Hello All,

I use an audio analysis program to help me in wood testing, initial voicing, and final voicing of my guitars. I've got .pdf's of my notes on these subjects that I can attach to a post, if anyone is interested. I prepared them for my students who have been through the processes, so they are a bit sketchy, but they will give you an idea what I do.

Ervin came up for a visit some years back, and brought me a little sign that reads:


I thumb-tacked it to the room divider that separates my office from the shop, and there it sits. Since Ervin and I both play flamenco, I suppose that I could use "techno-weenie" as my gypsy nickname. It's better than "Niño sin Verguenza"---Kid Shameless! 



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I haven't seen Alan Carruth around here - he's over on Acoustic Guitar forum and maybe some other big ones, I think.  

Never considered "techno weenie" as a gypsy thing, but why not?

I agree the techno stuff has some serious potential, but my experience is almost 100% in repair (If you don't count bass banjos, nyuk, nyuk) so I enter the discussion of things that influence consistency of tone with the reckless courage of the noncombatant.   

It's amazing how consistently customers ask if I can fix a certain aspect of an instruments tone. An "annoying" string or "dead" spot on the fingerboard. I have to trot out the boilerplate speech about complexity and too many variables blah blah.....

If a "techno weenie" could reach  the point of having a practical problem, diagnosis,solution sequence, I think they would be printing money. I've often though it would be interesting to give a "techno weenie" raw data of a given instrument and see how well they did describing the sound they would expect without seeing or hearing it first.

I wish I was a "techno weenie". I find there's too much to do just getting something set up well.

Hello David,

I've got a procedure for curing dead notes that I first heard about from the late John Gilbert, the classical guitar maker. I've refined it with my audio analysis program, but you can do it entirely by ear, and eye:

First, the cause: A dead note is usually caused by a resonance in the soundbox happening right on the pitch of a scale tone, or perhaps on an overtone. For example a dead A on the 5th fret of the first string. Probably there is a soundbox resonance right at 440 Hz, or perhaps at 880 Hz etc. That resonance is a place where the soundbox really likes to vibrate (low impedance) and the box sucks all the energy out of the string iommediately. The note will usually start with a loud pop, and then die immediately.

John's cure: Sprinkle poppy seeds over the soundboard (John used salt) with the guitar lying horizontally, but supported in such a way that the back is free to vibrate. Pluck the string fretted to the bad note. Watch for the poppy seeds to jump in a particular spot or perhaps two or three spots.

Stick a small bit of poster tack---I use "HoldTu" brand---at the center of one or more of the areas that are making the poppy seeds jump, and try playing the "dead" note to see if it's better. Note: Sometimes the offending resonance is in the back. The idea is to find out how small a weight will move that resonance down in pitch enough to cure the bad note. Check all the notes on every string to see if you have made a different note bad---usually not.

Glue in a piece of wood, of the weight of the bit of poster tack, on the inside of the guitar at the same spot as you stuck the poster tack.

A quick check to see if the cause of the bad note is a resonance in the wrong place: Tune the string sharp or flat, and check the same spot on the fingerboard to see if it still is a bad note. If the note improves by moving it off pitch, it's probably a soundbox resonance. Bad notes most often happen up the first string as there is a whole forest of resonances up there.

Resonances are what make the sound of a stringed instrument, provided that they are somewhere in between scale tones. Soloists will often tune an instrument to where it "sounds best". That annoys the audience members with perfect pitch, but they ought to be penalized for having that skill anyway, don't you think (;->) ?

I give my customers a free 10,000 note tune-up. New guitars---particularly spruce topped ones---change a lot in the first 6 months to a year. Sometimes a bad note will "play out", or a note go bad from playing, and you can't know that right away. Besides, I like to hear how a guitar has developed.

Spectra Plus---a wonderful program that you have to buy---makes finding offending resonances much faster and more accurate, in addition to doing just about everything else in guitar making, from wood testing through final voicing.

"I've often though it would be interesting to give a "techno weenie" raw data of a given instrument and see how well they did describing the sound they would expect without seeing or hearing it first."

I use the raw data after the fact to see what I've done right. I keep the wood data, and the voicing data so that I can build another guitar that is virtually the same as the one that turned out so well. It works, too.

I just did a presentation to the Sacramento Guitar Society, and handed out copies of the wood testing notes, and voicing notes. The first thing I said to them was that the point of all of this technical stuff was to have every guitar that I make be a real thrill to play. I don’t have a thrill-o-meter, and don’t need one. When a guitar inspires me to play my best, it’s like magic!

By the way, people like to put me in the “scientist” box. So I remind them that I play flamenco, and improvise, for cryin’ out loud! You can’t get much more intuitive than that! Besides it’s nowhere near rigorous enough to be called science. It’s just some workshop messing around to try to figure out how to make better guitars.



Interesting trick and plausible. The resonance would need to be out of phase with direct string sound to cancel. Strings are plucked more or less sideways which would make the resonance sound waves perpendicular to them. I have no idea how that plays out in 3D. It would be easy to pick up room nodes in smaller shops that could augment or detract. A large room with non-reflective walls or an outdoor test might be worth doing just to see.

