Did you ever hear your acoustic guitar?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by RL52, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    These are all good ways to hear your acoustic guitar the way it sounds to your audience.

    That is as it should be when you're performing.
     
  2. Fret Wilkes

    Fret Wilkes Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    My sentiments exactly and a reason acoustic guitar doesn't turn me on as much a electric. God forbid there is a banjo in the neighborhood or you'll never hear it! Funny though, just a few days ago my buddy came over to rehearse a few tunes at lunch and he used my 1973 Martin D28. I was playing bass and he was facing me. The D28 sounded glorious! Play it yourself and ..."What happened?". Sound hole acoustics are meant to be heard by people in front of it, not so much for those of us in back. ;0)

    "Corner loading" is a fun way to here your acoustic...play into a corner, or just up close into a wall. What comes back will surprise you and you'll want to stay! A little impractical to take to a gig, although there are theories that Robert Johnson did just this (play into a corner...NOT bring the corner with him).
     
  3. Uncle Butch

    Uncle Butch Tele-Meister

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    I just play facing a wall to get the true sound of my acoustic.
     
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  4. raysachs

    raysachs Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I got a huge lesson in this over the past several months. I'd been playing wood acoustics with front & center sound holes for 40 years. Then I got intrigued with carbon fiber acoustics for their impervious to humidity feature, because I really hated running humidifiers all winter and keeping my cases humidified and whatnot. So I got an Emerald X20, a carbon fiber guitar from Ireland with a soundhole on top of the upper bout, and a soundhole that's cut into the guitar such that it projects both out toward any audience that may be there, AND projects up to the player's head, much like the sound port cut into the guitar in the photo in post #11, above. Here's a photo of it:

    [​IMG]Emerald X20 by Ray, on Flickr

    It's an 000 sized guitar that sounds like a Dread, and I really liked it, but I also wanted something smaller, shorter scale, for traveling and really suited to lower volume playing and fingerpicking. So I got an other Emerald, a used parlor sized X7 from a couple years ago. Here a photo of it:

    [​IMG]untitled-7-2 by Ray, on Flickr

    You can see that the soundhole on this, while in the same location, is only forward facing, so it projects forward but NOT up toward the player. And my initial impression was it wasn't a very good sounding guitar. But then I experimented a bit and recorded them from a mic several feet in front of them and damned if they didn't sound nearly identical. The smaller guitar wasn't QUITE as loud or full as the larger one, but it was incredibly close. Yet from my ear while playing them, they weren't even in the same league.

    Since I mostly play for an audience of one, myself, and almost never plug my acoustic in, this is actually a really big deal. Having an instrument that sounded great to ME is kind of the central point. I eventually got a newer X7 (with a wood veneer) that's almost as small as the older X7 but has the offset soundhole like the X20 and I liked it soooo much I sold both of the other ones. It's all I need for an acoustic and both plays amazingly and sounds incredible to MY EARS. It's almost like having an acoustic guitar with a built in stage monitor. This is it:

    [​IMG]untitled-3 by Ray, on Flickr

    I've gone back and played some friend's regular wooden acoustics with traditional center sound holes (and none with sound ports on the shoulder) and while some of them are awesome sounding guitars, they sound kind of crummy when playing them. I'm pretty sure if I ever get another wooden acoustic - unlikely but never say never - I'd have to get some sort of luthier-built guitar with a soundport to enhance the player's experience of the sound... Because I'm too spoiled by guitars I can actually hear well now to go back...

    -Ray
     
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  5. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Holic

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    A huge bottom end is glorious on any guitar tone, IMO, be it an acoustic or electric. Except when mic'd or in a band mix. Then all that bass just makes things muddy and boomy. Which results in the guitar getting lost in the mix, and sound man turning you down due to the bass frequencies covering up other instruments.

    An acoustic may sound better amplified if it has weak bass response. Which may make it feel dead, acoustically. While an acoustic that sounds full and resonant unplugged can sound too boomy. Amplifying or recording an acoustic just makes it into something entirely different than what you hear in the room. It's apples and oranges, and an exercise in futility trying to capture the room sound.

    I have a Taylor nylon string I use for wedding ceremonies. It is a very disappointing guitar, acoustically, but sounds awesome when plugged in. It has weak bass response.

    In general, I've been trying to wean myself from bass in my guitar tone, just to fit into band mixes better. But it's tough. Because that warm bassy resonance is so beautiful when playing alone in the living room!
     
  6. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yup. If you want to hear it, play it in the kitchen or bathroom - not a room with a sofa or carpet or bookcases or drapery or bed!
     
