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Going Back To Vintage Specs


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"No one I know is interested in recording with vintage guitars. They are nearly impossible to record well anyway -- if a popular sounding recording is what you want, or even an old sounding recording, lesser guitars are generally better. After that, it is all DSP."

 

ryan adams latest record recorded by glynn johns was recorded completely in the analog medium using vintage acoustics...in fact, I don'r think ryan even has any "new" guitars

 

both neal casal (ryan adams and the cardinals, chris robinson brotherhood) and jon graboff (ryan adams and the cardinals) own and record with some excellent sounding vintage gibsons and martins

 

david rawlings and gillian welch record with vintage instruments, including rawling's epiphone archtop

 

I am fairly certain jeff tweedy and nels cline of wilco record with vintage acoustics, as do johnny marr, neil young, and many others

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Hi BluesKing7777

 

It is a 1934 00-40H conversion. John Arnold did the conversion for Norman.

 

Best,

 

-Tom

 

It's a beautiful guitar Tpbii, very very nice indeed.

 

In my post above I mentioned some years, it was just random years I pulled out of that back of my mind, I took no heed of spec changes but I still think that those would be lost on most. For example, I have a Recording King which is a clone of the Martin 000-28VS, you can aslo see in the sig I do have a MArtin 0-28Vs, a mate, who is a little bit of a cork sniffer mistook the RK for my Martin, enthused to the point of gushing, when I corrected him and told him it was a Chinese clone, suddenly there were loads of 'faults' in the sound... The reality was he couldn't tell the difference. For most part the audience can't tell the difference, only guitarists and enthusiasts, even for those it rarely stretches further than the headstock and a guess based on a few features as to the era of the guitar.

 

There's no doubts it's beautiful, but I'm sure if you could be bothered to make a sound-test for all to try even those with the 'special' ears would likely get them wrong, I think there's a far greater case for "It's nice to have nice things" than any significant difference being identified by most. Even for your own guitar, the fact that it belonged to Norman Blake will always outstrip any sonic value the guitar has.

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Thankyou kindly Mr tdbiii for sharing your knowledge in the vintage field of acoustic dynamics,...oh and the 00-40 is not bad at all[love] !!!

Love to hear 'Church Sreet Blues' on it.

 

It just confirms my belief furthermore, against the majority grain, that smaller bodies can be wonderful flatpickers. Saw a clip of Mr Blake with his L-00 saying it was his D-18 stage version. I recall a Larivee 12 fret slothead about a few years ago being for sale in the UK that was formerly his and going to what seemed a reasonable price at the time - but yeah, that set up (60 low E guage and other what nots?!) would've added more to the fold.

 

Look forward to the next one!

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There's no doubts it's beautiful, but I'm sure if you could be bothered to make a sound-test for all to try even those with the 'special' ears would likely get them wrong, I think there's a far greater case for "It's nice to have nice things" than any significant difference being identified by most. Even for your own guitar, the fact that it belonged to Norman Blake will always outstrip any sonic value the guitar has.

 

I'm not trying to say the points you are making have no validity. I guess what I am saying is that by perhaps oversimplifying the whole context, however, I think that you are missing some of the more obscure but really important aspects of the subject.

 

First I actually have run guitar identification tests on the UMGF. The tests used forum members and the task was to differentiate between guitar features based on recordings on vimeo. The issues were not only the guitar, but also the recording system -- and the listening environments were uncontrolled. The results were that the group results were able to distinguish between the guitars at the .99 level. If you want to slough through it, you can find it all here.

 

But remember I am a geek who is (was before retired) a profession sound scientist who has been collecting and studying instruments for 40 years and (trying to) play music for almost 60 years. My goal is not to simply refute all of your points. There is indeed a lot in what you say -- but from my perspective, you are implicitly diminishing many of the most important (even if a bit obscure) points.

