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Is a '59 Les Paul really any better than a modern one?
Old 15th December 2014
  #151
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
If we're talking about solid-body electric guitars, I have to disagree. Pickups can be replaced. Hardware can be replaced. If it doesn't play good, an expert fret job can make the playability perfect.

I understand why people get attached to certain guitars and not others. But the tone and playability of any electric guitar can be altered dramatically. However, most people have to love a guitar in the first place in order to justify spending money to customize it.

Unless a guitar is broken or defective, I've never encountered one that can't be made to play great. Some aren't worth investing the time or money into, but with the right effort, virtually any guitar can be a great player. Sound is subjective, but I've also never encountered an electric guitar that sounds inherently bad - the pickups might suck, but pickups can be changed.

I'm not being intentionally argumentative, and I do get your point. The thing you said that made me respond was the "no amount of money" remark. Sometimes investing money into a guitar you're not crazy about can be a case of "good money after bad", but as a guy who makes his money working on guitars, I respectfully disagree with the premise of your statement.
In general I agree with this, but in my experience one thing you cant' really fix easily is if the guitar has pronounced dead spots or hot spots. More than anything else, that's what I look for--does it play evenly, or do I have to constantly make right hand adjustments to compensate for notes that are too loud or too quite. it's hard to fix that with pickups. Sometimes adding or subtracting mass will make a difference, but uneven response is the thing I avoid
Old 15th December 2014
  #152
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PB+J View Post
In general I agree with this, but in my experience one thing you cant' really fix easily is if the guitar has pronounced dead spots or hot spots. More than anything else, that's what I look for--does it play evenly, or do I have to constantly make right hand adjustments to compensate for notes that are too loud or too quite. it's hard to fix that with pickups. Sometimes adding or subtracting mass will make a difference, but uneven response is the thing I avoid
No - you don't fix that with pickups. If there's dead spots/hot spots, that means your frets aren't level. This is where a skilled luthier can make a world of difference. If it's a newer guitar, then the frets can likely be levelled without having to replace any (this doesn't cost too much). Most older guitars need to have the fingerboard planed and refretted in order to correct this issue (this can be kind of expensive).

Paying for a luthier's time and skills isn't cheap, and you definitely have to find the right luthier (there's plenty of bad ones out there). Some guitars aren't worth dumping a pile of money into, and some are - this is where it's up to the player to make a judgement call.

Again - the only reason I remarked on Foldback's comment was because he said "no amount of money" can make a bad guitar sound good. I disagree, because I do it all the time - I've turned many bad playing/ bad sounding guitars into professional quality instruments. It's only a matter of time and money.
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Old 15th December 2014
  #153
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
No - you don't fix that with pickups. If there's dead spots/hot spots, that means your frets aren't level. This is where a skilled luthier can make a world of difference. If it's a newer guitar, then the frets can likely be levelled without having to replace any (this doesn't cost too much). Most older guitars need to have the fingerboard planed and refretted in order to correct this issue (this can be kind of expensive).

Paying for a luthier's time and skills isn't cheap, and you definitely have to find the right luthier (there's plenty of bad ones out there). Some guitars aren't worth dumping a pile of money into, and some are - this is where it's up to the player to make a judgement call.

