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I prefer the "tone" of smaller body guitars…...


onewilyfool

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I have both, small body and Jumbo or Dreadnaught sizes, and I think I've finally realized I like the "tone" of the smaller body guitars…..( I'm talking 00, L-00 and smaller sizes) It may be also the convenient size, the lighter body, but somehow I just find the tone or sound of the smaller body guitar to have a purer or sweeter sound to my ears. Of course, when playing in a cafe or at a jam, you need the volume of a larger body, but for most of my playing, I prefer the smaller body. I thing larger body guitars, 000, J's, Dreads, came into being before, because louder guitars were needed before amplification, just to be heard. With the quality of modern acoustic pickups, that is no longer a problem. If you need more volume, just plug in. So, originally, larger body guitars came into being because of the added volume, but with added volume and larger box, came boomy bass, and other sound quality problems, that were ignored, just because they were sacrificed for the extra volume. Any way, just musing, but I think inch for inch, the smaller body guitars have more kick, sound wise, than the larger body guitars. My smallest guitar is a SCGC PJ, (Like a Martin 1 size) and it just sounds fantastic, great tone, even across the strings……just a sweet guitar. Very vintage sounding like some older smaller Martin's I've played. But the point is, that it would get lost at a cafe gig, or a jam competing with the big boys, but by itself, better sounding to my ears, at least. Short scale (24") makes it easy to play, and bend, and enjoy too…..lol…..quality over quantity????

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Well, they really are different, and it depends in part on whether you are playing for yourself, with a couple of friends, or for an audience.

 

I've gotten to where I rarely play anything but a small-body like my L-OO, but it's as much about playing comfort as about tonal quality. Interestingly, I started on a string-changing binge yesterday to try to deal with this issue, as I am thinking of thinning the herd a bit, and trying to decide what I can live without. Too many guitars that never get played, and a lot of money tied up in them.

 

Unfortunately, my well-intentioned string-changing is slowing down, as I can't bring myself to change strings without cleaning the guitar at the same time. Then you have to play it a bit, re-tune, play a bit more........

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I dunno, I can see both sides. It's great to curl up on the porch or couch with My small bodies Martin. But then I get overtones with my dreads and jumbo I can't get with the smaller Martin. I did an acoustic gig with my martin OM as it's so comfortable to play, But it sounded comparably thin compared to my jumbo/dreads I gig with (it has a quality pickup).

 

I think the best of both worlds is to own one of each, so one has the option depending on need/circumstance/desire.

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I have been on a Concert size (15" lower bout) binge the last couple of years. I own 3 of them. All are ladder braced. The two with spruce tops are wide open, big banging guitars but still retain the immediate and raw sound you come to appreciate with a ladder braced guitar (I don't need no stinkin' overtones). The one birch top guitar has a very sweet voice but just does not pump out any kind of volume.

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I think a lot has to do with use.

 

Frankly I prefer a mid-size sort of flattop for fingerpicking - and letting the AE stuff handle the volume so I don't have to batter my innocent little 9-42 strings.

 

In cases where it's a batch of folks sitting and jamming and no amplification, the big flattop and its heavier strings will reign.

 

I may be wrong, but I think in ways we're still in the hangover of the 20s-40s battle of the dreadnaughts where "loud" was the name of the game, albeit with better instruments there also was good tone.

 

Then again, what's "good tone?" Much depends on style and individual preference.

 

So... yeah, I just gave away an Epi flattop cutaway. Figured I didn't need it and I gave it to a lady in her 40s .

 

m

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I am definitely with you on this one.

 

I remember the first time I "discovered" the 000 size, and wondered WHY I hadn't known about or cared about it before. Also, the first time playing a pre-war Martin 00 or -0, or that run of Larivee parlors, or the little Gibby deal (what WAS that one?).

 

I think as guitar players, or tone enthusiast, we all tend to gravitate toward what everyone else is thinking or saying is the "great tone". And it's valid to a point. But I think maybe for decades, smaller body accoustics were really ignored. I think the last 10 years or so has seen a revival, a discvovery, of what we mostly forgot about. Me included. I can't be the only one.

 

When I get rid of all considerations, like what to use it for, type of music, volume level, get rid of every criteria except the sound it makes. It's the smaller bodies that seem to most often have that certain thing...I guess I would say it's a sound so sweet you don't even have to play anything on it to love it. Like a sound you fall in love with that MAKES you want to play it, or makes you want to follow it.

 

Sinse we are musing, I think it is worth it to ask, how much is that due to the size? And, we all know that traditional flat-top types sound different from the players perspective than out front. Is that effect less? I think maybe it is. But I also think that when there isn't as much volume to have to deal with, less energy for the guitar to try and control, the desired tone is easier to get to. More PURE.

