Cedar top break in period

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
User avatar
souldier
Posts: 797
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2015 4:45 pm

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by souldier » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:17 pm

I distinctly remember several instances where I went to a guitar dealer, started playing a guitar that would sound cold and tight, but after 10+ minutes it seemed to wake up in the sense that it began to sound warmer, fuller more colourful and open. I wasn't looking for or expecting the changes, but the changes were apparent, even to my wife who was with me. An example of this was when I was playing a used Kolya Panhuyzen previously owned by a concert guitarist. It sounded really stiff, muted and unresponsive. For such a well known luthier, I was really underwhelmed. But within 10 minutes of playing the instrument was simply a different guitar. The tone became really colorful and expressive.

I understand our ears can play tricks on us, but there comes a point where the change is so significant that I can't dismiss it as mere psychoacoustics. From a scientific standpoint, I don't see why it is so hard to believe that repeatedly transferring large amounts of energy into the soundboard would somehow loosen it up or change it physically, leading to a change in sound.

I'm under the impression that guitars can "wake up" and "go to sleep". Newer guitars need more effort and a stronger right hand to wake up and they go to sleep faster, while older, regularly played guitars take little to no effort to wake up and take longer to go back to sleep. I believe that if you have a new guitar, playing it for a solid hour with a good right hand will give you an idea of its potential, but I also believe there are changes that happen long term on top of the waking and sleeping cycles.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

User avatar
tom0311
Amateur luthier
Posts: 1441
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:37 pm
Location: Witney, Oxfordshire

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by tom0311 » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:39 pm

souldier wrote:I distinctly remember several instances where I went to a guitar dealer, started playing a guitar that would sound cold and tight, but after 10+ minutes it seemed to wake up in the sense that it began to sound warmer, fuller more colourful and open.
I've experienced the same, but I see it as learning 'how' to play each guitar as opposed to the guitar changing in my hands. It's more plausible to me that in a short playing period it's the player who adapts, rather than the instrument.

I've got no opinions on longer term breaking in.
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.”

User avatar
souldier
Posts: 797
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2015 4:45 pm

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by souldier » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:58 pm

tom0311 wrote:
souldier wrote:I distinctly remember several instances where I went to a guitar dealer, started playing a guitar that would sound cold and tight, but after 10+ minutes it seemed to wake up in the sense that it began to sound warmer, fuller more colourful and open.
I've experienced the same, but I see it as learning 'how' to play each guitar as opposed to the guitar changing in my hands. It's more plausible to me that in a short playing period it's the player who adapts, rather than the instrument.
I definitely agree our hands do begin to learn to bring out the most of that particular instrument, but I sense the changes I experienced were too significant to attribute to technique alone.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

Bill B
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Wed Dec 14, 2016 2:44 am

souldier wrote:
tom0311 wrote:
souldier wrote:I distinctly remember several instances where I went to a guitar dealer, started playing a guitar that would sound cold and tight, but after 10+ minutes it seemed to wake up in the sense that it began to sound warmer, fuller more colourful and open.
I've experienced the same, but I see it as learning 'how' to play each guitar as opposed to the guitar changing in my hands. It's more plausible to me that in a short playing period it's the player who adapts, rather than the instrument.
I definitely agree our hands do begin to learn to bring out the most of that particular instrument, but I sense the changes I experienced were too significant to attribute to technique alone.
I think it is because when you started to play, you summoned the muses, but as it takes the a couple of minutes to travel from Mount Olympus, for the first 10 you were on your own. Of course I can't prove this, but it is the most logical explanation.
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

User avatar
Moje
Posts: 674
Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:52 pm
Location: Vancouver, Canada

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Moje » Wed Dec 14, 2016 3:44 am

Just want to take a second and contrast Alan's "Maybe this is real to some extent and not totally imaginary" with "I can hear a world of difference with each week of playing, even if you can't!" Pretty much every claim that guitars "play in" is backed by one of two fallacies:

1) Sheer conjecture: "Maybe the wood fibers get used to making Sor studies sound good . . . something to do with molecules, possibly."
2) "So-and-so believes it, therefore it must be true!"

Did I miss one?
2014 Michael Thames 650mm Cedar & IRW
1976 No. 10 Sakurai 660mm Spruce & IRW

User avatar
petermc61
Posts: 5909
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:11 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by petermc61 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:08 am

Maybe what you missed is the fact that tops actually break in! :D

Bill B
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:35 pm

petermc61 wrote:Maybe what you missed is the fact that tops actually break in! :D
Just because YOU can't see the muses doesnt mean they aren't there working their magic. I guess some people just aren't as perceptive as others :D
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

Alan Carruth
Luthier
Posts: 2587
Joined: Mon Dec 24, 2007 6:56 pm

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Alan Carruth » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:59 pm

I regularly measure the properties of the wood that I use. To do this I vibrate pieces, and find the exact resonant pitches, as well as the frequencies to either side of resonance where the energy of vibration is half the maximum with the same input power. This, along with information about the size and mass of the pieces, allows me to calculate the potential stiffness along and across the grain, and the associated loss factors. If I leave a piece vibrating for a while, it's normal for the resonant pitch to drift a bit, as if the wood was 'loosening up' a little as it vibrates. Testing involves putting a lot more power in that you'd get in playing, but, on the other hand, I'm seeing changes in a matter of a minute or less, rather than the ten minutes to a half hour or more cited for 'warming up'.