  7. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

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    #robertjohnsonapproves
     
  8. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    That's very true, and not just with Gibsons. There are guitars that sound exquisite in the silence of a living room, but the same guitar may not work on a stage because it sounds so rich, full, and complicated. All those good qualities can turn to mush in a band or as a solo stage instrument.

    I found the best stage guitars have to have a typically bright sound, shorter sustain, and a very quick attack to be the best. The sound has to shoot out of them fast, with fewer overtones and short sustain along with volume to really project well, especially when the guitar is taking a lead break.

    Interestingly, some of the current hot-rod bluegrass bands are using guitars like this even when the player isn't real fond of the tone. They'll use one guitar for recording or for playing at home, and another that only goes on stage.

    Ricky Skaggs now uses an f-hole archtop as a rhythm guitar in his band for many of the faster numbers he plays, because it just works better. The old 16-inch archtops have a tone that's somewhere in between the the larger archtops and a flattop guitar, and the sound works very well with fiddles and mandolins which all have a penetrating tone.

    The Advanced Jumbo can be a challenging guitar to play because it was designed to be a loud, bright, powerfully projecting guitar. It's scale is actually longer than a Martin Dreadnought, and they only have 19 frets. The 20th fret was sacrificed to the placement of the sound hole, which was part of the tone equation. The entire guitar was designed to deliver a ton of volume with very little player effort needed.

    It was always very interesting to me the way Gibson and Martin played a game of chase with each other in the 1930s. Both were going after similar things that the market demanded, and both had their own solid market niches, and never had to share the same space in the market until the Depression hit.

    And then, they both had to find their own ways to compete with each other while keeping their products distinctively theirs. Gibson made far more archtops then than flattops, and those guitars were keeping Gibson alive. Martin had to make archtops to compete, but their flattops kept Martin alive.
    The Martin archtops were never thought to be as good as the Gibsons by the professionals, but Martin sure sold a lot of them anyway to the pros. I think early brand loyalty was what made the difference to both companies.

    The AJs are not at all mellow cruisers that are very sensitive to the touch. They also take a very long time to mellow out too; many require 2 or more years of regular playing to break in.

    When I got my first one, it took me a year to learn how to control it so I could get something like the D-28 tone I was used to out of it. I had to lighten up my own attack a lot, and my right hand work really changed over the years from playing that AJ.

    But their advantages are great for on-stage lead work or for playing rhythm in a loud acoustic band. It's like having power steering on a car with a very big engine in it.

    The J-45 though, is about a good all-round guitar as is made. It has the shorter Gibson scale and while it doesn't project as strongly as the AJ, which has a super-quick attack, the sound is typically a little mellower but it still can throw, and the tone is very woody.

    Of the two, the J-45 turned out to be probably the best, as it never went out of production, but the AJ only lasted about 9 years and then vanished. There were weren't many more AJs made as the D-45 pre-wars. The 45 was as much as the D-28 in the AJ's competition in Gibson's view; it was dressed fancier than the D-28, and priced in between the 28 and the 45.

    At first. The J-200 turned out to the the D-45's best competitor, but that wasn't Gibson's plan. The 200s came about by accident when Ray Whitley custom-ordered a flattop version of the L-5 archtop, dressed up fancy in cowboy fashion.
    Whitley was a side-kick actor, and after he got his, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and all the other singing cowboys wanted theirs too. While the fancy sold them over their tone, they were still good sounding guitars. The first ones all had rosewood bodies and each one was a little fancier than the last it seems. Autry got his later than the others, and it was the fanciest of all to my eye.

    They're all pretty heavy, too. Once the J-200 caught on, maple was a better choice for body wood. Maple gave the 200 more of the characteristic Gibson archtop tone in a flattop, and lightened the guitar visually and physically at a time when blonde guitars became really popular because they stood out onstage and on film.

    Ritter and Autry's guitars were both rosewood 12-fret models with 26" scales. I played Ritter's once, and it had killer tone, but the finger stretches were quite long. Tex never used complicated chords though, so it worked great for him. It was also very worn-out. The frets were nearly shot, and the back was very beat-up.

    The J-45s are sure more comfortable on the left hand, and the less complex tone of mahogany makes them less ringy and complicated as rosewood's tone. It's no wonder why so many players favor them and the Martin D-18 over their rosewood bodied sisters.

    Both are probably a couple of the best recording guitars and all-round ever made. Most acoustic sounds you hear on recordings was made by one or the other.
    regards,
    stanger
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
  9. RL52

    RL52 Tele-Meister

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    Read them all, very helpful.
    Thanks.
     
