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#1
I understand that a new guitar sounds better with age, but how long does this process take. How old is an acoustic guitar before it's at it's best
#2
I have been waiting years (15)for a couple of my guitars to sound better. A Gibby and a Taki, both very decent axes. Fact is, they don't sound any different to when I bought them.

However, I must say the binding has changed and gone a nice yellow color. Cheers
#3
Not true. The sound may change with age, but there is no guarantee it will sound better - whatever that means. My Martin J-40 went from very good to TPOS over a period of about thee years, after which time I sold it at a big loss.

I think the rate of change would depend on storage conditions and amount of playing. There is often a change in the first few hours, but after that I've no idea. I would now prefer to buy acoustics that are at least 20 years old, on the assumption that hopefully by then you know what you are getting in terms of tone and structural stability..
#5
Depends on the woods used. From what I know, guitars with Macassar Ebony back and sides take about 2 or so years of playing to fully develop their sound, but once they do they make for some of the best guitars on the planet.
#6
Well, I have trouble remembering how my guitars sounded yesterday, never mind years ago.
#7
Quote by Jimjambanx
Depends on the woods used. From what I know, guitars with Macassar Ebony back and sides take about 2 or so years of playing to fully develop their sound, but once they do they make for some of the best guitars on the planet.


This is a respectful question, not rhetorical. Is it what you know from personal experience, or what you have read somewhere on the internet?
#8
Quote by Tony Done
This is a respectful question, not rhetorical. Is it what you know from personal experience, or what you have read somewhere on the internet?


I've heard from it from luthiers, which is about as trustworthy as it gets.
#9
Quote by Tony Done
This is a respectful question, not rhetorical. Is it what you know from personal experience, or what you have read somewhere on the internet?

Old guitars shit on new guitars in sound quality.... Well, unless they were previously owned by Pete Townshend.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 9, 2014,
#10
I don't know. I have guitars spanning 5 decades and couldn't tell you for certain that they sound better now than when I bought them. People say they should but....

My current favorite players:
2003 Fender USA Tele (bone stock)
2001 Seagull S6+ cedar (almost bone stock)
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#11
Quote by Jimjambanx
I've heard from it from luthiers, which is about as trustworthy as it gets.


OK I'll explain it. I'm retired scientist with a long publication history, plus about 16 years and 20 thousand internet posts, mostly Usenet, on guitar-related topics. As a result, I'm a bit sensitive to wikiwisdom. - Truth by hearsay, and the stuff of urban legends and outright bs. I'm by no means guilt-free in this respect, but I've learned to try and avoid it by being fairly circumspect in my comments. What it seems you meant, IMO, was that you have heard it (personally?) from good sources, not that you know it in a factual sense.
#12
Quote by Cajundaddy
I don't know. I have guitars spanning 5 decades and couldn't tell you for certain that they sound better now than when I bought them. People say they should but....
In the human male, high frequency hearing loss begins about age nineteen , and continues through the rest of his lifetime at a somewhat reduced rate.

This HF hearing loss can be accelerated by exposure to loud noise, infection, and one supposes genetic influence.

My point being, an individual would have to have kept the same guitar for possibly up to decades to proclaim with any certainty, " 'xxx' or 'yyy' guitars get better with age". Or perhaps "ZZZ" specific guitar got better with age.

Here we have quite a dilemma, were all things to remain equal, (no age related losses in the recording media), (string alloy has remained completely uniform), (room acoustics have remained constant, (this is a biggy, because a single coat of paint could potentially change them), the original owner really couldn't say with certainty that sound had even changed, let alone become better, since he would be listening to the instrument with different ears than his former self.

So, "guitars mellow with age", may, at least in part, be due to the ears of the listener, "mellowing out", as it were.

And then there's the fact that, "nothing sounds better than a Stradivarius", keeps the price inflated beyond all reason.
#13
Quote by Tony Done
OK I'll explain it. I'm retired scientist with a long publication history, plus about 16 years and 20 thousand internet posts, mostly Usenet, on guitar-related topics. As a result, I'm a bit sensitive to wikiwisdom. - Truth by hearsay, and the stuff of urban legends and outright bs. I'm by no means guilt-free in this respect, but I've learned to try and avoid it by being fairly circumspect in my comments. What it seems you meant, IMO, was that you have heard it (personally?) from good sources, not that you know it in a factual sense.