Quote: "I use an audio analysis program to help me in wood testing, initial voicing, and final voicing of my guitars."




Very interesting indeed.

I find all  sorts of questions popping into my head about this?

Please  appreciate the following questions are not meant to be questioning as criticism, as I really don't like any kind of negativism at all, but rather to promote very clear thought, understand what methods are used and how trustworthy and reliable, what those methods tell you is?



Do you find that Tone Tapping Wood, Listening.

Flexing Wood, Testing Stiffness.

To be Insufficient?



Do you use Linear Flat, Scientific Measurement Microphones for example B&K?

As most Good Microphones, especially Widely Available Microphones used in Music Recording have a distinctly un-linear shape to their Reproduction Graph and thus, they definitely Change the Sound they Record. Their Choice, Positioning and Use is an Art in Itself, all of which can further Colour Reproduction.



Do you isolate the Tested Element, Recording in an Anechoic Chamber, so that is the only Sound, the Program Records and Analyzes?

As otherwise, along with the Tested Element, the Microphone will also Record the Sound of the Room that the Element is being Recorded in, which will again, Add to the Sound being Recorded that is being Analyzed, Colour  and Change it to be Recorded on any Final Graph.

Indeed, have you Recorded the Sound of Silence in your Room, just to see how Noisy it is, to Subtract that Noise from any later Graph? Otherwise all that noise, in what seemed to be a totally Silent Room, WILL be on any Graph! By the way a Full Anechoic Chamber has no Floor, as this Reflects and Changes Sound. Some Instruments use the Floor to Reflect and Augment their Sound.

Perhaps you have a Floor?

The salient point here is, if you want to get a Truly Scientifically Valid Result, it is not at all an easy thing to do.

Even what are commonly thought of as Highly Scientific, Anechoic Chamber Chambers are not at all Full Anechoic Chambers, but usually Semi-Anechoic Chambers and as a result have their limitations and problems, which may or may not be an Issue.

There are lots of seemingly Impressive Technologies and Products available today that appear to give a tremendous degree of accuracy.

Often, it is that case that Many Technologies and Products, along with the way they are Implemented and Used in Practise, are in fact now where near as Accurate or Dependable as they might at first appear to be.

Therefore, just like the Tone Tapping, Stiffness Flexing Luthiers of Old, the Innate Instincts, Experience and Ability to Hear, See, Understand and Extract what you Need to Know.

From within whatever Information is being Conveyed, and the Ability to Translate and Interpret that into Practical Forms of Implementation is the Factor of Paramount Importance. 

That is the essential, fundamental point I am trying to convey.



Do you find that you more and more, Analyze the Sound by Eye, rather than Ear?

The Brain usually devotes an overwhelming majority of  its processing power to Visual Stimuli and prioritises the Visual Sense, over the Aural Sense.

This is why Film Studio Re-Record and Re-Mix Sound for Film, because we Hear things differently when are Listening to Sound Accompanying Film than when we are Simply Listening to Sound, and not taking much notice of anything else.

It's because our Brains work to share out the processes, and clearly devotes most of its attention to the Visual Stimulus when we Carefully Watch, rather than when we are simply Listening, without the Strong Stimulus of Watching a Performance or Accompanying Film. 

This effect is such that the late Tom Dowd, the brilliant Producer for Atlantic Records (formerly involved with Top Secret, Manhattan Project) decided to black out all the Signal Meters on their Recording Studio Mixing Board. This is so that the Engineers did not concentrate so much upon what they were Seeing, but concentrate as fully as possible upon what they were Hearing.

Tom thought, as I and others do, that Listening and Hearing was the Most Important Issue and didn't want that rare acuity to be Compromised by Visual Stimuli.

Here's the late Ray Charles and Eric Clapton (a British Guitarist) to tell you a little about Tom. His daughter is a lovely lady!



Do you find that Seeing the Program Helps or Hinders your Ability to Listen and Hear?

With respect, perhaps like many, you have never really thought particularly deeply about this specific dichotomy, or considered that it might even matter?

If you think about this, many Recording and Mastering Studios feature Deliberately Darkened Rooms, but although this might seem to be done purely to add Atmosphere, there's rather more to it altogether.

Perhaps it's a case that you are in fact, attempting to collect useful data and information, identifying helpful traits in desirable woods and trying to obtain a better understanding what is going on there? All of which may of course be very good!

Even if you don't have Scientific Microphones or Anechoic Chambers, like some lucky people here have at their disposal. Even if the Reliability and Clarity of the Collected Information is Clouded by Other Factors. If the manner in which the Information is Collected is Very Consistent, then it may still prove to be of Special Assistance, to yourself in Particular.

As you are Used to Interpreting what you Hear (and now what you see) within the Particular Parameters of the Space in which you Work.

In other words it may be Useful Data that shows a Relative Picture helpful to you specifically, of what is going on.

Rather than Useful Scientific Data that reveals a Reliably Valid, Absolute Picture of Total Clarity.

Like Tone Tapping, its the Ability of  the Individual to Interpret, that really Counts!