Many years ago I set up a test where I vibrated a strip of wood cut from the outside edge of a top half for a month in a humidity controlled shop. Testing before and after showed that there was no difference in stiffness, but that the loss factor had increased by about 25%. Every time I've teid to repeat that experiment something has come up that wrecked it. Maybe I'll be able to do it again soon.

The small amount of literature I've seen that addresses fatigue in wood tends to be contradictory, and often is done in ways that don't seem to bear directly on musical instruments. Usually the energy put in is much higher, and sometimes the frequencies involved are much higher than we're interested in as well. It's going to take some work to sort it out. Dismissing the idea because the work has not been done is as bad as simply accepting the notion out of hand. The evidence I have suggests it can happen, but it's along way from a convincing demonstration at this point. On the other hand, why would the guitar be the only machine ever made that doesn't wear out?

razz
Posts: 277
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:01 am

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by razz » Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:48 pm

I have an idea for an experiment. One of you order 2 new guitars spruce and cedar (preferably from Beyers or Connor). Send then to me. I'll record my practice sessions with each guitar in the same room using the same recording gear over a two year period. I will shuffle the clips and post them. We will see if anyone can detect the "opened up" guitar sound.

More seriously, I'm not sold on the idea of "breaking in" a guitar. Any changes that I have notice in the sound of my guitars are more likely attributed to the actions of my fingers or the age of my strings. I will take the guitars though, if someone has the extra cash.
Last edited by razz on Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Kevin Cowen
Posts: 92
Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:03 pm

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Kevin Cowen » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:13 pm

In 35 years of playing various guitars I have NEVER heard a guitar open up.
If you want to produce beautiful music then you will have to practice.

brooks
Posts: 1009
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:11 am
Location: halifax, nova scotia

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by brooks » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:44 pm

Kevin Cowen wrote:In 35 years of playing various guitars I have NEVER heard a guitar open up.
If you want to produce beautiful music then you will have to practice.
You should stop playing those plywood-topped guitars then Kevin. Don't know what you're missing. :wink:

Bill B
Posts: 1026
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 1:32 am

Alan Carruth wrote:The evidence I have suggests it can happen, but it's along way from a convincing demonstration at this point. On the other hand, why would the guitar be the only machine ever made that doesn't wear out?
In the case of guitars (particularly used ones, broken in) that "go to sleep" when unused for a long period, and then "wake up" as they are played, perhaps only to go back to sleep again, The question would be perhaps "why is the guitar the only machine in the world that reverts to its like new condition after being given a rest?"
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

User avatar
Elías López Cruz
Posts: 352
Joined: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:27 pm
Location: Puebla, Puebla; México

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Elías López Cruz » Sat Dec 17, 2016 2:04 am

When I bought my Fleta replica, the luthier told me that the instrument will be performing better and better as long as it is played.
Guitars: "La Valenciana" model 113 (1976), "Tres Pinos" SCG-E112 (2007), "Sergio Mercado" Ramírez replica 2011, Arturo Hernández Hauser replica (2014), Karina Mendoza Fleta replica (2016).

User avatar
petermc61
Posts: 5909
Joined: Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:11 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by petermc61 » Sat Dec 17, 2016 2:10 am

Bill B wrote:
Alan Carruth wrote:The evidence I have suggests it can happen, but it's along way from a convincing demonstration at this point. On the other hand, why would the guitar be the only machine ever made that doesn't wear out?
In the case of guitars (particularly used ones, broken in) that "go to sleep" when unused for a long period, and then "wake up" as they are played, perhaps only to go back to sleep again, The question would be perhaps "why is the guitar the only machine in the world that reverts to its like new condition after being given a rest?"
I don't think anybody on this thread has said a guitar ever returns to its 'new condition'.

astro64
Posts: 622
Joined: Sat Aug 06, 2016 7:43 pm
Location: American Southwest

Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by astro64 » Sat Dec 17, 2016 3:05 am

petermc61 wrote:
Bill B wrote:
Alan Carruth wrote:The evidence I have suggests it can happen, but it's along way from a convincing demonstration at this point. On the other hand, why would the guitar be the only machine ever made that doesn't wear out?
In the case of guitars (particularly used ones, broken in) that "go to sleep" when unused for a long period, and then "wake up" as they are played, perhaps only to go back to sleep again, The question would be perhaps "why is the guitar the only machine in the world that reverts to its like new condition after being given a rest?"
I don't think anybody on this thread has said a guitar ever returns to its 'new condition'.
I agree, in fact, some people are saying the opposite, that it STAYS in its new condition forever. Which doesn't seem very plausible.

Return to “Public Space”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Adrian Allan, albert-canuck, bear, Briant, CommonCrawl [Bot], Jeffrey Armbruster, kertsopoulos, lagartija, Rasputin and 27 guests