breaking-in a spruce guitar

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
LukeMarsden
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breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by LukeMarsden » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:03 pm

how long does it take for a brand new (luthier built) spruce guitar to be "played in"?

i keep hearing that new guitars need a bit of time to mature - what are peoples thoughts on this time length?

cheers

Gary Macleod
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by Gary Macleod » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:32 pm

6-12 months depending on how much you play it, don't hold your breath for for a big change, in my experience it's very subtle. What guitar did you buy in the end ?

soltirefa
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by soltirefa » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:38 pm

It can be shocking when a new guitar sounds like a dud and you're thinking, "I just payed thousands of dollars for this piece of ****?" But then after you play it a lot it does begin to sound warmer, a bit punchier, and more homogenized (a term I came up with when I noticed my Byers sounded like the overall sound was a blend of tones and not just one jutting note to another).

Not only does the spruce top open up more over time, but the time it takes to open up on any given day gets shorter (eg. from an hour of playing to just ten minutes).

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David_Norton
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by David_Norton » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:48 pm

I view spruce top guitars as being like horses or children: two years for them to mature to a decent level. I have a pair of 2015 spruce builds, one from April and one from October, which I really feel are just now at the stage that I don't feel reluctant to play them in public. The October 2015 sounds better, but that's because it has been played more overall.

I also have a 33 year old spruce that sounds just fine, great tones but somewhat lacking in horsepower. Then again, the metrics for good guitars in 1983 were different then.
David Norton
Salt Lake City, UT

John Stone
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by John Stone » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:52 pm

soltirefa wrote: Not only does the spruce top open up more over time, but the time it takes to open up on any given day gets shorter (eg. from an hour of playing to just ten minutes).
I'm inclined to think that it's our fingers that "open up" during those 10 minutes every day, not the top. It's not like the wood gets stiff joints overnight.

But I do think that spruce tops gradually open up over time.
2001 Manuel Velazquez
1977 Ramirez 1a
2014 Cordoba C10
They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar."

Andrew Pohlman
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:17 pm

LukeMarsden wrote:how long does it take for a brand new (luthier built) spruce guitar to be "played in"?

i keep hearing that new guitars need a bit of time to mature - what are peoples thoughts on this time length?

cheers
Controversy alert !!! :D Just kidding. But you should realize that some people say that guitars do not "open up" or "break in".

Assuming you agree they "break in", the factors involved are: each piece of wood matures differently, cure time of finish, play time, open air time, build techniques, relative objectivity of before and after analysis. Consistency of measurement is a can of worms, too, when you ask the question how you can set up equivalent measurement conditions 2 years apart. A similar question is achieving consistent player technique 2 years apart. To quote Sponge Bob, "Good luck with that!"

Trevor Gore told me that his guitars tend not to change over time, while he acknowledged that other guitars do or might. A definitive "maybe" from the guy who wrote the book. Trevor can correct if he likes.

Having said all this, I hear spruce matures in 1.5 to 2 years. I have also heard that cedar takes 10 years to mature but will mature much more beautifully, meaning a greater difference from new to mature compared to the changes in spruce.

I'm in the "no they don't" camp. This is for the simple reason of a near complete lack of objective measurements of this alleged phenomenon. This opinion is cemented via buying new spruce, cedar and redwood top guitars, and playing them for literally 1000's of hours with no obvious changes to my ears.
2013 Rodriguez FF Sabicas blanco
2015 Trevor Gore custom Neoclassical
- redwood top, Palo dorado B+Ss.

ChristianK
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by ChristianK » Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:35 pm

John Stone wrote:
soltirefa wrote: Not only does the spruce top open up more over time, but the time it takes to open up on any given day gets shorter (eg. from an hour of playing to just ten minutes).
I'm inclined to think that it's our fingers that "open up" during those 10 minutes every day, not the top. It's not like the wood gets stiff joints overnight.

But I do think that spruce tops gradually open up over time.
I used to think the same until my 95 Ambridge. This guitar starts out uninspiring but comes to life after 10-15 minutes of playing, does this every day. I dont notice this effect on any of the other spruce guitars I've played.

Dave Stott
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by Dave Stott » Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:41 pm

LOL.. I guess that I'm in the "yes, they do change" camp.

ONLY because I have had my Cordoba GK Pro ( Spruce top with EIR sides and back) for almost 2 years now. During that time, I have played it close to 2 hours every day, taken it to weekly 2 hour guitar gatherings, occasional open mic nights and its been to a couple of week long guitar camps with me.

I recently noticed that over the past month of so, that the guitar is opening up a lot. We keep our house in 45-50% range during the winter here in Connecticut. I'll grant you that some of the change in sound might be from the approach of spring & higher humidity.

