Two guitar questions from an amateur

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Zack, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. Zack

    Zack Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Easton, MD
    I'm a regular at the Music Corner but not an audiophile or real musician. I have a couple of cheap guitars I bang on, but really don't know what I am doing. All I know is guitars make incredible sounds in the right hands and are the hot babes of musical instruments. So if you all could help me out with two basic questions.

    1. Why are guitars from the 50's so revered? Like the '58 Gold Top or Ronnie Wood's Strats for example. Is it just a "vintage" thing like a '64 Mustang or do they really sound better?

    2. Why do some great guitarists play the same axe their entire career (random example: Alvin Lee) and others change it up almost every song (random example: John Fogerty who played just about every famous make and model I knew last time I saw him)? On the former, is it about sound or brand, e.g. Alvin's ES-335 with the peace sign was a huge part of his identity; on the latter, is it a question of corporate sponsorship?

    Thanks
     
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  2. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    1. Older production guitars had better tone woods than the production guitars of the 70's and early 80s. It wasn't until PRS started buiding production guitars that anyone really started paying attention to the details, again. Also, those guitars made the sounds we all became accustomed to. Hard to beat the sound of an original set of PAFs, at any cost.

    2. Mostly, guys who stick to one axe just prefer everything about the axe tone, electronics and setup. Other guys can pick up anything and work with it.
     
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  3. kevywevy

    kevywevy Forum Resident

    For 1 the answer is better wood, hand-made with hand-wound pickups. So yes, they sound and feel better. Don't know about #2. Comes down to preference I guess. Certain guitars have certain sounds and feel and if you can afford to have a roadie hand you a different guitar after every song, why not?
     
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  4. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    The reverence and value of many older guitars is just from romance with the original artists and times. Some really were made better as they could use many more types of and older growth trees for the wood and they were produced in more limited numbers by more experienced craftsmen. Others are just as crappy as anything made today. There are still superb quality instruments made today but they can't hold any sort of mystique as anyone with the money can buy them, where rare old guitars are simply more scarce and one with any sort of history, such as being used by a famous musician, simply makes them desirable regardless of their quality or lack thereof.

    Musicians are people with as varied tatses and interests as anyone else, so there are any number of reasons why they choose their instruments. It's personal taste.
    -Bill
     
  5. Sid Hartha

    Sid Hartha Wrong left turn, very bad mindset.

    Location:
    The Midwest
    There is definitely a strong collectors' fetish element with guitars - not to say that those old guitars aren't great. But you will find that most of those instruments are in the possession of wealthy collectors that may or may not play them. It's why one particular year of the Epiphone Casino can sell for ridiculous money (hint: Beatles), but the same model from a year before or after can be had for a relative pittance.

    I own 30 guitars - about equal parts "respected vintage" (Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, Ric), "cheap vintage" (Kay, Harmony, Danelectro), and recent (Fender, Gibson). All are great in their own way.

    By the way: my favorite active guitarist these days is Doug Gillard. In the 15 or so years I've been seeing him perform with various bands, he's always had the same two nondescript Gibson Les Pauls. I asked him once about it, and he said they're the only two guitars he owns - which kind of made me feel like a poseur for hoarding so many instruments. All you really need is one good one, and maybe a backup if you're on tour.
     
  6. kevywevy

    kevywevy Forum Resident

    Yep. About 25 years ago I played an actual left-handed Hofner violin bass. It was a rickety piece of crap that wasn't worth $200 but they were charging (and it was used!) $1500 just because Paul uses one. I played the Day Tripper riff a few times and said "no thank you".
     
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  7. Sid Hartha

    Sid Hartha Wrong left turn, very bad mindset.

    Location:
    The Midwest
    My ex-brother-in-law once paid $100,000 for a "minty" 1960 Les Paul - same model that Eric Clapton played briefly during his Cream years, before it was stolen (hence, the "mystique" and collector value). He let me play it once. It was alright, but I've played better ones that had no collector value. He never used it for gigs either (he has a "pre-worn" modern Les Paul for that) - it was strictly an investment.

    I have to admit, knowing people like him has made me a bit cynical about vintage instruments.
     
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  8. Mainline461

    Mainline461 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tamiami Trail
    If I recall correctly there were only about 1800 "burst" Les Paul's made from 1958 to '60, the only years of original production. That's an extremely small number. Add to that the early users of these Les Paul's (Mike Bloomfield, Keith Richards, Clapton, etc.) created such a buzz that these guitars were sought after very early on. By the time say Jimmy Page was playing a "burst" (given to him by Joe Walsh) they were becoming extremely scarce. So if you have one it has probably been owned by a known musician or collector. As far as being a better instrument, they definitely were closer to being a complete hand made instrument than anything made today. Also the fingerboards on "burst" Les Paul's was Brazilian rosewood which is no longer used. I hope this helps.
     
