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Author Topic: Do "opened up" guitars close up again?  (Read 7489 times)
SMan
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« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2013, 08:20:16 PM »

    It's amazing what a new set of strings can do. Or a decent player. whistling

Now I buy into this 110%. 
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Steve ....aka the SMan
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« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2013, 10:18:54 PM »

  It's amazing what a new set of strings can do. Or a decent player. whistling

It always amazes me how much better my 000 sounds when a good picker is playing it. It's humbling and it makes me bit sheepish when I consider how often I've said @*@)(@)#*#@(! I am going to get rid of this thing!
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madoclake
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« Reply #22 on: August 21, 2013, 10:46:14 PM »

I think a guitar starts to sound better as it dries slightly. And then sounds dull as it humidifies slightly. So they sound better as the "out of case" season progresses and duller as the "in the case" season progresses. Actually, I take it all back. Put on new strings. It will sound lovely. Bartender! Two quarts of X!
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« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2013, 01:04:46 AM »

After a year, the strings would be my first guess for a culprit. Humidity will have an effect on strings too, especially if non coated.

Yeah, I didn't consider that in the equation either.
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« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2013, 01:16:46 AM »

After about 4 beers my guitars lose treble (and tone generally), and become much harder instruments to play. Would strapping a tonerite to my skull improve things maybe?

In my experience, the relationship between how many beers one has and how hard the instrument is to play would best be represented by a bell curve.
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« Reply #25 on: August 22, 2013, 03:01:52 AM »

As I understand it, the process of "opening up" involves physical changes to the wood at almost sub-atomic levels. Changes that involve vibration, crystallization, hydration, aeration, defenestration and sometimes masturbation. I just can't see these changes completely reversing themselves. Taking 30 minutes for your guitar to warm up (as opposed to yourself?) is not the same thing at all. 
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rockstar_not
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« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2013, 02:11:46 PM »

  Many good thoughts here. I do remain in the camp of "guitars do open up more when played more" but I also believe that can be negligible in most cases. It's amazing what a new set of strings can do. Or a decent player. whistling

Agreed, althour I still have yet to hear any recorded double-blind evidence that 'opening up' actually happens  so I lean more toward believing that "opening up" is an audio myth.  The human acoustic memory is notoriously short as well as creative.

As evidence to the creative and 'fill in the gaps' nature of our acoustic memories and function - our brains have no trouble identifying voices over telephone calls - even though the spectral content of the transmitted signal is insanely different than when the same person is talking with us face to face.  We can hear, over the phone, if they are ill, if they have had a tough day, etc. 

We also cannot turn off our subjective tendency to desire to hear change when we have made some action.  It is really impossible to do.  A great story about this appears in the now famous panel discussion conducted by Ethan Winer et. al. at an Audio Engineering Society conference a few years ago.  I am going to link to the youtube of that where one of the panelists describes how he fooled audiophiles into believing that they were switching listening to a MacIntosh audio amplifier compared to a transistor amp.  The whole talk is worth listening to, but this section starting here addresses something that is at play on this forum all of the time; insistence that some physical swap-out makes an audible difference, without doing a real back-to-back recorded double-blind evaluation.  http://youtu.be/BYTlN6wjcvQ?t=1m4s

The gentleman speaking here demonstrates how one should really test for 'false positives' when comparing one audio sample with another.  In this case, there was no change to the sound, but the evaluators, who were all self-proclaimed audiophiles, were told that when they moved a mechanical switch, the audio was being played through two different devices, when in fact, it was all coming from the same source.  Without fail, the audiophiles claimed that the tube amplifier (which was shown as if it was operating) had more 'warmth', etc.  It was all a sham setup simply to prove the point that our brains will play tricks on us when we believe there is a change present, we will hear a change.  Mr. Johnson makes the claim that there is no way to train ourselves out of this and that to do this type of comparison must be done in an un-identified, blind fashion.  I agree with him.

The whole video of the panel discussion is fascinating and I encourage anyone that has read this far in the thread to watch the whole thing when you have a spare hour.
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« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2013, 07:53:03 PM »

Guitar players playing guitar -- a much more complicated problem with way more variables than audiophile listening tests. Trying to evaluate something in this area you end up having to resort to social science hokum no matter what.
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« Reply #28 on: August 22, 2013, 10:17:16 PM »

Guitar players playing guitar -- a much more complicated problem with way more variables than audiophile listening tests. Trying to evaluate something in this area you end up having to resort to social science hokum no matter what.
+1

True!

In fact, it's almost impossible to do real double-blind evaluations when we are talking about swapping parts on guitars, because the performance in the before/after swap will NEVER be the same and it's terribly difficult to record before/after.

Perhaps compared to most of the forum posters here, I'm a cheapskate.  So cheap that I buy Elixirs because of their longevity more than anything.  I will take the longevity over whatever purported audible negatives exist with them.  And I'm not that good of a player and my technique is still wont to string squeaking and the Elixirs help to mitigate that tendency.  So, I would never do a parts swap if I wasn't planning on changing out the strings.

