Vintage Woods and Tone

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249
Why do vintage woods seem to sound better? As we all know tone is subjective and words like better are always challenged because of this. That being said however; there appears to be a general popular opinion that the tonal qualities of certain vintage woods are superior to that of newer woods in the way they sound overall. I would like to open this thread for anyone that would like to share there theories or facts as to why vintage woods sound better or why they don't if you disagree. For the ability of having a conversation about it we could suggest that an apple is an apple when comparing. For example: an Original 50s Les Paul vs a RI or a Vintage D-18(same bracing construction) vs a New D-18. Understanding the many factors that contribute to the final sound we hear. This thread is only trying to discuss the tonal qualities that the woods influence.

Thank You and Welcome.:thumb:
 

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249
I would like to start this thread with my own theory. Sap Viens. That's right the viens in the wood that the sap ran through. Much like a vintage wine I believe that wood also cures over time and matures. If the sap in the veins is still there when the wood is new, what would happen if it dried up? What would be left? How would this change the texture of the wood? Most importantly, how would it change the sound?
 

coolidge

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
197
Reaction score
78
I don't buy into the vintage woods theory e.g. it dried over time. The wood is dried and cured under heat prior to construction to a preset moisture content. If there is a improvement my money would be on finish and glue curing, and on aging of the electronics. Not every piece of wood is equal however. There are certainly differences in the species and quality of wood that was available at different points in time, and the drying process. It used to be slow over many weeks. In modern times this has been sped up quite a bit. But its quite possible to find an above average piece of wood today that is superior to what was a poor quality blank 30 or 40 years ago.
 

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249
I don't buy into the vintage woods theory e.g. it dried over time. The wood is dried and cured under heat prior to construction to a preset moisture content. If there is a improvement my money would be on finish and glue curing, and on aging of the electronics. Not every piece of wood is equal however. There are certainly differences in the species and quality of wood that was available at different points in time, and the drying process. It used to be slow
over many weeks. In modern times this has been sped up quite a bit. But its quite possible to find an above average piece of wood today that is superior to what was a poor quality blank 30 or 40 years ago.
Yes but assuming both woods are the same quality. Again it's hard to compare unless assuming all other factors are the same. My theory is that the drying of the sap viens in the wood play a huge part. I believe that the drying of the sap or the change of the substance, shrinking, hardening or what not leaves thousands of tiny little now simi hollow tubes threw out the wood. This could account for the woods sounding more resonate and having more sustain. I agree with u on the curing of the glues and finnishes.
 

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249
Another example,
I have owned and played many vintage Martin and Gibson acoustics. The older ones always sounded better(imop.) The same woods and construction on D28s D18s J-45s 00028s etc and the ones that were from the 50s down always had much more dramatic tonal characteristics than the new ones. The ones from the sixties had less notable differences. As far as electric's I have only owned a 59 Ri and a MAX. This tonal differences between them are laughable but there are many more considerations when comparing electrics.
 

Mouse

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
2,715
Reaction score
3,929

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249

rockstar232007

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2008
Messages
17,209
Reaction score
14,670
Older wood is more "open" than newer wood, because as trees age the grain becomes loose and porous due to moisture/mineral loss, which makes it more tonally resonant compared to new growth wood.

Most of the wood that Gibson used to build '50s LPs was more than 75-100 years old, while the wood they use today, or for the past 30+ years, is only 30-60 years old.
 

Mouse

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2008
Messages
2,715
Reaction score
3,929
Pardon my english, hope you'll get through. I'm typing what comes to my mind and structure in my language is different as you see.
This remainds me of my own doubts which was resolved about 10 years ago.
I was a luthier who were in the strat demistification business,you know - how to make a new guitar sounding 50 years old.
Luckily I knew Art restorators and slowly they found for me more than 100y.old maple for neck and friend of mine gave me 60 y.old ash for bodies that's pretty well seasoned wood if I may add. There were wood for about 4 guitars so I made body of the the best resonant part and cut few necks for tone matching.
It ended up as a beautifull guitar and pretty good sounding guitar with a nice vintage tone and harmonics.
But, as allways.... I made one with newer but naturaly seasoned wood which I handpicked previously for tonematching. This wood from start were more resonant, this guitar ended sounding better.
So I think these no rules here, it all depends on a given piece of wood and what you do with it.All may end up well or not so well.
I'm talking about non played wood, it's useless to compare 50's guitar with new or not so broken in one, although I've heard 50's guitars that sounded thin and shrill but looking gorgeus.
 

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249
"I'm talking about non played wood, it's useless to compare 50's guitar with new or not so broken in one, although I've heard 50's guitars that sounded thin and shrill but looking gorgeus."



Oh ok,

Yes I am wanting to compare the woods after constuction. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear in my OP. So what makes a guitar "broken in" isn't that also aging? You seem to have a wealth of knowledge on the topic. Your thoughts and comments are welcome here. :)
 

korus

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
1,122
Reaction score
435
Maybe, just maybe, back in 50s guitar volume of production was not that huge, and some of the wood used was must have been harvested from wilderness, not a plantation like nowadays. That made selection process more important since those trees in wilderness are NOT all the same, like trees for contemporary plantations are. In wilderness they were able to find a taller tree (sure it means it was older than the others). Such a tree might give more resonant wood or whatever term we use to distinguish wood that has sound qualities we look for in an instrument.

