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Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Digiplay, May 22, 2020.
Despite my username, I think vintage is a bunch of hooey
It's an endless debate. I like vintage guitars and new guitars.
However if you want old wood Rick Kelly will build you something with wood older than Fender or Gibson ever used.
New guitars have LOTS of paint or coating to dull the sound. Old ones have much less, they breathe, you can feel the wood, not the plastic coating. Modern guitars are getting better all the time - and most vintage guitars are not that great. But I have never played an exceptional modern guitar, one with magic. And yet I have played quite a few old guitars with magic; just most don't have it.
I'm not rich, but I have a 1952 Tele and have never ever played any Tele (even vintage) that plays and sounds as great. Joe Walsh played mine once and he said "Now THAT is a great guitar" - he might know. The 1953 Les Paul I found is a monster and the guy who sold it to me is a dealer - literally owned thousands of guitars; he keeps trying to get it back, 25 years later. THAT is a magic guitar.
New guitars are more consistent, more even, but they lack the top 2% that are magical.
This, a thousand times. I think we tend to assign magical properties to vintage gear because of the music of the times that was created with it. But that had more to do with the ears, hands, minds, and hearts of the players and creators than the axes themselves. A friend of mine, bassist, is a total Beatles FANATIC and has conducted seminars on Paul's playing and sound. He talks about how guys try to get the exact same bass, the same amp, the same strings, etc. And he says to them "What you WON'T have is Paul's ears, hands, and 27 year old brain as he's standing in that room at Abbey Road, reacting in real-time to what he's he's hearing around him."
My guess is, if the classic players were around today, I'm sure many of them would get sucked into the vintage thing. As mentioned elsewhere, there are some amazing axes to be had. But some of the best players I know make great music with new stuff, or even old-ish stuff that's NOT particularly sought after. I saw a guy at the 55 Bar in NYC absolutely KILL on a knock-off Fernandes Thinline from I think the late 80's-early 90's, followed by a beat-up strat from the early 2000's that, if it were sitting in a pawnshop, you wouldn't take a second look at. He was playing thru a beat-up Ampeg Reverberocket from the 90's. And destroyed the place!
So three questions:
1) If Jimi Hendrix had just turned 26 TODAY (when he started using a Strat), would he use a 1968 one, or a newer one? Given his talent he would sound awesome whatever he played, and I'd like to think that people would appreciate him enough that he'd earn enough to buy whatever he wanted. I'm sure Fender Custom Shop would be happy to provide him with a guitar.
2) Will whatever current model guitar/gear that the current youths favorite band are using today be considered vintage in 50 years as well? If by vintage you mean "considered desirable and valuable" then that's hard to say. Just as not all old wines are desirable, not all old guitars will necessarily be valuable. But if the availability of materials changes, that could affect value. For example, suppose Ash trees go extinct, or nearly so, and new guitars with ash bodies are not available. Then an older guitar made with ash might be considered more desirable and valuable, with even a 1995 52 AVRI commanding high prices, but not as high as a 1952 version simply because the sheer number of surviving 52 reissues will be higher than actual 1950s guitars. OTOH, suppose that Brazilian rosewood is replenished and farmed in a sustainable manner someday. Suddenly we can get a Martin HD-28 with BRW back and sides, no problem. BRW fingerboards on all our guitars. BRW George Harrison model Telecaster? No problem. Suddenly the newer guitars have as much or more cachet as the older ones.
3) If vintage guitars are "better" than new guitars, how can Fender/Gibson/etc. stay in business selling "inferior" new guitars? There are very few vintage guitars available and the supply is finite at best, which means there is a market for new guitars.
Question....WHAT makes it play itself? WHY does it have better touch sensitivity and dynamics? What causes it to have these qualities over a new one?
Personally I disagree that all vintage guitars have some special mojo that makes them feel better or have better tone. Some do, some don't. I also think that some current guitars have that special mojo and if you beat the bushes you will occasionally find one. I played a Squier Classic Vibe bass once which just had that sound. It was night and day different from all the other basses on the wall.
I think it is all in the neck, and I find that old real Fender necks play much better. Bodies, woods, pickups, bridges and pots, old, new, are all fine with me IF the neck fits my hand, has good action, etc. And old necks are better than new necks to me.
