#1
Supposedly guitars' tones "sweeten", or improve, as the tonewood ages. If that is the case why is it we never seen anybody out playing those old archtop Silvertones in performances? Most of those old Sears and Roebuck guitars were solid wood back in the old days, right?

Serious question here. Seems the wood of the old cheap guitars would age about the same as the old expensive guitars. Is the reason the old cheapos aren't seen because they, essentially, fell apart over time, but the higher quality instruments didn't? I think it would be really cool to see some fingerpicker jamming on a 30's era Stella or some such.

Also....the latest Tarentino movie (The Hateful Eight) had a notorious guitar smashing scene. The guitar that Martin loaned to the picture as a prop was destroyed by Kurt Russell. Anyway the instrument had a pretty nice sound, assuming it was the actual instrument played in the scene. It struck me that it required gut strings because Nylon and Steel strings weren't around at the time.
#2
A really nice old Gibson or Martin? Yes. Silvertone guitars were "student quality" at best. They didn't play all that well and the hardware and PUs were low budget. There have been some pros using them over the years (Jack White) but they are weak sauce compared to a really well made guitar with quality hardware and PUs.

I have an old 55 Les Paul Jr. and honestly it sounds badass but is not much of a player IMO. A wide, flat student neck doesn't feel good to my hands.
"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
#3
Good points Cajundaddy. I was mostly thinking about the quality of the wood in the instruments. I didn't think about the low quality features such as tuners, bridge, nut, etc. On the other hand back in the old days they used nothing but bone anyway, right, on the nut/bridge? Tuners...I could see that being a problem.

Was wondering if a guy got ahold of an old solid wood Silvertone, or Stella or such, replaced the stock tuners with something good, and replaced the nut/saddle with something good....if the instrument would kick ass? Assuming there aren't any unsolvable problems with neck geometry or other body issues.

Pretty sure my first guitar was a Stella (maybe even a cheaper model, and old as the hills) and it couldn't even be tuned 100% correctly (the neck was twisted, never could get it to play in tune). Not only that, it was pretty much unplayable past the 3rd fret. The action was probably 1/4". First guitar too...ugh. Can't believe I even finished learning the chords without quitting on that thing.
#4
I'm sure that they all don't age well - that's just urban mythology.

My 1933-ish L-00 was a clunker until I had it rebraced. Now it's good but not great. My new Martin J-40 went from being good and bright to a toneless dog over about a three-year period, anyone's guess why. Will it eve go back to being good again, who knows?

I would never buy an acoustic on the assumption that it will improve with age, and I prefer to buy moderaltely old ones because you know pretty well what you are getting in terms of tone and geometry.
Last edited by Tony Done at Jun 11, 2016,
#5
Think of a new guitar like you would a new pair of shoes. New shoes (cheap or expensive) need broken in before they are comfortable and a new guitar needs broken in so that it can sound it's best. How much a guitar will" break in" depends a lot on the materials used. Plywood doesn't change in tone as much as solid woods. The guitar top is what has the most dramatic effect on tone and softer woods like cedar and redwood will play in sooner than woods like spruce
Not taking any online orders.
#6
Damn Tony, that sucks about the J-40. You know more about this stuff than I do, but isn't a guitar losing it's "highs" a symptom of excessive humidity?

I'll never buy a seriously old guitar. I'd be too worried about all the potential problems that will (not "might") have to be resolved in the future.
Last edited by TobusRex at Jun 11, 2016,
#7
Quote by TobusRex
Damn Tony, that sucks about the J-40. You know more about this stuff than I do, but isn't a guitar losing it's "highs" a symptom of excessive humidity?

I'll never buy a seriously old guitar. I'd be too worried about all the potential problems that will (not "might") have to be resolved in the future.


Yes, the humidity thing is what I would have assumed if my other guitars has shown similar symptoms, and drying it out had improved it. It had other problems, for example, the fretboard extension would go up and down like a see-saw, so I could never get the action as low as I would have liked.

I have a different view of old guitars. I think they stabilise over a few decades, just about everything that can go wrong with them has. For example, if they have had a neck reset around that age, there is a good chance they will never need another one. With a new guitar, geometric deterioration is a lottery.
#8
Quote by TobusRex
. . . . Supposedly guitars' tones "sweeten", or improve, as the tonewood ages. . . . .


Pah! All sales hype IMHO

WTF - I struggle to remember what my guitars sounded like last week, never mind years ago!
#9
I have a Silvertone F-hole arch top and back, '63-ish.
It has a bent neck though not hard to play but I'm in the process of straightening it, using a steel bar, spacer blocks, clamps and a clothes iron to fix the neck. Haven't started yet, I'm real busy with other things. I already installed Gotoh tuners and made antler nut and bridge. I'm using wild cherry for the saddle and there will be no metal studs and disk nuts. It will be finished in all goldtone hardware, I'm considering shipping the tailpiece to be plated.
The top is 3 layer laminate and I've fixed the points of the F-holes where there was some separation of the layers.
The guitar has sounded very good over the years (I've had it since '88), not cheap and tinny (especially with Silk & Silvered Steel strings) though with less volume than regular round sound hole flattops.
After the antler nut and bridge are installed I expect the sound to improve and the volume just a little bit. May be a good candidate for adding a pickup.
#10
I just thought I'd list the ages of my flattop acoustics:

Gibson - 1933, more or less
Two Matons - '92 and '99
Bourgeois - '95

I've bought quite a few new acoustic flattop guitars, but only one of them, a Maton, survived as long as any of these, which were all bought used.