I've heard it first hand from luthiers like Michael Greenfield, as well as many guitarists with experience with Macassar Ebony. I've never used a guitar with the wood, but the word of a luthier is more valuable here anyway.
#14
I thought I remembered reading in a number of places over the years that the conventional wisdom was that more playing (not just age as in length of time) would tend to get the structures in the would to align better over time and repetition such that the instrument would be resonating more "together" and produce a better tone.

Now, I'm not a scientist, but I can think logically. I don't personally consider wood a very fluid material (like glass, for example) so while I would like to believe that, I don't know that I fully buy into it. I would tend to think that even if it were true, the overall tone of the instrument would be much more affected by other factors such as stable humidity/moisture content, construction method and the like. And an instrument made with woods that don't play nice together, would simply be fighting itself.

I'm a little short on the empirical evidence. My oldest acoustic is about 6 years old. It's hard for me to say if it sounds any different. I looks a little different than when it was new. I did have an issue with it drying out too much one year over the winter but I was able to bring it back successfully. I want to believe it sounds better, but in truth, I don't know that it really does. It may actually sound worse. But then again, I'e changed the setup a couple times recently and it probably needs new strings pretty soon. It still sounds pretty darn good and more than capable of doing the job. Notes ring out for a long time. I just can't definitively say 'Yeah, this sounds better than when I bought it." By comparison, I bought another acoustic earlier this year and it sounds much fuller, although it is considered inferior. Both are solid wood. I'll kind of reserve my judgement. I'm not saying it doesn't help but I think the effect may be largely lost to our ears with all the other factors going on.
#15
Quote by Jimjambanx
I've heard it first hand from luthiers like Michael Greenfield, as well as many guitarists with experience with Macassar Ebony. I've never used a guitar with the wood, but the word of a luthier is more valuable here anyway.
I couldn't agree with you more. To that end, why don't you have your luthier friend(s) post that here, instead of pawning off a bunch of hearsay as, "etched in stone fact"..

But from my point of view, if I were a luthier trying to sell a $20,000.oo, (or so), guitar, I'd tell my customer that God spoke to me out of a burning bush saying, "this guitar will get better with age".
#16
Quote by Captaincranky
I couldn't agree with you more. To that end, why don't you have your luthier friend(s) post that here, instead of pawning off a bunch of hearsay as, "etched in stone fact"..

But from my point of view, if I were a luthier trying to sell a $20,000.oo, (or so), guitar, I'd tell my customer that God spoke to me out of a burning bush saying, "this guitar will get better with age".


#17
Quote by Captaincranky
I couldn't agree with you more. To that end, why don't you have your luthier friend(s) post that here, instead of pawning off a bunch of hearsay as, "etched in stone fact"..

But from my point of view, if I were a luthier trying to sell a $20,000.oo, (or so), guitar, I'd tell my customer that God spoke to me out of a burning bush saying, "this guitar will get better with age".


Yeah you're right, I guess all luthiers are just lying thieves who know nothing about the tonal properties of wood, and I should get a world renowned luthier like Michael Greenfield to create an account for a guitar tab website to tell some random guy something that you can find out with a google search.
#18
each luthier is an individual with personal preferences, and luthiers - mr. greenfield included - are no less liable than anyone else to have a tonal preference that not everyone shares or to believe things they are told - especially if told by a mentor.

i've been fortunate enough to play a fair number of older guitars - pre-ww2 - and i prefer the sound of newer guitars most of the time. that's not to say that other people might feel the exact opposite, and we'd both be right, since each of us would know what is better to us.

either way, buy a guitar that sounds great to you now, and you won't have to worry about whether it will get better with age. and i'm with Tony Done on this - even if a guitar's tone does change, there's no guarantee you'll like how it sounds better.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
#19
Well, I have trouble remembering how my guitars sounded yesterday, never mind years ago.


This.
#20
Quote by Jimjambanx
Yeah you're right, I guess all luthiers are just lying thieves who know nothing about the tonal properties of wood, and I should get a world renowned luthier like Michael Greenfield to create an account for a guitar tab website to tell some random guy something that you can find out with a google search.
Let's just say it takes a good salesman to sell a very expensive guitar. Political science allows its practitioners to shelter from being called outright "liars", by offering up the alternative, "bullshitting". As long as a story contains an element of truth, it's "bullshit, and not "lying". Clever how that works,isn't it?

In example, a politician seeking office might say, "I was at that riot, and a woman died in my arms". OK, so there was a riot, and a woman died in someone's arms, just not that particular politician's. Is he lying? Of course not, he's bullshitting".

I will say you've made quite a leap from "which top should I buy, cedar or spruce", to informing us with a great deal of certainty, how any particular wood stands the test of time, ad naseum.

