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Old 16th December 2014
Lives for gear
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Innovation happens very slowly in the world of lutherie.

The violin hasn't been improved upon in hundreds of years, but you don't hear violin luthiers complaining that all their customers want is Stradavari, Amati, and Guarnari copies.

The reason guitarists are so conservative is because the traditional designs that they're used to (those of Martin, Gibson, Fender, Torres) simply sound better to their ears. There are plenty of Joe Blow luthiers who think they can effevtively re-invent the wheel, but when it comes down to it, the traditional designs are really hard to beat, because they are based on the cumulative expertise of generations of brilliant luthiers, and the designs that have persevered were simply the ones that worked the best.

Furthermore, most guitarists have a pre-conceived sound that they're going for, which is usually based on the sounds achieved by their musical influences, who were likely using an instrument of a traditional design. Therefore, any radical deviation from a traditional design will sound radically different. This is undesirable for most players, because they don't want to sound radically different.

Most lasting innovations in guitar design are small ones, which make an incremental improvement on a traditional design - like Benedetto's one-piece archtop bridge, or PRS's shallower headstock angle, etc.

As deforestation continues at such an rapid rate, alternative materials for instrument construction are definitely in order, and some of us may live to see the day when wooden guitars are largely a thing of the past. I would wager everything I have that guitars made of wood will always be the first choice of most players, assuming they have a choice.
Sound better? Or sound familiar? Seriously, it's not possible to sort out the difference. I love me some telecaster, but it's partly because it does what I've already heard. I'm not a particularly original musician, and the familiar is comfortable. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm not going to insist my taste preferences "sound better" because they sound more familiar. I play the upright bass, because it has a distinctive tone and feel, but I'd never say it's better than the electric bass, just better for some things. Because it has familiar associations. I have a fanned-fret five string bass--now there is a really valuable innovation. It dramatically improves the playability from string to string by evening out string tension. I have lost gigs because it looks odd, even if it sounds traditional

How many interviews with guitar players include the obligatory reference to someone who inspired them when they were 14? You always start out wanting to play like player X, and if you keep at it maybe you develop a unique individual voice, but musical practice is rooted in imitation.