Do vintage instruments really sound better?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by max_twang, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    if a modern instrument builder heard a recording of a violin concerto without having seen the instrument responsible ...and was asked to make an instrument that would exactly copy the sounds produced... out of wood and cat gut and horse hair...
    I wonder if they would have ended up with a violin as we know it..?.. or would have got even close?..

    and conversely ...if a modern instrument maker couldn't make a "better violin" with all the research material and old instruments to measure and copy.. he'd be a crap builder and have learned nothing...
     
  2. dblues

    dblues Tele-Holic

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    If I didn't still occasionally find something of interest and/or actually learn something new I would stop reading any thread with the word best or better in the title. As many others have pointed out the question will have as many answers as there are people answering it. How about we start two more threads, one for the yes group and one for the no group and we'll work on the "why" part. Why do vintage guitars (add or delete the next word) not sound better? The reason I keep reading this stuff in the absence of any objective criteria that we all can agree on is that I believe the subjective answer that comes from a poster with a wider range of experience will probably contain information that can actually advance my understanding of the question at hand. I've noticed those folks tend to avoid the cut and dried dogma that some other embrace. Both points of view are valid and the dogma may actually be right. I just find my understanding is generally advanced further by folks who are less prone to ascribe simple answers to complex questions. I've been fortunate enough to own a couple of vintage guitars and one newer one. Occasionally I make all of them sound good. Other times not so much. I know that back in the late 60s and early 70s we knew for sure that pre CBS Fender= good and post = bad. That perspective along with quite a bit of other stuff I was very sure about has proven to be pretty useless. So what's the point? Don't stop asking questions, enjoy the ride and play the heck out of that guit, old or new.

    Sent from my iPad using TDPRI
     
  3. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well this is mostly true but a quality guitar with a real quality piece of wood and quality neck will be noticed "unplugged" My two 52RI's unplugged have a stark contrast with the Chinese CV Tele.. A career bass player friend of mine picks up Electric Basses and plays them unplugged to capture the fretboard sound before he plugs them in, if he doesn't feel or hear the fretboard sound he doesn't even plug it in !

    Back to the original question, I am one who doesn't feel that vintage guitars sound better than newer guitars, in many cases they don't sound as good ! That being said, that's not why people buy vintage guitars,they buy them for what they are...vintage instruments.... I think vintage Fenders sound real thin compared to guitars with modern era pickups.

    Bu that may be just me...

    t
     
  4. cnote

    cnote Former Member

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    Just like with guitars, there are Strads that are great, some are ok, and some are just complete dogs. The price of these old instruments have been blown way out of proportion by speculators and collectors, not necessarily the musicians who play them. That particular violin could have had gut strings which are softer than synthetic or metal, although I can cause the G string to go sharp a semitone on just about any fiddle with bow pressure/speed. Those old fiddles really are kind of like Telecasters. If you dive in and start wackin away, it'll sound terrible, but if you take time and learn how to "drive" the durn thang and figure out how it wants to be played it can be a supremely rewarding experience. The artistry isn't in how loud and how hard you can play, it's the availability of shades and textures.
     
  5. DMace

    DMace Friend of Leo's

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    I know diddley about old violins, but if you did the same test with acoustics, any player on the planet would be able to differentiate between the new(er) acoustic and the old. No one would mistake a Banner J-45 for a new guitar. No one would mistake a wartime Martin for a new boutique clone. What the player 'prefers' is a whole other subject though, and will necessarily differ from one to the next.
     
  6. cnote

    cnote Former Member

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    I know there's sort of a false equivalency between guitars and violins. They are fairly different beasts as far as a lot of things go, but it is vibrating strings causing wood to vibrate and make sound. I do think a skilled luthier could make a copy of an old guitar using properly aged wood, the same building techniques, ground and varnish recipe, etc. and get close enough to the feel and sound so that the difference is not old vs. new, but this guitar vs. that guitar. Not talking from experience with acoustic guitars here, I just know how clever luthiers are and what's possible with violins.

