#1
So, as a guitar grows old it's getting better. What are the reasons? I guess it's all in the wood. I've heard people saying how their 20 year old Strats are just getting better over time. So that's really a mistery, ain't it

I mean, maybe it's only subjective or something. Though i played a couple of brand new guitars the other day, and there was a Blade Texas Classic, just like mine. I played it and it was kinda weird.

This might be a foolish question but i'm really interested in your knowledge of that and your opinions.

Thanks!
#2
My guess is, if there even is objective evidence of a change in sound, it's because the wood's resonant qualities change with age.

It may also be completely subjective - having owned a certain guitar for a long time will make you love that guitar, even if it should be crap to anyone else.
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#3
I don't see how a finished guitar body would change much with age. It's not going to lose moisture through the finish. Personally I think if older guitars sound better at all it's probably because the ones that sounded shit have long ago been used for firewood.
#4
It's bollocks largely - people often perceive things the way they want to.

You get used to a guitar, and you can wear down the finish on a neck over time so it may feel more comfortable. Likewise over a long period of time pickups can lose magnetism and that may make them sound better to some people.

For the most part it's complete bobbins though, sure there's a bit of mojo to owning an older guitar but nothing actually makes it better.
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#5
What Steven said.
Acoustics can change over time, but its mostly in the first year or so, as they are 'played in'
Electrics don't really age tonewise.

Some people get confused with the whole older=better thing, thinking it means the guitars get better with age, when really what they might have heard was older guitars sound better, which in some cases is true. The wood used on old Strats and Les Pauls was from old grown forests, and the wood itself makes better tonewood than timber from modern plantation trees, which are grown and cut down within a decade or 2, unlike the old growth forests, in which trees could be hundreds of years old when they are cut down.
#6
Aaaah i see..well i was really interested in the topic, i've heard a truckload of everything about it. Thanks! It's all subjective and comes down to the individual guitarist.
#7
The older=better thing in relation to the settling of the wood and improved acoustic qualities usually applies more to classical instruments such as Violins and Cellos, which is why you tend you see old orchestral string instruments selling for hundreds of thousands or millions (other than them simply being antique or having been created or owned by someone of historical significance).

With guitars the fact that older guitars are usually far more expensive is usually mainly down to the age of the guitar and its condition. The older a guitar gets and the longer it is left set up in a certain way usually the better it feels to play for the player who set it up that way. Often little niggles such as fret buzz which people can find after re-stringing or adjusting their action can reduce over time naturally as the guitar is played in, and as such I personally believe that a guitar which has been used for some time to a players specifications is a better guitar than one which is shipped directly out of the factory.

In some guitars, however, models of a certain age and time are of an undisputed higher quality to models of today in terms of general craftsmanship. Take Gibson for example, their 70's guitars are considered to be built a hell of a lot better than their modern day counterparts on average, and as such 70's Gibsons which are in good condition are usually extremely expensive. Japanese guitars from the late 80's and early 90's were known to be particularly good, too, which gave rise to the reputation of companies such as ESP and Ibanez.
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#8
not true in 99% of cases. nostalgia plays a part in this but i haven't found it to be true. the idea that things made in "the good old days" are better seems to persist with many things. back in the 70s when i first started to play japanese made guitars were considered junk. now many of them are going for good money on ebay. the perception changed but honestly many of the japanese made guitars from that time are junk. for every nice ibanez "lawsuit" copy there are 10 crap ones that are just old and don't sound any better than a squier bullet made last year. many 70s to early 80s fenders and gibsons aren't all that great (but of course some are). i play an 88 Strat Plus Deluxe, is it really "better" than modern made strats, no. in some cases it is better but i've played several new strats that sounded just as good. bottom line a "good" guitar is a good guitar when it was made makes no differnce.
#9
some vintage guitars are better because certain types of wood which have more desirable tonal properties (well, that's subjective) were more abundant and easier to obtain, and the guitars weren't being made in large quantities to meet the demand so they could be more selective with the pieces of wood that they use and would be quicker to scrap a guitar if it didn't meet up to the standards - and they were able to set the bar very high because they weren't mass-producing a certain number to a certain deadline.

it's got nothing to do with "age" at all. age can change a guitar's tone a little, but the truth is, the best vintage guitars were always just that good in the first place.

i think that companies want to brainwash people into thinking it's because the vintage guitars have got better with age to cover up the fact that they just aren't making guitars that good anymore, when the truth is that nowadays they just can't do it like they use to - due to conservation they just can't get the tonewoods they used to use, and with high demand they just can't put as much care into the production of an individual guitar and can't be as selective in the quality control process.
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#10
Maybe you get more of a sound from that era, because the guitar was made to sounnd like other instruments drom that era. Most newer guitars are more modern voiced.
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#11
Quote by obeythepenguin
Manufacturers couldn't care less about vintage guitars either way. They're in the business of making new ones, not valuing and trading old ones.

