Does Your Electric That Sounds Best Unplugged Translate?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Bluego1, Aug 12, 2019.

  1. Chud

    Chud Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't really have a dog in this hunt as I don't make my living making music, and all of my electrics are 'best' at something, otherwise I'd move them on. I play my electrics plugged in and my acoustics unplugged. I don't expect my electrics to sound good unplugged, or my acoustics to sound good plugged in. Do some of my electrics have a bit more resonance and sustain? Maybe, but that's probably more due to a better set up on some than others rather than something intrinsic to the guitars themselves. All of that goes away and is dependent on pickups/electronics, compression, and playing style once plugged in.
     
  2. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    My best sounding unplugged electric guitar is a hollow body. It sounds great plugged in but it won't do what a solid body electric will. Over a semi hollow. So...apple and oranges.
     
  3. SolidSteak

    SolidSteak Friend of Leo's

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    I think there is no real correlation except maybe that if a guitar sounds good unplugged, that might be an indication that it has good strings on it, everything is screwed down tightly, it was set up properly to minimize fret buzz, etc.
     
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  4. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Friend of Leo's

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    Not so much as far as tone, since they all are kinda in the ballpark depending on the age of the strings, but for resonance and sustain and vibrations that I can feel when playing a solid body, yeah I'd say so. My most lively electrics unplugged are generally pretty lively when plugged in.
     
  5. esseff

    esseff Tele-Holic

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    I've found that playing electric guitars unplugged will tell me if they're bad but not necessarily if they're going to be good.
    One of my favourite guitars is a cheap feather-light Strat copy that sounds very loud unplugged and quite nice amplified. Then again, it's modded with a coil-split Warman humbucker rather than three mediocre single coils.
     
  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I often wonder what everyone means by "sounds better"?

    For example we often read claims that tubes "sound warmer".
    Warmer is just a tone adjustment, not a quality adjustment.

    Players who love their light weight resonant electrics claim that light weight resonant electrics "sound better", because they are resonant.
    But that's just a personal preference, not a qualitative measurement.

    I do find that some guitars are just dead sounding and responding, but I don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out why.

    I'm quite certain though that plenty of great sounding electrics are not particularly loud/ resonant/ warm sounding unplugged.
    In fact if I want a sharp fast attack and very clear piano bass I get less of those attributes from a softer toned resonant electric.

    A harder response and tone isn't better or worse than a softer response and tone.

    But an overly bright pickup sounds better in a softer darker toned guitar, than in a harder toned guitar.
     
  7. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire

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    Back when I worked at a music store I became the default guitar tech guy.
    Most guitars that came in to get modded, never needed a mod. A kid who had worked a fast food job and saved every dime for a guitar was very open minded to the following:
    Kid- My guitar doesn’t sound like I want it to anymore.
    Me- What did you do to it?
    Kid- Nothing, just played it. I think it needs hotter pickups and a Floyd Rose trem!
    Me- If you could make this guitar sound and play perfect to your ears, what would you be willing to spend on it? I’m asking because I watched you work and save for this guitar last summer. (Its a beautiful late 70’s Schecter HSS strat)
    Kid- Well, I have $500.
    Me- Let me have the guitar over the weekend. I am not going change thing on it.

    The kid started out a shredder learning and playing metal hair band stuff but was taking an interest in jazz and blues etc. He was actually getting pretty good. He thought he had out grown his guitar he loved so much. I simply did a fret level, replaced the nut so I could get his tremolo to work well. Then I tightened every loose rattling thing, of which there were many including the truss rod. Nylock (removable) on every machine screw as many bridge saddles had loose rattling set screws. I also bedded the neck to the pocket with Accraglas. Finally I adjusted his pickup away from the strings a bit. Even I was surprised what a difference these simple things made. It was tight responsive and solid feeling and man did that standard strat style trem worked really well. Of course he loved it. I only charged him $65 bucks (which why I did it at home).

    Kid-What did you do? Its completely different!?!

    Me-(told him and showed him how to string it to make the trem stay in tune)

    Me-Now, bring me that Crate amp in on trade for that old 50watt Laney head you’ve been wanting and your guitar mod will be complete.

    Point to this story is there are a lot of things that chip away at a guitars sound and you just get use to it. We tend to not to see the obvious sometimes. The wood is way on down the chain as long as all these other things are in play. My #1 has some things that rattle now and I’m starting to notice it. One loose bridge saddle screw can kill my guitars vibe.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
  8. Alter

    Alter Tele-Meister

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    All my better electrics sound great acoustically, vibrant and ringing. That's what I look in an electric to begin with, nice, ringing woods, that give the pickups some balanced and rich tone to amplify. If it ain't there, no pickup can fix that.
     