    THat being said, there really is magic in some of those old instruments be they electric guitars, acoustic guitars, violins or whatever. It's not measurable or easy to pin down, but there is a special feeling to play an axe that generations have played on before you. There is a feeling of passing through it's life and leaving a little bit of your own mark on it added to the vibe others have imprinted and that it will affect the next custodian in a small way and on and on.

    The guys that build violins have studied the old ones extensively. They suspend the fiddles and have a little hammer that taps the bridge, then they map out how the vibrations propagate through the wood. They get CAT scans and MRIs on the things, analyze bits of varnish, study tool marks. They go so far as to measure the speed of the sound waves in the wood. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's even a raging debate as to wheather or not using power tools, even to rough out the shape, has a damaging effect on the wood and will translate to an inferior finished instrument.

    The one thing that always seems to come out of all this is with guitars and violins is, "all things being equal, nothing is ever equal."

    If ya'all think guitar guys are nuts, go check out some of the forums at maestronet.com where they discuss this stuff. Whew!
     
  7. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Tele-Holic

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    But that directly violates all known popular folklore :D
     
  8. Dawg

    Dawg Tele-Holic

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    Old instruments have just been played in for a long period of time - and that definitely affects tone. Brand new instruments sound stiff - nothing wrong with them but they just need playing regularly.
     
  9. tele12

    tele12 Friend of Leo's

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    One thing that the originally linked NPR article neglects to mention is that the modern violins tested are world-class instruments. Basically they are the equivalent of Custom Shop Masterbuilt Fenders.

    http://www.economist.com/node/21542380

    ".....and the combined value of the three modern instruments as around $100,000,........."
     
  10. Nick JD

    Nick JD Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Do vintage instruments really sound better?

    To those that think they do ... yes.
     
  11. lostpick

    lostpick Tele-Afflicted

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    my theory...

    the difference is FELT by the player...

    older wood tends to be resonant and acoustically
    louder...

    a player makes a sub conscious association at first
    with these two properties...

    he hears and feels a lively, resonant instrument
    and "wow, let me plug this baby in" thing happens

    he might not hear the acoustic sound of the guitar anymore
    as he turns up the amp...but he still feels the resonance

    its a pleasurable sensation, extra dimension while playing as there
    is more perceived sensory feedback into the hands
    and other body parts that may contact the guitar

    as rons bass player friend does...i wont even plug in a
    guitar if it doesnt feel lively and resonant

    older guitars have a higher chance of being resonant
    as the wood dries out and crystalizes

    but i also realize that some older teles could have
    less of this "zing" then a new CVC

    i also realize there are many ways to "zing"
    up a guitar with with hardware and set up choices
     
  12. stantheman

    stantheman Doctor of Teleocity

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    Sometimes...if they have not been dicked with they're magical.:cool:
     
  13. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Tele-Holic

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    Are you saying the tests would only be valid if the "old masters" were compared to plywood Chinese knock offs?
     
  14. Icepick

    Icepick Tele-Meister

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    Guitars (and all musical instruments) are magical. They've come into existence through alchemy. Don't want no science in mine.
     
  15. dalandan

    dalandan Tele-Afflicted

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    that article had almost NOTHING to do with real psychology. that was pop psych to its fullest.
     
  16. McGlamRock

    McGlamRock Friend of Leo's

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    For me owning a World War II era Martin D series or a pre CBS Fender (for example) would be more about owning a piece of history than having a guitar that "sounds better."
     
  17. tele12

    tele12 Friend of Leo's

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    Not what I am saying at all. I'm saying these are instruments that have had a lot of effort and expertise put in to their manufacture.
    I'm just stating an important piece of information that was left out of the linked article.
     
  18. zonie9872

    zonie9872 TDPRI Member

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    It didn't leave that aspect out at all, actually it was an integral part of the study. Did you read the whole article? They didn't just hear each instrument, they PLAYED each instrument. If they PLAYED the instrument, they closely and intimately TOUCHED the instrument.
     
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