Do guitars really sound better with age?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
a guitar player
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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by a guitar player » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:26 pm

Of course as most people have pointed out, age usually implies better skill, in general and with the guitar itself.

However, I also think there's a component of simply getting used to the way an instrument sounds and as a consequence perceiving it as more pleasant.

I went on a vacation with my Cordoba Mini twice now. Both times, when I first unpacked and played it, I distinctly noticed the more tinny / thinner sound as less pleasant as that of my full-size guitars. However, after playing it exclusively for a few days, which I usually don't do at home, I noticed my perception of the sound improved as the thinner sound just became the "new normal" and I could appreciate its subtleties more while playing different pieces.

Again, there's very likely an aspect of getting more skilled with the instrument during those vacation days. But I think there might also be an aspect of becoming familiar with the tone and then liking the tone because it is familiar. Although I'm not really well versed enough to judge if this applies, I think this might be a bit like the "Mere-exposure effect" in psychology.

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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by amade » Tue Dec 04, 2018 7:31 pm

Some sellers of older guitars boast of a great sound owing to the aging of the wood. This is a popular idea in regard to old violins of course. (This cannot be verified with blind tests.). But why guitars, which have not been around for centuries like violins? Jose Ramirez III wrote that the tone of new guitars always change as they develop in the first year or so. He observed that it had to do with how they are played when "broken in." He heard guitars open up dramatically in that hands of a good player, and not develop when left in the case. He had a life time of experience, as well as being a third generation luthier. So why should a guitar that has been around for many years (or even decades) change significantly if maintained in proper humidity and not abused? I had a Ramirez 2a for 44 years and I found that it had pretty much retained the same sound over decades.

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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by rinneby » Wed Dec 05, 2018 2:16 pm

Joe de V wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:51 pm
I would be of the opinion that any guitar would sound better as the player and not necessarily the guitar, ages. :wink: -
hehe :)
1964 - Masaru Kohno
1989 - Antonio Marin Montero
2017 - Pete Beer
2017 - Tobias Braun

Feel free to ask me anything about Japanese classical guitars.

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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by thesixthfret2 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:07 pm

The luthier Garrett Lee has an interesting discussion of this in the new book "Benjamin Verdery." Guitars do change over time and the wood responds to the frequencies that the player activates. So based on the music you play and the volume you play at, you can indeed alter the guitar sound and make it "open up." Conventional wisdom is that this is more noticeable in spruce than cedar.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by Alan Carruth » Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:17 pm

Guitars seem to change faster that violins, probably because guitars are much more lightly built. As an example, a 3mm thick top on a violin is considered pretty normal, while that's seen as 'heavy' for a Classical guitar. The violin is also much smaller, more on the size of a ukulele, and 1.5 mm is more in line for a uke top, so you can see how much more robust the violin tends to be.

In their book on the violins of the Amati family, the Hills wrote a bit about the issue of 'playing in'. They conjectured that the better an instrument sounded the more it would sell for, and the longer the player would retain it. Good instruments were also more likely to end up in the hands of the better players. They used sales records that their family had maintained for several generations to test this. They decided that an 'average' violin by Stainer or Nicolo Amati would play in in about 15-20 years. Strads took a bit longer; 25-30, and in some cases even more, while Guarnari 'Del Gesu' instruments took even longer. Generally speaking the more powerful 'solo' instruments, such as Paganini's Del Gesu 'The Canon', were heavier, and took longer to play in; in that case something like 70 years, iirc. All of this makes sense. Much the same is true of heavier guitars.

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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by razz » Sat Dec 08, 2018 6:39 pm

Remembering a recent thread about guitars wearing out, I propose a pseudo bell curve model answer.

New guitars start with a base level sound quality. As the player adapts to how the guitar responds and the materials that comprise the instrument seat (for lack of a better term), the quality of the sound improves. As the guitar ages the materials begin to decay and the sound quality diminishes.
Last edited by razz on Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:39 pm

That's my theory: playing in is just the fist stage of playing out. It's like new shoes: they're stiff and uncomfortable at first, but they get loosen up and get better. Then they get even looser and start becoming uncomfortable again. Then they fall apart.

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Re: Do guitars really sound better with age?

Post by StevSmar » Mon Dec 10, 2018 2:06 am

Alan Carruth wrote:
Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:39 pm
That's my theory...Then they fall apart.
My rate of decay seems to be greater than my spruce top...
(Sorry- couldn’t resist)

(I agree with your hypothesis Alan)

Steven from Winnipeg

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