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  9. rangercaster

    rangercaster Friend of Leo's

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    Judging an electric guitar by its unplugged sound is like judging the picture on your TV without turning it on first ...
     
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  10. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    My amps sound better unplugged too, according to The Management.
     
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  11. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    No
     
  12. LeicaBoss

    LeicaBoss Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    I have a Gibson custom shop '58 that has the most distinctive feel, attack and sound of any guitar I've played.

    I don't even want to call it good. I like it, but it's uncannily different.

    The way it sounds acoustically is exactly how it sounds plugged in. You can't get away from it.

    [​IMG]
     
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  13. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I think it’s inconclusive and any correlation between the unplugged sound and Plugged is open to YMMV.

    I’ve got 3 Strats. Two have Alder bodies and sound quite nice unplugged and they sound great plugged in. I have one With a Poplar body that isn’t as resonant. It sounds less awesome unplugged but it sounds about the same as the others when it’s plugged in. Top notch pickups and electronics in all three.

    I have a pine Telecaster. It sounds ok unplugged. Not as good as the Alder Strats but plugged in, it’s a tone monster. It’s got a set of what I consider pretty good pickups. A Twisted Tele in the neck and a Vintage Plus bridge pickup by Tonerider.

    I have a mahogany solid body, carved top, set neck 1981 Ibanez Artist. It’s super quiet when it’s unplugged. Its so quiet, I honestly don’t know what it sounds like unplugged. It’s got a set of Alnico 2 humbuckers and it absolutely kills when it’s plugged in.

    I’ve got a 1981 Ibanez Artist Semi hollowbody. It sounds pretty good unplugged. It’s got a set of Phat Cat humbucker sized P90’s pickups and sounds great when it’s plugged in.

    I guess my takeaway is that you might have an electric guitar that sounds nice acoustically but if you want to guarantee that it sounds good plugged in, it’s going to come down to pickups and electronics.

    EDIT: I do like a nice resonant guitar that sounds good unplugged. I spend a lot of time practicing with an unplugged Strat or Telecaster. I like it when you can feel the resonance against you on a Strat. I don’t get that with a Telecaster so maybe it’s the floating bridge that enhances that. I get that with an Alder bodied Strat.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
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  14. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Beauty! I have an appreciation for Les Paul’s.
     
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  15. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    If I remember correctly the WHOLE IDEA of a solid body guitar,as imagined my none other than Les Paul himself, was to KILL that "resonance" in order for the guitar to sound "better" amplified :)
     
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  16. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    Yeah , and he was wrong; see also Ned Steinberger.
     
  17. Beachbum

    Beachbum Friend of Leo's

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    I've tried to keep an open mind about this but after extensive experimentation I just can't get any of my guitars to sound good unplugged. In fact they all seem to sound like very quiet banjos. I'm thinking that either I'm the most unlucky guitar owner on earth or it's just a fact that electric guitars don't sound all that good unplugged.
     
  18. LeicaBoss

    LeicaBoss Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    Les was right in that Feedback was a problem with arch tops, and the Log solved that.

    People have it completely backwards though. He wasn't trying to stop the strings from vibrating the body. He was trying to stop the amplified sound from vibrating the body and then the strings.

    As an aside, the volume of an electric instrument acoustically is probably the least important characteristic to consider. You can learn a lot about how a guitar will sound amplified from playing it unplugged - but vine just isn't that helpful.
     
  19. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    All my guitars are different shapes, builds, etc., so it seems like an impossible question to answer.

    I do know that the sound of an unplugged electric is a sad, weak sound to my ears.
     
  20. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Opposing theories don't always require one or the other be wrong.

    Some of the greatest recorded guitar sounds have been made with guitars that have very little acoustic resonance.

    Today though there is a mass internet trend to repeat resonant resonance resonant resonance over and over.
    The masses are just the masses, not scientific data.

    IMO the current obsession with unplugged electric performance analysis and the fondness for feeling the guitar vibrate against the player is misleading and impertinent to great electric guitar sound.

    The fact that the least resonant guitars are often the heaviest guitars, and the players who post a lot on the internet tend to be older with less sturdy backs; supports and also distorts the trend to value soft light resonant solid bodies.

    But does it matter if what amounts to social media adores light resonant electrics played unplugged?
    Not really.

    Go with Ned or go with Les or go with your favorite guitar.
     
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