Again - the only reason I remarked on Foldback's comment was because he said "no amount of money" can make a bad guitar sound good. I disagree, because I do it all the time - I've turned many bad playing/ bad sounding guitars into professional quality instruments. It's only a matter of time and money.
I disagree. Any solid material is going to have resonant frequencies--if you tap it, you'll hear this those resonant frequencies are going to make some notes louder than others, and some quieter. It's just the laws of physics: a fret job won't change that. Adding or subtracting mass, changing the neck--these things might. But whatever you do to the frets, the mass and density of the guitar stays the same
Old 15th December 2014
  #154
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The true purpose of tapping wood is to get the fairies to come out.
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Old 15th December 2014
  #155
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Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
The true purpose of tapping wood is to get the fairies to come out.
Und ven dit you verst start zeeing zees fairies.
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Old 15th December 2014
  #156
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Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
The true purpose of tapping wood is to get the fairies to come out.
We call them woodworm here.
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Old 16th December 2014
  #157
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PB+J View Post
I disagree. Any solid material is going to have resonant frequencies--if you tap it, you'll hear this those resonant frequencies are going to make some notes louder than others, and some quieter. It's just the laws of physics: a fret job won't change that. Adding or subtracting mass, changing the neck--these things might. But whatever you do to the frets, the mass and density of the guitar stays the same
Sure - any material has resonant frequencies and will therefore vibrate in sympathy with those frequencies - solid body guitars are no exception. This is the reason why certain solid bodied guitars have their own unique timbre. But in my experience this phenomenon of some notes being louder than others only seems to be an issue with hollow bodied instruments (this can be a real problem with some acoustic instruments), but it doesn't affect solid-body guitars in any significant way. I can only speak from my own experience, but in my twenty-plus years of working on guitars professionally, I've never had a customer complain about that on a solid bodied guitar unless it was an issue involving fret levelness - not even once out of the thousands of guitars that have been on my workbench.

Maybe you hear something that me and my customers don't, but every solid-bodied guitar I've ever worked on sounds pretty even as you play up and down the neck (assuming the frets are level).
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Old 16th December 2014
  #158
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Does anybody here know how Ovation started making guitars? A company called Kaman, which designs and builds helicopters, took what they knew about vibration and applied it to guitars. You see, in helicopters, vibrations have lots of nasty effects, from causing metal fatigue, to putting the pilots to sleep. The point is, those guys understood how vibrations work through a given mass and they applied that knowledge in one of the most precision-focused industries in the entire universe - aerospace design. I actually own an Ovation guitar. It's certainly not the prettiest-sounding instrument, but when I had very little money, I went to a guitar store and played the cheapest guitar there. And it sounded bad. So then I tried the next cheapest. It sucked too. So I kept going up the price scale until I finally got one that sounded good and that cheapest "good" sounding guitar was the Ovation Celebrity, which cost about $300.

Anyway, my point in all this is that talking about "resonance" in a solid-body guitar is rather silly. Sure it exists. Sort of. I mean, everything will vibrate. But did it ever occur to you that if a guitar is vibrating, then that vibration is energy that is being taken away from the strings and thus reducing output? Kaman understood this. That's why the bodies of their guitars, like their helicopters, were designed to reduce vibration.

And wood also has natural vibration-damping properties. That's part of the reason Kaman and other manufacturers used it in making early helicopter blades. Sure, once you can complete a detailed Finite Element Analysis, you can tune and tweak better materials (aluminum, steel, composites, etc) to work. But until you have a computer able to tell you exactly what's happening at every point, under every flight condition, you're still just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Anyway, back to guitars. They are built out of wood. Wood has damping properties. If a vibrating body was such a desirable thing, why not just make it out of aluminum or steel?
Old 16th December 2014
  #159
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
Anyway, my point in all this is that talking about "resonance" in a solid-body guitar is rather silly. Sure it exists. Sort of. I mean, everything will vibrate. But did it ever occur to you that if a guitar is vibrating, then that vibration is energy that is being taken away from the strings and thus reducing output? Kaman understood this. That's why the bodies of their guitars, like their helicopters, were designed to reduce vibration.
A bit OT here, but with regards to acoustic guitars, vibration is everything. This is the very reason that Ovation guitars don't sound good - because they don't vibrate enough, and they don't resonate at the appropriate frequencies in order to make for a sweet sounding acoustic instrument. FWIW - An instrument that doesn't vibrate will make virtually no sound at all.

With regards to electric instruments - even solid bodied ones - the resonant frequency of an instrument is indeed part of what gives it its own unique character, and is the reason why two ostensibly identical guitars will often sound noticeably different from each other.
Old 16th December 2014
  #160
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
Anyway, back to guitars. They are built out of wood. Wood has damping properties. If a vibrating body was such a desirable thing, why not just make it out of aluminum or steel?
Aluminum and steel are too heavy. Besides, wood sounds better - just my opinion (and just about everyone else's too).