The tonewoods and individual attention are the most credible argument, but even then it's a little bit of fact and a lot of hype. Most pre-war Martins don't have "that" sound, most 1959 Les Pauls don't have "that" tone or finish, and by the way, even experts can't distinguish a Stradivarius from a well-made modern violin in a blind test. (Yes, I went there.)

It's truthiness in old stuff with name recognition. If enough people think it's worth something, then eventually it is.

manufacturers do care about vintage guitars, in the higher price ranges, because they've gotta compete with them - it's not the manufacturers that make money from vintage guitars.

vintage guitars are overhyped and overpriced for sure, i'll agree with that, but the extent of it is just subjective, at least when it comes to the less stupidly priced ones that don't really cost any more than a high end modern guitar. a '59 les paul will never be worth as much as they sell for as a player's guitar, but if you can find a good norlin era model that you think is worth the asking price, then there's no reason not to go for it - it's relative to what you're willing to pay for that particular guitar.

as for the blindfold test thing, i want to see how these tests were actually conducted before i can even consider whether the results are a worthwhile source. most blindfold tests involving musical instruments and "experts" are about as credible as the idea that guitars improve drastically with age.
I like analogue Solid State amps that make no effort to be "tube-like", and I'm proud of it...

...A little too proud, to be honest.
#12
Older does not mean better.

The reason vintage Fenders, Gibsons and Martins are so desirable is because they are the best versions of now-iconic instruments.
Back in the day, there were no CNC machines. The guitars were made in smaller quantities as a lot more stuff had to be done by hand. This allowed them to use all the best materials and have the attention to detail to produce a high quality instrument.
Over the years, these companies have undergone several ownership changes, and have had to deal with a constantly increasing demand. Corners unfortunately have to be cut if you want to keep up with the immense demand for these instruments. Quantity took precendence over quality. Once the production quality dropped, players started looking for the older instruments of the 50's and 60's as they were of superior materials and construction standards.

Not all guitars from the 50's survived to this day. Combine that with their ever-increasing demand and you get vintage Les Pauls that cost over 100,000 dollars.

Having said that, I think any new guitar that is made of good materials with attention to detail is just as good as any of these desirable vintage guitars, even though it's not quite as collectible. However, I have never had the privilege of playing a vintage guitar, so I may be completely wrong in that aspect.

There are also plenty of old guitars that aren't collectible. Although they cost more than they did new back in the day, that's more because they're a curious object from another time rather than a desirable musical instrument. For every '59 Les Paul or '57 Strat there's a couple thousand Teisco's.

Sorry if all of this has already been said. I didn't read the whole thread.

EDIT: I noticed a few mentions of "old growth tonewood". That may be true for Gibson and their honduran mahogany, but I don't think that's true for Fender. Fender didn't know (or care) about guitar building conventions. He used ash for bodies because it was cheap, and later switched to alder because it didn't need grain filling. I don't think either of those woods were commonly used for musical instruments. I'm told that some vintage teles had up to 5-piece bodies made of leftovers.
Last edited by sashki at May 29, 2011,
#13
A well used guitar does, in fact play better than the straight off the shelf mass produced guitars of today, just for the fact that they get worn in and all parts of it seem to start work together as one. Why do you think race car drivers warm up tires? Same with boots, they are better with breaking in.

Does this fact justify the stupid high prices, definately not.
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#14
Quote by steven seagull
It's bollocks largely - people often perceive things the way they want to.
Definitely. In fact most tone theories seem to come down to this. There's a great couple of videos on youtube of a guy giving sound clips of different capacitors with the name and material of each one on screen as he's playing and everyone in the comments shits on everything that isn't the old style bumblebee and paper in oil ones. Then he did a second video doing the same capacitors but in a different order and without showing the type of capacitors on screen and nobody can tell the difference. It's the same with lots of newer solid state modelling amps vs tube amps, nobody knows the difference until it's pointed out to them and then they swear blind that they could hear the difference all along and that the new amp is worse.
#15
Quote by BreeBreeMiikey
A well used guitar does, in fact play better than the straight off the shelf mass produced guitars of today, just for the fact that they get worn in and all parts of it seem to start work together as one. Why do you think race car drivers warm up tires? Same with boots, they are better with breaking in.