One issue that concerns me.

Is that many might be tempted to identify Good Sound, solely with the Amplitude of Tonal Projection.

These Resonant Peaks are important because they Highlight those Hallmark Characteristics that will formulate the Dominating Tonal Signature of the Instrument.

They are in fact though, made up of many adjacent Interlaying and Interacting Frequencies that Amalgamate into a Mountain Peak of Sound. If that was not the case, then notes would completely disappear that didn't coincide with those Peaks.

However, the thing that concerns me about certain Newer Technological Construction Methods used by some Makers (not necessarily yourself) is that some are Consumed by the Desire to Obtain the Strongest Possible Tonal Projection and make the Instrument as Loud as it Can Be. 

Whilst this may appear to be an entirely legitimate aim, my concern centres around Achieving Loudness at the Cost of the Best Possible Tone. A Study of Classical Music Form and Performance will reveal that there is a Proper Term utilised in regard to any Musical Instrument, and that is its "Volume of Tone".

This reveals a number of things. One is that the Parameters of the Instruments Volume are Linked to its Tonal Sonic Signature. Another is that when the Volume of an Instrument Changes, Rising or Falling, the Tonality of the Instrument will Change  as a Naturally Occurring, concomitant Effect.

Today, both in the World of Recording and the World of Instrument Building, the "Loudness of an Instrument" is often seen as a Singularly Solipsistic, Desirable Feature.  Even at the Cost of a Multitude of Desirable Elements of the Instruments Tonality and also at the  Parameters of it Dynamic Range of Projection.

Thus you could (and many do) end up with an Instrument that Sounds Great, Projecting Powerfully, Played Strongly, but doesn't genuinely have the Optimal Tonal Expression, Traditionally Sought by Players. Or with an Instrument that Sounds Great, Played Loud, but which resists Compellingly being Properly Driven to Fully Convey Emotional Expression in its Tonal Projection, when Played Pianissimo.



A Preacher once said.

"It's often the case that the Place of your Greatest Strength, is also the Place of your Greatest Weakness."

They are two sides, of the same coin!



Put simply, what I'm writing, is:

One could Target to Design and Build for the most Powerful Projection Possible.

Or one could Target to Design and Build for the Fullest, most Beauteous Tone Possible.

But that the Best Result is Obtained when what is Targeted is a Highly Skilled Compromise between the Most Powerful Resonant Projection along with the Fullest, most Beauteous Tone.



I think that is Much Harder to Accomplish than Targeting one aspect or the other.

Which it has been my observation, plenty of Builders have actually pursued, whether they realise it at the time or not. Sheer Loudness can be Deceivingly Seductive.




Because, the Resonant Peaks are Important to Overall Character.

Some Builders seek to Build so as to Shape where these Peaks Occur, and Work to Move Them, to Where their Want.

This is all fine as far as it goes, but there are a Couple of Issues that flow from this approach, and as a consequence, of their way of thinking, that are worth focussing upon.

Perhaps an easy way for everyone to think about this, would be to describe a typical Parametric Equaliser Control  (invented by a friend) on a Recording Studio Mixing Console. Each and Every Tone Control has a Frequency Selector to Set the Pitch you want to Adjust, a Gain Control that you can adjust to Boost or Cut the Frequency you Choose, and a "Q" or Quality Factor Control that Sets How Broadly, Either Side of the Chosen Frequency, the Sound is Affected.

By analogy, the Guitar Builder that seeks to Adjust All these Tonal Factors, with complete and absolute respect, especially those that are enamoured by Frequency Chart Analysis, are really doing the same thing, but by a Mechanical Means, rather than by an Electric Means. I trust this all makes sense and it's the "Q" Factor here that I want to focus upon.



Recording Studios can adjust the Tonality of Sound in extraordinary ways and well as the more typical ways we are accustomed to. Whilst people most often try to Boost Equalisation. They can Cut Swathes of Equalisation which can sometimes make Sound Cut Through Clearer, they can Use Narrow Peaks of Boost to Accentuate, or Narrow Cuts to Remove Problematic Issues.

When a Studio Recording goes to the Mastering Engineer (the point between Recording and Mass Reproduction) the Mastering Engineer almost exclusively is using Very, Very Broad "Q" Factors, on the Equalisers. It's a Generalisation, but provided there are no "faults", they might typically adjust, two three or four Ranges, but most often, each Range will adjust a Broad Area of the Recordings, Frequency Range.

The Mastering Engineer is Important, for whereas the Recording Studio Engineer is Creatively Seeking a Great Sound in his Room, the Mastering Engineer has to Adjust that Creativity, so that it will Compellingly Reproduce the Music, quite regardless of where its being Played. That may be on an Expensive Hi-Fi in a luxurious home, a Consumer Audio System in the average house, a Transistor Radio in the kitchen, a Boom Box outside or in the Glass, Plastic and Metal of a Car's Interior. So what he's doing is Adjusting to get the Best Balanced Sound Reproduction, Overall, that will work well for wherever the Recording is Heard.