Here's a short list of the 'I will die on this hill' tone topics I see claimed on this and other guitar forums ad infinitum:

Tonewood differences
Bridge pin differences
String differences
Tonerite usage differences

Let's look at the issues involved with each of these A/B comparisons.

Tonewoods - simply cannot swap this out.  You have two different guitars if you want to compare tonewoods.  Who is to say that the tonewood is absolutely the reason for a perceived change sound difference between them when there are countless other factors at play converting the string vibration into acoustic waves?

Bridge pin differences - this one might be the easiest to double-blind evaluate of any; yet have you EVER heard of someone putting the same set strings back on when they swap out the pins?  Again, probably the easiest, but can you guarantee that even the re-installation of the ball-end locks into the plate the same way, etc.?

String differences - who plays a set of strings for an hour, then pulls them off and swaps them out for a different set, then goes back to the original set, and perhaps back to the swap set for even a 2x pairwise comparison?  Nobody does this.  If you have, please raise your hand.  There might be one here who has done this.

Tonerite usage - here we have the problem of long term acoustic memory issues which are notoriously poor.  Our acoustic memories can remember only a certain degree of detail about any particular single sound fragment, let alone the overall performance of a song on a guitar in a particular condition before tonerite application.  Our brains fill in the gaps that our memories simply cannot hold in detail.  This is likely similar to the variance in testimony that you hear in trials for the same exact sequence of events from both interested and uninterested observers.

Ethan Winer actually gets after the physics of evaluating two different conditions in the audio myths discussion about 1/2-way through and the issues of listening environment and so forth - and how comb filtering in the listening environment can wreak havoc on spectral content for the exact same recording playback.

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« Reply #29 on: August 23, 2013, 02:51:07 AM »

While it's true that the audiophiles can be tricked, it doesn't necessarily dismiss the possibility that guitars can open up and the difference can be heard.

As far as the notion of closing up goes, the notion is sort of like say wind blown hair.  Let's say I was not bald but I had a full head of hair.  I'm riding in a convertible and now I look like Christopher Lloyd in Back To The Future.  That's what the wood fibers do from the vibrations of playing.  But say several hours following my car ride, my hair has fallen back down.  It's still wind blown, but not as bad, its returned back some to its natural state.  This is what I believe happens when guitars close back up.  Again, what the hell do I know, I have the voodoo magic of a tone rite.

 
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bluesman67
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« Reply #30 on: August 23, 2013, 06:16:54 AM »

While it's true that the audiophiles can be tricked, it doesn't necessarily dismiss the possibility that guitars can open up and the difference can be heard.

As far as the notion of closing up goes, the notion is sort of like say wind blown hair.  Let's say I was not bald but I had a full head of hair.  I'm riding in a convertible and now I look like Christopher Lloyd in Back To The Future.  That's what the wood fibers do from the vibrations of playing.  But say several hours following my car ride, my hair has fallen back down.  It's still wind blown, but not as bad, its returned back some to its natural state.  This is what I believe happens when guitars close back up.  Again, what the hell do I know, I have the voodoo magic of a tone rite.

 

A two steps forward, one step backward type of thing, perhaps?   
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"Badges?  We don't need no stinkin' badges."

Became a Shooting Star when I got my 1st guitar.
Back in '66, I was 13 and that was my fix.
Still shooting for stardom after all this time.
If I never make it, I'll still be fine.


 
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« Reply #31 on: September 13, 2013, 02:54:31 PM »

I certainly believe guitars "open up" over time and have read several articles over the years regarding this by luthiers.  Resin in the guitar dries etc. There is something to be said of say a vintage guitar verses a new guitar of the same make/model. typically the older sounds a bit better. 

Having said that. I don't personally think they "close up".  I think when we say that it takes a guitar about 30 minutes to really sound good during practice/sound check what is really happening is 1. the guitar is acclimating to the climate of the room which does play a part in tone regardless of whether anyone thinks it does or doesn't etc.
2. Our ears acclimate to the sound our guitar is producing and therefore we believe it is somehow sounding better over 30 mins to an hour.

I think the most important thing is that you are happy when you play and like the sound your hearing. Now if you've had a few beers I suppose it won't really matter as you may think your tone has drastically improved....  or gone way down hill to fast in on night.
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« Reply #32 on: September 13, 2013, 07:12:57 PM »

Having worked with wood most of my professional life (and building a few guitars) I have an understanding of how wood ages and the changes it goes through as its moisture content changes.  I also realize the changes a physical environment can have on wood.  (I have tightened up more than one old wood ladder by leaving it out in the rain.)  Opening up is a natural process guitars go through.  That said I am not sure I think a guitar, especially one kept in a constant environment, would close up.  In all the guitars I have ever owned it is really not something I have concerned myself with and certainly would never make a purchase on the hopes a guitar would open up.  Just sayin'...
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Steve ....aka the SMan
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« Reply #33 on: September 14, 2013, 05:17:01 AM »

.............................Having said that. I don't personally think they "close up".  I think when we say that it takes a guitar about 30 minutes to really sound good during practice/sound check what is really happening is 1. the guitar is acclimating to the climate of the room which does play a part in tone regardless of whether anyone thinks it does or doesn't etc.
2. Our ears acclimate to the sound our guitar is producing and therefore we believe it is somehow sounding better over 30 mins to an hour.
............................

