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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:29 pm 
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Mahogany
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First name: Adam
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Hi. I'm a new builder and I have struggled a bit with trying to decide what exactly I like in an acoustic guitar. Part of it is because I am more of a mandolin player than a guitarist, but also I just haven't played enough sweet guitars to know what I'm searching for. I try to play as many nice guitars and mandolins as I can when I'm at a jam with a friendly player (most seem pretty happy to have you fawn over their favorite guitar), but I'm still a bit uncertain.

I just finished watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj-wB8DWfJ0 titled "The three most beautiful guitars in the world". It is a pretty sweet video on its own. He plays three guitars; a Taylor, Collings, and Martin. When he plays that Collings I think, "That's it!" I love that tone. Now the problem is I don't really know what it is that I love. So here's the question: How should I characterize that tone? I guess I just don't really get how people describe tone. I know this is a difficult one to answer and is different to everyone. OMs are supposed to have a quicker attack and less bass, but I'm not sure I hear it. To me it sounds like it is complex and has many overtones and harmonics, but I thought OMs were supposed to sound more focused and not washed out in overtones. The guy playing it seems to think it is a bit thinner than his Martin. To me it sounds much richer than the D42 (and most definitely the Taylor) but I'm not sure why I feel that way. Care to take a stab at what I'm hearing that I like? Or alternatively, what do you hear?
'


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:54 pm 
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Cocobolo
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Ill take a stab.
Although there are a lot of variables at play ... from the actual instrument all the way to if the mic is the exact distance away and such.
However given the samples the Collings sounds more “complex” to me.
That said there are a LOT of great builders here who make incredible sounding instruments. If I have my. Way I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a factory guitar again...
How do you build what you’re hearing into a guitar? Especially if you’re a new builder I would just star with the plans and try to build to spec. Will you build a Collings? No.
Will you learn a LOT ? Yep!



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:54 pm 
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Cocobolo
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SnowManSnow wrote:
Ill take a stab.
Although there are a lot of variables at play ... from the actual instrument all the way to if the mic is the exact distance away and such.
However given the samples the Collings sounds more “complex” to me.
That said there are a LOT of great builders here who make incredible sounding instruments. If I have my way, I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a factory guitar again...
How do you build what you’re hearing into a guitar? Especially if you’re a new builder I would just start with the plans and try to build to spec. Will you build a Collings? No.
Will you learn a LOT ? Yep!



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:45 pm 
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First name: Dennis
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Yeah, guitar tone is really hard to describe. I do agree the Collings is the best of that bunch. Perhaps more than anything, the tone is balanced. The Taylor has weak bass, Martin has boomy bass, Collings is just right. But it also has a sort of richness that the others lack. I suppose "complex" is as good a word as any for it.

Best advice I can give you is don't do anything extreme. Medium size (14-15" lower bout), medium soundboard thickness, bracing not too stiff, but not too loose trying to make an ultra-responsive hot rod guitar either. Rosewood-like back/sides probably better than mahogany-like.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:21 pm 
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Mahogany
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First name: Adam
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Wow! Specific advice! That's cool thanks. I'll have to try to go about building a guitar that's very "medium".


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 11:17 pm 
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Koa
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talladam wrote:
Wow! Specific advice! That's cool thanks. I'll have to try to go about building a guitar that's very "medium".



Ok. You want to spit in the face of people trying honestly to answer your question, that’s up to you.

There is about zero chance that as a beginning builder you will be able to even remotely dial in tone. Add to that a you seem to have little experience or knowledge of the instrument, you are more likely to train a mule to play Beethoven’s fifth in the time and effort it takes to build an acoustic guitar as you are to intentionally replicate the tone of a master built guitar like that Collins.

Here is my specific advice, go build 20 guitars. Come back then with a specific question and people MAY try to give you an answer, if they forget about this thread.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:12 am 
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Mahogany
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I wasn't being sarcastic! I was just surprised (and pleased) that someone would actually give me building advice based on the tone of the Collings. I guess the intent of my post didn't come across as I was typing. I actually like the advice not to go too extreme with build specs. Makes sense. Wow, people can be prickly though! You shot me down pretty fast.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 8:12 am 
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Koa
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If your idea of ideal tone is defined by the information provided a video recording of three factory-built guitars, you are working from a very sparse, very narrow sample of data. Even the finest video recording is the result of a sieving process that discards far more data than it retains, and in so doing often tells us more about the producer's priorities and preferences than the true nature of the instrument.