Usually this will involve tiny adjustments of 2 or 3, 10ths of a dB. To put this into perspective, the quietest sound most people can detect is 1 dB. Yet these tiny adjustments of 10ths of a dB can have a Huge Effect on the Overall Tone of the Record, when deployed with a very wide "Q" Factor. Instead of having Huge Peaks and Deep Troughs, like a Guitar Top might Exhibit or a Studio Microphone, the Engineer is Smoothing Out the Overall Sound, so that Every Frequency, Reproduces Well, Compared to All the Other Frequencies.



Hopefully the importance of the Mastering Engineer Analogy will become crystal clear.

My observation as far a Guitar Builders are concerned, is that they are primarily fixated upon the Resonating Peaks. This is a bit like the Creative Recording Engineer, Working in the Studio.

This is all very well and to the good because as I wrote, this is where the Hallmark Tonal Signature of the Instrument gets its Character. It's perfectly understandable why a Builder might think that way.


The problem can be that:

1. They don't always appreciate enough that those Character Sounding Resonant Peaks are made up of Very Many Underlying Frequencies, the Areas from the "Q" Factors, of lots and lots of many other Frequencies, and these can readily be identified in the triangular shaped support, building either side of the Resonate Peak, as well as in the Troughs below.

2 The Troughs themselves are too, vitally important elements in the Overall Sound, because these too Represent Specific Frequencies the Instrument will need to be able to Project. But Strong Resonant Peaks are seen as desirable by such Builders as they represent Low Damping Factors resulting in Powerful Tonal Projection, and so usually, they see Low Damping as a Good Thing.

But what of the Other Frequencies? Those that a Graph might reveal to be Strongly Damped and much less Forceful compared to the Highest, Loudest most Strongly Resonating Peaks? Don't we want those Pitches to Convey Compellingly as Well? As long as the Strongest Resonant Frequencies, are well supported, very broadly either side by other Frequencies, then the notes across and throughout the Range of the Instruments Compass, should Project Well.



To recap.

Builders often identify and seek Peaky Resonances.

This can all be very much to the good as this is where the Instruments Tonal Character lies and relates to its Ability to Project Sound Well.

However, whereas these Peaky Resonances show Low Damping Factors and Troughs in the Amplitude of the Frequency Graphs reveal High Damping Factors.

What I'm writing, is that both Too Little or Too Much Damping is actually undesirable, and a reason why some Classical Guitarists have rejected New Forms of Construction, saying "they don't Sound like a Classical Guitar Should Sound!"

What I'm writing, is that although the Hallmark Character of the Instrument may appear to lay with those Strong Resonant Peaks. In my opinion, the Best Guitars have an Excellent Balance between Those Mountain Peaks and what appear to be the Valleys, far below them.

Where the Peaks Occur, will Change Tonality and Projection, and Builders will adjust that according to their personal leanings. However, the Relationship and the Quality between those Strongest Peaks and the Troughs below is also a Powerful Qualitative Factor both in Creating the Resonate Peaks in the First Place and Balancing the Entire Compass of the Instruments Projection at every Pitch, Dynamic and Timbre of Attack, in the Second!

To my mind it is the Balance of Sonorities, the Ability to Convey, Powerful Emotional Expression at Every Tonal Voice, across a Wide Dynamic Range that is Important.

Rather than simply making a More Stridently Projecting Guitar, particularly by Virtue of Shifting its Resonant Tonal Character.

Most Often, Higher in Pitch.



In the Hands of a Master, the Classical Guitar, can have many, Tonal Voices.

Build to ensure the Instrument can Project All.

Equally as Well!



Brian you make it sound so easy! Like a big obvious wolf elimination on a cello.

I recently crawled out of the bunker I hide in when someone asks if I can alter the sound of their instrument. It was for a great customer of mine, one of the first to advocate for me when I started my own repair shop. He loved everything about his new Mando but the E string sound was driving him nuts. Him: "do you hear that?" Me: "Ah, Maybe?" Then a 15min conversation about What "it" is and "Balance between what exactly?"

I told him I'd be willing to try anything non invasive and whipped up a 6(!) gram hollow bridge a la Frank Ford. 

A got call the next day with exuberant reports of having given him a new mandolin and, " everyone who hears it says it's much better!".

Maybe life above ground is ok. The sun feels nice.

Two months later he's back,"I don't think it changed much."

This time I'm sending him home with a pair of heavy magnets sandwitching the top that he can slide around for hours on end in any context he wants. For me, it's back into the cool dark bunker.

Hello Peter and David,

I've attached my wood testing and voicing notes to try to give you a better idea of what I'm doing.

David, it's possible that fixing a bad note is easier on a guitar, and your customer seems to be describing a whole string's response, which could be a much bigger problem than a single bad note. I certainly didn't mean to say that it was easy---almost nothing in lutherie is!

Peter, I'm only trying to get relative values by repeating my testing procedures with the same equipment in the same way, and in the same environment.

I came under the influence of some very good scientists while working in the Stanford Microwave Lab, so I know about "Good Science". There is neither time nor money for doing good science. I'm just using my technical background to try to make better guitars. In the end all that matters is making instruments that are a thrill to play.