Nowadays, hundreds of thousands guitars being made every year, all the trees Gibson and Martin select wood from are pretty much the same at any location they select from as a 'first buyer'. (sorry for bad English but I guess you get the point). My guess is that no matter which way drying of contemporary plantation wood is carried out, it will not bring in the qualities of a taller tree from wilderness.

The glue used was also important. I saw a piece of dried hide glue. It is hard as rock. If I did not know what it was I would be sure it was actually - a rock.

Hardware and electronics add to a overall effect/tone or play their part, but they can not put in what's not already in a wood/glue.

So, you can have your fetish car from 1976 investing $4mil in a company that used to make them then to make a single one for you, but no money will put a TALL tree in a wilderness - it takes time longer than human life to grow it. If someone finds one that was missed and was not already cut ...

(aging of an instrument already made will not make wood different so R9 will not become 59 in 50 years; 'playing it in' helps also, but will not put in what was NOT already there in the wood before it was cut)

just my .02$ of guessing ... not pretending to know...
 

homenote

ROCKSTAR INC (T.M)
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
2,887
Reaction score
1,249
So does a "aged Murphy" les Paul really sound rad? Lol no seriously does this type of thing(if done generically) improve or even change the sound at all or is it just fairy dust?
 

korus

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
1,122
Reaction score
435
Aged Murphy just helps 30,40,50 something kid look EXACTLY like his hero on the poster from his teens. And makes it look more like 'a Burst I will never have'.

But they use and/or choose the best 'matched woods' (quote, Mouse) before Tom Murphy starts his works. So, Murphy aged has the best tone of a bunch (of 25?) regardless. That is if they check the tone besides choosing the best looking top, which is not very likely. I mean how many Murphy aged did you see on stage?
 

rockstar232007

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2008
Messages
17,209
Reaction score
14,670
So does a "aged Murphy" les Paul really sound rad? Lol no seriously does this type of thing(if done generically) improve or even change the sound at all or is it just fairy dust?
Depends on the level of detail.

An R9 that has nothing more than simulated weather checking will probably not sound much different than a similar brand new R9, but when you consider the fact that most Murphy-aged LPs get the full vintage makeover (thinner, fully checked/distressed finish, aged parts, etc), then you're talking apples to oranges.

I've played more than a few real vintage ('50s) LPs, and I can honestly say that in terms of sound, feel, and overall look, you'd be hard-pressed to be able to tell the difference bewteen a real '59 and a Murphy-aged R9, especially one that has a set of vintage P.A.Fs installed in it.
 

River

Senior Member
Joined
May 19, 2008
Messages
57,250
Reaction score
91,324
I'm with korus (post #12). I boil it down to "there was more good wood to choose from, and it was more carefully chosen". I think there's still some "ideal" wood being used, and that you can tell that when you get your hands on the right (and likely very expensive) acoustic guitar.
 

korus

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
1,122
Reaction score
435
IIRC Murphy aged are chosen before any finish has been applied, so thinner finish without 'plastic' will bring it closer, but only if a wood used for the particular one has been hidden for some years ... OTOH there are also Murphy aged ones that make your heart and brain stop when you lay your eyes and put your hands on them in person, but sound like a regular garden variety Gibson USA production no matter what the rest of the signal chain is, including a player. Will look pretty hanging on the wall and in forums, though.
 

Nicky

On The Road Less Traveled
Joined
Aug 27, 2007
Messages
16,931
Reaction score
25,013
Hmmmm. Now I know why the wifey refers to me as "vintage wood" after 28 years of marriage.:naughty:
 

Mattdive

Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2010
Messages
87
Reaction score
0
There are some good posts here. Definitely the availability of wood has changed over the last 60 years. Back then, forests weren't being stripped so readily, so what was written in posts #9 and #12 makes sense. Slow-growth trees will have a different density than rapid growth trees - even within the same species. Genetic manipulation has created trees that grow faster than in previous generations. Then there's the issue of drying. Most guitar tonewood is dried in kilns these days. In prior generations, wood was left to air dry. Most luthiers will tell you that there is a difference in the quality of the wood when the drying process is sped up (this might affect your "vein" theory, too). For a solid body guitar, there can be a certain resonance factor that can translate to tone when using quality electronics. I chose my MIK Epiphone LP Classic precisely because it sounded great unplugged, even compared to the Gibsons in the store at that time.
Finally, some posts bring up acoustic guitars. A solid top acoustic will get better with age, but only when played a lot. From what I understand, the continued vibration of the top somehow allows the entire guitar to resonate in sync more and more. I've read that this may be due to vibrations affecting glued joints. Of course, experience can only verify that a "broken-in" solid-top acoustic tends to just sound more full and pleasing to my ear.
 


Latest Threads



Top