I think you are right.  Plus I would add a couple more reasons (or theories at least).
3.  During the 30 minute "warm up" your fingers become more nimble and recall their "muscle memory" for that particular guitar which translates into more accurate playing and thus better tone.
4.  The guitar and strings literally do "warm up" as you hold it and manipulate the strings which would translate into a more flexible and responsive instrument.
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"Badges?  We don't need no stinkin' badges."

Became a Shooting Star when I got my 1st guitar.
Back in '66, I was 13 and that was my fix.
Still shooting for stardom after all this time.
If I never make it, I'll still be fine.


 
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« Reply #34 on: September 17, 2013, 06:09:18 PM »

L07 Great points!!! +1


Ktron, I think a Larrivee actually did make it to space
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« Reply #35 on: December 19, 2013, 02:55:02 PM »

I can't find it now, but I recently read an article about a museum - I think in NYC - that pays musicians to come in and play their most valuable instruments to keep them from "going to sleep."  

Found it -- about halfway into the article.  Still inconclusive and anecdotal, I'm afraid. 

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/118327-touchy-questions-museums-rare-instrument-collection/


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« Reply #36 on: December 20, 2013, 09:30:38 AM »

I can't find it now, but I recently read an article about a museum - I think in NYC - that pays musicians to come in and play their most valuable instruments to keep them from "going to sleep." 

Found it -- about halfway into the article.  Still inconclusive and anecdotal, I'm afraid. 

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/118327-touchy-questions-museums-rare-instrument-collection/

Intersting and enlightening information.  Thanks from the OP of this thread.
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Became a Shooting Star when I got my 1st guitar.
Back in '66, I was 13 and that was my fix.
Still shooting for stardom after all this time.
If I never make it, I'll still be fine.


 
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« Reply #37 on: December 20, 2013, 06:50:18 PM »

Regarding the playing of instruments in the Met collection of ancient instruments to 'wake them up', here are the sections of the report that talk about that:
-----------------
"Moore, the Met curator, argues that an instrument doesn’t need to be played daily to keep its sound. “I like to think of them as going to sleep,” he said. “When a performer comes, our instrument will sound awful if it hasn’t been played for a year, and after 45 minutes of playing, something happens.”

Violinist Sean Carpenter, who played Bach solo works on the Met’s 1694 “Francesca” Strad at a concert, experienced the awakening. “By the time I finished playing it really did take off in sound, and improve dramatically,” he said. "
-----------------

This is something fundamentally different than what some touted here and other places of discussion about 'opening up' and tone-rite usage and so forth.

How is it different?

Look at the time frames of playing that they refer to.  Single performances, 45 minutes, etc.  The thing 'comes to life' in that time frame.

This is not talking about the supposed sap crystallization that supposedly happens in the wood when instruments open up over time, yada yada yada.  This is talking about what can be an artist learning an instrument and how it responds, as well as potential physics that can change in such a short amount of time - like friction between string and nut/peg/bridge being loosened up, etc.  Likely several tuning peg adjustments are made in that 45 minute period if the instrument has sat unplayed for 6 months.

I can tell you from a piano as a stringed instrument and the tuning process that it goes through because I tune pianos as a side job; the piano can 'come to life' just with a single tuning adjustment and some stresses that get relieved as well as created through the tuning peg adjustment procedure.  It can actually be a dangerous occupation!  Breaking a string on a guitar - no big deal.  Break a string on a piano and it can be lethal to your eyesight.

Until there is a way to actually test energy input/output relationship with stringed instruments and the judgement of 'opening up' or even 'closing' is done by humans over very long time frames, this topic will always be one that is fraught with subjective opinion and human/machine interaction and all of the trouble that causes.




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« Reply #38 on: February 18, 2014, 12:38:48 AM »

I have 2 guitars w/Adi tops, and I beat the dog outta'em for a few mins. Helps to my ears. The sitka topped ones...not so much.
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« Reply #39 on: February 19, 2014, 09:40:11 AM »

I don't think guitar tops "close up". It is known that vibration of the spruces over time improves the sound up to a point.
If I discount the effects of temperature and humidity, my logic suggests that over time there are two variables that could influence the sound nl. deterioation of strings (metal fatigue, corrosion) and neck movement (wood fatigue and/or glue failure/creep) resulting in the neck angle changing, in which case the guitar's tone would relatively become more muddy. Unless the movement is severe, I'm not sure it is all that audible to the human ear though.
It is also known that spruce - especially Sitka, takes a minute or two of playing to "warm up" to its absolute potential. (that is audible to me)
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