Guitar finish impacts sound in the audible range

Guitar finish impacts sound in the audible range

  • Yes

    Votes: 53 24.4%
  • No

    Votes: 164 75.6%

  • Total voters
    217
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pippoman

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Nope, not on a solid body electric. The overall sound is more likely somewhat affected audibly by the type and density of wood and nut, but I would venture to say that on a blind test even Eric Johnson would find it difficult to hear a difference in types of coatings. Even if he could, that’s Eric Johnson. He’s amazing.

Electronics, especially pickups (obviously) affect the sound so much on a solid body electric that other factors are relatively insignificant, the finish being the least significant.

The only reason I’m even commenting on this poll is my wife is mad and won’t speak to me.
 

Mnc1

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Hard to believe on electric guitars.
I can sort of see that a heavier or lighter finish could affect the tone of an acoustic instrument where the vibration of the top is a big part of the sound.

Yes, the finish on an acoustic instrument, ( guitar, mando, violin, etc), would affect the sound and response. Not at all on a solid body, electric instrument.
 

Arfage

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It's been known to for a hundred years, maybe SEVERAL hundred. Now in the last ten years a bunch nerds with screen-fried retinas have decide everything learned about guitars through the centuries is not reliable information and should be determined by opinion, and reading **** written by other nerds with screen-fried retinas, right after talking about how their new Squire is every bit the guitar as any Pensa they ever played. It's all an equation, wood, hardware and stuff, it has no choice, especially if it's unusually thick or thin. I know the 1/8" thick crap on my '95 American Standard strat is wrecking what might be a great sounding guitar. The finish is STUPID thick. It's just really beautiful so I don't have the heart to refinish it.
 

magicfingers99

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I'm going to have to disagree with this, magicfingers.
Because the threads of the screw move freely through the body, the bond between neck and body can vary from 'just enough to remain structurally solid' to as firmly as the threads and wood allow.
This bond between neck and body does affect the instrument's sound IME.
unless you use inserts, the neck will always change regarding amount of torque needed to tighten the neck to the body. the wood will become gored out from the threads. The humidity will effect the properties of the wood, swelling it or not.
if the neck is tight enough to keep the strings in tune, no wobble when you twist the neck, then it should be properly tightened, if you keep tightening you are just compressing the wood for no good reason and its likely to cause damage to one of the pieces of wood involved in the process.

if i have to work with a neck alot, i prefer to put in threaded inserts, to make the neck easier to properly tighten.

yes the neck can change the sound, but no it shouldn't if its properly tightened.
 

magicfingers99

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It's been known to for a hundred years, maybe SEVERAL hundred. Now in the last ten years a bunch nerds with screen-fried retinas have decide everything learned about guitars through the centuries is not reliable information and should be determined by opinion, and reading **** written by other nerds with screen-fried retinas, right after talking about how their new Squire is every bit the guitar as any Pensa they ever played. It's all an equation, wood, hardware and stuff, it has no choice, especially if it's unusually thick or thin. I know the 1/8" thick crap on my '95 American Standard strat is wrecking what might be a great sounding guitar. The finish is STUPID thick. It's just really beautiful so I don't have the heart to refinish it.
electric guitars and acoustic guitars are really two different animals that happen to share a common fretboard.

acoustic guitars produce sound through vibration of the strings and body and soundboard

electric guitars produce sound through the electric pickups, hence the designation "electric"
the only vibration they need is the strings and they must be ferro-magnetic. fer instance nylon strings won't do squat on an electric guitar.

so all the centuries of knowledge pertain to acoustic instruments. Electrics were invented in the 1930's, we don't even have a single century of accumulated knowledge about electric guitars. still we have produced an impressive amount of music with them..

the placebo effect is real, even if the placebo itself is not. if you think the finish makes the guitar sound bad, you are right it does to you. music is a human thing, it is made in the brain and it is subjected to all the frailties of the human brain and the organs that feed it information.
 

MatsEriksson

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Which guitar?

Acoustic = yes, perhaps
Electric = no, not even perhaps

... but who am I to speak...and you...? When we have people such as these, below?

https://www.guitarworld.com/news/billy-corgan-paint-color-actually-changes-the-sound-of-a-guitar

Skärmavbild 2021-09-28 kl. 17.33.30.png


"“I’ve found through the years that certain paints sound different, so the white Reverend, I think, sounds better. I have a couple of other ones, but this one seems to sound the best,” he continued."
 

oregomike

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Which guitar?