Some ideas to expand that data set:

1. Seek out and play a Kopp Trail Boss, a Flammang L-00, a Greven 000, a 1930's Larson Prairie State (plus our own Mr. Brentrup's and perhaps Mr. Greven's versions for comparison), a range of D-18's (1937, 1941, 1945, 1953, and 1970 to start with), any Banner Gibson and the same model made before or after the war. Try a early 1980's Taylor and something more recent. Mr. Newton's take on a small bodied Gibson. A Flyde and a (George) Lowden or two for some UK flavor. A Traugott R and a Somogyi Mod D. These just for a start...

2. Build (and preferably repair) for a few years...whether that time is spent struggling alone or guided by a mentor.

3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2

After what is approaching three years in a build & repair shop environment, I am just beginning to understand how little I know and how much I don't.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 8:47 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I didn't see anything nasty in your post, Adam.
This is not a good video. Anyone that is shown polishing the tin can logo on his guitar case might be a little suspect, not to mention comparing a cutaway, OM whatever, and a dread-not, even if just trying to show some tonal qualities. Collings, Martin and eh, Taylor are very different instruments.
The first thing you might think about is the music you are playing or want to play. Bluegrass almost demands a dread, fingerpickers demand clarity and definition and strummers...well, I don't know, herringbone?
Listening to a video won't do it either. Don't know what Calgary is like, but try the music stores and sit in a corner facing the wall and play the instruments they have. If you can get to a festival, try the instruments in maker's booths and listen to others play their instruments. Knowing the kind of tonal qualities you want to strive for is the first thing you want to figure out before attempting an instrument.

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http://www.brentrup.com



These users thanked the author Haans for the post: SteveCourtright (Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:40 am)
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 8:55 am 
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Koa
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I'm a newb so I don't have any advice on how to build in tone... I will echo the comments about going and getting your hands on as many instruments as you can. The guys at Guitar Center and Sam Ash now know I'm not going to buy anything and they have stopped asking if I need any help. laughing6-hehe

Maybe a small piece of advice.... in addition to Woodie's list above, play a bunch of low and mid quality instruments too. You'll soon realize what its like to play a well built and setup guitar compared to a high volume factory build. I personally have learned a lot about what not to do, which I think is valuable as well.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:01 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Trevor Gore and Somogyi have sections in their books devoted to trying to sort this kind of thing out. It might help a bit but it's not an easy thing to do. They try to establish a base line if you will, something solid so that when we say it has 'sparkle' we all have a better understanding of what that means. But again it's like when my wife who knows the biological name of every single plant east of the Mississippi and most of them on the west, describes to me the beautiful color of a flower and I just say, 'it looks blue.' Ok well maybe it is violet then.

The Collings sounded balanced to me.... THat's a technical term.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:12 am 
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Yes, in person comparisons are best, and recordings can't tell the whole story.

Having said that:

A lot of why you prefer one guitar in the video over the other two is baked into the cake via the guitars' respective shapes and sizes. This is very much a baby bear, momma bear, papa bear situation. Three different shapes/sizes. The descriptions of each that you have heard from others fits the stereotype for each type of guitar. In general, a narrow-waisted cutaway is going to sound thinner than a non-cutaway dreadnought, and in general, a non-cutaway, middle sized guitar is going to sound more balanced than either of those two. This is one of those things that a beginning builder can control (as opposed to a lot of other things): The body shape/size of the guitar being built tends to push the tone in a certain direction.

The other things that affect tone are harder to control in general, and are definitely harder for a new builder: How thin/thick to make the top, how to shape the top braces, etc. And as luck would have it, the middle guitar in the video is the guitar most likely to have gotten individual attention to those things during its build. In other words, Collings is more likely to put individual attention into shaping a specific guitar's tone than either Taylor or Martin.