The new Fender US guitars are made beautifully and precisely, no doubt about that. They need to justify the cost of them. But in my opinion they do lack something. My personal thoughts are it's the ageing of the body timber. They definitely get better over time. I never really had 50's or 60's vintage Fenders but had a few early 70's and while way back then they took a hammering re quality issues etc you wouldn't hear too many saying that now. in the 1990's - 2000's I had some amazing early 70's teles and strats. Just felt like they came alive in your hands. The last few USA made late model guitars I had were beautiful things and everything made exceptionally well but lacked for the want of a better word soul. They just didn't have it. To be totally honest .....and will probably cop some flack for this the closest things I have had to a vintage feel and sound Fender lately is the Chinese made Squire Classic vibe series. Had a few of them...Tele Customs, Thinlines, Strats and they are exceptional guitars, will be very surprised if they are not the closet classics of the future. Some of these are getting on to 10 years old now and seem to stand the test of time if well care for even the cheaper Chinese hardware stays bright and shiny. Necks are slim and fast. The pick ups are of a lower output but so were the older Fenders. Mex Strats and Teles I have had good wood work but awful hardware that seems to corrode badly. Japanese Fenders lovely made things but again, I have ever understood the hype as they just don't have a lot of soul / tone...to my ears anyway. I have no doubt in 15 or 20 years the USA Fenders of today will sound much better as the timbers breathe and age. Other guitars I really like these days are G&L, even the Indonesian Tributes amazing value for money and built well with a lot of US parts. U just can't justify spending $2000 on a USA Fender these days when I enjoy playing a guitar 30% or less of the cost so much more.
I never owned real vintage guitars, only an AV 52 RI, which is a nice guitar. That said I like my American Standard better. Better hardware, better pickups and the poly finish makes it playable during the hot season.
I was sharing the stage with players playing 50s Les Pauls and 60s Strats and the appropriate amps. I couldn't hear any specific mojo. One of them invited me to his apartment and let me play all his iconic guitars. I couldn't feel any specific mojo or soul. I assume that mojo and soul has to come from the player rather than wood, metal and plastic.
Over the years I've learned to judge every guitar on an individual basis, despite year of mfg, finish, hardware, electronics, etc, etc, etc. Adopting this approach has really wowed me and helped me adjust expectations closer to reality.
I've played 70's Tele's that were absolute boat anchors. I've played an 80's Hondo Fame Tele knockoff that was absolutely incredible. I've played vintage Gibsons that sounded like they were made of plastic, and a 99 SG Classic that's more resonant than a lot of ES 335's I've encountered. 90's Dearmond Starfire - one of the best semi-hollows I've ever played. Eastman E2OM, better than a lot of Martins twice as expensive. Not making any blanket statements here because I've also played a $30K 1958 Burst LP that blew my mind, list goes on.
My general rule is, if you can't seem to put it down, and you're on fire crapping out new material in one sitting with the guitar, it's worth it no matter what year it was made.
I agree with a lot of this. Good timber is a large swath of the battle. If you've got that, the rest is relative. I also agree re; Squier Classic Vibes. I played a pine body one in a store that slayed many guitars that were four times the price.
I think if you gig, possibly new equipment might possibly have an edge, but Leo did intend for his products to be used in all settings, for years to come.
I guess it all depends on how deep your pockets are. If you want 100 yr. old lumber, check this link out.
Yes! This. The guitar that you don't want to put down, the guitar that you write a new song on while you're sitting there in the store, that's the one you want to buy on the spot. (Says the guy who didn't buy that sweet Squier bass on the spot like he should have.)
I've had a ton of vintage guitars pass though my hands and most were just guitars. Nothing special but not bad. I currently own a 55 Telecaster that is the best guitar I ever recall playing. It has a 1 piece ash body and weighs in at a very comfortable 6 lbs 2 oz. There is some magic in the guitar that I've never found in anything else. It's from early 55 and has a flat pole bridge pickup. The guitar flat out screams. If every vintage guitar hit me like this one, there would be no contest. To be fair I added slightly larger fret wire when it was time for frets.
Despite having this great old guitar & a nice 57 Les Paul Junior, I still think newer guitars are where it's at most of the time.
I made the trip to Nirvana a few years back (Carter's Vintage Guitars) in Nashville...and drooled over the rack of vintage strats. All with a price tag of 20k and up. And they were beautiful...and I wanted one. And every one of the guitar players you are inspired by, at least at my age, has their favorite vintage strat, tele, or Les Paul. So yes, I would love one, but I would be worried playing it out, having it nicked, etc.
I was fortunate enough to pull the trigger on a Suhr Classic S (roasted alder body and roasted neck). I've been playing it for 18 months now, and feel its the best guitar I've ever owned. Also fortunate to have more gear than I deserve (probably modest by some guys). My oldest vintage is a '72 Les Paul Deluxe. I'll keep it for sentimental sake, but it's not near in the league of my newer stuff.
My point is..whether vintage is better than modern, or vice versus, get the guitar that does it for you; makes you smile when you find that note, or tone or riff, or just leaning against your amp.
Last year in a guitar shop I visited, there were 2 sunburst Strats(1966) on the wall side by side. I don't recall if they were CBS or pre. The cool salesman knew I wasn't looking to buy either but he saw my enthusiasm and told me to try whichever I wanted. I grabbed the beautifully clean one. The neck did not feel special and once plugged in, I was just disappointed. He then said, "why don't you try the other one?"As soon as I put my hand on this well-worn guitar I was smitten. It felt great in the hand-and then I plugged in and played an open E chord. It was fantastic! So there; 2 identical vintage guitars from the same year/description but completely different. IN short, some vintage are truly special while others are just old guitars.
Love that tele!
If old guitars are magical, it is only a matter of time until new guitars become magical.