 

Case in point: consider a D-28. It's SUPPOSED to be what they often call a "cannon". And just my opinion, it usually is. But I could almost swear that the player doesn't get to hear it, but rather out front. The listener is the one who actually FEELS the punch. Some examples are amazing that they do it. Now, I find that this punch the listener gets to experience really serves to help the whole spectrum, even the often dead sounding treble.

 

Now, I might suggest another point: To me, I find that in most cases, a 000 size is just as loud as a dread. I find that while the dread might be deeper and have more bass to it, the 000 still has as much volume in the bass strings, just not as deep. Why? I am guessing that it is because it doesn't really need the extra space or lower frequencies to end up with the same amount of sound.

 

When I put these things together, I'm guessing that with lees things that have to come together to make a good sound, the MORE possibility of ending up with a good sound. But I STILL think that there is plenty of things coming together in a smaller box that create a mind boggling amount of possible overtones and harmonics and whatever.

 

Now if a truly beautiful sounding small body amplified sounds as good as an unamplified larger one, that's a whole different story.

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Right there with you OWF, and have gotten rid of my Martin dreads, mostly because I now prefer the smaller size and shape of OM, 000, and F-body, as well as a more articulate tone that smaller body guitars produce. But then I ran into a great J-35 and had to have it. :) I love the differences in tone of my small body guitars and they all have excellent volume and projection. But overall for the type of music I play in acoustic settings, I prefer the J-35 with Martin Retro strings. I will say, however, that my OM-16 with K&K sounds LIGHT YEARS better with the band's sound system than the J-35 with the crappy Baggs Element and can't wait to get it switched out.

 

DC

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So, Rob, do you want to elaborate on these two little jewels?

 

Nice vinyl collection, too, by the way.

Well, this was my foray into small body Martins. The one on the right (in the above pic) is a 016NY and on the left an 028. I added a 0021NY and a 017 also. I actually have moved them all along and the the smallest I have now is a 00018 which I'm quite fond of. They were all great little guitars and I wish I still had the 028 but you know how it is.. you get a hankering for something else and something has to go. Here are the other 2 with the 016 NY again on the left. Also, I sold off 3K vinyl records a few years ago when the guitar bug bit. Kept all my old jazz and classical which you see some of in the photo. I was glad to have the space back.

 

DSC01141.jpg

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When I got my first guitar, I wasn't yet 18 and way staying a few weeks at my grandparents' before heading off to college. But... I managed to get my first guitar that really was a cruddy piece as a cheap import classical guitar, but I watched the salesman and he played it easily enough so I figured I could learn how with it. Some of the guitars in the price range he couldn't fret well, so I figured a beginner certainly couldn't.

 

Anyway, Grandma, who was born around 1890 or so, watched me play and listened to my complaint that I needed to develop callouses.

 

She said her mother - who would have been born around 1860 - played quite well on "a nice little guitar" that was smaller than the classical and had steel strings, "and her fingers were as soft as her face." Fingerpicked, she said.

 

That plus personal experience over the next 50+ years convinces me that we can be our own worst enemies in coaxing tone from our guitars. We think "sonic cannon." We think of increasing "volume" by beating harderon the poor innocent guitars and strings.

 

They we say, "It has wonderful volume and tone."

 

Really?

 

The smaller guitar is by definition a parlor or "chamber" instrument. It was designed to play with a nice sound at parlor volumes - figure a small home living room, perhaps 15 by 25 almost at max. If larger... figure a corner adding to the acoustics and the player making no attempt to play "harder," but simply to play nice sounds for a quiet audience.

 

I tend to believe that "we" bought into the dreadnaught thing because that's the era we were born into.

 

Currently my favorite "playing out" guitar is, get this, an Epi PR5e. It's shaped almost identical to the old Gibson CF100 of the 1950s. Some pro music vid guys from the U.K. listened to it playing through the board and asked what had been done to it that gave it the great tone. I did nothing at all to the instrument but put on 9-42 DR Zebra strings and play it with a gentle fingerstyle to let the AE stuff do its thing instead of beating it up.

 

Would a Gib/Martin small AE do as well? I'm certain it would do at least as well or better. But when it comes to hauling a guitar in a Jeep in all weather, this all-plywood little guitar does as well, and in ways better, than a friend's two CF100 instruments. It's played everything from Misty to Last Steam Engine Train to cowboy vocal backup. It's resistant to damage and some pretty violent temperature extremes.

 

I'm not saying one should buy that Epi, although compared to comparable prices back in the '60s, it's an incredible value, but rather that "we" sometimes are playing by "common wisdom" rather than what is best for how we play what music.

 

Beating on a big flattop - or acoustic archtop like Mother Maybelle's old Gibson - has what's needed for certain types of music played in certain sorts of styles with certain kinds of strings and/or picks.

 

Oddly we ignore that these big instruments were designed first for volume played hard, and secondly to best suit the sorts of recording technology and later radio mikes and transmission electronics.