Classical players have until recently not wanted to use amplification, so there has been a demand for loud guitars. Greg Smallman's instruments made for John Williams are examples of that kind of guitar. Williams is a world class guitarist, and his desire for that type of instrument is perfectly legitimate, as is any other players desire. de gustibus non disputandum est---In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

My own taste is for richness of tone quality, and my guitars also happen to project well in a public venue. I have not found guitars made mostly for loudness to be much fun to play.

I asked David Schramm what guitar type he would choose if he could have only one instrument. He is an excellent classical guitarist, and a very productive builder of all types of guitars---Hausers, smallmans, double tops etc. He answered without hesitation "a Hauser". I'm with him. It's that wide range and richness of tone color that makes a guitar inspiring for the player.



Hello again,

I'll have to revise my "Final Voicing Notes" to have lower resolution photos as it is too large to attach. In the meantime attached here are my Wood Testing Notes, and Initial Voicing Notes.



,Quote: "I'm only trying to get relative values by repeating my testing procedures with the same equipment in the same way, and in the same environment."

- Snipped for Shortness -

Quote: " There is neither time nor money for doing good science."




We both agree.

This was my precisely my point.

An effect and consequence of digital equipment in particular.

Along with graph plots sometimes, is that they can convey to the average person, a fundamental basis in proper science, they may not, truly possess.

As  you have now clearly explained, and I attempted to identify in my previous post. Though it may prove a genuinely useful help to you in identifying helpful traits whilst building Guitars, and of course, I trust it does indeed.

And whilst that is great and all to the good for you, (and all power to your elbow in what you do by the way, I think you are a truly wonderful person from all I can see), it's the wrong assumptions, false conclusions and trust, that the average person can mistakenly attribute whenever such equipment is used or such information is portrayed, that I am seeking to pinpoint, flag up, highlight and address.



Perhaps an analogy will help folk to understand where I am coming from.

I was visiting a Factory a while ago when a Production Manager and a youthful Health and Safety Manager came along and took digital measurements with an expensive Sound Meter in a huge Spray Booth.

I watched them, and afterward explained to them that the methodologies they were using to do this testing was in fact, completely and utterly flawed and could not give a properly trustworthy scientific result.

To their shame, it appeared to be the case that they both were actively trying to prove that the Area was not an Ear Protection Zone. Probably, so that they would not need to provide and pay for Earplugs for the Workers.

A little later, I had a talk with the Operational Manager (effectively the Director) of that Paintshop who I knew very well personally, and explained the various flaws in the methodology employed by the Production Manager and the youthful Health and Safety Manager.

He then brought in an Outside Environmental Specialist Company, and had them do Complete Dosimeter Survey of that Entire Paintshop. It took a while, a lot of testing, measurement and to me, a surprising amount of computational number crunching on a very powerful Computer, left working away continuously for several days, before they produced a comprehensive analysis in their Final Report.

The result was that Ear Protection Zones were proven to be needed in lots of places that hitherto were considered not to require any such Protection. Following this, Ear Plug Stations readily full of Earplugs the Workers could use were Instituted All Over the Paintshop, and Yes. The Specific Area I had observed the Cost Cutting Managers measuring with High Quality digital equipment, that gave every appearance of a provably reliable, scientific result was proven to be the most need worthy Era Protection Zone, in the Entire Building!

Measurement can be very useful indeed, but without Mature Empirical Experience that enables one to ensure that the manner in which that measurement has been taken is Fundamentally Correct and as is Essential, Properly Interpret that measurement, then it can easily mislead and misdirect.

Like Tone Tapping itself, it is Mature Empirical Experience and the Ability to Properly Interpret and Understand what is Heard and Seen, that is the Cardinal Quality Required.

That is the salient point I am making and whatever methods are used, it's the Experience and Skill of the Luthier that is the really Essential Factor of Paramount Importance.

I believe All Experienced and Skilful Luthiers will find themselves in Hearty Agreement.



Quote: "Classical players have until recently not wanted to use amplification, so there has been a demand for loud guitars"

- Snipped for Shortness -

Quote: "I have not found guitars made mostly for loudness to be much fun to play."



Again we both agree.

This was exactly the point, I was making and why, I was making it.

People are trying, specifically and deliberately to design and build Louder Guitars, perhaps with good intent, but there are negative issues that can cascade out, as a result of that choice.

Although to be honest, I think that there is some Great Amplification Systems available today for Acoustic Guitars, that to my Ears, authentically convey the Instruments Hallmark Sonic Signature. Many of which are quite Portable.

Furthermore, in Concert there have always been Great Mics, Schoeps is one. Along with Martin Parabolic Horns for instance, that are flat and deep which can used in Concert Situations, the Horns Set About with Flowers at each side of the Concert Hall, so that the Audience never even recognises them as Speakers at all.

I have used just such Systems in Concert Halls like The Royal Albert Hall supplied by RG Jones, (see below) and by placing the Mixing Console towards the rear, (but not at the back where people expect to see it) of an Elliptical Shaped  Hall, but halfway up the Hall (fitted with Private Balconies etc.) slightly to one side, hardly anyone seems to see it or even notice it is there. They are all looking in a different direction, towards the front.