Does this fact justify the stupid high prices, definately not.
It's nothing like tyres or boots. Ever tried playing a guitar with 20+ years of fret wear? It's a nightmare.
#16
Quote by grohl1987
It's nothing like tyres or boots. Ever tried playing a guitar with 20+ years of fret wear? It's a nightmare.

+1

Race drivers warm up the tyres because they perform better at high tempreatures - that's physics. A guitar doesn't behave drastically differently over time.
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#17
Part of it has to do with actual initial manufacture, not aging- especially with instruments that depend on acoustic elements as opposed to electronics only.

I own a lower-level professional-grade cello, purchased in the 1980s. My last cello teacher owned one that was nearly 500 years old. Mine had a very nice sound...very sweet. But his not only sounded better, it was much, much louder- the woods used to make it were a fraction of the thickness of mine. Not only did it weigh less, it was so much more resonant that he could make objects in the room rattle.

Similarly, a vintage handmade acoustic, hollowbody or semihollow may be made in such a way that it simply outperforms analogous modern makes...

But as implied upthread, they may be indistinguishable in quality from a modern handmade guitar of the same style.
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Last edited by dannyalcatraz at May 29, 2011,
#18
Quote by grohl1987
It's nothing like tyres or boots. Ever tried playing a guitar with 20+ years of fret wear? It's a nightmare.

I own a 30 year old guitar that has been well used. Plays like butter?. Its pretty dinged up so its been well used.

But you have to be reasonable in your statement as well. Not every guitar will be worn to the fretboard.
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#19
My uncle owns a 60's Les Paul apprentice model, which was never supposed to have left the factory. He has been offered thousands of pounds for it and various trades involving money along with several newer and expensive guitars.

But the truth? The thing is banged up. The finish is absolutely battered, the fretboard totally out of whack, it struggles to stay in tune and the pickups produce a heck of a lot of background noise. It's a piece of trash, but that serial number on the back which gives the guitar its identity as something which should have never left the factory makes it a dream purchase for a collector.

And that's the problem with talking about old guitars, you're drawn into a market which contains both musicians and collectors, the latter of which often dictates the market price.

Modern production techniques are more efficient for the companies, but perhaps the quality control and imperfections of yester-year are what give vintage guitars their character. And that, really, is what should be judged when comparing two instruments. Not the quality of the woods, or the name on the headstock, but its little quirks, its nuances, its imperfections and failings.

Every guitarist is different, has their own tastes and preferances. A guitar isn't a piece of technology, it's not like a computer where you can bench-test the hardware against competitors, it's a piece of art, a piece of craftsmanship. Modern guitars, many of them mass produced, are perhaps too clinical for the collectors market - and maybe a little bit lacking in character for some of the players out there, too. And ss such, older guitars will always be viewed in a higher esteem both by players and collectors alike, and will always, to some, be viewed as being of a higher quality regardless.

My opinion? Some older guitars and reknown for being of a higher build quality in craftsmanship terms than others, the same way hand-made guitars are always viewed as superior to their mass-produced counterparts. I've played hand-made guitars which are pieces of shit, and mass produced onces which completely own them. At the end of the day people will pay for the name on the headstock and the serial code on the back.
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#20
Quote by BreeBreeMiikey
I own a 30 year old guitar that has been well used. Plays like butter?. Its pretty dinged up so its been well used.

Did you play that guitar when it was only 1 or 2 years old? I'm going to say no, and in that case you have absolutely no way of telling that it is now better.

Almost certainly, that guitar is just better than the others you own, which is why it feels better to you. That doesn't mean its got better as it aged, it just means it was better in the first place.
#21
Quote by littlephil
Did you play that guitar when it was only 1 or 2 years old? I'm going to say no, and in that case you have absolutely no way of telling that it is now better.

Almost certainly, that guitar is just better than the others you own, which is why it feels better to you. That doesn't mean its got better as it aged, it just means it was better in the first place.