But, my string choice for the past 2 years no longer sounds good to me.

I think that spruce does open up... how much is up for discussion... LOL
2015 Cordoba GK Pro Negra
2015 Cordoba Solista Cedar
2003 H-12 Froggy Bottom
1989 Takamine E-30 Classical

soltirefa
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by soltirefa » Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:57 pm

and playing them for literally 1000's of hours with no obvious changes to my ears.
It's not just change to the ears, it's how stiff the guitar feels.

John Stone
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by John Stone » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:00 pm

ChristianK wrote:
John Stone wrote:
soltirefa wrote: Not only does the spruce top open up more over time, but the time it takes to open up on any given day gets shorter (eg. from an hour of playing to just ten minutes).
I'm inclined to think that it's our fingers that "open up" during those 10 minutes every day, not the top. It's not like the wood gets stiff joints overnight.

But I do think that spruce tops gradually open up over time.
I used to think the same until my 95 Ambridge. This guitar starts out uninspiring but comes to life after 10-15 minutes of playing, does this every day. I dont notice this effect on any of the other spruce guitars I've played.
How do you think the wood is physically changing during those 10-15 minutes?
2001 Manuel Velazquez
1977 Ramirez 1a
2014 Cordoba C10
They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar."

soltirefa
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by soltirefa » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:08 pm

How do you think the wood is physically changing during those 10-15 minutes?
First, I should clarify to a previous comment that when I notice this effect it's after a particular guitar has been sitting in the closet for a month or more while I have been playing another guitar(s).

As to how the wood is physically changing, I have no idea. I just know what I'm sensing. And as I mentioned before, it's not just the sound, it's how tight the guitar feels. I'll leave the physics up to the experts. Could this all be in my head? I suppose, but I don't think it is. Someone suggested it's my hand warming up that is what I'm feeling. Maybe, but I don't think so.

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petermc61
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by petermc61 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:20 pm

Not sure if you call it breaking in, or ageing, but I think spruce changes for decades. I have owned (and own) many fine guitars and there is a purity and sweetness to the sound of good old spruce guitars that I just don't hear in younger instruments - not necessarily better or worse, but different.

Laudiesdad69
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 2:44 am

My Ramirez George Harrison is spruce. It sounded good on the day I got it. And I really think that it sounds even better now. I've had it for a few years and it was a few years old when I got it. The guitar was built in 2011. I don't know if the extra years hanging up in the shop really did anything for it or not. And it even sounds good with D'Addario EJ45 on it.

John Stone
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Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by John Stone » Sat Apr 22, 2017 3:17 am

soltirefa wrote:
How do you think the wood is physically changing during those 10-15 minutes?
First, I should clarify to a previous comment that when I notice this effect it's after a particular guitar has been sitting in the closet for a month or more while I have been playing another guitar(s).

As to how the wood is physically changing, I have no idea. I just know what I'm sensing. And as I mentioned before, it's not just the sound, it's how tight the guitar feels. I'll leave the physics up to the experts. Could this all be in my head? I suppose, but I don't think it is. Someone suggested it's my hand warming up that is what I'm feeling. Maybe, but I don't think so.
I've perceived this sort of thing myself, but I think what's loosening up is me. As my hands warm up, they produce better and better sounds. I just can't imagine what would be perceptibly loosening on the top. It's solid wood. It's molecular structure doesn't change after being played for 10 minutes. It doesn't have joints like human hands that get stiff with disuse and then loosen up when flexed. Nor does the glue loosen (let's hope!).

The only thing I can think of that would physically change the wood is the expansion or contraction caused by a significant change in temperature or humidity. I wonder if body heat could have an effect. Actually, that might be worth looking into!
2001 Manuel Velazquez
1977 Ramirez 1a
2014 Cordoba C10
They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar."

John Stone
Posts: 294
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:32 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: breaking-in a spruce guitar

Post by John Stone » Sat Apr 22, 2017 3:23 am

petermc61 wrote:Not sure if you call it breaking in, or ageing, but I think spruce changes for decades. I have owned (and own) many fine guitars and there is a purity and sweetness to the sound of good old spruce guitars that I just don't hear in younger instruments - not necessarily better or worse, but different.
My Velazquez was 14 years old when I bought it. Judging from the wear I think it was played very little -- it was in near-mint condition. Over the last year and a half, it seems to have opened up considerably -- it's louder, richer, etc. I know this from comparing it to another guitar. They were about the same volume when I got the V. Now the V. is significantly louder. So yes, I think older guitars can change too.
2001 Manuel Velazquez
1977 Ramirez 1a
2014 Cordoba C10
They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar."

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