Since, as you point out, I'm just "some random guy at UG", be aware that you fall smack into that category as well. Some random guy that claims he knows somebody, who knows this or that. Throughout my early adulthood I always managed to meet people who, had a friend whose car could beat my car in a drag race". The odd thing was, those cars never belonged to them.

Please read this excerpt from "Hearing loss" @ Wikipedia:

There is a progressive loss of ability to hear high frequencies with increasing age known as presbycusis. For men, this can start as early as 25 and women at 30, but may even affect teenagers and children. Although genetically variable it is a normal concomitant of aging and is distinct from hearing losses caused by noise exposure, toxins or disease agents.[10]


And then be kind enough to explain how it is one particular person can tell a 20 or 30 year old guitar is better than it was when it was new, when you're listening to it with different ears?

And do bring whichever "expert witness", or whatever hearsay you have from any of your experts to add to the discussion.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 16, 2014,
#21
Quote by Captaincranky
And then be kind enough to explain how it is one particular person can tell a 20 or 30 year old guitar is better than it was when it was new, when you're listening to it with different ears?


Did you even read the part where I said "2 or so years"? At no point did I even mention how a guitar sounds 20 to 30 years later. I'm talking about the tonal properties of a specific tone wood, actually read the post next time.
#22
Quote by Captaincranky



And then be kind enough to explain how it is one particular person can tell a 20 or 30 year old guitar is better than it was when it was new, when you're listening to it with different ears?


You don't do it that way. You get experienced enough from hearing lots of guitars that you understand what character certain tonewoods have, and what character body shapes tend to have. You listen to guitars that are new, which are built with old and new techniques. For instance you can still buy a Martin D-45 in brazillian rosewood, made with the same original moulds. It'll cost you ~60, 000$, but you could do it.

There are some people that deal with guitars day in and day out, and they possess this knowledge. They also have experience enough to tell if all the older guitars which are 30-40 years older, tend to have a certain character that newer ones don't have.

They don't go from 40 years of memory with innumerable variables in between. As you say, that would be ridiculous.

I am not this sort of expert, but I can tell you what character certain woods and shapes tend to have. I don't see why age would be any different. All I would need is lots of experience with different old guitars.

It is a sensible proposition though. Wood is soft. As it vibrates, it makes sense that it would wear at the joints and whatnot according to the way it vibrates. I would imagine that the ageing effect would be kind of like a harmonic exciter. It would become more of its own character. If it is deep, it will become more deep but the highs it have will be more clear also. It is entirely possible that there are other factors also that come into play.

It may be that lots of experts prefer the tone of old age, because it sounds old, and they glorified old. Maybe other people would prefer newer sounding guitars.

I think it is safe to say though, that guitars will age over time. Wood is very soft, wears easily, and is easily affected by things like humidity. Quality guitars are also kind of frail and delicate. It's not like a 2x4 changing over time, or a guitar made of plastic or metal. It's soft delicate influenceable wood.
#23
Quote by fingrpikingood

I am not this sort of expert, but I can tell you what character certain woods and shapes tend to have. I don't see why age would be any different. All I would need is lots of experience with different old guitars.
And I can hear differences in guitar woods and shapes as well. And like you, in this case before you in this thread, myself and others have conceded that guitars change with age. But with a neutrality that asks, "but is that for the better, or for the worse"?

Now we are confronted with a member who insists that, "XXX tone wood gets better within a specific timeline, because Lex Luthier told him so.

From where I sit, this is pushy, hyperactive, and annoying hearsay, not any knowledge or wisdom gained from personal experience.

Other members have also pointed this out to him, but perhaps not in the abrupt manner for which I am unfortunately renowned.

Here we have a member who has gone, (in the space of 2 threads), from someone asking help to decide which type of a top should he get on a guitar, that he has yet to start saving for, and won't be bought until 6 months from now, at minimum, to an expert on guitar aging.

I've recently been asked, "did you even read what I said"? The answer is yes I did, but I'm nonetheless, abundantly disinterested.

So, I'm going to continue to contribute my thoughts to this thread, and whomever else chooses to participate, should feel free to do the same.

The opinions and observations expressed by me, may not necessarily coincide with those of others. My opinions may or may not be swayed by those of others.