 

The basic reason we got into old instruments is because of their sounds -- we don't so much collect instruments as we collect sounds. Obviously, that combined our interest in traditional music with my actual vocation -- which was a unique appeal. However, this brings with it a whole lifestyle which is now (I am now retired)pretty much our whole social life. Some of the non functional aspects of old instruments are:

 

1. Because of the interest in these instruments by many accomplished musicians, we now have access to (and call friends) a lot well known and not so well known musicians which would be otherwise be "above our pay grade" musically -- and, wonder of wonder, we often get to play with them.

 

2. Because of the "hearing with their eyes" effect you discuss above, these instruments often give us status in and of themselves -- often with people like ourselves musically. Sad but true! But these are exactly the people we want to meet and make music with. We know doctors, lawyers, cowboys, Cape Island fishermen, mountain guides, farmers, mechanics, a guy who lives in a station wagon, .... We have very little in common with some of these people except the music, but what a marvelous set of friends.

 

3. Real collectors -- who collect guitars and not sounds -- also often come to visit. These people are usually accomplished in other ways -- I won't name names, but some are quite recognizable -- another set of fascinating people, often who play genres far different from ours. It is lovely to hear our instruments played in some of these extraordinary ways.

 

4. We can buy instruments and hold them because they have also been great investments -- so we not only have them to play, our net worth is always rising too. We not only don't lose money -- we make money, often in quite large quantities.

 

5. These guitars are indeed icons of American music, which had in the 20th century a huge international impact. So they are historical artifacts.

 

6. They are also often almost "objects of art" in their craftsmanship, which is a major attraction for some people.

 

All of the points are valid, but they are basically cosmetic points which only have a secondary relationship to the sound of the instruments. The Norman Blake guitar is the only pearl prewar celebrity guitar we own, and if it were not for the sound, we would not own it either. If you don't pay premiums for fluff, then you can own more sounds. So 1-6 above are indeed secondary, and they represent the branches and leaves on the tree. But they are not the root.

 

The root -- the reason this all got started and grew into the mess above -- is functional. These guitars can do things other guitars cannot. Because of their age-imparted clarity and head-room, they provide audibility in complex acoustic sound fields that you cannot duplicated by modern guitars. Everything else can be duplicated -- tonality, balance, power, sustain, features, construction quality, materials, etc. etc. -- but not clarity and head-room. People keep trying, and we keep testing, but so far we have always been disappointed.

 

So what if you don't need the function features of a vintage guitar. Well, sound features that are not function are subjective, and you can learn to "like" all kinds of sound -- old and new. Playing a guitar alone in a room has only a subjective dimension -- you don't "need' clarity and head-room unless you just "like" the way they sound. There is no reason to believe that all people, or even most people, will always "like" a vintage sound best. For us, to fully evaluate the sound a guitar, we have to take it out and play it in a group.

 

So people who play vintage guitars are not shallow nuts -- there is really something to it. But people who don't have any interest in old guitars are not nuts either -- particularly when they don't need the functional properties of old guitars.

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

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No quibble with you post above, Tom. Only that I would say that the variables mentioned above indicate how small the difference are when these variables are taken into account, which they need to be to make music which lasts longer than the performance it was taken from.

 

Obviously, I do appreciate them, as musical artifacts and as objects d'art too. I have no qualms about people collecting, or enjoying them more than current or recent models. Mt only point is that the differences do not equate to better in any sense as what's perceived as 'better' about them is elusive to capture and nigh on impossible to identify in a blind-test. If the question was 'would I love to have a room full of beautiful vintage guitars?' the answer would be a resounding yes, with the money I've spent over the last few years I could have had a few nice vintage samples but have always gone modern because I'd rather have a fully-functional arsenal or replaceable guitars than a few irreplaceable pieces. Lower maintenance costs, lower insurance and an easier mind, I guess.

 

I think the overriding fact I have always put forward with vintage pieces is when people say you need to go vintage to get 'the tone', I always say but the tone the are associated with came from new guitars and very dubious recording equipment, time has washed them with a pleasant colouration that we all enjoy but those 'tones' were recorded on new guitars it's an inescapable fact, largely non-standardised guitars too. Like any modern range of Gibsons there is always the one that justifies the glory and many that enjoy a similar value even though they're less stunning. Buying vintage guarantees nothing. Many people will do it to belong to a certain status of ownership that the guitar in question really doesn't merit.