People have been trying for decades to make instruments out of materials other than wood, but nobody has ever improved on the musical properties of wood. Again, that's just my opinion, but it's also the opinion of almost every other guitar player and luthier in the world.
Old 16th December 2014
  #161
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Well, HV, to keep this from becoming a drift nightmare, this will be my last post on this matter and for fairness, I'll give you one last one as well after I'm done, if you want it. I actually think it's a fascinating topic and it's one that I wish were more prominent in the field of guitar design. Maybe I'll start a thread about it sometime.

The Ovation approach is to more or less isolate the bowl from the top. The wood top vibrates (although Ovation actually uses a sandwich of composites and wood which, in theory, ought to provide a more balanced tone as it's not so affected by the random grain of the wood). It works like a speaker cone, converting energy into sound. And the bowl acts as a parabolic reflector, aiming and bouncing that sound back towards the sound hole, to push it out of the guitar and into our ears. The less the bowl vibrates, the more sound gets pushed back to the listener.

I wouldn't say that Ovation guitars sound bad... they sound "balanced". They have very little character. And that's a great thing at the low end of the market where most of the "character" is lousy, and it could be a great thing for recording and live performance as well. But without that wood back and sides serving as reactive surfaces of their own, you certainly lose much of the "interplay" between the top and bottom surfaces, which does remove much of the character that we've come to know and love in acoustic instruments. Basically, you're losing harmonics, I believe. So in that sense, I would say that Ovations are the most "electric sounding" of all acoustics. And you do get extra volume and some feedback rejection as a trade-off

And those extra harmonics are what all electric guitar players are really chasing, if you think about it. They chase it through "tone wood", they chase it through tube amps... all trying to add some extra harmonics to get that richness in tone that the instrument generally lacks. I mean, you don't hear a guy on a Martin complaining about needing a tube amp to make his Martin sound good, right? Because he's already got those rich harmonics coming out of the instrument himself. But vibrating wood doesn't change the tone of an electric guitar, because the only sounds coming out of it are from the pickups, which are only responding to the strings. And those strings need the most rock solid non-vibrating attachment they can get in order to conserve the mechanical energy in the strings, to keep them vibrating, as opposed to losing it through translation into the body, which doesn't make any sound at all in an electric guitar.

So what is good? What's bad? It depends on what you're looking for, I suppose.
Old 16th December 2014
  #162
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
There was more hand craftsmanship
Not necessarily, the Nashville custom shop uses the same type of duplicarvers and templates as the Michigan factor did in the 50s and 60s. Lots of Les Pauls and other models are still hand crafted in the custom shop. The USA shop uses CNC but the Custom shop makes them the same way as they did in the 50s with only very minor differences. I think the biggest difference in sound between a real 50s paul and a current model is the pickups. Those 57 PAFs have something going on they new ones do not. Also the wood they use on some of the newer models is not the same.

however the custom shop does build Les Pauls with the same species of mahogany same eastern maple caps and Brazilian fret boards just like the 50s Pauls. Most modern Pauls do use cheaper Indian rosewood and maple that comes from the pacific coast, so there are differences but you can get a pretty accurate 50s Les Pauls if you want to do the research and make an investment...but they ain't cheap. I have a mid 90s 59 reissue paul and it is very close to the originals I have played. No ot;s not as good since it doesn't have the 57 PAFs, but the wood ..look and feel of the guitar is very much like the late 50s models I've played
Old 16th December 2014
  #163
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
Anyway, my point in all this is that talking about "resonance" in a solid-body guitar is rather silly.
If we're talking 'silly', maybe a thread about Les Pauls isn't the best place to promote Ovation? I assume you're on the payroll...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
I actually think it's a fascinating topic and it's one that I wish were more prominent in the field of guitar design. Maybe I'll start a thread about it sometime.
There's a halfway decent discussion of the effect of wood on electric guitar tone here:

In your experience how much difference
Old 16th December 2014
  #164
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If I were in some horrible situation forced to sell off a few guitars, the ones with Humbuckers would go first.

For my purposes, an LP is more of a specialty guitar.