But after all, that's what forensic forum discussions are both for, and noted for.
#24
This discussion is just about the best argument I have seen for never buying an acoustic guitar that wasn't at least a few years old. At best, I would never, ever buy a guitar in the expectation that it would improve with age, no matter what any luthier, salesman, whatever, told me. I'd just wait until one turned up on then used market, with a good return policy. - That is how I bought my Bourgeois.
#25
Quote by fingrpikingood
You don't do it that way. You get experienced enough from hearing lots of guitars that you understand what character certain tonewoods have, and what character body shapes tend to have. You listen to guitars that are new, which are built with old and new techniques. For instance you can still buy a Martin D-45 in brazillian rosewood, made with the same original moulds. It'll cost you ~60, 000$, but you could do it. .
Respectfully, the question in play is, "do guitars get better with age", not, "do old guitars of the same make and model sound better than new ones".

I've freely admitted that my way won't work, and even qualified why I believe that to be the case.

There is so much BS predicated on brand name, legend, finishing materials, the listener's personal taste, prejudices and whatnot, I don't think a definitive answer is possible.

Does a 40 year old D-45 sound better than a new one? The answer is to who? A player saying "no", is likely to reap plenty of verbal reprisals for his or her lack of aural acuity.

I mean after all, everyone knows that way back when, there were better trees, better lacquers, better luthiers who took more pride in their work than these stiffs today! If you see where I'm going with this...
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 17, 2014,
#26
Quote by Tony Done
This discussion is just about the best argument I have seen for never buying an acoustic guitar that wasn't at least a few years old. At best, I would never, ever buy a guitar in the expectation that it would improve with age, no matter what any luthier, salesman, whatever, told me. I'd just wait until one turned up on then used market, with a good return policy. - That is how I bought my Bourgeois.
But, but, but, but, I thought you sad that you weren't all that infatuated with that instrument any more. Er..., didn't you?

Then too, in the case of your particular Martin, you said it was a "TPOS" after 6 years. But I suppose, if you never heard it new, you wouldn't be able to say that....
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 17, 2014,
#27
Quote by Captaincranky
But, but, but, but, I thought you sad that you weren't all that infatuated with that instrument any more. Er..., didn't you?

Then too, in the case of your particular Martin, you said it was a "TPOS" after 6 years. But I suppose, if you never heard it new, you wouldn't be able to say that....


The Bourgeois was about 12 years ago, I wouldn't buy it now. It is a very good guitar for what I bought it for - slide, not standard tuning fingerpicking - but somehow it is just too much of a good thing, hard to explain. It is really in the last three years or so that I have lost a lot interest in (acoustic) guitars as instruments. I can pick up just about any of my guitars and think "this'll do" for whatever I have an urge to play. I don't even bother changing strings until they start sounding really bad.

The Martin was new when I bought it, and went downhill over a period of about three years. I try not to be anti-Martin, but I have to work hard at it.

I'm still interested in electrics, but only as sound makers, the lump of wood does nothing for me (except mojo, see below), as long as it is within the bounds of my very conservative tastes in such things. I've asked Father Christmas, who looks a lot like my wife, to give me a Boss LS-2 so that I can experiment with mixing clean and effect.

And I'm still something of a sucker for mojo - I would still like a nice old electric, or one with the right name on the headstock - but I don't think this has anything at all to do with functional value as a musical instrument.
#28
Quote by Tony Done
...[ ]...And I'm still something of a sucker for mojo - I would still like a nice old electric, or one with the right name on the headstock - but I don't think this has anything at all to do with functional value as a musical instrument.
I'm afraid to pick up my electric. The next thing you now, I'll stuff a compressor in the signal chain, my dynamics will go to crap and I'll ignore all my acoustics because my hands will be too weak to enjoy or play them properly.
#29
Quote by Captaincranky
Respectfully, the question in play is, "do guitars get better with age", not, "do old guitars of the same make and model sound better than new ones".

I've freely admitted that my way won't work, and even qualified why I believe that to be the case.

There is so much BS predicated on brand name, legend, finishing materials, the listener's personal taste, prejudices and whatnot, I don't think a definitive answer is possible.

Does a 40 year old D-45 sound better than a new one? The answer is to who? A player saying "no", is likely to reap plenty of verbal reprisals for his or her lack of aural acuity.

I mean after all, everyone knows that way back when, there were better trees, better lacquers, better luthiers who took more pride in their work than these stiffs today! If you see where I'm going with this...


I think people that say guitars improve with age get just as Mich flack.

I don't know how age affects guitars from first hand experience. It seems reasonable to me that they open up, and in most cases sound better, or, their characteristics exaggerated. I would also never buy a guitar on expectation of anything like that.

