Is it true that guitar finish thickness affects its natural tone?

Discussion in 'Tonefreaks' started by 5F6-A, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. 5F6-A

    5F6-A Senior Member

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    many experts do believe in it but what about the MLP community??

    :hmm:
     
  2. Liam

    Liam V.I.P. Member

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    Has a huge and very directly noticeable effect on acoustics. Most luthiers hate putting finish on the top, because if you hear the guitars before the finish goes on they have such a lovely sound. Any finish other than oil makes them sound stifled in comparison. Hence thin and light finishes that don't stiffen the soundboard are preferable in most cases.

    For electrics, yes, there must be a difference, but it's going to be a lot smaller. There just isn't as much movement as there is in the top of an acoustic guitar.

    Liam
     
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  3. rockstar232007

    rockstar232007 Senior Member

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    Yes, but to what extent is extremely subjective.

    Also, I believe that many of the people who don't believe it either A.) have never compared poly vs. lacquer ("shell" vs. "skin"), B.) aren't perceptive enough to be able to tell the difference, or C.) simply choose not to believe it.

    It's actually funny that you bring this up, because I was just messing around with my Epi (poly) and Gibson (lacquer) LPs, and there is a definite difference in their relative, unplugged tone. The Epi has a more "chimey", bright tone while the Gibson has a warmer, ballsier tone. They are both set up exactly the same (strings, action, etc), but both sound very different from each other unamplified.

    Even if you do a tap-tone test on each individual finish, you can hear a difference.
     
  4. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers Premium Member

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    This is quite a long and ongoing debate. Fender started using the thick poly in the '60s and I'm not sure just how much it affects the tone. The environmental impact of the paint and solvents has pushed many makers into using the water based stuff. I have several guitars finished with various coatings and they all sound great. I know of some who have stripped off the thick finish and swear it sounds better. Could be. Everything affects everything... :hmm:

    When a thick finish is applied, any hard finish for that matter, the wood changes rigidity a bit. Some finishes may have a dampening effect. Tap the body and see how it sounds. To me, the feel is more important than the type of finish, especially on the neck. :cool:
     
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  5. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    Nope.
    Fenders have been sealed in plastic since the 60s. (Go lookup fullerplast)

    The gibson faded series have ultra thin nitro coats and I have yet to hear anyone extolling the virtues of a really breathable finish.

    It's malarkey.
     
  6. River

    River Senior Member

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    I've never tried the same guitar with both finishes. I don't see how having two "set up the same" means anything.

    I've got nitro-finished ones that are "spanky" (as far from "warm and ballsy" as it gets) unplugged, and rhino-hide poly-finished ones that are, well, "warm and ballsy". To top it off, my best-sounding guitar plugged in is my worst-sounding unplugged.

    It's all "let's see if I can justify this expense to someone with a calculator". That said, I prefer nitro over poly, silk over polyester, leather over Tolex, etc., etc.
     
  7. Eric Smith

    Eric Smith Senior Member

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    Wouldn't the only way to really know this answer be to have just one guitar, not ones that are set up the same, etc., and test different finishes on IT? The answer is yes so you all can agree with me now. ;)
     
  8. cynic79

    cynic79 Senior Member

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    The problem with that comparison is that it doesn't take into account other differences between the guitars. Of particular note, the quality and type of mahogany used for the Epi is likely very different from what was used on the Gibson.

    I can see how having a particularly thick finish on a guitar could have an effect on its acoustic tone, but I have my doubts that it is A) terribly significant, and B) that it translates to the amplified tone.
     
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  9. Gizmo

    Gizmo Senior Member

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    My two strats are both low-end models, both set up very similarly, And while I prefer the amplified tone of my real MIM, which is encased in the worlds thickest layer of finish I have ever seen, my fell-off-of-a-truck strat, most likely an Asian import, with finish that dents if you look at it wrong, rings out unamplified like nobody's business. My girlfriend doesn't get why I don't play it more.

    Now this is kind of a BS comparison, because I have no notion of the wood on the f.o.a.t. strat, and it does actually look to be one-piece, whereas I'm certian my MIM is not, but its somethign I have wondered after.

    And for the record, yes that chimey-ness does translate into a chimey amplified tone. I just prefer the relative thickness of my MIM-tone once amplified.
     
  10. Luka_Luka!

    Luka_Luka! Senior Member

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    I have a squier jagmaster that I stripped, and I swear I can't hear any difference before and after.
     