  10. Churchjack

    Churchjack Tele-Meister

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    +1 -- When I hit the bricks to demo acoustics, I take my son or a buddy. I got the weirdest look once from a GC salesguy, when the first thing I did was take a Taylor off the wall and said, "Hey, could you play this for me?"
    Funny story, when I first got my 000-18, I was so used to dreads and the like, I was intensely frustrated at first by not being able to hear it when I played. Took some getting used to, some different strings, and she's my #1 now.
     
  11. kplamann

    kplamann Tele-Holic

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    That makes a lot of sens, as all waves are reflected at 180° by a corner. I do that calculation all the time with my students (of acoustics and optics), but I did not realise that the effect would be beneficial to acoustic guitar monitoring.

    I will try this at home !
     
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  12. Route67

    Route67 Tele-Meister

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    Wow, what a great post, lots of interesting info. I sure hope the folks reading this thread appreciated reading it as much as I did.

    I’ve read a lot about Collings guitars of late but never tried one, I hear they’re loud and bright too. In the meantime, I’m happy to stay with a Martin Om or 000, or even a J-45 for home use, not having to compete in a bluegrass band for volume.

    Best,
    Jack
     
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  13. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Truth be known, I can hear it pretty well. But my best guitars have been cannons, and I play loud.
     
  14. perttime

    perttime Tele-Afflicted

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    Sometimes I wander around the apartment while playing acoustic. There's a huge difference in what I hear, depending on where I am. The bedroom is the dullest area. The doorway from kitchen to dining area gets all sorts of ambience.

    I remember a time when I gave a quick try to a pretty small bodied guitar with a sound port in the lower bout. That sounded way bigger than I expected. Then the guy who built the guitar put a card over the port - and the sound I heard became much less.
     
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  15. Slip Kid

    Slip Kid Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I’ve had a similar experience with my ‘98 J200. I bought mine from a local independent store and was friendly with the owner and staff. The first thing the sales kid had me do was play it and then stand in front of him while he played it to hear what big difference there was.

    I sometimes get frustrated with how I’m hearing it but everyone in front of it says it sounds great. To get over that I’ll go play it facing the corner at the top of the stair landing outside my music room and give it a work out. My wife even forbade me to ever sell it because she loves how it sounds.
     
  16. stanger

    stanger Tele-Meister

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    I own a banjo that was like that. At first, I was disappointed in it's apparent lack of ability to project, but when everyone else who played in the jams I took it to loved the way it fit in, I just accepted it, and over time got used to it.

    I came to appreciate it so much it became my fave. So much so that I had an openback version of it made about 6 years later.
    regards,
    stanger
     
  17. Guitardvark

    Guitardvark Tele-Meister

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    my acoustic always sounds better with someone else playing it but when you play it you get to feel the vibe the guitar body puts out that no one but the player can feel. it should be inspiring enough to think in your mind that others can feel the same energy emanating from the true soul and spirit of your instrument. they can, its just been transformed into sonic energy moving them.

    my om45 sounds flat to me but it feels like its on vibrate all the time :)


    we all cant see the same stars even if we stand in ones shoes bec the moments are always passing us by
     
  18. Route67

    Route67 Tele-Meister

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    I live in a small cabin with higher ceiling all meticulously finished with alder wood paneling floor, walls, ceiling - every guitar sounds rich and naturally amplified inside.

    I feel lucky, it’s easy to hear the guitars.
     
  19. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    There is a reason it is good advice to have somebody else play a guitar you are interested in before buying.

    But like another poster, if it does not work for me unplugged it is not going home.

    I certainly cannot argue with the virtues of a good setup. But other than the saddle, not much else is going to have an impact on sound. Think about it - the nut? Once you fret a note it is not even in play. Assuming your pins are fitted properly and you have done a good job anchoring the barrels under the bridge plate (you would be surprised as to how many folks just thread the down) , they simply anchor the strings.
     
  20. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

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    A Gibson's voice is midrangey. It is the nature of the beast. Sound is, of course, subjective. So while my wife loves her newish Martin D12-28 my idea of a little slice of 12 string heaven is my 1961 Gibson B45-12. But I have always preferred Gibsons.

    But guitars, no matter how old lumber they are built with is, do not "dry-out." Wood is hygroscopic so absorbs moisture in the air (or just the opposite). While I do not know what year your friend's Martin dates to, I have found when it comes to post-War guitars the ones I like the best are those built 1945 into early 1947. I figured out it has to be is the light taper un-scalloped bracing they used those years before going to the more radical tapered braces.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
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