I dont think there is anu real argument anyone can make aside from having extensive experience in playing old and new quality guitars. I'm sure there are many exceptions, how individuals treat their guitars, etc... So the sample size would need to be quite large.

Salesmen might say that, and people might fall for it, but its a really poor tactic, because surely, if every acoustic improves over time, then one would still prefer to start with the best sounding one they can find.

It is not a good sales tactic to sell new guitars though. If people believe older guitars sound better, then they will prefer to buy used. So, a myth about guitar tone maturation, does not actually benefit wholesalers.
#30
I'd only buy a guitar(new or used) based upon what it sounds like now, not on what it might sound like a few years from now. When you buy used, other issues may come into play though like fret wear
#31
Quote by Captaincranky
I'm afraid to pick up my electric. The next thing you now, I'll stuff a compressor in the signal chain, my dynamics will go to crap and I'll ignore all my acoustics because my hands will be too weak to enjoy or play them properly.


I don't actually play them, I just make pleasing noises. That's stretching it a bit, I play a bit of slide on them, nothing that is exclusively fretting.

I think compressors are useful if you are a fingerpicker, it even out the picking dynamics rather than outright kills them. There's nothing more disconcerting than doing a little backstroke and having a great burst of sound come out of the amp. I have a small collection, two of which I built myself.

I'm not too worried about losing muscle tone, because I use 13-56 strings on the acoustics, and play them enough to keep in trim, I hope. There was one period of about three weeks a few years back where I didn't play acoustics, and then they felt really hard work when I went back to them. IIRC it took a few days, not that long, to recover.
#32
Quote by rohash
I'd only buy a guitar(new or used) based upon what it sounds like now, not on what it might sound like a few years from now. When you buy used, other issues may come into play though like fret wear


Yeah, I'm happier to trust my judgment on other issues a old guitar might have than I am to try and guess what a new guitar will be like in a few years time.
#33
Next, I think we should tackle whether guitars made on Mondays and Fridays, turn out to be lemons....
#35
I won't buy a used guitar. More importantly, I insist all my guitars be virgins when I buy them. I'm looking forward to the 71, (or is it 72), of them I'll have in heaven someday......
#36
Quote by tom183
This.

Then you may can order a new guitar
i got one with 300 dollars around
but it is a branded guitar and sound good.

www.hihamusic.com
#37
Over on the Acoustic Guitar Forum, the term they use is "Opening up".

My take on this, along with anything else that is supposed to affect sound like "Tonerite" or Sticking your guitar next to a stereo speaker or any other such thing... Is....

Test it. Controlled conditions. As in, scientific testing.

Take new guitar, and record same in a particular manner and make a record of the analysis of the sound. Wave-form analysis, whatever. Take it home and play it for a couple of years, or 5, or whatever you feel is supposed to bring about the effect.
Then take it in and record it again. Same brand/gauge/age of strings, same playing technique.

This should reveal if there is a difference in sound, and also if that difference is great enough to be perceptible by human ears.

Myself, I agree with a couple of the other posts... Do you REALLY remember what your guitar sounded like 3 years ago? Memory is very tricky....As coppers like myself are well aware. We constantly edit and alter our memories.... We don't "replay" them... We "rebuild" them. Tricky stuff.

This applies to things like string changes as well. Sure, those new unobtanium-plated meteoric-iron handmade in the Swiss alps strings you just bought sound a lot better than the ratty old Black Diamonds that had been on your guitar for two years.....
#38
i love the sound of new J45s but don't care for vintage ones, and i've played a lot of both in the exact same room in the exact same guitar center on the exact same day. could they be making them differently? i suppose, but i've had the same experience with other vintage vs new same model guitars, although i prefer vintage all-mahogany martins over new.

btw, i play a lot of guitars a lot, and there's NO way i could remember in my head exactly the way one particular guitar sounded 30 years ago so closely that i could be honest and compare it to the same way that same guitar sounds today.
Quote by Skeet UK
I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
#39
Dear me! Is this thing still going? It's all sales hype FFS.

Just put on a new set of strings.
#40
Quote by Garthman
Dear me! Is this thing still going? It's all sales hype FFS.

Just put on a new set of strings.
Nah man, just buy a guitar made of Macassar ebony and it'll start sounding better exactly on its 2nd birthday! At least right after it opens the new pack of strings you bought it and tries them on.

That's when the real problems set in:

"Do these strings make my lower bout look too big"? Why no Jumbetta, they're simply perfect on you... Guitars, you can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em...
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 20, 2014,
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