 

It's been an interesting exchange, thanks for sharing your points, many are valid too.

 

Again, that's some beautiful pieces you have. I hope you enjoy them to the full for many years to come.

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I remember listening to Yesterday in the headphones at some point and thinking, that string quartet sounds fairly artificial. Pardon Mr. Martin, but an example of how the brain can play tricks on you if allowed to.

 

It wouldn't surprise me if a certain percentage of test-persons would make mistakes when deciding vintage or not. But these persons would have to be trained ears if the experiment should have any value. The vintage flavor, sonically speaking, is something quite indefinable, which is still absolutely there. A beginner or a willing profane wouldn't have a chance.

 

Of course the look and feel counts as well. If not too warn, the looks often goes in one direction – up towards something precious and refined. Not necessarily so with the feel or playability. The instrument can bend, sink and rise here and there as we know, and aficionados learn to compensate as a part of the charm. The sound/sounds not seldom develops in several directions too. The bass can grow into invaluable depths while f.x. the trebs get left behind or even betrayed by the aging process. Something is gained, something's lost and no finale recipe, road-map or scheme is available - which more or less explains itself. 30-40-50 years is a lot and don't forget how a mint guitar will have changed a fair deal over the first 12 months. Everything is in process and woods put together in order to vibrate and transmit tones have to be extra sensitive in that regard. (Btw. uplifting how you can play a sleeping vintage awake again).

 

No need to compare with old recordings – would be absurd like comparing TV bursts to their original ancestors when they first left the plant. But I wonder : Why on earth should vintage guitars be harder to record than new ones. tpbiii talks about this on a scientific level (which is beyond me), but for mindsets, ears and souls of common musicianship - performers as listeners - a good engineer will capture the sound of a givin' instrument by choosing the right microphone, EQ and so on. And here I talk about the naked instrument, not how to place it in a full ensemble mix – a whole other ball game.

 

Short – In my eyes/ears/hands, it would be a mistake to dismiss the vintage dimension as romantic hokus pokus (guess nobody does). There certainly is a lot to explore and enjoy. Sometimes it'll be hard to put a finger on it and explain. But it's like the scent from a rose or hints of jazz in a folk-tune.

It's there or it's not – you sense or you don't.

 

 

 

And full circle with McCartney.

I'm quite sure we don't get the full sonic advantage when he brings that 1964 Texan on stage for the big Y-song. But yes YES, do we like to party with it. . .

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- a good engineer will capture the sound of a givin' instrument by choosing the right microphone, EQ and so on.

 

 

+1

 

Though it seems members were talking about capturing that 'vintage sound on tape.... ?

Which from this whole thread seems all to elusive and open to personal interpretation .... even with the good old ears

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The problem with going back to vintage specs with Gibson is: which set of specs? They changed so often. I think it is natural that now that the "guitar generation" has grown up and has disposable income, players and collectors will be interested in special recreations of vintage examples. And many of these "reissues" of varying types (from true recreations to somewhat truthy re-combinations of vintage features) are pretty darned good, IMO. As for actual vintage guitars, some are pretty amazing and it's hard to make a newer guitar sound like that until the wood gets some age to it. I especially remember a 50's J-50 I played at Music Villa once. Should have snagged it. It looked like hell but had the most amazing, clarinet-like tone.

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No one I know is interested in recording with vintage guitars. They are nearly impossible to record well anyway -- if a popular sounding recording is what you want, or even an old sounding recording, lesser guitars are generally better. After that, it is all DSP.-Tom

 

 

I would strongly disagree with the above bold text. Lots of producer keep old guitars even if they do not play themselves as they produce seriously good recordings

 

If you are talking about recording at home, perhaps, but not with someone that understands mic placement and finding a good spot in the rooom to record as well. Your comment is wrong.

 

 

Madman Greg

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