My '93 Strat Plus with Golds gets 10 times the use.
Old 16th December 2014
  #165
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Wood is obviously and excellent choice and for good reason

But I've played some good carbon fiber acoustic guitars. All them were voiced in a way I don't prefer (too jangy and bright, I'm more of a jazzbo). But they were good instruments in most every respect. That technology can produce really pleasing musical results, and it's got a lot of advantages

Classical guitar guys love "double tops," which are nomex honeycomb sandwiched between two thin spruce veneers.

Musicians are extremely conservative for the most part, and don't want to depart from tradition. I've heard a lot of luthiers complain that all their customers want is Gibson, Martin and Fender clones
Old 16th December 2014
  #166
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grimace View Post
So what is good? What's bad? It depends on what you're looking for, I suppose.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PB+J View Post
Wood is obviously and excellent choice and for good reason

But I've played some good carbon fiber acoustic guitars. All them were voiced in a way I don't prefer (too jangy and bright, I'm more of a jazzbo). But they were good instruments in most every respect. That technology can produce really pleasing musical results, and it's got a lot of advantages

Classical guitar guys love "double tops," which are nomex honeycomb sandwiched between two thin spruce veneers.

Musicians are extremely conservative for the most part, and don't want to depart from tradition. I've heard a lot of luthiers complain that all their customers want is Gibson, Martin and Fender clones
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.
Old 16th December 2014
  #167
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Quote:
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.
Old 16th December 2014
  #168
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
There must be more to it that that though? Maybe I should change the thread title to 'Why is a 59' Les Paul better than a modern one?'

Clearly putting the accountants in charge wasn't a good idea. I'm more interested in the technical aspects of the changes.
Also, it'd be nice to hear from people who'd actually played some vintage Gibsons - not necessarily a '59 - just old vs. new. You must've played a few guitars over the years John - any thoughts?
Why is an antique Stradivarius or Guarneri better than a newly-made violin? Is an antique better than new (once the new one's opened up a little as any wood instrument will do)? The question's definitely not unique to guitars.

There are many possible reasons:

* Better wood - older instruments were made at a time when there was plenty of old-growth lumber available cheaply.
* Better hardware - This one's debatable; metal machining, forming and pressing is an area where modern computer automation can produce a truly superior product, and this is also an area where some luthiers skimped back in the day (the stamped metal bridge saddles that are often the first thing to go on a new MIM Strat are faithful to the original 50s and 60s Strats; the die-cast saddles were a relatively new addition to American Strats).
* More attention paid to craftsmanship - the modern Gibson models have always been mass-produced on a significant scale (the company's over 110 years old, the Les Paul wan't introduced until the late 50s), but in older days before computer automation, these things were truly hand-crafted, with one guy responsible for final assembly of a single instrument.
* Trade secrets now lost to the art - There's a popular mentality that Antonio Stradivari knew something we don't about how to make violins. That same mentality often applies to older guitars as well, even though in many cases the guy on the headstock never made a single one of the instruments in question.
* Maturation of wood over time - As wood ages, the saps and resins that filled its fiber structure when the tree was alive continue to slowly evaporate and shrink, expanding hollows in the structure that changes the timbre and resonance of the instrument. This is a huge reason why old guitars and violins are prized; this character of aged wood simply cannot be found in any new instrument. It's come to the point where some luthiers are using "reclaimed" wood from old buildings to build guitars, the mentality being that the wood has mojo even if it's not actually a traditional tonewood.
* Nostalgia - The rock and jazz icons of the Good Old Days played what are now vintage instruments. As such, owning one of the same model year is like owning a classic car; there's more than a little bit of the mentality that vintage instruments are imbued with the spirit or essence of the people that have played it, contributing to its mojo.
Old 17th December 2014
  #169
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Hot Vibrato and Liko - now we're talking! Some very interesting points made here...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Innovation happens very slowly in the world of lutherie.