Acoustic = yes, perhaps
Electric = no, not even perhaps

... but who am I to speak...and you...? When we have people such as these, below?

https://www.guitarworld.com/news/billy-corgan-paint-color-actually-changes-the-sound-of-a-guitar

View attachment 903680

"“I’ve found through the years that certain paints sound different, so the white Reverend, I think, sounds better. I have a couple of other ones, but this one seems to sound the best,” he continued."

Well, he does see aliens, so....

Oh, Billy..
 

december

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Of course: colors are frequencies, different colors, different wavelengths. The color certainly affects the sound of it. This is why I will only use black guitars. Black is the absence of color. White is all colors at once, and each color is one specific frequency. So a green will only reflect the frequency of green and absorb all the rest. White reflects all color frequencies, and black absorbs all. That's why I only use black guitars, because it absorbs all light color frequencies and that's what I want, the full spectrum of visible light, involved in the vibrations going on in the guitar.
 

Yuro

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Ye cats ... not another thread @ guitar finishes!!!

It's been pretty well conceded that "finish" or lack thereof has little or no effect on the sound of an electric, and minimal effect on an acoustic for that matter. Here are some things that DO effect the tone of an electric guitar:

  • Fresh strings vs. crusty
  • Proper string gage
  • Proper setup and intonation
  • Capacitor (my favorite is .033)
  • Amp settings (you know, twisting those cute little dials?)
  • Volume and tone knobs on the guitar itself (see above)
  • Pedals
  • Speakers and/or cab simulators
  • Pickups
  • Pickup height
  • Plectra - shape and gage
  • Cables - no more cheap ones please

What's next - more tonewood discussions or tube amps vs. SS? Oy!

Gitcha some of these (Amazon - under $10 the pair):

71QnUkpfsKL._AC_SL1500_.jpg


Enchilada:

Great post! This got long, but I think it may have some value for the forum, so I decided to post it. Not directed just to you....I love the tip about the .033 caps.

Agree that all of these variables make a difference....I suspect that finish or lack of same also make a difference but not a lot of difference....I prefer nitro finish over poly. This has less to do with tone...It just feels better to me.

As to the acoustic vs solid body question...there are degrees of acoustic-ness. There's semi-hollow, jazz box and electrified acoustics, of course...but even solid body guitars have degrees of solid-ness. A strat has a lot of meat cut out of it for the whammy mechanism. Especially you block the whammy, the guitar body becomes a lot more resonant and "hollow" than your average Tele or LP.

A great example of lack of finish is the Rory Galligar strat. These come out of the box with most of the finish gone. They have the nicest, woody sound to them. I don't know if this is a function of the lack of finish or some pre-treatment of the wood, which appears to be a grey color in the unfinished areas. Unlike most Fender products, every known Rory has simply great sound....and feels acoustic...more so the more you turn up. These are terrific guitars if you can find one for sale. I nearly bought one but chose the Cruz (described below) instead. My friend bought the Rory and I still get to play it from time to time. It's amazing.

Strats with good, tight neck pockets and weight around 7.5 lbs seem to be most likely have the magic I crave...assuming good electronics, good string alignment etc. Finish can make a negative difference if it's too thick or if it's thick and poly especially. There is some talk about nitro hardening up through the years and making the instrument more lively. I'm sure some of this happens to a degree with acoustic guitars and even hollow and semi-hollow electrics. Does it happen with solid-body guitars? I've got an old Gibson 335 that has mature nitro. It is bright and lively. Maybe it came out of the box this way? I dunno.

I've got two really good strats:

One is a not inexpensive John Cruz '63 Masterbuilt in Sonic Blue. I bought it new and passed on a massively good Rory strat mentioned above. The Cruz is great to play, is made of top materials including a beautiful Brazilian rosewood board and a relic job that is so real looking as to approach artistry. That has nothing to do with tone, but I've had this thing for years and I keep finding more cool details. The closer you look, the more little touches you find. I took it to a blues jam once and one of the other players told me he had the same '63 Sonic Blue Strat at home (his was "real"). He commented that he rarely brings it to a jam like this due to its value. I handed my guitar over to him, pointing out the Masterbuilt logo. He couldn't get over it. He really was fooled. Anyway, this is a very good playing guitar. It wasn't cheap, but it was about ⅓ the cost of a "real" '63 strat at the time...and some of those old guitars do not play well. When I bought mine, I was new to strat-world and felt I would likely spend way too much on a turkey vintage guitar that I'd end up hating, so I went this way...safer and more practical.

