How to evaluate a new spruce top?

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joachim33
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How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by joachim33 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 8:18 am

On Tuesday I hope to try a new spruce top guitar in comparison to a similarly build cedar top. I have no experience with spruce and do not know which kind of tops I prefer. I currently happen to have a cedar top, since that’s what the shop had when I bought.

I read that spruce will significantly change (open up) over several month of playing when new. So how does one evaluate a spruce and make up his mind on the spruce vs cedar when the spruce guitar hasn’t opened up? Is it that one always buys something unknown when getting a spruce top?

Thanks.

Mr.Rain
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by Mr.Rain » Sun Jul 01, 2018 8:59 am

It is a gamble, but you can see potential where others see a slightly harsh instrument (too much trebles, or a tight top).

Volume is expected to grow (depends on the builder but it should at least for proper spanish construction guitar), trebles are supposed to become rounder, basses are supposed to become more present... etc

I bought several spruce tops from the same workshop, and at the end they ended up sounding "similar" (construction method and uniformity prevailed in this case, all the normal sized guitars from this workshop had the same top resonance,and construction style).

Again even the same builder said sometimes you end up with a "lemon" (you never know till it time passes,but he can predict how his
guitars will evolve), so if the guitars sound already open from the beginning that can be an advantage (it happens sometimes), the issue there is that it may become loose and undefined with the use...

My 2 cents,try some used guitar of the same builder in spruce (so you can compare it with the new one), and then based on that decide... (cedar vs a new spruce may cause you a big disappointment)...

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by Philosopherguy » Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:42 pm

It's hard to know what a guitar will sound like after playing it in for years. But, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn't buy a guitar you don't enjoy the sound of right from the start. If you think the spruce top guitar you are playing might be good, while you are testing it out play it for about half hour or longer and you will start to get a better glimpse of what the sound may be like. Really, the longer you can test it the better. Broken in spruce guitars can take 15 or 20 minutes for the sound to open up when you haven't played them for a while, plus if it is new it will take even longer to start to wake up a little. You will still see some pretty significant changes in sound going forward too, but for the big changes, it takes longer. As the spruce ages, the bass response will get better. You get the most pronounced changes in the first weeks of regular extensive play. After that, it slows down and becomes much more gradual.

Martin
*************************************************************
2013 Ramirez 130 Anos - Spruce
2013 Ramirez 4NE - Cedar
1998 Dean Harrington - Spruce
1977 Kuniharu Nobe - Spruce
1971 Yamaha GC3 - Spruce

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souldier
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by souldier » Sun Jul 01, 2018 4:11 pm

Personally I wouldn't focus so much on the species of the wood. You can play 20 spruce guitars and they will all sound radically different. There is just so much that comes into play. As with any guitar that you're seriously considering... play it for a good while in direct comparison to your favorite and most familiar guitar that you currently own. After playing it for 15-30 minutes, see if you like it. If you don't like it, certainly do not buy it with the hopes that it will get any better down the road. I do believe guitars can change over time, but it is a huge gamble to think that a guitar you dislike will slowly transform into a guitar you like or love, which probably does not happen often. You must love the guitar on day one, and you'll love it more as time goes on (unless you compulsively like to buy and sell guitars on a regular basis, in which you start to realize its flaws and shortcomings over time).

I once owned a brand new, fresh off the bench Spruce top... I wasn't too thrilled with the sound but played it several hours a day for several months hoping it would get better with time. The guitar did indeed change. The basses became bolder and the sound more refined, but never to the point where I felt that I really loved the guitar and I don't think years of playing would make much difference. I believe a guitar has an inherent tonal profile that will always remain the same. Then I went and got a different spruce top... I fell in love with the first pluck and loved it until the end. Every guitar is different and you need to judge each one for what it is, regardless of the material that is used.
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by richtm » Sun Jul 01, 2018 8:40 pm

I just wanted to share an experience I made recently. I bought a Philip Lerche spruce Top Torres copy (FE19).
When I unpackaged the guitar and tuned it, I was almost disappointed. The guitar didn't really sound great.
Now I am playing it in about 3 weeks and after the 3rd day it got better and better. I guess I had to play it so long that the wood got more and more responsive. Now it sounds great, it has full trebbles and crunchy basses.
I don't know if this is pureley because of the relaxation of the strings during shipment or if it comes from the playing - but anyhow - maybe important to consider.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ernest Köröskenyi 1977 Cedar; Pauline Bernabe Especial 2007 Spruce, 2012 Cedar; Andreas Kirmse 2017 Cedar DT; Philipp Lerche Torres 2018 Spruce

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by simonm » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:17 pm

joachim33 wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 8:18 am
... So how does one evaluate a spruce and make up his mind on the spruce vs cedar when the spruce guitar hasn’t opened up? ...
If it doesn't sound good to your ears on day 1, don't buy it. The are so many threads here about guitar opening up that it would take weeks to read them and I suspect that you would be none the wiser at the end. I can only think of one thread here where someone (experience player) changed his mind radically about a guitar after half a year. Apart from that outlier the consensus seen to be that if the guitar doesn't sound good at the beginning, it won't turn into a great guitar no matter how much you play it.