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's no denying the truth in this statement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
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.
Here I think it's the opposite - it's not the fault of the 'Joe Blow' luthiers that guitars don't progress (although there are many examples of bad ideas to choose from), it's the fault of guitarists for not demanding progress. Speaking from experience, when 90% of customers ask for a Gibson/Fender copy, it's difficult to push any kind of real innovation. Not that - personally - I'm trying to re-invent the wheel, but I have ideas - as a luthier - that the majority of my customers aren't willing to embrace.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Liko View Post
There are many possible reasons:

* More attention paid to craftsmanship - the modern Gibson models have always been mass-produced on a significant scale (the company's over 110 years old, the Les Paul wan't introduced until the late 50s), but in older days before computer automation, these things were truly hand-crafted, with one guy responsible for final assembly of a single instrument.
I'm not an expert on Gibson's early production techniques, but this is a much vaunted and realistic appraisal - a skilled individual will always out perform a machine in these circumstances.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Liko View Post
* Trade secrets now lost to the art - There's a popular mentality that Antonio Stradivari knew something we don't about how to make violins.
This I don't believe...

Without detracting from Stradavari's violins, I don't believe there's anything he could know that we couldn't know now - the same is especially true for electric guitars.
The myth surrounding a Stradivarious is perhaps better deserved than the myth surrounding a '59 LesPaul, but it's a myth nonetheless.

I think Stradivari 'got it right' with his violins the same way the early Les Pauls 'got it right' as guitars. There's nothing there the right person can't disseminate and better, it's just that most users don't want them to.

Mahogany body/neck + maple cap + PAF pickups etc = a proper guitar.

English Ash + Sycamore cap + Maple neck = unknown quantity.

Most guitarists aren't willing to give the alternatives the chance they deserve, although as Hot Vibrato notes, there will come the day when the 'correct' tonewoods are unavailable for popular use.

Get ready for the revolution...
Old 17th December 2014
  #170
"Acoustic Guitar Innovation".......

HMmmmm.....

I'm sorry, but those words in close proximity bring up visions of Ovation Roundbacks, which are not among my favorite guitars. Not to mention their even more "innovative" Adamas series, with those silly sprays of funny looking mini-soundholes that make trying to use any pickup on them other than the quacky stock piezo a losing proposition.

Actually, there are a number of "innovative" acoustic guitar designs around if you look, most of which are wildly unpopular...
Old 17th December 2014
  #171
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So are the vintage obsessed of the issue that there are not any good modern made guitars?? I could not give a flip for the name Fender or Gibson on my guitar what matters to me is how it plays and how well the build. I had lot of older Strats but never imagined many of them were all that amazing. I prefer new myself, but custom builds not Fender and Gibson which like most iconic brands are no longer what they used to be.
New cars, new houses, new guitars, new gear but that is just me.
Of course new must imply some standard of quality which as a subject matter manufacturing throughout the 60s was notoriously lacking in quality and process control hardly two of anything was the same. Hard to imagine everything made in '59 was a magical gem. I doubt it. As for age, the wood after 50 years, components, wiring, even magnets degrade, it is pretty ludicrous to imagine it sounds like it did to those playing it when it was "new". If someone has that amount of money to spend, good for them. I would not live through the night if I tried to spend that much on a guitar.
Old 17th December 2014
  #172
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Sorry, If I'm spending serious money today on a guitar, I gotta put my faith
in guys like this.



Across the board way better than any new Gibsons I've seen.
Old 17th December 2014
  #173
Do you think they REALLY work in the dark? heh
Old 17th December 2014
  #174
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Maybe they are created in a secret underground, high security facility near Dulce NM

