Vintage verses modern - am I wrong about this?

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by Kmaxbrady, Jun 12, 2021.

  1. Kmaxbrady

    Kmaxbrady Tele-Holic

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    I have no opinion about the monetary value of vintage guitars, that’s just supply and demand doing it’s thing.

    To me the more interesting question is this:

    Are they good guitars?

    In a blind playing and listening test would an early 50s Tele consistently beat out anything coming out of the custom shop today?

    I would argue that no, they can’t be. How could the workers in the 1950s compete with the expertise of the modern builder? Even if some of Leo’s employees back then were experienced luthiers, they were building something that was brand new. And they didn’t have 70 years of combined experience to learn from. (and yeah some argue that the aging of the material is what makes them better, and if we’re talking acoustics then yeah maybe, but solid body electrics? I don’t buy it)

    I think the perception of vintage guitars being better is just nostalgia and romanticism skewing our opinions. And it’s people with the money to buy them wanting to further justify their purchase.

    Having said all that do I want one? Of course I do. But I’d want one because it’s such a cool piece of history, not because I’d expect it to be better than anything made today.

    Am I wrong?
     
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  2. Blackmore Fan

    Blackmore Fan Tele-Holic

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    I have some of the same thoughts you do in regard to electrics. I'm a Strat guy at heart, and I tend towards vintage sounding gear. I've found I can add pedals to bring "heat", but there's not a pedal out there than can clean up hot pickups that are already over-driving the amp before I do anything other than play them.

    So the math that puzzles me is a comparison in price between a vintage 50s Strat versus a Custom Shop or an Eric Johnson signature. I could find a Custom Shop (somewhere) for under $3,000. I could buy a new Eric Johnson signature for around $2,000. If I wasn't concerned about re-sale value, would a 50's original Strat *really* sound that much better than either of these options?

    And if I wanted to treat the vintage Strat as an investment, would I really expect that "investment" to outperform the return on using that same money as a downpayment on an investment property home?

    I'm not convinced the answer to the latter is "yes".
     
  3. Double Stop

    Double Stop Tele-Meister

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  4. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    In my limited experience with high-quality/high-$ vintage guitars:

    This is truer for acoustics than electrics, in the sense that acoustics really can sound richer over time. As the wood dries and gets more resonant. And/or all those sympathetic vibrations synch the parts to be more of a breathing whole. Or maybe due to better wood and craftsmanship to begin with---I dunno. But the richest-sounding acoustics I've played have all been old Martins.

    And my own acoustics, my go-to beater no less than my aging Martins, sound better as they age. I've recorded them new and at 25 years old on the same equipment, using the same brand and gauge of strings, etc., in the same room. They're considerably richer now.

    As far as electrics go, some of the same things seem to occur, to a lesser extent. Really good vintage ones sound better acoustically than most newer ones seem to, acoustically. They seem to have more resonances, more subtlety, when unplugged. Maybe just 'cause they've dried out so much.

    And on both acoustic and electric, a vintage guitar can play much better if how it's worn fits with how one plays. Insofar as this occurs, vintage might pretty consistently foster more fluent, confident playing. So their hard-won comfort level, more than their electronics or materials, might be strongly contributing to the player's sense of those guitars' tones.

    That said, modern ones seem to often or potentially have better electronics. Decline in some materials' quality or availability seems more than offset by a pretty vast increase in manufacturing precision and the range of options available. One of my Strat copies has three splittable rail humbuckers on it. They give me all the classic Strat sweet chime and barky quack tones, and then many other options to blend with the classic tones. And a modern (Wilkinson) trem system that's remarkably tuning-respecting.

    And one can certainly get new guitars worn/relic'd as one likes. And I'm not sure how much acoustic resonance matters/transfers when an electric is plugged in. My electrics that sound drab when played acoustically jump to life when plugged in.

    The two smoothest-playing electrics I've ever played were a genuine '56 Strat--and new and a mildly relic'd Nash Tele. And as sweet as actual '56 Strat pickups sound, that sound and many other options are now available, for Strats and just about everything else, via modern technology.