Assuming that the guitar has been strung up to full tension for a while and has been played hard for a an couple of hours, what you hear is what you'll get. It will sound better when you get used to playing it.

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by Kevin L Benbow » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:05 am

I'm beginning to seriously question the accepted dogma that Spruce changes.

Could you all be merciful and strangle me before lighting the wood at my feet??😂
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by Adam » Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:51 am

Guitars definitely change, but most of the change happens in the very beginning after it's built, as others have noted. I've experienced this first hand, and there is no question of the truth of it.

No one can really tell you how to evaluate a guitar. The best way to do it is to A/B guitars. If you have your own guitar or a known "good" guitar as a reference point, you will have a better time of it.

This is the best way to get a great guitar, IMHO:
Go to a classical guitar specialty shop with a big inventory. A/B two guitars at a time, keeping the best one. Repeat this process until you have played every guitar in your price range. Get it down to your 2 or 3 favorites, then have the folks at the shop play them for you. Get their opinion at this point. Pick your favorite. Win.

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by Kevin L Benbow » Mon Jul 02, 2018 3:41 am

Adam wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:51 am
I've experienced this first hand, and there is no question of the truth of it.
Actually, that's precisely what I'm doing. . . questioning the truth of it. Until I see some real randomized studies I will remain a skeptic.

That said, the IP asked about evaluating a spruce top guitar. Aside from everything else, like playability, etc, the top should be solid with tighter grains nearest the sound hole. It should be played by the potential owner. Some guitars that sound great online can be disappointing in person. Spend quality time with it in the showroom. That's how I fell in love with my Purnell.
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by rojarosguitar » Mon Jul 02, 2018 5:03 am

The guitar changes, the player changes, your circumstances change ... you can't know beforehand how you will like something you liked or disliked today. (how many marriages between believedly the most beloved and beautiful people of today break up tomorrow... :? ).

I think the only guideline you can have is what you hear now plus some general experience with the luthier in question. But that doesn't guarantee you will be happy tomorrow.
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by petermc61 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:23 am

Kevin L Benbow wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:05 am
I'm beginning to seriously question the accepted dogma that Spruce changes.

Could you all be merciful and strangle me before lighting the wood at my feet??😂
Somebody, pass me the matches! :lol:

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joachim33
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by joachim33 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:02 pm

Many thanks for the replies. I take away: Don’t overestimate the opening up. If I don’t like it today, chances are slim that I will like it in 1/2 year.

Does that translate to the spruce vs cedar? If I prefer the cedar should I go in this direction and not speculate that the spruce will overtake the cedar in the long run?

Thanks again.

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by rojarosguitar » Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:23 pm

I would go for a guitar I like best and not be driven by ideas like 'spruce is such and such' or 'cedar is such and such'. After all it wil change for you with time anyway, and such a decision is not chiseled in stone. We see people (myself included) buying guitars thinking its the greatest and selling them again, because after a while something else is the greatest :lol: .

I myself had long time ago a test here on the forum with recordings of cedar and spruce guitars, and it was not even 50% correct guesses...
Music is a big continent with different landscapes and corners. Some of them I do visit frequently, some from time to time and some I know from hearsay only ...

My Youtube Channel is: TheMusicalEvents

Kevin L Benbow
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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by Kevin L Benbow » Mon Jul 02, 2018 2:08 pm

rojarosguitar wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 1:23 pm
I would go for a guitar I like best and not be driven by ideas like 'spruce is such and such' or 'cedar is such and such'. After all it wil change for you with time anyway, and such a decision is not chiseled in stone. We see people (myself included) buying guitars thinking its the greatest and selling them again, because after a while something else is the greatest :lol: .

I myself had long time ago a test here on the forum with recordings of cedar and spruce guitars, and it was not even 50% correct guesses...
This!! I was a card carrying cedar player for many years until a particular spruce top changed my mind.
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Admira Virtuoso (c. 1999).

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Re: How to evaluate a new spruce top?

Post by simonm » Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:24 pm

joachim33 wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:02 pm


Does that translate to the spruce vs cedar? …
Despite all the lovely descriptions of the differences between spruce and cedar, I doubt if many players could hear the difference in a blind test. Just play the instruments you are planning to look at without any pre-conceptions and buy one of the you fall in love.

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