A couple of the resos twere bought new, that's it, none of the electrics or lap steels.

Skido, have you done any research on neck straightening? I had my old National done by my mate. He recommended not clamping until the neck was good and hot, that is, the back of the neck was warm.
#11
Thanks, Tony, I'll follow that advice, it makes sense to get it malleable first! Then take off the heat and let it set before unclamping, maybe 24 hrs.
Forgot to mention - the neck is a bolt on which makes things a lot easier.
Last edited by skido13 at Jun 12, 2016,
#12
The nostalgia about old guitars, particularly cheap old guitars, baffles me to no end.

Danelectro guitars were stone junk on the first pass, nowadays they're "classics". I had a Harmony archtop, it was a turd that sounded like a cardboard box. (IIRC, after all it has been close to 50 years).

The Chinese really didn't get their act together until fairly recently, and pretty much anything which comes from there, or anywhere else in Asia these days, would play rings around the junk which was around in the 60's & 70's. Hell, they used to ship Martins with close to 1/4" high actions.

I like nice things, and I appreciate old things, but even if I had the money, I wouldn't piss it away on some 80 year old acoustic which was one step away from kindling, then brag that I owned it, mercilessly, endlessly, for months, nay verily years on end.

Silvertones and the rest of the store brand nonsense were junk, with poor setup, and lousy finishes.

It's easy to say, "such and such blues great, played a blah, blah, blah, and what a talent he was". Truth of the matter is, most of them had neither jobs nor money. So, the guitars they played were pretty much crap, but those old guys got the best possible outcome from playing them. Not because of the guitars, but because of their talent.

Although I do have to admit I had a "Crown" dread for a couple of weeks. The first night I got it, I got lit up on "bennies". and played the shit out of it until the strings crapped out. Had a great time and tone until those uncoated brand "X" strings took a dump.

People who are half my age have a different recollection of sound and equipment quality than me who actually lived through it. But hey, what the heck do I know?
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jun 12, 2016,
#13
Its all about mojo. There was a Strad viola up for sale recently for $40 million, so it's all relative. You've never hear me talk about "hero" guitars, though I did use authentic period guitars when I was gigging, a combination of showmanship and mojo. Oddly, the only thing of mine that my daughter values is that L-00. I'm not allowed to sell it, even if I wanted to, and it still gets more playing time than any other. If it works, it works and as you can see my experiences have prejudiced me against new guitars.

EDIT I'll just note that my favourite electric has mojo of a different kind. It cost my daughter Oz$65 at the hock shop, and it is just fantastically good at the price. The only thing I've spent on it is $20 or so for some pressed steel saddle, and some time.
Last edited by Tony Done at Jun 12, 2016,
#14
Quote by Tony Done
Its all about mojo. There was a Strad viola up for sale recently for $40 million, so it's all relative.
Yeah well, that probably isn't as annoyingly squawky as a regular tuned violin. But, I still wouldn't want Anastasiya Petryshak playing it in my ear day in, day out. I near as I can tell, Strads are supposed to be more penetrating, ergo more annoying, than a regular violin. 40 million? Nooooo thank you. But hey, what do I know. I'm in Philly, and I can't abide the sound of 100 drunken A-holes strumming tenor banjos all at once either. And that's a "Philly tradition". We even have a "Mummers Museum". New Year's Day, I don't get up until the parade is over. All my life I've simply wished they would take those stinking banjos and go f***ing "mum" some place else.

Quote by Tony Done
You've never hear me talk about "hero" guitars, though I did use authentic period guitars when I was gigging, a combination of showmanship and mojo. Oddly, the only thing of mine that my daughter values is that L-00. I'm not allowed to sell it, even if I wanted to, and it still gets more playing time than any other. If it works, it works and as you can see my experiences have prejudiced me against new guitars.
In spite of the fact you're forever complaining about that Martin D-40?

As for "mojo" in"hero guitars", buying into that is about as dumb as a tribe of natives believing you're going to steal their souls if you take their pictures. Sorry, I call 'em like I see 'em....

Besides, owning & holding Eric Clapton's Strat, is so ineffectively futile in the pursuit of channeling his talent, or being able to place yourself in his shoes on a stage anywhere, why bother trying. (I suppose I don't have enough visualization skill or imagination as I should have, but still).