Very well. Ill stay with my opinion, my shecter feels better than when I bought it a few years ago as well.
Guitars:
LTD KH-602
LTD M-15
Schecter Hellraiser FR (for sale w/hsc, pm me.)
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Jackson JS30 Kelly
Vester: Metal flake gold/black crackle
Vester: rainbow crackle
Carvin V220
#22
Because you got used to it.

My mate's got a 1993 Fender American Standard Telecaster. The thing spent at least four years of its life going untouched in an attic. Still had a solid fifteen or so years of fair use though. It's not toured the world and been shredded to pieces by Steve Vai but it's got its fair share of battle scars.

I will tell you that it's rusted, the pots crackle, there's so much hum it's obvious something's gone wrong with the grounding, the trem never stays in tune, the frets are so uneven it's impossible to play a basic barre chord and the nut is so worn down that even the very first fret buzzes.

He will tell you that it's the best sounding guitar he's ever had, with sustain for days and the fastest neck and fretboard ever. He'll tell you he can abuse the trem like it's a Floyd and it never goes out of tune, that the tuners are rock solid and there's no hum, you're just imagining things.

That's how these things always go.
#23
For acoustic guitars I believe there is a lot of truth to the idea that sound improves over time as the wood and glues adjust, settle and change at a microscopic level influencing the way it resonates. However I'm still unconvinced that tone wood plays much of a part in solid body electrics using anything other than a piezo or similar style pickup that actually collects sound from the wood.
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#24
Quote by Beauty/Broken

And that's the problem with talking about old guitars, you're drawn into a market which contains both musicians and collectors, the latter of which often dictates the market price.



This so much. While some old guitars may be better, it's really that people have seen their favorite musicians play old instruments and then decide that there must be something special about them. One of my friends had a cousin that collected ancient gibsons. He had like 4 les pauls from the 50s or 60s. My friend played them and basically said that two of them were amazing. They were some of the best guitars he had played on. The other two though he thought his $800 ibanez destroyed in playability and the tone wasn't that great. However, they're all about the same age, so they're all gonna sell for a shit ton of money, regardless of their sound.

Some old guitars sound great. Some new guitars sound great. Old ones however have the reputation, so they cost a lot more. It just comes down to the specific guitar.
#25
Quote by BreeBreeMiikey
Very well. Ill stay with my opinion, my shecter feels better than when I bought it a few years ago as well.

either you got used to it or you like a "broken in" feel better - but that's a subjective thing, and it's debateable whether guitars with thick polyeurethane finishes even get broken in at all. because you get used to certain things more.

honestly, until about a year ago i was so used to my squier telecaster i thought it was the best telecaster in the world. but then i got a fender, and since i've gotten used to that neck profile i've not played my squier once.

i'm still getting used to my SG because i haven't had it long, i'm sure i'll be used to it in a couple of years time, but guess what? it's already had 38 years to get "broken in". i bought it because i liked the tone which is very unique - not because it's a vintage guitar. if i was buying vintage for the sake of vintage mojo i'd have paid £400 more for the 1966 SG i also played - but that one, despite sounding amazing and playing great, just felt cheap and flimsy.
I like analogue Solid State amps that make no effort to be "tube-like", and I'm proud of it...

...A little too proud, to be honest.
#26
Quote by grohl1987
Because you got used to it.

My mate's got a 1993 Fender American Standard Telecaster. The thing spent at least four years of its life going untouched in an attic. Still had a solid fifteen or so years of fair use though. It's not toured the world and been shredded to pieces by Steve Vai but it's got its fair share of battle scars.

I will tell you that it's rusted, the pots crackle, there's so much hum it's obvious something's gone wrong with the grounding, the trem never stays in tune, the frets are so uneven it's impossible to play a basic barre chord and the nut is so worn down that even the very first fret buzzes.

He will tell you that it's the best sounding guitar he's ever had, with sustain for days and the fastest neck and fretboard ever. He'll tell you he can abuse the trem like it's a Floyd and it never goes out of tune, that the tuners are rock solid and there's no hum, you're just imagining things.

That's how these things always go.


Keeping a guitar in the attic isn't the best idea, know wonder it's crap lol.

As for Vintage guitars being better, well. I think you'll find you can buy a quality guitar as good now days. I think it's just the fact that the vintage guitars have the (Mojo) history behind them that gives them a bit of mystery and the fact that they're well worn, which I find does give them the comfort factor as well.