So, if you want to build a guitar that has the best shot of sounding the way you prefer, start with the body shape/size you prefer (the Collings), then do your best to build it right. The odds are it won't be as good as the Collings, but you might be pleasantly surprised with how good it sounds.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post: George L (Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:40 am)
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:21 am 
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I built my first guitar with the goal of building a playable instrument. Great tone wasn't something I was hoping for on my first attempt. Getting the neck geometry, bridge location, fret work, nut action, etc were the important goals on my first. To my mind a great sounding box with poor playability is a waste of effort.



These users thanked the author Michaeldc for the post: George L (Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:41 am)
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:17 am 
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Cocobolo
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talladam wrote:
Hi. I'm a new builder and I have struggled a bit with trying to decide what exactly I like in an acoustic guitar. Part of it is because I am more of a mandolin player than a guitarist, but also I just haven't played enough sweet guitars to know what I'm searching for. I try to play as many nice guitars and mandolins as I can when I'm at a jam with a friendly player (most seem pretty happy to have you fawn over their favorite guitar), but I'm still a bit uncertain.

I just finished watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj-wB8DWfJ0 titled "The three most beautiful guitars in the world". It is a pretty sweet video on its own. He plays three guitars; a Taylor, Collings, and Martin. When he plays that Collings I think, "That's it!" I love that tone. Now the problem is I don't really know what it is that I love. So here's the question: How should I characterize that tone? I guess I just don't really get how people describe tone. I know this is a difficult one to answer and is different to everyone. OMs are supposed to have a quicker attack and less bass, but I'm not sure I hear it. To me it sounds like it is complex and has many overtones and harmonics, but I thought OMs were supposed to sound more focused and not washed out in overtones. The guy playing it seems to think it is a bit thinner than his Martin. To me it sounds much richer than the D42 (and most definitely the Taylor) but I'm not sure why I feel that way. Care to take a stab at what I'm hearing that I like? Or alternatively, what do you hear?
'


FWIW,
-ear training. play everything from cheapies to guitars that require an appointment.
-vocabulary. go deeper than "I like" or "that sounds cool" -articulate what you are hearing.
-decide what kind of builder you are. some builders can only make one sound. others can construct instruments that cover a variety of colors within the same body style.
-maybe a decent set of books would help you figure things out?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:33 am 
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Mahogany
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The vocabulary in arie's post is more what I'm going after. Im just wondering what I'm hearing that I like. At this point I'm not really expecting to be able to recreate it. That's why I was surprised by receiving specific build advice. So is it mid scooped a bit or not? ( I can't tell honestly). That kind of thing.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:51 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I'm with Don on this one 100%. People always start a discussion about guitar tone something like what "wood for the top and back should I..." and my first thoughts are always shape and size. Then you can talk about top wood and bracing. The standard guitar shapes are associated with standard timbres and tone, relatively speaking of course. You can for example make a small parlor guitar surprisingly bassy but it's still going to have that small parlor guitar tone regardless of what the back and sides are made off and even the top.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:58 am 
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You've been given excellent advice above. In my opinion, Don and Michael have nailed it: Start with a shape and size and focus on your workmanship--neck geometry in particular. Once you have the building part down, you can start trying to shape the tone. It's a long, wonderful journey.

This assumes you want to learn the craft, by the way. If you just want a guitar that you think sounds good, it's far easier, faster and cheaper to buy one off the rack; perhaps a Collings OM.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 11:57 am 
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talladam wrote:
The vocabulary in arie's post is more what I'm going after. Im just wondering what I'm hearing that I like. At this point I'm not really expecting to be able to recreate it. That's why I was surprised by receiving specific build advice. So is it mid scooped a bit or not? ( I can't tell honestly). That kind of thing.


Adam--

There are parts of the vocabulary that, if I were you, I would not try to apply to something you hear on a YouTube video, particularly this one. For instance, I would not get into the complexity of the tone, overtones, or any of that. That stuff should be reserved for in-person comparisons of several guitars, all in the same setting, or for a really well made set of comparison recordings.