    So I dunno! As nostalgic as I am, I agree that vintage guitars are not automatically better. BUT all those ghosts of deep emotions expressed, the stories that each dent and ding tell, and the fact that some of 'em may have ridden in '57 Chryslers and '63 Pontiacs--that is unique, musical stuff, right there.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
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  5. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Doctor of Teleocity

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    Old slippers fit so well...

    Buying someone else’s old slippers, not so much.

    i have a couple of 50+ year old guitars I regularly gig, they have worn to my hands over the decades and feel wonderful. My ‘63 Casino has great, airy pickups.. slightly dried out and microphonic which give it great open, present tones.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
  6. Masmus

    Masmus Tele-Holic

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    I am not here to say one way or the other, but early to mid sixties Gibsons with either the skinny, or fat neck to me feel better in my hands, and the reissues do not have those necks. Most players today prefer a different style neck and that is what the reissues provide since it sells more guitars. What percentage of this forum has spent time playing a real 64 Firebird. But most of my vintage guitars sound better probably because that's what we heard on our favorite records. At least today many cheap guitars are really good, and that's a good thing.
     
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  7. Miff

    Miff Tele-Meister

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    I don’t know about expensive guitars, can’t afford them very often, but cheap beginners guitars these days are far better than the cheap ones when I was a beginner. So if that’s true of expensive ones too ...

    Due to CNC precision etc. there’s also a lot less variation between two new guitars of the same model, a thing which was once very noticeable even in the same guitar store. Much less so now. I’ve bought a couple of guitars online (a £1500 Martin, and a £300 Epiphone) trusting they would be just like the same models I’d played before. They were.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
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  8. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    Rarity, and unobtainable/mystique plus the use by iconic figures is the reason vintage guitars are venerated. Some are truly brilliant guitars, in some cases it's the player. I've never played a genuine 50s but I have played 60s - the Teles were great. One 64 Strat was dreadful. Dead feeling,very ordinary pickups and totally uninspiring.

    Not many people know Roy Buchanan's Nancy had frets worn below the fretboard. One winter session in New York he came in and banged it against a wall to get the snow off.

    Often guys who are pros get their tones in spite of their guitars, not because. I read a review by someone who played Clapton's Blackie through one of his modified Silverface amps said both of them were dreadful.

    Page's Dragon Tele - for a lot of the New Yardbirds tours including some of the BBC tapes the bridge pickup had a broken winding. All those magic tones through the neck pickup only.
     
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  9. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    I'm pretty sure they were less consistent back then, but the individual luthiers might have had more of the fine craftsmanship skills that aren't necessary with modern machines.

    The overall quality of a standard production Fender was probably of similar (or maybe slightly better) overall quality than a modern production one, but with more variation between individual instruments, and more time spent on the instrument by the workers.

    As for the modern custom shop, I have to believe their stuff is better than any standard production instrument, past or present. There's much more individual selection of materials and work on each guitar, with the benefit of experienced craftsmen AND modern tools.
     
  10. Cheap Trills

    Cheap Trills Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    If I buy a guitar off the shelf and play it for 10 years, I can guarantee you it will feel better, resonate better, fit better than when I first bought it. Playing guitars wears them in like a glove. The parts vibrate together with your playing and settle into themselves. That's what people are after... not drier wood or a beat up paint job.
     
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  11. capitalbear

    capitalbear Tele-Meister

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    Yes.
     
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  12. Honest Charley

    Honest Charley Tele-Holic

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    Wasn´t one of Leo Fenders great idea the fact that the solid bodys could be built by unskilled labour? In the spirit of Samuel Colt & Henry Ford. Today we seems to believe that old is good and new is bad. What about progress? All IMHO of course. :)
     
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  13. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    This.
     