The System is Very Slightly Augmenting, Natural Acoustic Sound, rather than acting as a typical P.A. Again, like the digital Sound Meters, and the digital Sound Analysis, its not just about the equipment and what it can do, but the manner in which you use it, the discretion and experience with which you deploy it, and how you Implement the System you use, that is Key.

Rupert Neve (who invented the Mixing Console as we know it) used to say "Implementation is Everything".



A Guitar made to be more responsive.

May have to yield something up in the process.

Its where those compromises are made and what is given up.

And for what gain and benefit that each Builder and Player must Justify.

Particularly if its Loudness alone that is sought and a Player uses no Amplification.

An Instrument can be Fabricated to be much Lighter in Overall Construction, perhaps with Less Structural Support, Far Heavier Scalloping than Tradition might Dictate, and there is a Multitude of Structural and Finishing Methods that can be utilised, to Increase Resonant Projection.

Some, will Fundamentally Change the Signature Tonality of the Instrument to a Significant Degree. Some will Lessen the Intrinsic Strength of the Instrument. Some will Vastly Increase the Vulnerability of the Instrument and make it More Susceptible to Structural Strain and Cosmetic Damage, and Increase the Risk of the Instrument to be Out of Service, prematurely requiring the Services of a Luthier.

Brian, I thought your comment on another post was put utterly brilliantly: "Musical instruments have evolved over a long period of time, and it's a very long term commitment to get to the level where the old timers were."  In recent years, a great many Instruments at various price levels have become available that feature Sound Enhancing, Internal Bracing Changes or Complete and Utter Cosmetic Novelty in Finish, some of which definitely Enhance Projection.

I for one would hope to be able to Avidly Observe their Progress with the Greatest Possible Interest over Decades of Use, should such Instruments be Utilised at a Professional Level. Alas, I fear that Few such Instruments, will genuinely experience the Demanding Rigors of Life on the Road. Experience that the Instruments which were Directly Correlated to the Long Evolution that Shaped, Guided and Directed the Solid Choices that enabled Class Leading Builders to Define the Traditional Parameters of the Instruments Construction, encountered on a Daily Basis!

But it would be interesting to see how these Courageously Novel Entities Fare over the Decades, in Direct Comparison to Instruments Constructed and Finished Traditionally, and how much Repair Work was required to them, and how Expensive that was, due perhaps to Additional Complexities of the Design, and how Economically Viable that was, for both Owners, Retailers and Manufacturers, in comparison to that of Traditional Designs.

Quote: "Musical instruments have evolved over a long period of time, and it's a very long term commitment to get to the level where the old timers were."

I'm simply questioning, how wise is it, to kick all that, into the touch line?

I believe, its both a reasonable and responsible question, to ask.



An analogous example.

People with Rose Tinted Attitudes, seem to assume that CF Martins Steel String Guitars underwent Changes to their Internal Structure in Bracing, in order to Further Enhance their Tone.

Whereas in reality, such Changes were overwhelmingly driven by Warrantee Returns for Repair, which Highlighted a Certain Engineering Weakness in the Existing Design or the Method of Construction.

Put simply, a Problem was Flagged Up, a Change was made to Address that Issue, and Future Production of that Model, reflected the Alteration in the Design and Construction necessary to ensure the Instrument was Thoroughly Reliable. This is how Manufacturers and Factories Run.

The Great Classical Guitar Makers that Evolved the Instrument to the Maturity we today enjoy. Whilst Seeking to Fabricate the Best Sounding Instrument that is Ideal to Play, and whose Cosmetics stood the Test of Time, addressed issues related to the Reliability and Long Working Life of the Instrument in a Similar Fashion, or quickly went Out of Business.

And this, Gradual Evolution, involved Small Builders in Systematic Trial and Error, each Instrument often being a Form of Prototype, heavily laden with new information to learn from as they developed their Craft. Ultimately, the Ideal Parameters of the Instruments Construction and the Hallmark Signature Tonality of The Classical Guitar was Fundamentally Defined, and up to today, and with a History of Great Instruments and Great Recordings, our Ears, Brains and Memories of Scintillating Performances, can fully attest to that as a Fact.



Should the Traditional Tonality of The Classical Guitar, having been so long in evolution as you rightly point out.

Having being so long in being recognised as an Classical, Orchestral, Concert Instrument, be so easily and readily cast aside, as flotsam and jetsam, in the flow of time? In the pursuit of Technological Change.

I for one think not! You mention Greg Smallman, In my  whole life I've never met an Australian that I didn't like, and I'm sure he would be no exception. The Gentleman has Innovated Tremendously and Directly Benefitted from the Active Endorsement of Fellow Australian, John Williams, with Guitars Commanding a Premium.

Carbon Fibre sure has its uses, in fact one Company I am associated with has hooked up with another Smaller Company to Innovate a Whole New Technology in a Further Development of Carbon Fibre Material which is far Cheaper than Existing Alternatives, (though its still expensive) and will we trust ,pave the way for New, Lighter, Safer, Stronger Products, so it's not as if I am not open, or not actively involved with New Technologies.

