Cedar top break in period

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Sat Dec 17, 2016 4:04 am

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?"[/quote]


Umm, a guitar isn't a machine?

I've spent a very good amount of time hiking in the forests and alpine regions of the Cascades and Sierra. I've spent time in remarkable groves of Redwood, Jeffrey Pine and two dozen other species. I've touched trees that are more than a thousand years old--so old I can't even guess. I've smelled the same Jeffrey Pine at different times of the year and sensed pineapple, or at other times cinnamon, vanilla or apple. These trees are, obviously, alive. They change in accordance with conditions. Jeffrey pine are not always aromatic, for example. Trees do indeed go to sleep in the winter and during drought. And yes they communicate with each other in a variety of ways (this isn't woo woo--see The Hidden Life of Trees).

So our guitars aren't made from forged metal. Sure I know my steak doesn't moo, but it may be that the material of our guitars carries over some of the properties that wood has when alive.
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Michael.N.
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Dec 17, 2016 10:27 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?"
The explanation is much more likely to be rather prosaic. It's simply the player becoming accustomed to the instrument, either technically or becoming accustomed to the particular tone, perhaps both. I quite often notice improvements in guitars, usually from day to day. The problem is that from day to day the tone can also degrade too.
Is that me or the guitar? It's not humidity, I have that under control.
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Bill B
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 11:17 am

Michael.N. 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?"
The explanation is much more likely to be rather prosaic. It's simply the player becoming accustomed to the instrument, either technically or becoming accustomed to the particular tone, perhaps both. I quite often notice improvements in guitars, usually from day to day. The problem is that from day to day the tone can also degrade too.
Is that me or the guitar? It's not humidity, I have that under control.
I, Just like many others, have felt as though I heard real changes in the sound of my guitars over time. I would have once agreed with the ideas about guitars "waking up" or "going to sleep" But I am now convinced that it is a phenomenon of our "perception" and not the actual guitar itself, because I cannot hear a guitar that I know nothing about and judge whether it is "awake" or "asleep." we hear what we expect to hear. When a guitar hasn't been played in ages and we know it, we think we hear so clearly that it has "fallen asleep." I think if there were much to the idea of a guitar sounding "asleep" or "awake" based on whether its been played recently then we should be able to judge that by sound even when we don't know any other way. So I think the answer to your question, "is that me or the guitar" is probably "its you." in my case I believe its me. I fluctuate daily both in my ability to play the thing and my ability to perceive the thing, and I'm pretty sure every guitarist in the world does too. Thats just part of being human.
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Michael.N.
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Dec 17, 2016 11:27 am

Mine was more of a rhetorical question. I'm not going to name the person but we once had someone on here who claimed that their luthier made guitar was 'temperamental'. One day it sounded very good, the next day dreadful. Now I've been around guitars for the best part of 40 years. I recognised the problem instantly. I've suffered from it virtually all of my playing life. After ensuring that it wasn't down to humidity I stated that it could only be himself, having good and bad days (just like myself). Guitars don't get out of bed in the morning and decide that they are going to sound either good or bad. He seemed to be rather offended by my comment but it was the obvious and most logical explanation. He continued to blame the guitar. He sold it and bought another expensive luthier made guitar. Later on I came across one of his posts where he stated that he was taking Alexander lessons. Presumably the new guitar was temperamental too. He never did thank me or apologise.
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Bill B
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 11:40 am

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:

Umm, a guitar isn't a machine?
Certainly it is.
Machine

noun
1.
an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task.

But I only used the word to respond to Mr. Carruth. He asked the very reasonable question " why would the guitar be the only machine ever made that doesn't wear out?" and its clearly meant to suggest that guitars will change over time as all machines do. Certainly machines wear out over time, but that doesnt necessarily translate into a guitar sounding differently as it ages. Think about other simple machines. A lever does not gradually change its mechanical properties as it ages. Its mechanical function is related to its dimensions and proportions, and the age is not a factor. Unless it you change its dimensions, mechanically it stays the same. I think that a guitar will similarly only really change its potential sound if you change its physical properties. If you don't change its properties significantly, I don't think its tone will change significantly either. I don't think 10 minutes of playing is likely to have a significant impact on the physical properties of the instrument. but even if it did, I think its a whole new level of ludicrous to assume that the guitar that has been "played in" will then loose the benefits of this playing in by not being played for a time such as when people say a guitar "goes to sleep"
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Bill B
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 11:44 am