 

The small guitar lost its "professional" credentials found even on a vaudeville stage to technology, recordings, radio and later on "talking" pictures.

 

It didn't "lose" because it was no longer capable of having a marvelous sound if played to best coax it from the wood and strings, but rather because it wasn't loud.

 

Nowadays we have AE stuff. I know a lotta guys here hate the very idea. But I can tell you that playing in saloons or concert halls solo, an decent AE that's nicely playable will 95 percent of the time beat the socks off a high-end acoustic-only for getting across to an audience.

 

And it's far easier to continue to get good technique and tone along with the degree of dynamic "we" want in a dance situation where "we" have to up the volume. That lets us work the guitar as we would the mike.

 

Yeah, I sound "dumb" to folks who have a half dozen J45s and a cupla high-end Martins and maybe a Gallagher or equivalent and who love the tone and the cachet of a fine instrument. But in practical terms without a reeeally good sound system, a solo act IMHO is better served by a decent quality and highly playable AE. If the AE happens to be a J45 or a Gallagher, so much the better...

 

But it's a different mind set, as is playing the smaller instrument in general.

 

Oh, well... I've another couple of hours work to finish before home to beddie bye.

 

m

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Silly as this sounds...

 

I don't know if "one acoustic" would be at all a simple choice because each has its own voice - and history for me.

 

A 12, for example... or two, one with mag pup and one with undersaddle.

 

Ah, well...

 

I keep telling my wife to use the guitars as a big bonfire when I croak given where the world is going; she sez they go to the school to teach something or another.

 

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain

Could not bring his proud soul under;

The harp he loved ne'er spoke again,

For he tore its chords asunder;

And said "No chains shall sully thee,

Thou soul of love and bravery!

Thy songs were made for the pure and free

They shall never sound in slavery!"

 

m

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I recently bought a 2009 D18 which I returned because it didn't speak to me but it reminded just how big a traditional dread is and how comfortable the J45 is with it's slope shoulders and short scale

 

I've always been a dread guy but I recently bought a Recording King OOO for a knock around guitar. I really like the size and it's got me thinking my full size dread days may be coming to an end.

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I have both, small body and Jumbo or Dreadnaught sizes, and I think I've finally realized I like the "tone" of the smaller body guitars…..( I'm talking 00, L-00 and smaller sizes) It may be also the convenient size, the lighter body, but somehow I just find the tone or sound of the smaller body guitar to have a purer or sweeter sound to my ears. Of course, when playing in a cafe or at a jam, you need the volume of a larger body, but for most of my playing, I prefer the smaller body. I thing larger body guitars, 000, J's, Dreads, came into being before, because louder guitars were needed before amplification, just to be heard. With the quality of modern acoustic pickups, that is no longer a problem. If you need more volume, just plug in. So, originally, larger body guitars came into being because of the added volume, but with added volume and larger box, came boomy bass, and other sound quality problems, that were ignored, just because they were sacrificed for the extra volume. Any way, just musing, but I think inch for inch, the smaller body guitars have more kick, sound wise, than the larger body guitars. My smallest guitar is a SCGC PJ, (Like a Martin 1 size) and it just sounds fantastic, great tone, even across the strings……just a sweet guitar. Very vintage sounding like some older smaller Martin's I've played. But the point is, that it would get lost at a cafe gig, or a jam competing with the big boys, but by itself, better sounding to my ears, at least. Short scale (24") makes it easy to play, and bend, and enjoy too…..lol…..quality over quantity????

 

 

 

A good side to you liking the smaller guitars, OWF, is that the vintage ones are reasonably priced compared to jumbo/dreads....

 

I was looking at, for example, a 00-17 or 00-18 from the late 30s and the prices are fair, compared to 000s and ..youch...dreads

 

 

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

 

Edit: I forgot the various L's - also quite reasonably priced compared to Js.....L-00 up to LGs....

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I recently bought an LC that I'm enjoying but I do force myself to play all the sizes so I can feel comfortable with about anything. A few years ago I noticed I was putting myself in a box preferring one size and missing out on the variety. It also seems to help the arthritis in my hands mixing up the neck sizes The LC I just got has a sharper vee shape and I find it very comfortable.

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I just like the change of pace between my larger guitars and my smaller ones. As I spend more time with my lineup I more quickly adapt to the individual idiosyncrasy of each guitar as its time comes around in the rotation. I'm also fascinated with the differences in tone woods and what each guitar responds to best. I find the tone of the smaller ones to be sweeter per the OP and they do respond better to a lighter hand but there comes a time when a larger guitar is the weapon of choice. I can see why Jackson Browne has the arsenal he does when it comes to what he wants for each of his (very famous) songs. I find that different songs sound better with different guitars too but I'm too lazy to switch guitars for each song when just sitting around playing for myself or with my mates; except for Carmelita by Warren Zevon, which has to have a nylon string to capture that Latin sound IMO!

