Jump to content
Gibson Brands Forums

Vintage v.s. new


Recommended Posts

I have to agree with Modac's observations. There is most definitely a difference. Whether or not you like that difference comes down to what you prefer to hear from your guitar.


Not that new instruments aren't wonderful with their own great sounds. ( I still lust for one of those new custom shop OJs!!.....) And my new(er) Custom shop L00 is a favorite of mine-- I prefer it over a vintage L00 that is exceptionally clear and loud.


You just don't hear the same degree of clarity - open, crackling sound- from a new guitar that comes from vintage.


Some of it might be lightness of structure. I know that John Greven for one, has reversed his earlier thinking and is making 'vintage' style guitars built very lightly.. and I know that I've been advised to not put anything heavier than light gauge strings on my vintage L00- whereas the new Custom shop can easily deal with mediums.


Some of it is definitely age. I bought a new Martin almost 10 years ago that is just over 10 years old-- and the change in it's sound has been dramatic. It has that 'open, woody' quality that I associate with vintage. So who knows? In 10 years or so, perhaps some of today's Gibsons from Montana will have 'it' as well.


But the real thing, to my thinking, is that many players like old guitars because they are old. The cracks, the faded and stressed tops, the sloppy repair jobs, give these old guitars character, or mojo. Whatever. It would be interesting to see what everyone would play if you had to keep your eyes shut while trying out guitars. I know that I get influenced by the name on the headstock or the appearances/finish.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My teacher has a 1943 J45, and I must say that yours sounds better. His has also been through many repairs, I'm wondering how much of the magic was lost with re-glued bracing, etc.


That is certainly one of my favorite working guitars -- it travels with us pretty much everywhere. I love those wartime J-45s and SJs for use with fingerpicks.


That AJ sounds tremendous; the Roy Smeck not as impressive.


The Smeck has a really big, raw sound -- not everyone's cup of tea. That was typical of the early (1936 and earlier) Jumbos and the early (36-37) J-35s as well. I've shown these videos to a lot of people, and those old Js do have their fans however.


Our goal is to collect "sounds" -- so we love having them all. Obviously, some work better for us in our own public musical life, but in private, we play and enjoy them all.


The prices have gone crazy on some of these old guitars, and even though that has made us a lot of $$ on paper, we still prefer the "good old days" when their properties were unrecognized and their prices affordable. We started over 25 years ago, so we (my wife and I do this together) could afford the progression.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well let's face it: Stradivarius violins are older than dirt ( and you know how old that is) and their value is beyond measure-- whatever you can get one for. And for a few violinists that violin makes a difference. For most of us, though, playing a Stradivarius would sound like you are molesting a cat because we do not know how to play ANY violin. And bear in mind that some Appalachian dude is not fiddling on a Stradivarius or anything close to being in its league. You will see some fiddler making tremendous music on a $150 HS band quality violin. So our purpose and our skill levels and our bank books have a lot to do with just how important this dichotomy may be. I always chuckle at the beater that Willie Nelson use to make a fortune and Tommy Emmanuel has beater too .. plays incredible boogie woogie.

.. there ARE big differences in guitars: wood, bracing, binding, finishing, fretboard, hardware (maybe 100 things) and AGE is one of them. I'd go so far as to say NO TWO are exactly alike -- especially in the pricier models. Then a few months after the original purchase the owner has changed out saddle, bridge pins, pick guard and had set ups and adjustments and had strings changed -- so now there really are NO TWO alike! Add NOW that no two buyers like the same thing in a guitar -- tone, feel, volume, low action, wide/narrow neck -- so no two buyers will ever agree on everything. (did you ever meet a woman who likes another woman's choice of colors?) No. So when you see a bumper sticker that says "I <heart> my dog" pray tell WHY would you have a dog you did not like? Why would you use colors you did not like? Why would you have a guitar you did not like? Which is better? -- the one you will buy -- and only you know what ONE that is.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've owned and played lots of vintage guitars through the years; I suspect I have lots of good guitar karma now because along the way I rescued a number of broken guitars and paid good money to have them repaired and made playable again. They were generally lovely instruments, and they taught me a lot.


I don't own any of them anymore.


I have a 2005 Heritage Collection J-45, complete with the box stock Fishman pickup. that I bought new. It's not Adirondack spruce. I don't think it has the AJ bracing, though it seems to me the X is pretty close to the soundhole. I wish it had a 19-fret fingerboard rather than the 20-fret version, and that Gibson could be bothered to properly align the pickguard, but these are minor quibbles.


It sounds a lot like my old J-45 from c.1950, or like the first cousin of my mentor's '62 J-50, or like any of the zillions of post-war, Sitka-topped round-shouldered Gibsons that I heard growing up that have shaped my feelings for what an acoustic flattop should sound like. Is it still a little green? Sure. It was almost 18 months old when I got it new, and still smelled of nitrocellulose lacquer. I think the sound will continue to ripen, although it's already an amazingly breathy, warm, vibrant sound. But again - it has the classic Gibson sound, and I remember how much the Norlin era guitars DIDN'T have that. Bozeman rocks.


Another point - mojo. Now we tend to use that phrase to describe patina, but it's deeper than that. I've felt pulled by various vintage guitars, as if they wanted to travel the same musical roads they did with their previous owners. It's nice to start over with a fresh, blank slate and not feel like there's anybody else's juju in your guitar.


I'll put it this way - I work full time and have a lovely wife and two kids under 2 years old. Very full days and all that - but this guitar kept me up until 1:00 a.m. this morning out in the sun room, even when my body wanted sleep, because I needed to play it even more.


If you can afford the vintage guitars and you prefer them, by all means buy them. They're a cultural treasure, and I think playing a bunch of vintage instruments will open your ears up to all sorts of sonic possibilities. They'll change the way you year. But I think the guitars coming out of Bozeman will be considered masterpieces in a couple of decades, fit to rival the best of the best out of Kalamazoo all those years ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is a fact that the 70's had a lot of "slippage" in the area of quality -- not just guitars -- cars, appliances, firearms. I had a Plymouth with a plastic carburetor (Carter) that could not be made to run. The dealer's mechanic said "do yourself a favor -- dump this car." At then end of the 70's interest rates were 19% and inflation was rampant. It was not all roses in the Reagan years either ("outsourcing" and "downsizing" and imported expertise - space shuttle disaster). I say this because (a) quality seems better today (cars too), and (:^o the "trouble" we are experiencing in the economy is a consequence of what happened then. (It didn't "just happen"). But as in the past Americans deal with it and move on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FWIW I have no bias one way or the other. My main considerations when buying an instrument are: sound, playability, condition, and price; everything else is secondary. If it feels, plays, and sounds good, is solid and I can afford it, I'm not concerned with when it was made.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...