Quote by Tony Done
EDIT I'll just note that my favourite electric has mojo of a different kind. It cost my daughter Oz$65 at the hock shop, and it is just fantastically good at the price. The only thing I've spent on it is $20 or so for some pressed steel saddle, and some time.
I had a left handed "Framus" Les Pual clone. It was the fastest and easiet playing guitar I ever picked up. I of course, did eventually gut it and stuff a set of DiMarzio "Super Distortion" humbuckers in it. After which, I always dimed my Dyna-Comp's controls, then ran it through a 15 YO Fender Champ with the OEM tubes in it. Everything always sounded the same, literally....
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jun 12, 2016,
#15
There was nothing "heroic" about that J-40, it was part of Jackson's Rare Guitars travelling road show, and I took it in trade for an old Martin 0-21 that I never played. - It seemed/sounded like a good choice at the time, but it had no association for me to anything at all, it was just a decent guitar.

I agree with you about "hero" and "mojo", its in the same class as voodoo dolls. I just like old well used things. - You should see my ute (truck)

EDIT We could play "guess the hero". Mine would be a Guild F-30, or a Harmony Sovereign or maybe a even Yamaha L-10. Who are the heroes?
Last edited by Tony Done at Jun 12, 2016,
#16
Quote by Tony Done
I agree with you about "hero" and "mojo", its in the same class as voodoo dolls. I just like old well used things. - You should see my ute (truck)
I think you just don't like shopping for guitars and therefore take a very opportunistic approach to their acquisition.

And I'll see your truck and raise you my '91 Honda "Nighthawk". You know how bikers are so "bike obsessed" and proud. Not this one....
#17
You're right, I am something of an impulse shopper, and I would say I have had about equal success (or lack of it!!) with mail order and shops. The biggest "technical" success by far was mail order, but after some very careful research. I'm a bit handicapped by lack of easy choice compared with what I imagine many of you folks in the US have.

I had to find a pic. The Nighthawk looks very stylish, but my Mitsubishi L-200 is an 83 model, and looks it's age. I recently had to have some body work done to make it legal.

OK, who played a Guild F-30? I'll give you a clue, he came out of obscurity in the 60s blues revival.
#18
Quote by Tony Done
You're right, I am something of an impulse shopper, and I would say I have had about equal success (or lack of it!!) with mail order and shops. The biggest "technical" success by far was mail order, but after some very careful research.
Well, I'm pretty much consigned to mail order, what with my left handi-capable-ness an all that. I have 3 Ibanez, (2 acoustic, 1 electric), and trust me, I'll never touch another one as long as I live. Ibanez electrics are supposed to be good, right? This corn-traption has the controls dead under the strumming arc. Every time I try to play it, I wind up with the controls zeroed out, halfway through the first song. So, out of 10 guitars I've indulged myself with, 6 are winners, (IMO, of course),1 is mediocre and mostly ignored, (A Crafter D-8 12 string), and the 3 ibbys are in the back bedroom, tuned down to D-d standard, (for "safekeeping"). Unfortunately, I hoard, I keep what I like, and I can't bring myself to sell something I don't like to another person. Oddly, with the normal ways of the world, I perceive that quality as a "character flaw".

Quote by Tony Done
I'm a bit handicapped by lack of easy choice compared with what I imagine many of you folks in the US have.
We do have 3 monster dealers online who stock everything you could imagine, and them some, (W/ free shipping, no less), plus Amazon. Me being a lefty negates 90% of that, but there's still enough left to keep me dead broke, should I so choose.

Right now I have my eye on an Epiphone, "G-400 Pro", which is a pretty darn decent SG clone. It's got supposedly great PuPs, w/ coil split! I'm hoping Musician's Friend will have a percent off sale, either Father's Day, or certainly The 4th of July, and I'll take the plunge.

I was on the phone, but I was buying a reasonably expensive pedal, (Electroharmonix, "Pitch Fork"), and I knew I'd be into a nickel by the time I grabbed a bag and stand for it. I demurred from buying the guitar, but at the expense of great emotional suffering...

I had to find a pic. The Nighthawk looks very stylish, but my Mitsubishi L-200 is an 83 model, and looks it's age. I recently had to have some body work done to make it legal. [ The NIghthawk, once upon a time, WAS very stylish...., although not so much nowadays.

Quote by Tony Done
OK, who played a Guild F-30? I'll give you a clue, he came out of obscurity in the 60s blues revival.
Just for the pure, "wouldn't it be ironic" factor, I'm going to say either Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page. Other than that, not a clue. Bob Dylan? John Denver? Keith Richards?
"
Speaking of revival, here's "The Chad Mitchel Trio" doing "Lizzy Borden". John Denver eventually joined this band, and from there, his solo career.

You have to love their stuff. It's wonderful collegiate pseudo-intellectual social satire;

Enjoy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-b5HyuDM9c
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jun 12, 2016,
#19
Quote by Cajundaddy
There have been some pros using them over the years (Jack White)


And let's be honest. Jack White only plays them /because/ they are junk.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#21
Quote by TobusRex
@ Tony: Mississippi John Hurt?


Yes! There is an urban legend that when he was rediscovered in the 60s, he didn't own a guitar. He was offered a fancy Martin, but declined it in favour of the substantially less expensive Guild.

The other two were Fred McDowell and Bert Jansch.