Old 17th December 2014
  #175
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingofspain View Post
Here I think it's the opposite - it's not the fault of the 'Joe Blow' luthiers that guitars don't progress (although there are many examples of bad ideas to choose from), it's the fault of guitarists for not demanding progress. Speaking from experience, when 90% of customers ask for a Gibson/Fender copy, it's difficult to push any kind of real innovation. Not that - personally - I'm trying to re-invent the wheel, but I have ideas - as a luthier - that the majority of my customers aren't willing to embrace.
I've seen a lot of goofy "innovations" by relatively unknown luthiers, which actually do nothing to improve upon traditional designs, and in many cases, the "innovation" actually makes the instrument worse than the traditional designs. Again, traditional designs exist because they worked better than anything else that has come along. A clever and intuitive luthier can refine traditional designs in such a way as to make an improvement. For instance the steep headstock angle of a LP can be reduced to improve the tuning problems caused by the too-steep headstock angle. But any radical departure from traditional designs will not be an improvement, and will at best (if they're lucky) be a marketing gimmick. The Parker Fly is a perfect example. Many aspects of its design seem to be different just for the sake of being different. In my opinion, despite their clever marketing campaign, those guitars are just weird looking and ergonomically awkward, and they offer very little in the way of improvement over traditional designs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkhorse View Post
I had lot of older Strats but never imagined many of them were all that amazing. I prefer new myself, but custom builds not Fender and Gibson which like most iconic brands are no longer what they used to be.
What people don't realize is that Gibson's workmanship has always been a little rough. They were never perfect, and they're still not. Same with Fender - I'd say their guitars are actually better and more consistent now than they've ever been. I used to work for a Fender service center, and to encounter a defective truss rod or unlevel frets on a fender neck was a relatively rare occurrence. I can't say the same about the levelness of Gibson's frets, but I would still contend that Gibson's workmanship is no worse now than it ever was - like I said, Gibsons have always been a little rough. But I have yet to encounter a new Gibson guitar (that's not defective) that couldn't be made to play perfectly with some setup work and minor fretwork.

The myth that vintage guitars were made better is just not true. Modern, factory produced guitars aren't perfect. Neither were the old ones when they were new.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkhorse View Post
Of course new must imply some standard of quality which as a subject matter manufacturing throughout the 60s was notoriously lacking in quality and process control hardly two of anything was the same. Hard to imagine everything made in '59 was a magical gem. I doubt it. As for age, the wood after 50 years, components, wiring, even magnets degrade, it is pretty ludicrous to imagine it sounds like it did to those playing it when it was "new".
A very valid point. But despite what I said above, old guitars are better - not because the craftsmanship was so much better (it's not), but because they're old. And take it from a luthier - old wood is undeniably better. Especially old wood that has already been a guitar for several decades. The neck of a new guitar will warp under the 200 lbs of string tension that it's being subjected to (they all do, to some degree), but a freshly planed and refretted vintage neck will not because it has already stabilized - it's used to being under all that string tension and it's already done all the warping it's going to do. That's the real reason why vintage guitars are better.
Old 17th December 2014
  #176
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
I've seen a lot of goofy "innovations" by relatively unknown luthiers, which actually do nothing to improve upon traditional designs, and in many cases, the "innovation" actually makes the instrument worse than the traditional designs. Again, traditional designs exist because they worked better than anything else that has come along. A clever and intuitive luthier can refine traditional designs in such a way as to make an improvement. For instance the steep headstock angle of a LP can be reduced to improve the tuning problems caused by the too-steep headstock angle. But any radical departure from traditional designs will not be an improvement, and will at best (if they're lucky) be a marketing gimmick. The Parker Fly is a perfect example. Many aspects of its design seem to be different just for the sake of being different. In my opinion, despite their clever marketing campaign, those guitars are just weird looking and ergonomically awkward, and they offer very little in the way of improvement over traditional designsr.

That's the problem with innovations--they often fail. Failure is in fact required. Should we just keep making strat clones, forever?

I'm not a luthier (though I have built a few guitars) but I am a historian, and the idea that things which prevail today prevail because they are the best is just highly highly dubious. You could easily argue that the key to fenders success, for example, was don Randall's sales force, not anything intrinsic to fender's designs. Are fender amps better than, say, ampeg amps? They are certianly more popular, but if you want to advance popularity as your foundation for the claim something is better, then the best musician in the world is taylor swift.

