single coils, yet my one great guitar has humbuckers.

    A great guitar isn't necessarily defined by its components, a great guitar lives and breathes and talks to you, while its peers feel like dead wood in your hands. A great guitar makes you play better than you are able to play. Great guitars feel like an extension of your body, like an extension of your soul, an extension of your mind.

    Great guitars make all the years of going through guitars that aren't great feel like time spent weeding out "the others" to get to "the one". A great guitar has a soul, it's an entity unto itself. A great guitar makes you feel like there is nothing you can't play on it. A great guitar is inspirational. You'll know it when you find it, it will tell you "I've been here just waiting for you".

    My apologies for not being more concrete, for not throwing out "a great guitar is made from x pickups and y necks and z bodies". There is no magic formula that I know of. It took me over 20 years to find "the one" and I really had no idea what I was missing until I found it... and when you play a great guitar, the same thing will happen to you - you'll just know.

    (This post brought to you by Maker's Mark and Diet 7 Up. :D )

    EDIT - soldano16 has the technical aspects down! Cool! :dude
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
  13. dazco

    dazco Member

    Messages:
    10,992
    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2003
    Fullness and dynamics.
     
  14. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

    Messages:
    24,838
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2004
    Location:
    Canada-GTA
    Judging by the 'burst' requirements great Strats or Tele's would not exist.
    So, there may be more than 1 way to skin a cat....oops sorry peta people...it's just an expression:eek:
     
  15. Deaj

    Deaj Member

    Messages:
    4,650
    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Location:
    Kingston, WA
    This definition works well for me.

    I have a first year (1988) PRS bolt-on neck guitar considered by many then to be the 'low end' PRS. No matter. It was/is obvious to everyone who picks this guitar up that there's something extraordinary about it. It's acoustically loud with rich, very musical overtones. It just rings! It also happens to be a dream to play as well. I had the opportunity to play other examples from the same year and manyy CE's and other PRS models since. None have compared favorably at all to my ears. There's nothing about the guiar that stands out otherwise - black nitro finish with maple cap showing around the edge, nicely figured rosewood board with abalone dots, aged yellow tint maple neck/headstock finish. Just an ordinary early CE24 with an extraordinary voice.

    I've made some changes over the years. I stripped the finish from the back of the neck and refinished this area with tung oil. The trem bridge has been blocked to emulate a hardtail bridge. Mike Lull did a refret with jumbo wire and installed a bone nut. Pickups are SD custom shop lightly potted 4-conductor Seth Lovers and a coil tap toggle has been installed betweenthe Volume and Tone controls. This set of pickup translates the guitars complex voice wonderfully for amplification.

    This guitar is here to stay. It will be passed down to my son when I go.

    No single element or attribute is responsible for this guitars amazing voice. I'd bet that the wood is aignificant contributing factor. To be sure the guitar is greater than the sum of its parts.
     
  16. edwarddavis

    edwarddavis Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,978
    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2005
    Location:
    Bristol Connecticut

    The above , lol, THE FREAKIN PLAYER !!! and a great Tube amp.
    Its a tool , that all depends on the person using it and what its being played through .

    I bought a $119 Jay Turser tele , cant out it down , play it all the time, plays looks and sounds great , all stock .
    Now thats a great guitar !!!!
     
  17. ganzosrevenge

    ganzosrevenge Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    Hewlett, NY
    What makes a guitar great is 1 part luck (you need a good starting point from the factory), 1 part knowing where a company may have cut corners (cheap pickups, bridge, pots, caps, etc.), 1 part being able to find the parts to replace the "cut corners". A good tube amp that you can play at a reasonable level (ie: no TSL602s that have to be left at 0.1)

    and oh yea, ya gotta be able to use your fingers to make the magic come out!
     
  18. fullerplast

    fullerplast Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,792
    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    After many years experimenting with solid body bolt-on neck guitars, I've come up with an approximate tone contribution weighting:

    Pickups: 50%
    Neck: 25%
    Body: 15%
    Other (bridge, nut, etc): 10%

    Years ago, the low weighting of the body would have seemed strange, but listening to steel, pine, alder, ash, korina, masonite, mahogany, etc bodies in various shapes has me convinced that much of the tone follows the pickups and neck, flavored by the body, but not dominated by it. Otherwise, one would easily be able to tell the difference between a Trussart steel body tele and an ash tele...and you can't. The differences are about the same as between two ash teles. The resonance and vibrational mapping shown in earlier threads confirm that there is much more going on with the neck than the body.

    Naturally a great player makes anything sound good....that's why builders at NAMM hire the big guns to demo their stuff. It doesn't mean there aren't differences between guitars.
     
  19. shane88

    shane88 Member

    Messages:
    22,805
    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Location:
    X
    but 1 man's dogocaster is another's mojolectro

    if it speaks to you seek psychiatric help........ er i mean buy it! ;)
     
  20. andy888

    andy888 Member

    Messages:
    368
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2008
    Location:
    Ontario
    i'd have to say mostly the neck profile and how good the fret job is.....followed by the pickups. those are the 2 biggest things for me. after that the body shape and wood type. if i cant play the neck comfortably, forget about it. im going to sound like crap no matter how good I am.
     

Share This Page