By now, the appreciation on a real '63 would have paid for my Cruz, but I think my guitar will at least hold value...and it's a useful, playable guitar. Because it's reliced, I don't sweat every bump and bruise. Just pointing out that there is following for this sort of guitar and the reasoning behind it is not silly. This is a really fine piece of work. I have a lot of "vintage snob" friends who don't like relics. They'll argue all day long about it. One owns a '58 Flying Vee like Albert King's...and he can PLAY it. Good for him.

The other Strat is a parts-caster, officially, called "Jesquire" made by Jesse from Cowtown Guitars in Las Vegas. They're out of business now, I think. At the time I bought this, Jesse told me he was making half a dozen or so of these each year. He'd put them out on the rack and they'd be sold in 2 or 3 days. He had just put this one out when I dropped by the store. It's a 1-piece Warmouth body; Fender neck with a matte finish on the back; rosewood board; hand-made pickups from a guy near Reno, NV; Electronics salvaged from an old strat. The finish is supposed to be Olympic White but it turned a little bit pink. It's not a thin finish. It's reliced. It weighs 7.5 lbs on the nose. I only played it acoustically in the shop. I liked everything about it and made an offer. Had it sent home because I was on a working trip to LV. When it arrived home, it buzzed electrically if I touched any of the pick guard screws, so I put some clear packing tape over the entire "green" pick guard. Tape is still on the guitar. It stopped the buzzing. The finish on this thing is so rough, you don't notice the tape. This guitar sounds and plays terrific. I've never had the pick guard off because I just don't want to do anything to muck up the mojo of it. Shipped to my door, the cost was $1650 with case. It's my go-to guitar for any jam because it just sounds so terrific. It has an SRV vibe and really good volume and tone controls...so easy to dial in tasty sounds at the right volume.

Playing at home or with only a few other instruments, the Sonic Blue Cruz has nicer feel and plays bass lines and big chords a bit better but for lead work or comping, the Jesquire is really the best tool for the job.

These are both "63 strats", one from the factory and one made by hand from bits. They are much different in cost, sound and feel. Both keepers and both excellent.

Heavy guitars made of green, moisture-filled wood will just never sound right no matter what you do to them....ask me how I know.

Weighing a guitar before you buy it is a good idea. A rule of thumb is 7.5 lbs +- 0.2 for strats. Les Paul's should weigh under 8.5 or so....but there are exceptions.

I have ONE guitar, an LP style Knaggs, that is a bit porky, but it plays great. I tried it out at the store before I bought it and fell for it immediately...then I plugged it in...absolutely great pickups and electronics too...and it looked good too. When something is right, it's right. You can't always go by the weight.

A natural 335 reissue from early 80s is my sole poly finish guitar. I replaced all the chrome pieces with nickel. It's a great playing and great looking guitar. I wish it was nitro. My hands just don't like poly as much, but I can't let this one go. I've tried different pickups on it. It's got Tim Shaw's on it now, but it's had SD Antiquities and even a set of Throw-Baks. They all sound pretty good to me. The original Gibson pickups with the circuit boards on the backs also sounded pretty good. A good guitar really helps decent pickups sound better.

It's a big guitar, larger and heavier than the original 335s, but it's not uncomfortable to play. It has a nice lower-mid emphasis to its tone, probably due to the large, semi-hollow body. Acoustic feedback is very controllable with this guitar.

So, all this is to say that, rules of thumb are helpful, especially when buying online, but they aren't hard rules. There are good poly guitars. There are good "heavy" guitars. There are amazing guitars with almost no finish. There are terrific guitars around that don't cost the Earth.

Solid body or semi-hollow or even hollow guitars should all be tried without an amp first.

Do you like the action, the neck shape, the finish? Does it feel good to you.

Is it resonant? Can you feel the strings vibrate? How about sustain?

