dark & thick sound = poor projection

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
ivan
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dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by ivan » Sun Mar 04, 2018 4:32 am

Dear all guitarist and luthier friends,

I'm not sure whether i should post this topic on luthier section or somewhere else.

I have experienced this many times. Some super loud guitars with dark sound can't project well in a large hall.
For example, i tried a Dieter Hopf artista membrane - cedar, Alma Guitar, Dammann, and so many modern guitars which is extremely loud on the close range. But from the back of the concert hall it sounds muffled, like the sound coming from another room. On the other hand, a traditional fan brace guitar with brighter sound could be heard very well from far distance in the exactly same room.
I have a thought that these dark sound guitars has somekind what i called "fake power". It tricks the ear of the player. So loud, but in fact they can't project well in the concert hall.

Do you have same experience? Do the guitar need some brightness in the sound in order to project well?

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Chris Sobel
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by Chris Sobel » Sun Mar 04, 2018 4:58 am

Oh for sure... I remember once hearing some “super loud” cedar Rodriguez style guitars in a medium Hall played back to back with a couple flamenco blancas. That experience stuck with me—the bright punchy blancas were so much easier to hear. I don’t know that they were necessarily louder, but the clarity and separation was there for sure.
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James Frieson
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by James Frieson » Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:23 am

I saw a lot of guitars . Often in loud environments . A good friend from Almeria ran a Spanish Cafe , a place where the flamenco quadros used to come after their shows to relax . He had a small cipres guitar made by Gerundino Fernadez , that had no particular outstanding tone , always hung up on the wall for anyone to play if he approved of them . That guitar could always be heard through whatever noise . My best friend was a singer and player , he had a few guitars of which the worst one was a poorly made cheap Conde that you would think of as a nothing guitar , no presence in an intimate setting and a poor tone , but in practice that could be heard above all shouting , boot heels , singing or other guitars . It is a bit of a mystery .

vesa
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by vesa » Sun Mar 04, 2018 7:05 am

The high partials = better projection.
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ivan
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by ivan » Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:01 am

Sometimes i wonder why some luthiers still trying to make dark sounding guitars. Creating body resonance as low as possible (sometimes it is even can reach down to low E).
Maybe those guitars are more suitable for recording than playing on a concert setting?

astro64
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by astro64 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 1:43 pm

I don't disagree with the overall sentiment, however, I have heard both Russell and Barrueco play their Dammanns in large halls without amplification and those guitars could be hear well in the back of the hall. A low body resonance can go hand in hand with a bright first string. I do think there is some difference in the mid-range. I have a guitar with a body resonance near E and it too projects very well as far as I have been able to tell. The low resonance does affect the overall sound character of the instrument. I don't know how low the body resonances are on Barrueco or Russell's instruments.

I also find it interesting that in another thread you describe the "piano sound" of some instruments. I understand what you mean with that description, that is how I hear some guitars as well. But those instruments are not known then for the fast transient attack that can project so well? It seems to be the more the "solidness" of the sound that projects in that case?

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souldier
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by souldier » Sun Mar 04, 2018 2:50 pm

I experienced a similar phenomenon with my Bluetooth speakers vs my laptop speakers. I was once in my apartment with something playing on Bluetooth speakers in another room. The Bluetooth speakers lost connection and the sound switched back to the built in laptop speakers... strangely the sound from the laptop speakers seemed to travel further and more clearly than the louder, fuller sounding Bluetooth speakers.

I also heard someone play a tiny soprano ukulele in public and I was shocked that even without amplification that thing reached my ears to the very back of the room a good 60-70 feet, whereas a classical guitar in the same scenario would not project as well despite having bigger volume.

I think the moral of the story is there seems to be a clear distinction between overall volume (decibels) vs projection. I think the "dark/thick" guitars that you describe will sound louder and bigger to the player and those in close proximity, but will not travel to the people further out.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

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Beowulf
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by Beowulf » Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:40 pm

"Darker" sound is one consequence of a preponderance of 2nd and 3rd harmonics and the level will decay more rapidly with distance. Sound which favours the fundamental will tend to carry farther, i.e., better projection.
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simonm
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by simonm » Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:41 pm

ivan wrote:
Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:01 am
Sometimes i wonder why some luthiers still trying to make dark sounding guitars. ...
Probably because they sell … ?

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souldier
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by souldier » Sun Mar 04, 2018 7:16 pm

simonm wrote:
Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:41 pm
ivan wrote:
Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:01 am
Sometimes i wonder why some luthiers still trying to make dark sounding guitars. ...
Probably because they sell … ?
Indeed they do sell and everyone has a different ideal as to what a good classical guitar sounds like, and this ideal is often changing. Often many players are looking for that warm, lush, full sound while others want a brighter or more transparent attack. Sometimes they get tired of their warm guitar and want something brighter, etc. Sometimes people just buy a tonne of different guitars with different characteristics so they can choose depending on their repertoire or mood.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

Alan Carruth
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by Alan Carruth » Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:26 pm

'Power' and 'loudness' are two different things. In my lexicon power is what you measure, say, with a dB meter. Loudness is subjective.