  11. mrrazorblade227

    mrrazorblade227 Senior Member

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    Personally I think for an electric it MIGHT be mumbo jumbo as far as it being a major player in tone, that said I prefer nitro not for the sound but for how it wears compared to poly.
     
  12. 180gROC

    180gROC Senior Member

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    Playing mocked up guitars with no finish then later with finish on them has led me to personally believe that there is a difference. It's very slight and I can see how it would matter more on acoustic guitars.

    The only way I can think to describe it was it made the new strings sound just a bit newer. Again, it's not much. As a sidenote, I just got hit hard with GAS for an oil finished acoustic.

    On electrics I tell myself it's not enough to matter, but my oil finished tele tells me it does, and I mostly listen to my tele.
     
  13. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    Liam gets my vote. On an electric, it's far overshadowed by other tonal ingredients. On an acoustic, the lighter the better.
     
  14. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers Premium Member

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    The concept of a finish on a guitar is to serve two functions, protect the wood (first and foremost) and enhance the aesthetics. What it does beyond that is incidental in the solid body electric IMHO. Depending on the type of wood, an oil finish is the least likely to inhibit the resonance of the wood, at least in theory. Otherwise, you could slop on house paint and the guitar will still sound like itself. I hear complaints about the VOS finish on the Custom Shop models but it is mostly about it feeling "rubbery". I think it does too. I don't like it and would probably strip it off and repaint with a harder finish like nitro from Reranch or the like. That's a huge PITA though and I'd be more inclined to build a guitar and paint it rather than take a nice Gibby and strip it, unless I got one that the paint was already damaged or stripped.

    I've seen some of the late '50s LP Specials & Juniors and they have a fairly thick coat of nitro on them yet they resonate very well. So YMMV...:cool:
     
  15. Kaicho8888

    Kaicho8888 Senior Member

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    Hmmm... much ado about nothing? Who can tell the difference in a recording? Is it nitro or poly...?

    Someone mentioned that Fender uses poly as a sealer then nitro over it as a marketing tool.

    As for me: Practice, practice, practice makes it sound better than the finish on a thick slab of wood!
     
  16. tonyg73

    tonyg73 Senior Member

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    It's crap crap crap. Play a Suhr Classic Strat or Tele (which is poly finished) and tell me that guitar doesn't have resonance or "breathability" or whatever other stupid claims the cork sniffers make.

    MAYBE the AMOUNT of poly/nitro/acrylic or whatever makes a difference. Maybe.
     
  17. LtKojak

    LtKojak Senior Member

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    It does make a difference. My dog knows it. He can hear it.

    I trust his word.

    ;)
     
  18. stinkfoot

    stinkfoot ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Premium Member

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    not to be a smart ass here but I have a question for all those arguing about the effect on acoustic tone that different finishes have on your electric guitars..

    how many of you have made recordings and play live gigs with your electric guitar un-plugged? seriously, I can see where pickups, pots, caps, and wiring can effect the tone of your electric guitar, but the type and thickness of the finish.. really?
     
  19. Benjammin

    Benjammin Senior Member

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    I have 2 guitars that I removed the finishes from (my acoustic just the back side, my strat, I removed it entirely) Did it make a noticeable difference? yup
     
  20. rockstar232007

    rockstar232007 Senior Member

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    I actually have been able to play more than a few guitars (this includes a few Gibsons) that were "converted" from poly to nitro and vice versa. Afterwards, they were like totally different guitars.;)

    My main point was that each finish has a different effect on wood vibration (this doesn't just apply to acoustics). I've played hundreds of guitars over the years (I would say that the ratio of poly vs. nitro finishes is about equal), and just about every poly-finished guitar I've ever played felt very stiff and unresponsive, not to say they necessarily sounded bad, but I like my guitars to be at least somewhat, physically responsive to string vibrations.

    As far as the comparison of both of my LPs goes, they both sound great either way, but there's a total difference in they feel in the vibration department. This was/is also true in the cases of the "coverted" guitars as well.

    Yes.

    A lot of the overall tone of an electric guitar comes from the wood and it's effects on string vibrations. As someone else previously mentioned, the thicker/harder the finish, the stiffer the wood will be, which will cause it not to absorb vibrations (specifically, the neck), which in turn would have a lesser effect on the vibrations of the strings. Hence, tighter/brighter overall tone.

    I didn't mean to imply that there's a significantly noticeable difference, but there is a difference nonetheless.

    And, I know the differences between the quality of the woods, and their inherent effects on their overall tone, but that wasn't the point (see my above comment).
     

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