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  9. Guildx500

    Guildx500 Active Member

    Location:
    California
    I think the old guitars it was in some cases how rare they were but also in my opinion the sound of a guitar changes with time and play. The best guitars made today are quite frankly much better than a lot of vintage guitars I've played.
    There's a lot of reasons guys change guitars on stage frequently. Sometime it's because they use different tunings and they carry one for each. Sometimes I think it's just for show. A lot of the best players I've seen do the gig on one or two instruments.
     
  10. Sid Hartha

    Sid Hartha Wrong left turn, very bad mindset.

    Location:
    The Midwest
    I remember once seeing The Soundtrack Of Our Lives' guitar tech hand the lead guitarist - in mid song - a Gibson Flying V, just for the solo. After the solo, the tech handed him back his Gibson SG to finish out the song. It was definitely for the look.

    He doesn't do that here, but you get the general idea:

    Good band, but there's plenty of posturing and preening goin' on.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
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  11. GMcGilli

    GMcGilli Forum Resident

    Location:
    Richmond BC Canada
    From my experience for #2.

    I have almost 20 electric guitars - and in the studio - I use a tonne of them - I buy guitars that are almost all different in some way.

    Some examples:

    A. I have multiple copies of a few guitars (different colours) strictly as I have created my own guitar tunings over the years - and it's a huge pain to always be tuning a guitar differently (especially on stage) - or trying to create a new tuning that works.

    B. Tremolo. Some guitars might have a Floyd Rose bridge, or any kind of tremolo bridge really so you can do some crazy/simple whammy bar stuff - and on other songs - you want a hard tail with no chance of varying the notes.

    C. Neck length. A player might like a standard 22 fret Strat, but for some songs they need something with a longer neck or a longer underneath cutout with like 25 frets etc for solos or other stuff.

    D. # of Strings. A song might call for a 6 string, or a 12 string, or maybe u used a 7/8 etc string guitar on a certain song.

    E. Pick Ups. Different pick ups produce different sound - some need internal batteries in the guitar, most don't - and some players prefer a brand over another - or a certain brand for a particular style of song, and a different brand for another. # of pick-ups applies here too as the placement of the pickups really affects the tone of your output.

    F. Frets vs fretless - this is obvious :)

    G. Neck material. Much like the wood used for the guitar body, the wood used for a neck is a big deal - and add to that that metal necks are gaining some traction these days as some people prefer those as their daily driver, or again, for certain styles of songs.

    H. Looks. To me, guitars are art. I have some guitars specifically for how they look - this includes getting custom inlay work done on the necks. Some people don't care about looks, some do.

    I. Body material - as the responses to your #1 question shows - body material is another big factor. I have wood and Plex bodies - and they each offer their own properties.


    I'm typing this as I look at my wall of guitars - just typing out why I bought many of these. I like to experiment and have fun when playing and creating - for me a selection of different guitars works. But, yeah I know some guys who have had the same guitar for their life and will never use anything else. It's all good!
     
  12. tman53

    tman53 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pa
    Yeah, I don't think Paul played the Hofner because it was a great instrument, more like it was affordable for him at the time.
     
  13. Johnny Rocker

    Johnny Rocker Forum Resident

    Location:
    DFW
    Well Zak my man, ill tell ya, as the other gents tell you, those were the real Mc Coy, made in USA, and are the holy grail of guitars, and they do command a high price for princely collectors. Difference between men and boys is truly the price of their toys. Pete Townsend didn't care about his, he smashed the hell outta em' and then ran into Marshalls to [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] get another one to smash, all for art's sake. Willie Nelson has Trigger, its has mojo and vibe to last a life time. B.B King had Lucille, but he had different models throughout his career. Some performers find the right one and stick with it. Others have the cha-ching $ to keep showing off their wealth. 80's rockers and Cheap Trick did this a lot. Hey they are rich, go big or just go home. There you go sport, now get a Mel-Bay lesson book, learn your chords and your chops n licks and you can move on up to a nicer guitar too.:righton:
     
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  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

  15. bxbluesman

    bxbluesman Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Bronx, NY
    Vintage guitars were, to a great extent, hand made and therefore subject to the human condition; was the guy winding the pickups hungover? You could expect that most guitars made by a reputable company would be good. You had the occasional "lemon" and some just seemed to have some have a kind of transcendental magic ingrained in them. Guitars today are, for the most part, uniformly good. They are laser measured to be exact duplicates of a master copy. Therefore, you are much less likely to get stuck with a "lemon" and you are also much less likely to find a "magical" one.
     