Michael.N. wrote:Mine was more of a rhetorical question. I'm not going to name the person but we once had someone on here who claimed that their luthier made guitar was 'temperamental'. One day it sounded very good, the next day dreadful. Now I've been around guitars for the best part of 40 years. I recognised the problem instantly. I've suffered from it virtually all of my playing life. After ensuring that it wasn't down to humidity I stated that it could only be himself, having good and bad days (just like myself). Guitars don't get out of bed in the morning and decide that they are going to sound either good or bad. He seemed to be rather offended by my comment but it was the obvious and most logical explanation. He continued to blame the guitar. He sold it and bought another expensive luthier made guitar. Later on I came across one of his posts where he stated that he was taking Alexander lessons. Presumably the new guitar was temperamental too. He never did thank me or apologise.
Yes, I follow you. Quite right.
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Michael.N.
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Dec 17, 2016 12:00 pm

Guitars certainly change over time, as do all musical instruments. There's no question about that, it's a matter of fact. I can think of a couple of changes. One is the hemicellulose degradation that Al refers to. Another is the change in structure brought about by string tension and humidity changes. The neck angle changes, it becomes lower but we seek to correct that. The question then becomes: do these changes result in an improvement in tone and can people actually hear these improvements?
Difficult or next to impossible to prove either way. You do come across players who think older instruments are better but you also come across players who think guitars are 'past it' after 30 years or so i.e. the tone degrades.
I'm in the 'guitars should sound good from the off' and they do not improve. Neither do I feel as though they degrade, unless they have been through a very hard life and the structure has been compromised.
Last edited by Michael.N. on Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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hanredman
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by hanredman » Sat Dec 17, 2016 12:35 pm

For me, the surest way of understanding that we as humans are diffent every day, is that I can tune the guitar by ear in 30 seconds today, and it sounds wonderful. I can tune that same guitar tomorrow, it will take me 10 minutes, even with a good tuner, and it will still not sound quite right and in tune, no matter what I do. Surely the guitar cannot "change its tune" from day to day? It has to be me.
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robert e
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by robert e » Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:05 pm

Please don't shoot the messenger, but even assuming one can reduce this to an equation with two elements A (player) and B (guitar), the fact that one changes is not proof that the other doesn't.

Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:20 pm

Bill B wrote:
Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:

Umm, a guitar isn't a machine?
Certainly it is, writes Bill.

well yes, you can fit a guitar into the dictionary definition of a machine. That's not how language operates, however. common usage determines correctness. I'm trying to remember if I've ever heard anyone refer to their guitar as a machine on this forum or anywhere else, and I'm coming up with a blank. Maybe some dadaist somewhere, or Marinetti back in the day of the Futurists. Maybe an electric guitar/amp combination. Anyway, I'm sure your machine plays just fine!
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Michael.N.
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Michael.N. » Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:30 pm

double post
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Bill B
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 6:13 pm

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote: Anyway, I'm sure your machine plays just fine!
Thank you, yes they do. Should I assume yours do too, or should you check to see if they've fallen asleep first?
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Bill B
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 6:22 pm

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:
Bill B wrote:
Jeffrey Armbruster wrote:

Umm, a guitar isn't a machine?
Certainly it is, writes Bill.

well yes, you can fit a guitar into the dictionary definition of a machine. That's not how language operates, however. common usage determines correctness. I'm trying to remember if I've ever heard anyone refer to their guitar as a machine on this forum or anywhere else, and I'm coming up with a blank. Maybe some dadaist somewhere, or Marinetti back in the day of the Futurists. Maybe an electric guitar/amp combination. Anyway, I'm sure your machine plays just fine!
That is actually how language works, by the way. When people argue about the definition or application of a word, a dictionary would probably be the best, most neutral arbiter available, wouldn't you say?
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Bill B
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Bill B » Sat Dec 17, 2016 6:30 pm

Jeffrey Armbruster wrote: I'm trying to remember if I've ever heard anyone refer to their guitar as a machine on this forum or anywhere else, and I'm coming up with a blank.
https://goo.gl/images/fpBHCn
that link will bring you to a picture of Woody Guthrie's famous guitar, with the "this machine kills fascists" motto.
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Laudiesdad69
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Re: Cedar top break in period

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Sat Dec 17, 2016 7:03 pm

I haven't noticed that my classical guitars have gone to sleep. I have a Córdoba C9 that sounds just as bad whether it has been played (and it was a lot until I got a coupled better guitars) or whether it has sat in it's case (as it has since I got my Ramirez). It sounds very midrange and choked, regardless of different strings I have tried.
I sometimes go without playing for several days due to my health. And I have gone weeks before without playing due to surgery, and have noticed no difference, at least in my Ramirez GH.
If improvement in sound is based on hemicellulose degradation from vibration through the wood, I would think that the sound would stay at least the same as, once changes have occurred, the degraded substances in the wood will not repair themselves to its earlier state.
I am taking a trip to Colorado for a week over the holidays. I will be sure to check my guitars when I get back!

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