The guitar sends out the fundamentals of it's lowest notes about equally in all directions. This is due to the fact that the wave lengths of those sounds are much longer than the length of the box, so it's acting as a 'point source'. The player hears these soundes about as well as anybody in the hall. As you go up in frequency the guitar becomes more directional; by the time you hit the fundamentals of the highest notes the sound is cooming off the top and out of the hole and going toward the audience. If there's nothing in the room to reflect that back to the player, or the guitar doesn't have a 'port' you can se into, you might not hear much of that. I ran into that a long time ago, when I played a large 'dead' space on a cold day, when I could hardly feel my finger tips. Talk about insecure....

I think it's a mistake to try to emphasize the fundamentals of the lowest notes by making the top thin and the 'air' resonance low. When I took voice lessons my teacher said that the way to get good bass sound is to work on your treble; clarity and projection with some fundamental will 'carry' better and sound better than a lot of fundamental that is 'fluffy'. It may not sound loud close up, but the audience sure appreciates it.

Now, I have heard guitars with flexible cedar tops and a low air resonance that were also clear and well defined in the high register, and carries well. I think this has to do with the way the top bracing works with the plate itself. That's hard to prove though. The trick, I think, is to come up with a way to avoid hard or soft spots and lumps in the mass distribution. There are a number of ways to do this, and it can take a while to learn.

As far as Smallman guitars go, keep in mind that the top there is significantly lighter than a 'standard' Torres braced one, and also quite stiff. It's going to put out a lot more shear power, which gives the maker more choices. It's quite possiblle in that case to have a lot of bass for close-in loudness AND plenty of treble for 'detail', 'color', and 'clarity'. In fact, the one I had in the shop at one point had 'way too much high end for a small space: it sounded like a wooden resophonic. That sort of thing smooths out a lot in a big hall, and, of course, it never hurts to have a first-rate player to push it.

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Trevor Gore
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by Trevor Gore » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:10 am

ivan wrote:
Sun Mar 04, 2018 4:32 am

I have a thought that these dark sound guitars has somekind what i called "fake power". It tricks the ear of the player. So loud, but in fact they can't project well in the concert hall.
The apparition of "fake power" can have a number of causes and is certainly not limited to "modern" or "dark" guitars. Alan makes some very valid points, as usual. Here are some more to think about. The names have been disguised to protect the guilty.

I was attending a large guitar festival (southern hemisphere) where, among many other events a famous player was demonstrating a particular famous maker's guitars and also demonstrating a variety of guitars by other makers, both famous and otherwise. The player was extolling the virtues of this particular maker's guitar, saying how loud it was. It was of "classical" fan braced construction. The audience, on the other hand, (comprising a number of seasoned luthiers as well as experienced players and other aficionados) were looking at each other with that "I don't think so" expression on their faces. The maker explained what he had done to create this massive volume, which essentially boiled down to having a very active cross dipole. After the demo, I approached said famous player and asked if I could please hear the guitar close up. I was about 1m away. And it was loud. And clearly the player could hear it as loud. The problem was that little of that power got to the paying public because it was all being radiated by the cross dipole upwards in the direction of the player's ears and downwards toward the stage floor, rather than outwards in the direction of the audience.

Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? If you're playing for yourself, likely a good thing. Plenty of all-enveloping sound. If you're playing acoustically for an audience and they can barely hear you, likely a bad thing. The important things are to know what makes the difference and how players want to use a particular instrument, and then to build an instrument with that usage in mind.
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Marcus Dominelli
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by Marcus Dominelli » Mon Mar 05, 2018 1:56 am

I had this experience back in 2004. I built a cedar lattice w/ a super lightweight top, and a spruce Hauser style fan braced guitar. The spruce top was conservatively made, with a 2.5mm thick top, so certainly not pushing the limit. It was built with the expectation that it would take a couple/ few years to open up.

Both bodies were the same in construction and woods, indian rosewood back and sides. - no laminated sides or back.

Anyways, I took the guitars to a small concert hall here in Victoria, with a couple of good players. We played and listened to them.
The lattice was super loud in the near to mid field range, but it was not as clear and articulate as the spruce guitar was at the back of the hall. In fact the spruce one seemed a bit quieter to the player. It's near field was not strong.
But both guitars were great in their own way, and it was easy to sell them.

I think there's lots of room for diversity in the market place, but it really helps to know what type of construction gives which results. Some players have a hard time knowing what they want too. I think this is the leading cause of GAS.....

Alan Carruth
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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by Alan Carruth » Mon Mar 05, 2018 7:51 pm

Several years ago I saw a guitar trio perform. Two of the members had guitars by the same popular and innovative maker, while the other had a more 'traditional' instrument, also by a very fine maker. He apologized several times: his new instrument from the popular maker was on order... I changed my seat after the intermission to get a different perspective on the sound, and it confirmed my initial impression. The more traditional instrument was actually louder for the audience, had nicer basic timbre IMO, and more tone color.

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Re: dark & thick sound = poor projection

Post by simonm » Mon Mar 05, 2018 8:20 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 7:51 pm
... I changed my seat after the intermission to get a different perspective on the sound,
...
I have experienced this with one of my guitars. As usual I took it along to my new guitar lesson to get my teachers opinion about it. My wife had told me she thought it was very loud. My teacher played it a bit but his said he didn't think it was much different from previous instrument in terms of volume. Sitting listening I found it very load. I took back the guitar and we started the lesson. His face changed immediately. Even with my playing it was loud. I don't know how far the sound would carry as the teaching room is small but it is the same principle - louder for the listener than the player.

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