  16. Mainline461

    Mainline461 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tamiami Trail
    It's not always the way it's made that makes a lemon. The wood can be crap ... one plank from the same shipment can be the holy grail while another is only good for a toilet seat. And in some cases you won't know until the guitar is built which one you have. I've tried twenty or more identical guitars to find "the one" ... not saying all the others were trash put in that twenty or so there were some real clunkers.
     
  17. Johnny Rocker

    Johnny Rocker Forum Resident

    Location:
    DFW
    I think the made in the U.S.A tag it carries makes it very valueable, even if its a clunker, and it don't sound as good as a import guitar, the fact remains its a classic! Its like comparing a stradivarius violin to a el-cheapo violin. Its like comparing a Toyota corolla to a 1969 Camaro, so if you find a nice one, don't be ashamed of owning one, cherish is and enjoy it! And one more thing...[​IMG]
     
  18. Ephi82

    Ephi82 Forum Resident

    Location:
    S FL
    The guitars from the late 50's and early, early 60's are revered because they were the instruments used by many of what became our guitar musical heroes. It's ironic because Lennon didn't play a '59 Ric because it was the best sounding instrument available, it was because it was relatively cheap and was lightweight and easy for him to play. Same for McCartney with the Hofner

    In some cases, these instruments had a tone or sound that was unique to the era, ( like the legendary Les Pauls used by Clapton and Page) and thus continue to be highly desired, with unbelievable prices driven by rich collectors and relative low numbers of available instruments. Yes those earlier Les Pauls can sound fantastic, but are they $400,000 fantastic?

    As far as musicians using or not using a wide range of guitars, it all depends on your goals. Seems to me that Clapton pretty consistently plays Strats, and Derek Trucks, SG's because it's their iconic sound. Other musicians want to have a wider sound palette and will have and use wide variety of guitars. Tom Petty and Mike Campbell do this in the extreme, to what I think is great effect.
     
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  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    You should have bought it for $1500.
     
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  20. acceler8

    acceler8 New Member

    Location:
    South East, USA
    I don't remember where I heard this, and I've no idea if it's true... But I heard that vintage guitars were kind of like (and to a much lesser extent) really old violins. The finish on the woods continues to age, and as it gets older it can affect the sound. As the finish ages, it affects the resonant frequency of the instrument. I've always thought of it like tempered glass (low stress on the inside, high stress on the outside).
     
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  21. innocent_bystander

    innocent_bystander Member

    Location:
    Anaheim, CA
    i've always wanted to try vintage gear but I couldn't afford them. I ended up owning some reissues Gibson Historic 335, R7, R8 and R9's and Some Fender Custom Shops Jazzmaster, Strap and Tele. They sound and play great. But lately I prefer classic looks with modern features like Suhr guitars.
     
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  22. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    In terms of electric guitars, this has been debunked. What does happen over time is that the magnets in the pickups lose charge, which can give the guitar a different sound compared to when it first rolled off the production line.

    Lots of snake oil and pseudoscience in the guitar world. Kinda reminds of me of the audiophile world, heath food/vitamin fads, and tent/stadium preachers.
     
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  23. tman53

    tman53 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pa
    I owned a number of vintage guitars and amps. The only problem was, I didn't realize someday they'd be vintage and bring big dollars.

    '58 Precision Bass
    '59 Les Paul

    Just a couple that got away mostly thru trades that I am sure were not for what would be considered vintage instruments today. As I can't even recall what I traded them for.
     
  24. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    Not all great Vintage Guitars are prohibitively expensive...just the ones that became iconic.

    Consider that Gibson is regularly selling 'Limited Edition' style LPs for 10k +...

    10k buys a lot of Jazzmaster.
     
  25. Ephi82

    Ephi82 Forum Resident

    Location:
    S FL
    I don't believe there is a huge aging impact for electric guitars, but I do believe that to a certain degree some woods were better than others for use in the electric instruments. The impact of the woods is very small compared to pick ups and amps imo.

    That said, I do believe that older acoustic instruments will have aged into better sounding instruments over time.

    My sister and I both have Guild dreads made in the 80's that were relatively inexpensive, but play and sound surprisingly better than you would expect now relative to their original price points. They still aren't Martins, but they have their own, high quality sound. I actually use my old Guild and my Martin D-28 as very nice contrasting acoustic guitar sounds in recordings. I paid $300 for the Guild in '87, the Martin, $2600 in 2010!

    I'm not claiming that the Guild is equal to the Martin, no where close, but the old lady can be a compliment in many mixes, and that's because she's mellowed out......
     

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