So there's a lot of pseudoscience among guitar players, regarding what affects tone, and to what degree, as well as a lot of anecdotal evidence being taken as fact. It seems that many people hear with their eyes rather than with their ears, and are far too trusting of opinions being posted as fact on the interwebs. I'd like to hear some of the more ridiculous claims that you guys have heard. Here are a few of my recent ones:
1. I recently had someone tell me that he could hear a discernible tonal difference between a guitar that was wired with solid conductor wire vs stranded wire. He claims that he tried this out on a few of his own instruments. I call his soldering technique into question here.
2. Someone else asked me to degloss their instrument. Their main complaint that the instrument felt sticky, and they wanted a smoother neck, but they had also been told that a satin finish would allow the wood to 'breathe' more. I've heard this one a lot, that satin finishes somehow sound more natural sounding. Never mind the fact that we're literally just roughing up the existing finish.
3. I've also heard people claim that mounting pickups directly to the guitar body, rather than to a plastic pickup ring, will somehow allow the pickup to hear the vibration of the wood better. Some people have gone on to say that microphonic pickups are actually desirable in this application, because they pickup vibrations from the body better. Granted, I've heard Lindy Fralin say that a pickup being slightly microphonic isn't always a bad thing, and I've definitely heard overpotted pickups that sound awful, but I suspect that anyone making the above claim has never played a guitar with highly microphonic pickups.
What other crazy stuff have you guys heard?
Great observations, Paul. Spot on!
I am very guilty of no. 2....."things" mostly "static". I have some great vintage/restored tube audio equiptment that sounds better ...."the player I get".....quite-nice!
I feel like your point is, that raw, natural, play to the room applies.
and I relate to the rest of your comments....
Detecting a discernible difference due to cause and effect in this luthiery field is not difficult. You change something and it changes the tone or output or whatever to a greater or lesser degree and a trained ear works better than an untrained ear at detecting overt and nuanced changes to sound/tone etc - immutable stuff, not up for discussion or skepticism.
Some of us work at the very loud end of guitar development, some of us at the very quiet end of "acoustic" instruments - but either way if you do it long enough you become skilled at listening and segregating and identifying differences. I won't go into how the brain does this, nor will I go into sonic ray path plotting and what affects it because I will cop it from those that hang an 'arrogant" tag on everyone that has done a bit of work or has studied (professionally) something they don't.
An individual may be dead right in saying "I can't hear a difference or pick a change" but, to then say "therefore it doesn't exist" is just plain wrong. Which is a problem I am not about to ventilate here - it's enough to identify it and maybe give cause to examine just how hard one tries to work stuff out. or just plain straight concentrates and listens objectively.
Paul V brings up the issue of just what is "classic tone" and how to define it. Not many peeps can duplicate classic Zepplin tone with modern or budget equipment with a host of "sound like": pedals and a piss-poor skill set. Agreed. But if you were to have a good Plexi from the era and a solid enough Tele or a bright LP you can plug in an be there pretty well. It's that simple, ya just got to have the gear and the patience and the ability to listen to the original stuff. The playing skills and technique is up to the beholder to master, but the tone is there if you want it.
The acoustic guys don't seem to have as much trouble as they has less options or variables available to navigate towards nailing a particular sound (tone) and more available info on how to get there. In some ways not having an amp as part of the tone set and having a good mic doing the transfer makes it just so much easier. Relatively easier, that is, I'm not denigrating here, I'm observing.
Second thing that really stands out: if you are not an electric guitar specialist designer and maker with a commercial and professional downside to getting tone wrong you really haven't lived. The number of variables and their individual and collective effects on the overall sound are massive - and if you cannot hear or determine much differences between such things as pickups, bridges and body/neck wood types you probably should look away, now.
When you throw in the amps, which are half the equation and totally reactive to the electronics package onboard the guitar, the pedal train, the effects input position, and the speaker cabs you either can work it out or you cannot, but its a lot of things happening for a lot of reasons.
Pickups are microphones (they are generally not designed to be except in the "Antiquity" genre and similar vein) - most of them are not microphonic under 2 or 3 on the Spinal Tap scale and some of them are not microphonic at 11, but give them enough SPL and they will take what's coming at them from the amps or monitors and translate it into output from the pup with a phase realationship TBA. Harping back to Zepplin, the first album had a significant "feel" or classic tone somewhat attributable to a Tele going off into microphonic induced feedback at the limit of its ability to handle the SPL.
Finishes are permeable with old lacquer types like nitro and shellac etc and the moisture barrier is almost non existant ("Fine Woodworking" study on the subject) whereas Two pack, Polyurethane/Fiberglass types of finishes are impermeable to moisture and as hard as concrete, which is why Jackson Pro's, anything out of Asia and Surfboards are finished in the stuff. They also reflect primary string energy in a different manner which makes em sound different. Not to mention being able to dip em in a vat and hang them up to dry in a UV tent so the finish is done in 90 seconds and is uber cheap.
There is a lot of other stuff going on as well but this is just one example of how mythology and reality collide form time to time.
Anyway, someone else can have a go now, this stuff is tiring and probably boring , but it is important.
You forgot to say that this system only works for Rock music,
you'd have to be Stoned to hear it.........
"Brilliant Pebbles"?! Good find, Al, that's excellent. No, wait... it's insane.
I gotta hurry up and get me a supply of sonic crystal before they disappear!
Crystals are SOOO cool. Personally, I always like to keep celestial crystals in my acoustic guitars to maintain their vibrational properties. I store my instruments under a perfect pyramid with a focus crystal suspended inside to radiate Kosmic Karma to the crystals in the guitars. Obviously,this maintains them at peak resonance and I can fine tune this for the style of music I'm going to play but piping in recording of the style ahead of time. All of my guitars are "razor sharp"... no matter how often you use them.
Did any of you go to the home page? Wonder why they're going out of business? There is some luscious '80's tech available on the site.
What really impressed the most is the fact that they have replaced glass bottles with plastic bags. Anyone with any scientific knowledge knows that plastic is a superior conductor of vibrational energy. Man, they really know their stuff!
Myself, I'm gonna get a True Tone Duplex Outlet Cover (see home page). Why have all those rocks everywhere when you can get the same result from plugging in to an outlet equipped with one of these.
Hey, sorry for offtopic (is it?), what do you guys think of the ToneRite gadget? Does it work for guitars or does it only work for that psycoacoustics the guitar players are champions in?
Eric Schoenberg and Bob Benedetto think high of it, but since my day job is in advertising, I\m always very sceptical about endorser opinions...
It's been the subject of its own threads a couple of times. Check the archives for info.
Some adore it and think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Others describe it as snake oil. To me, it falls into the category of: "The determination of success lies exclusively in the ears of the device's buyer/user". (P.V. 2015)
If you wish to further discuss, a new thread would be appropriate. :)
That ToneRite gadget is damn near awesome in front of a Mesa V-twin pre-amp pedal unit!...;-)
That's funny, Andrew.
Did he happen to explain why Sergi's instruments have 2 (or more) piece backs?
Perhaps here's the reason:
16" wide INSTRUMENT GRADE one piece backs are (for financial reasons) extinct. Those came from VERY OLD growth forests..... which we haven't seen for about 50 years.
The amusement continues.