Play the strings high on the fretboard. Does either E-string want to fall off the board? Walk away if either side does. It can be fixed, but it's not quick or easy and it can affect the guitar's sound negatively if the re-alignment required is extreme.

Do the tuners stay in tune? This is a problem with some lower priced guitars, especially some of the early Squire guitars.

Finally, plug in. Playing under power in a music store is the worst. The acoustics of the room and position of the amps in stores is usually just terrible. What you want to do is set an amp for mild break up and play with the volume and tone controls. Some pickup/controls on some guitars will just be rubbish at part-volume or with tone anywhere but 10. You should be able to dial down gain with the guitar volume and still get pleasing sounds. You should be able to clean up ice-pick treble sounds without the rig sounding muffled. If you can't do these things with the guitar controls, you will be pouring money into that guitar to get it working for you the way electric guitars are supposed to work. If you really like the guitar and if the price is low enough and if you have the time, resources, access to a good tech or knowledge and skill to fix it yourself, then buy it and fix it up, otherwise, go find something better.

As far as "no more cheap cables" goes, Hendrix preferred cheap coil-cord cables into his Marshalls. He would seek them out. No accounting for taste, I guess. Just sayin'

My take is that some amps are more cable-sensitive than others. When I play on a crowded stage with a lot of other musicians, the nuance that a pricey cord offers is wasted. I just try to play with more clean volume than usual and use the guitar controls a lot to get the right amount of sound that will get through. Then play sparingly. No one can tell a $150 cord from a $25 cord in that situation,.
 

bigjohnbates

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For sure changing the finish on a hollow body electric or full acoustic will affect resonance. On a plank .... maaaaybeeee ???? though I can't see how.
 

brashboy

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I'm guessing that if you stuck a wad of chewed gum to the front of your guitar it would affect the sound in some way, measurable by very sensitive scientific instruments. Could a human or even a dog hear the difference? I doubt it.

Isn't this really a question for sound
 

waynereed

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. .[QUOTE but yeah, it sounded and played terrible afterwards.[/QUOTE]

I mean no disrespect here! Most likely it's not the body refinish that caused the guitar to sound "and play" terribly. It's the re-assembly.
 

tanplastic

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Of course: colors are frequencies, different colors, different wavelengths. The color certainly affects the sound of it. This is why I will only use black guitars. Black is the absence of color. White is all colors at once, and each color is one specific frequency. So a green will only reflect the frequency of green and absorb all the rest. White reflects all color frequencies, and black absorbs all. That's why I only use black guitars, because it absorbs all light color frequencies and that's what I want, the full spectrum of visible light, involved in the vibrations going on in the guitar.
Haha, good one!
 

mexicanyella

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I am perfectly happy to treat each guitar I encounter on a case-by-case basis, not claiming to have the lowdown on what affects what tonally...just do I like it? ___Yes ___No

HOWEVER, having said that, I would be interested to hear what the “All that matters on a solid body are strings vibrating over pickups, Wood is irrelevant” crowd have to say when faced with comparing how, say, a hardtail Strat compares to a traditional trem Strat compares to a Floyd Strat. I think most players would easily detect sound and feel differences amongst those, and that leads me to wonder if they are over-minimizing certain factors to sharpen their argument.

Maybe you can’t predict sound based on wood species, but wood’s variable and the strings anchor to it (eventually) and it seems like the anti-tone wood argument, while maybe having some merit, gets amplified into oversimplified, willfully-ignoring-variables silliness sometimes.
 

tanplastic

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I am perfectly happy to treat each guitar I encounter on a case-by-case basis, not claiming to have the lowdown on what affects what tonally...just do I like it? ___Yes ___No

HOWEVER, having said that, I would be interested to hear what the “All that matters on a solid body are strings vibrating over pickups, Wood is irrelevant” crowd have to say when faced with comparing how, say, a hardtail Strat compares to a traditional trem Strat compares to a Floyd Strat. I think most players would easily detect sound and feel differences amongst those, and that leads me to wonder if they are over-minimizing certain factors to sharpen their argument.

Maybe you can’t predict sound based on wood species, but wood’s variable and the strings anchor to it (eventually) and it seems like the anti-tone wood argument, while maybe having some merit, gets amplified into oversimplified, willfully-ignoring-variables silliness sometimes.
Aren't you just hearing the string's reaction to the bridge's mechanical properties?
 
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