Something you can hear pretty plainly on that particular YouTube video is the tendency of each guitar to either produce, or not produce, high frequencies and/or low frequencies. The Taylor, compared to the other two, is bass challenged. It produces fewer of the lower frequencies that acoustic guitars are capable of than the other two guitars against which it is being compared, even when the lower notes are played. The Martin, in contrast, produces a lot of lower frequency sounds, even when the higher notes are played. On the Martin, that tendency toward boominess affects the whole guitar, both low notes and high notes. The Collings has sufficient, but not overbearing, low frequency information being produced when played. I would not describe any of them as scooped; I just think the Martin is bass heavy and the Taylor is bass challenged.

I guess my point is that increasing your descriptive vocabulary is a good thing, but this particular video does not give you much to go on beyond a comparison of how much low frequency information each of the three tends to generate. The rest of the ways in which these three guitars are different are not as easy to recognize from this video.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:32 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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One study I was told about on tone descriptors came to some interesting conclusions. They used violins, and had people listen to recordings of random pairs. They found three things:
1) Everybody uses the terms differently: you're 'open' might be my 'harsh',
2) People use the terms consistently; if you hear 'A' as 'darker' than 'B'. and 'B' as darker than 'C'., you'll hear 'A' as darker then 'C', and
3) if some instrument has a quality of tone you don't like, you will be unable to rate it in terms of other qualities: if you don't like 'nasal' tone, you'll find it hard to say whether a 'nasal' instrument is more 'even' than another.

As has been said, size and shape are the primary determinants of tone. After that comes the skill and understanding of the maker, in that a good maker can get the best out of whatever size or shape they make. Wood is 'way down the list. After you've built a few guitars you'll find that you, too, have 'a tone'. With luck, you'll like it.



These users thanked the author Alan Carruth for the post: SteveCourtright (Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:56 am)
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:06 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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When I took one of my early guitars over to show Jim Olson I asked him how he thought it sounded.

“Good” he said. “They all sound good—to someone”.

I didn’t get it at the time but I did later.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:17 pm 
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Koa
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First name: Michael
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Terence Kennedy wrote:
When I took one of my early guitars over to show Jim Olson I asked him how he thought it sounded.

“Good” he said. “They all sound good—to someone”.

I didn’t get it at the time but I did later.


Somogyi told me the same thing... I've had a couple that I didn't like much but they still sold and the clients still raves about how they sound.


Last edited by Michaeldc on Wed Apr 04, 2018 12:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2018 11:52 am 
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Mahogany
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Out of curiosity, can someone explain why people think this is a poor video for judging tone? (Aside from the fact that it compares dissimilar guitars)Is it just a matter of any video being a poor way to judge or is the quality of this particular one poor? I kind of thought it sounded fairly decent, but I am no audiophile. I actually loved that he polished the metal label on his case. He just treats them like his babies. I think he is implying that they are the most beautiful guitars because they are his.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2018 12:16 pm 
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Koa
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talladam wrote:
Out of curiosity, can someone explain why people think this is a poor video for judging tone? (Aside from the fact that it compares dissimilar guitars)Is it just a matter of any video being a poor way to judge or is the quality of this particular one poor? I kind of thought it sounded fairly decent, but I am no audiophile. I actually loved that he polished the metal label on his case. He just treats them like his babies. I think he is implying that they are the most beautiful guitars because they are his.



Here is a result of a quick Google search re: audio compression and YouTube.

http://www.soundmattersblog.com/stop-li ... n-youtube/


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:48 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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"Out of curiosity, can someone explain why people think this is a poor video for judging tone?"

Even with my old half deaf ears I could hear differences in the sound of those three guitars as recorded and played through flat screen TV speakers. How much the recording reflects what they actually sound like is what people are talking about. When people want to store a thousand songs on a chip the size of a fingernail they are willing to accept some (a lot of) loss of fidelity. To me the Martin didn't sound bassier or less trebley than the Collings, it just seemed to have fewer overtones. But that could be because of what I'm playing it back through.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2018 8:13 pm 
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Mahogany
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Well I was feeling like the question was a bust at first, but now I think I'm learning some things.


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