However, Listening to Greg's Guitars, their Sheer Volume very much reminds me of Sound that has been Strongly Compressed. Compression and Limiting in the Musical World works by Cutting Off the Peaks of the Transient Attack of Sound and Lifting the Lower, Average, Level of Sound, so that there is a Higher, more Consistent Level of Sound, Overall.

You lose something, usually Upper Frequency Harmonic Information and Initial Transient Attack,  but you gain a Punchy Higher Level to Everything by this Form of Dynamic Control. People often think that The Human Ear, most strongly reacts to High Peaks of Sound. This is in fact not the case at all. The reality is, the Human Ear most strongly reacts to Constant, Average Levels of Sound, rather than Peaks of Loudness. This is how our Ears, work.

An easy analogy of what Heavy Compression and Hard Limiting is like, could be. If you think of the Sound of a Beautiful Movie Sound Track on T.V. and then think of the Sound when the Advertisements are Shown.

Perhaps you have noticed there is a Strong Difference in Loudness, and also an Accompanying Difference in Tonality.

Think of it like a Sausage of Sound. Rather than a Typical, Natural, Soundwave. Full of High Peaks and Low Troughs.

Its Initial Impact may Seem Incredibly Impressive.

It sure gets Your Attention.

At first.




The Natural Sound Waves.

Of Traditional Acoustic Musical Instruments.

Engage and Release their Energy, in a Manner the Ear and Brain.

Finds Most Acceptable to Listen to, and is thus able to, over Long Periods without Fatigue.

It is Ear Fatigue and its concomitant Effect on the Human Brain that is noted, with Louder Sound.

Furthermore, Lattice Guitars made utilising Carbon Fibre Products, will be Expensive to Buy, and Expensive to Repair.

But for me the Cardinal Issue is, that they simply do not Sound like The Traditional Classical Guitar, that has taken us so long to Establish.

If that were not enough, these Designs, which are so widely recognised as possessing a Differing Character of Tonality, have Strongly Divided and Polarised Opinion.



Some people, prefer Traditional Guitars, Natural, Traditional Materials and Workmanship.

Others prefer Novelty, Innovation, Progress, Advancement, New, Man Made Materials and Technologies.

Yet for others, the Endorsement and Kudos of a Personal Hero, is in itself more than enough, to fully settle all, entirely to their satisfaction.

My personal opinion which I will finally get to.. Flows from the fact that whereas years ago Classical and Flamenco Guitarists, regularly featured on Mainstream British TV when we only had two or three channels.

Today, we are heading toward 800 Differing Specialist Channels readily available, catering for every possible taste, whilst the truth is, Classical and Flamenco Guitarists and Music are nowhere to be seen or heard on any of them, at least, that is the situation hereabouts.


Why is this?


Generational Cultural Change in Interest is of course at the top of the list, but Musical Recordings Today suffer greatly from what has become Institutionalised Heavy Compression and Hard Limiting, driven by Commercial Interests.

Where the Loudest Recording is Thought by Immature Listeners to Sound Best, and with Technology available that easily enables Track by Track Assembly of Personalised Play Lists, every Track has to Compete in Loudness with whatever the Loudest New Track is that is Currently Released.

So Potential Purchasers have Voted with their Feet regarding this Race to the Bottom in Loud Sound Quality, and don't buy Recordings today, because they simply Don't Enjoy Listening To Them as they used to, because the Sausage of Sound that meets their Ears and Brain has no Naturally Occurring Relief and Ultimately Results in Listener Fatigue. Have a watch of this link below and they will fully explain this phenomenon.



So perhaps you might well imagine for some, a legitimate concern regarding the State of the Art of Guitar Building, if it is indeed the case. That an Musical Instrument should be Designed and Constructed that at a Fundamental Level, Functioned in a Similar Manner.

When John Williams attended the Royal College of Music in London, he studied Piano and Musical Theory. He didn't Study Guitar ,simply because, like most other Musical Colleges and Conservatoires at that time, the Royal College of Music, didn't provide a Guitar Curriculum!

So personally, as I was writing.. I wish more Energy was spent in Strongly Establishing, Cementing and Promoting the Achievements of all the Great Guitarists, especially those who made a massive contribution like Segovia for The Spanish Guitar and establishing it as an Orchestra Concert Instrument, Julian Bream for Massively Extending the Repertoire and his Impressive Sales in Recordings, and John Williams who often Played Duets with Julian (who lives nearby in the next County, and they are both, almost completely retired, now), for his Wide Range of High Charting, Hit Singles featuring the Classical Guitar, Popular Albums with his Group Sky and numerous Popular, Mainstream, Peak Viewing Time TV Programmes on which he was always, a Warmly Welcome, Greatly Admired and Loved Guest.


Do we really need to Reinvent what Many Believe, to have Already Been Perfected in Sound?

Especially when the Sound of Innovatory Instruments is so Widely Regarded by Experts, to be Significantly Different to a Traditional, Classical Guitar?

Brian, when you originally posted, what came to mind is a chap I know that is mad on Classical and very particularly Flamenco Guitars, and he Owns Seven Different Guitars all made by Legendary Makers.