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  14. capitalbear

    capitalbear Tele-Meister

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    Perception is reality.
    To me, my vintage guitars "feel and sound better"...whatever that means to anyone else. So there is no question as like "right" or "wrong"...and even less an answer to that.
     
  15. yegbert

    yegbert Poster Extraordinaire

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    And a non-hyped guitar, not something like one from a Custom Shop or a boutique builder, seems more true to that idea!
     
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  16. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

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    If we're comparing new examples of 40s and 50s guitars to the originals, then yes, I think you're wrong.

    It's not that I don't think anyone could do better than teles, strats, and les pauls, they just haven't. These aren't even my favorite guitars, but they're everyone else's.
    Can the people who just copy the old stuff do better than the old stuff? Seems like they can't.

    Have you listened to the pre-rock players of the 40s that teles and strats and les pauls were actually designed for? Guitar players haven't gotten any better than Merle Travis, Joe Maphis, and Jimmy Bryant, so why would guitar builders?

    Those old guitars were designed by people who spent a lot more time listening to actual instruments and amplifiers in person. They were surrounded by the biggest stars and players of their time. The ears and expectations of the builders were very different back then.
    And, they could choose any wood they wanted to use back then, with almost no limitations.

    Comparing the original guitars of the 40s and 50s to new copies, the originals really have every reason to sound better.
     
  17. Rhubarb Red

    Rhubarb Red Tele-Meister

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    What's the deal about vintage guitars?
    The whole Vintage scene went from "collecting" to "investing" approx. 20 years ago. Romance is gone. It's a total different animal now. People now go "guitar and amp hunting (hint hint)" together with a bodyguard and US$50'000 in their purse: money means nothing to them. I started collecting when we avoided custom color Teles and Strats, because we thought, the wood wasn't good on them. Fenders: pre-CBS only, Gibsons stopped at the narrow necks, Martins stopped after the early 60ies. Gretsch? Maybe. A '59 Les Paul was 5-10'000 (in today's money maybe US$10-40'000). People buy now vintage guitars for vintage's sake and not for their quality. They want trophys.​

    Are vintage guitars better guitars then new ones?
    In my experience only very very few, but most of them not at all. TO me, new guitars are of higher quality then vintage ones. Any Fender CS or Gibson CS is IMHO better than any CBS-era Fender and/or Norlin-era Gibson. There are maybe other experiences.​

    Are vintage guitars worth their huge amount of money?
    IMHO almost all of them not, some very few maybe yes, but to me, it stops with a certain amount. IMHO, no guitar on earth is worth more than US$25'000. Period. OTOH celebrity owned vintage guitars can indeed be expensive, and that for good (George's SG, for example). But: is a "regular" '59 Les Paul worth US$250'000 - 400'000? An '59 335 US$70'000?: I decided: no way. You decide for yourself. Hint: decision is easier when you can spend US$500'000 oout of your wallet tomorrow... again: there are maybe other opinions around.​

    Do I have vintage guitars?
    Yes, quite a few, I used to collect, but not anymore.
    Do I play vintage guitars on stage?
    Only occasionally, mostly some frankensteined vintage ones compiled from old and new parts (yes, they can indeed have PAFs, etc.), and some are custom- or self made relics. Why? They feel better, sound better to me. Again: there are maybe other opinions around.
    Just my 5 cents...
     
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  18. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like the look of some vintage guitars but I doubt they play or sound much better, if at all.
    There’s too much subjectivity involved.
    But it’s no different than the incessant claims that there are demonstrable differences in brands of pickups, saddles, bridges, etc.
     
  19. gmann

    gmann Friend of Leo's

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    I’ve played many Strats that play better than my ‘60 but I’ve never played one that sounded better.
     
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  20. Back at it

    Back at it TDPRI Member

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    I have a “ player” 58 strat, well worn and unbelievably comfortable

    I have a Nash t-63 lightly relic’d has the same feel

    I have 58 reissue lp played in worn to me

    so it doesn’t matter one way or another if the guitar is played, if it’s a case queen, there’s usually a reason why
     
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