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I'll give a hearty agreement to having several guitars in one's arsenal.

 

Back around '73 when I got my first to "real" AE flattop instruments (among the first ever period), a steel string Ovation Electric Legend and a nylon Ovation Country Artist, I figured that'd cover most of what I'd want to do. The nylon did classical finger-style and "jazz arrangements" of standards, and the steel wore 11s and was used for flatpick acoustic backup of old-time fiddlers and flatpick saloon band country material.

 

Now? I still have those old Ovations, but now add a cupla 12-strings, a new all-wood 14-fret nylon AE, a couple small box AEs and two big box AEs. I just gave away one big box AE cutaway to a lady young enough to be my daughter (she has a guitar-picker daughter in college, pickers son and daughter still in middle and high school), and I plan to give another to a rodeo kid who lost his when his family's home burned.

 

If I get another flattop it'll likely be a mid-size steel string. Gotta admit I may be old, but GAS is a powerful psychological force if you love pickin'. Yes, I still have my archtops and semis and my early '70s "board" electric. A couple of mandolins, a 5-string banjo and... <grin> GAS is awfully powerful.

 

m

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The way I figure it is this: If what I play is best presented by six or eight different "types," plus backups, and each is of of reliable quality and well set up for what I do, that's the criterion. Not price tags.

 

Figure: Boomer flattop AE, nylon AE, a 12 AE, small body steel AE, archtop electric jazzer, full "classical," a board and a semi electric...

 

I think if all you do is one kind of music, yeah, a main and a backup may be fine. I'm not that person.

 

Also, what's "quality?" The bling? The playability? A sound that an audience can and does appreciate? None of that is dependent on high price tags.

 

A mid-high range Epiphone, as an example, runs about the same price tag as run-of-the-mill Fenders that some folks are in love with; ditto some Gibbie solidbodies. So which is the quality instrument?

 

I'm utterly convinced that I'll sound better with a well set up Epi with appropriate strings for the type of gig, than with a Gibson of any price tag that's poorly set up and strung for the kind of picking I do. Now, can I change the Gibson to reflect how and what I'd plan to play with it? Sure. But I'm also convinced that a "good" quality AE through appropriate sound equipment can sound better than a $6,000 acoustic unless you have also on hand a far more expensive sound setup for a given gig.

 

Quality to me means solid reliability, playability, appropriate AE ability for the kind of gigs I'm likely to do. That's not necessarily a big pricetag issue.

 

Let's look at it another way: I play some classical guitar for some stuff I do. I have two AE nylon strung guitars with 14-fret-to-neck design. Both are utterly reliable. One in adjusted money probably is in the couple of grand price range but probably wouldn't get me $500 today, the other around $500 and is recent.

 

Should I dump them for an all-acoustic $50,000 Hauser? Even a $5,000-level classical? I had a classical that today likely would be in the $4,000-$5,000 range. It fit what I was doing for about two years, then stuff happened and I was playing other music in a band and needed an electric, lahda lahda etc.

 

Quality? A $500 Gibson SG or a $3,500 Gibson SG for playing weekends in a saloon?

 

Also, let's take a $4,000 flattop and take it to a bluegrass gig. Sit 30 seats back in the auditorium. Walk in blind. Listen blind. Can you tell what type design is being played? Perhaps. Can you tell, for certain, what brand? I doubt it.

 

Now in the subjective instead of objective realm, will there be "something" that affects the player with a certain almost magical sort of connection to a given guitar? Yup. Is the price tag the determining factor? Nope.

 

m

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"If I get another flattop it'll likely be a mid-size steel string. Gotta admit I may be old, but GAS is a powerful psychological force if you love pickin'. Yes, I still have my archtops and semis and my early '70s "board" electric. A couple of mandolins, a 5-string banjo and... <grin> GAS is awfully powerful."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup...........If you're going to be afflicted with a syndrome, G.A.S. is a great one to "suffer" with...especially us old pickers![biggrin]

 

 

 

 

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I am a big fan of the LG-2 and for a good year or so, my LG-2 reissue was my favorite to the point that I questioned the need for my J45TV. After some time I picked up the J45 again and realized my love of the LG-2 was in part comfort, not tone. I also have the LG-2 Mahogany Banner which has now opened up into a beautiful sounding finger style wonder. Both these small bodies guitars are incredible and my son already has his sights set on the LG-2 reissue. But...I recently picked up the 42 Banner J-45 and think it covers all the ground of the other three guitars, with the exception of the low end of my J45TV. It is very clear and articulate on single note finger picking and you can get that boxy sound out of it when played closer to the bridge. It will be interesting to see what the years will do to my mahogany banner LG-2 , but right now if I was stranded on a desert island, I would want the 42banner J-45 hands down.

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