Every one of them really belongs in a Museum, and he has Built a Studio, extending his home, where he keeps them, and when the Top Flamenco Players come to this Country, seems to know them all, and has them round to Play, and occasionally lends his Historical Instruments for them to Play, whilst they are in this Country.

The thing is you mentioned Gypsies, and there is something about my pal that is very Gypsy, his size, appearance, hair all make you think that there is plenty of Gypsy Blood in his Family Tree.  His original Manual Ramirez, original Torres and Hernandez along with all the others make you wonder how precisely he came by so many Guitars of Stunning Historical Significance.

Yet part of my own Family have inhabited The Spanish Balearic Islands for over 400 years, so it's the Deep Roots that Spring from such Long Standing that I believe to be the Reason for such an Extraordinary Collection. Naturally, he's a bit secretive and protective of them, with good reason, but whenever he's with me, attempts to goad me strongly with the Priceless Rarity of what he Possesses.

They point back towards  a time When Classical Guitars as we understand them today, didn't exist, and Flamenco Guitars as we understand them today, didn't exist. There was simply The Spanish Guitar, and Small Luthiers Workshops Fabricated Musical Instruments, fashioned in the light of the Specific Type of Music, which was required of Musicians to Perform the Particular Style that was the Dominant Force in that Particular Region. So the Guitars they made, the Woods they Employed and the Methods of Construction they utilised, were largely a By Product of the Musical Life of their Region, which included Composition, Singing, Dance, Dress and a great many, accompanying Cultural Factors. The Music Reflected the Life of the Region as did the Guitars the Builders made.

So there could be Large Differences in Materials and Construction, from Region to Region and from Luthier to Luthier. But this was Driven by Difference in The Style of the Music.

The way the Guitar was fabricated, was not an end in itself, it was really driven by Breathtakingly Exciting, Music.

To me that is the Paramount Consideration.



But your deeply interesting thread, raises one further point. Perhaps best explained by your earlier statement.

Quote: "I use the raw data after the fact to see what I've done right. I keep the wood data, and the voicing data so that I can build another guitar that is virtually the same as the one that turned out so well. It works, too."

What you are really seeking here is the ability to Build Consistency in your Products. As someone directly involved in Manufacturing I can completely appreciate the utmost importance of this, and furthermore, how elusively difficult that can be, to actually achieve.

Inherent Differences in Available Raw Materials will probably be your Greatest Challenge. Possibly that is the Driver behind you seeking the assistance of digitally Recorded Information than enables you to better manipulate, Specific Material towards, a clear, predetermined Goal.

Achieving High Quality, is difficult enough in the first place. But Replicating that High Quality once Achieved, is perhaps even more difficult still, if you are looking to Recreate Identical Product. Broadly. Consistent Process Adherence, is your Friend. This is what Busy Factories have to do on a Daily Basis, otherwise their Products would be rejected and discarded by consumers as Inconsistent.

It Can Be Done! However.. (in fact the real trick is to obtain High Quality that Commands a High Premium the Customer is Willing to Pay, whilst Facilitating the Highest Possible Build Volume that Eliminates Every Unwanted Process and Time Cost and Cuts Down the Order to Delivery Schedule)  ..and I  Heartily Applaud your Drive to use New Methods to Test and Guide your Work, more closely towards that Highly Laudable Goal.



Wood and People, are alike in that each and every one is somewhat different, so inconsistency would seem to be born into the Production of Guitars.

I think it's worth noting that point, because although people do realise Woods vary, they do none the less, fully expect Guitars from the Same Maker, to exhibit Entirely Consistent Quality in Manufacture.



Statistical Process Control..

Was rejected by American Manufacturers, yet adopted by Oriental Manufacturers.

Again, its worth noting, that many of these Oriental Manufacturers are today renowned for the Consistency of their Products.

Consumers mistakenly think they have no faults, whereas of course they do, however the Consistency of Manufacturing is such that Every Product will Exhibit the Same Fault.

Therefore, their Products have "Standard Faults". Issues that are quickly identified, flagged up and thus resolved very quickly if acted upon the a speedy, timely manner, one would reasonably expect.

It is the Hit and Miss, Non-Standard Faults, largely  driven by Inconsistencies in Materials, Testing and Checking Methods, Product Validation and of course drive by Inconsistencies in People themselves, though that can involve Cost Cutting and Staff Reduction as well, that are largely responsible for the frustration and despair of Loyal Customers, resulting in the Poor Reputation sometimes, that certain Western Manufacturers, all too often, suffer from.

As I wrote. I  Heartily Applaud your Drive to use New Methods to Test and Guide your Work, more closely towards that Highly Laudable Goal.




Peter -

Ning doesn't appear to have any particular length limits here, and  you're welcome to post.  The one above does start out with a bit of irony with the inclusion of "- Snipped for Shortness -" in a posting that runs in excess of 3,600 words.

And, I hope you realize that in this medium, it's rare for anyone (myself included) to read more than a paragraph or two, which is why I try to limit my entries to that sort of length.


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