Similarly, things that are "traditional" aren't necessairly traditional because they are better: they're tradiotional because they are customary. A good example would be be fender, which prevailed in the market despite being not at all traditonal. Tradition said you could not screw the neck on, etc etc. a great modern example would be taylor guitars. I don't like the way they are voiced, but I'm constantly amazed at the level of quality they manage at all price points, and their consistent pattern of innovation. Bolt on guitar necks were considered the Devils handmaiden a decade ago, a horrible break from tradition, now they are everywhere. Tradiotionally, people took baths every Saturday night, whether they needed it or not. Does anyone think this traditon should be clung to because it's better?
Old 17th December 2014
  #177
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I think Accepted Practices in the craft is a good description when adhering to
a certain standard of workmanship and materials used industry wide.

Then you get into details based on the "period correctness" vs. modifications
and/or improvements of the original methods and materials.
Old 17th December 2014
  #178
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkhorse View Post
New cars, new houses, new guitars, new gear but that is just me. .
Heh-heh.......

New houses?

Sorry, but... no.

New construction generally sucks on a variety of levels unless you're unnaturally wealthy and can afford a money-is-no-object custom build.

In my view, the best houses are Victorian era, built after the asvent of gas lighting and before electricity.

Why?

Because the 12 to 14 foot ceilings with the baroque trim and fixtures (diffusion) and bay windows that break up the flat walls and right angle corners are acoustically superior to the typical low ceilinged, box like, flimsy builds of modern construction.

But that's just me.

Apologies for the digression.
Old 17th December 2014
  #179
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post


What people don't realize is that Gibson's workmanship has always been a little rough. They were never perfect, and they're still not. Same with Fender - I'd say their guitars are actually better and more consistent now than they've ever been. I used to work for a Fender service center, and to encounter a defective truss rod or unlevel frets on a fender neck was a relatively rare occurrence. I can't say the same about the levelness of Gibson's frets, but I would still contend that Gibson's workmanship is no worse now than it ever was - like I said, Gibsons have always been a little rough. But I have yet to encounter a new Gibson guitar (that's not defective) that couldn't be made to play perfectly with some setup work and minor fretwork.
I disagree. In fact I disagree rather strongly.

There's a new J-200 in my local GC on which the moustache bridge looks like a rough, unfinished routing. The top of the moustache is flat, not curved, and there's a distinct router ridge where the flat top meets the routed curve of the cutouts. Ugly - they took the part direct off the router and glued it on without the slightest attempt at proper finishing. And that's on their top of the line, flagship acoustic guitar! The whole build looks cheap and slapdash compared to my late, lamented '58.

That's probably why it's been sitting there for a year and a half with no buyers. Occasionally I go in and offer them $1500 out the door. Which is well below their cost. I wouldn't be surprised if they actually took my offer one of these days, it's been sitting so long.

Anyone who says there isn't a clear difference in quality probably isn't old enough to remember the quality of brand new Gibsons before about '65 or '66. By '68 they were well on the way to going down the toilet. The rumor at the time was that the reason was that a lot of the best wood was being snapped up by the military for the war effort but I think that a lot of it was that the parent company was only interested in how many units they could crank out.
Old 18th December 2014
  #180
Quote:
Originally Posted by PB+J View Post
That's the problem with innovations--they often fail. Failure is in fact required. Should we just keep making strat clones, forever?

I'm not a luthier (though I have built a few guitars) but I am a historian, and the idea that things which prevail today prevail because they are the best is just highly highly dubious. You could easily argue that the key to fenders success, for example, was don Randall's sales force, not anything intrinsic to fender's designs. Are fender amps better than, say, ampeg amps?
I suppose you could argue that but you'd be wrong. The key to Fender's popularity was that he started out with a lot of professional musicians coming to his shop for repairs and when he got into manufacturing he consulted with them and incorporated their ideas into his designs. There is actually very little that was really original about what he did - his early guitar designs were lifted straight off from a guitar built by Paul Bigsby and Merle Travis. His first amps were based on designs straight out of the back of the RCA tube manual. After starting with what were essentially knockoffs of existing equipment he then refined the designs based on feedback from his professional customers, who would often take out prototypes to try. That lead to a large staple of popular musicians using his products.

That certainly gave Don Randall something to work with, but without Leo's musician-based, seat-of-the-pants development style all the marketing in the world would not have given him the success that he achieved.
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