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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 3:42 pm 
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Koa
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To you, as a luthier, what makes a very good guitar (struggled with the proper adjective).
When you pick up an instrument, yours or some else’s, what makes YOU think, “wow”?


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 4:15 pm 
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There was a similar question here a couple of years ago, but the question was more like "what do your customers consider most important in judging a custom guitar". I think the "winning" answer was "bling". Lagging behind were tone quality and ease of playing.


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 5:11 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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What makes me go "wow" is the sound and play-ability. There are a number of mid level instruments whose fit and finish are equal to what most custom builders offer. Instruments that are beautiful and unique and artistically built are nice to look at but if I can't hear them I don't know how they are as a guitar.
Most of the guitars that have impressed me were pretty Plain Jane and sometimes beat to crap. There was one new guitar that made me go "wow". It was a little unusual in having blue in the purflings and was made by a fellow named Randy Angella. He was a relatively new builder back then and I don't know if all his guitars sound that good, but that one made me go "wow".


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 5:32 pm 
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What makes a very good guitar to me is, first and foremost, how it sounds. I've owned quite a few guitars that were gorgeous to look at but ended up rehoming them because their sound just didn't do it for me. If it doesn't sound good to me, I can't bond with a guitar no matter how nice it looks.

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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 6:32 pm 
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I think I am like most players in that I interact with the guitar in this order:

1. I see it.
2. I feel it (hold it, sort of play it a bit, more to size it up than to hear it).
3. I listen to it while I play it for real.

Lots of guitars can look great and sound like crap; lots of guitars can look like crap and sound great. Visuals matter, but not as much as the other two considerations. But it is the first thing we experience about a guitar, no question.

Not all guitars that feel good (from a playability standpoint) sound good, but even if they sound good, guitars that don't feel good annoy me. A good setup is something that should be a given with a high end guitar, but it is not as much of a given as it should be. And I'm not saying it has to have super low action. I'm saying it should have moderately comfortable action, A good nut setup (a lot of nuts have the slots too high, especially on a new guitar, and I react badly to this), a straight neck except for purposeful relief, good intonation for the setup that it has, that sort of stuff. It needs to be good at being whatever it is, if that makes sense. I'm getting pickier as I get older. I want to see the effort to make it great, from the player's perspective.

Regarding sound: I can tolerate a guitar with a specific voice. Some guitars are meant to be midrange heavy. Some are meant to be bass heavy. I can be "big tent" about that. But I get very disappointed if the guitar needs me to hit it hard to get it to respond to me. And then I get super disappointed if the guitar craps out when I spank it very hard. In other words, if you are going to make a guitar such that it has to be played hard to do something interesting, then give it enough headroom that it can be played hard. These are the guitars that really disappoint me, regardless of looks and feel.

On the other end of the spectrum are guitars that, regardless of their specific voice, are nicely responsive. Then, among those, the better ones are the ones that do have some headroom, so that it is responsive to begin with, and then it still can be spanked a bit and not crap out. Then, among those, the best ones are the ones that don't have something "missing" on the tone spectrum. If bass notes sound and feel rich, and the trebles are not harsh, and the mids are interesting, with some overtones, then it is a really, really nice guitar, from my perspective.

Getting there as a builder, now that's the thing that takes time to learn.

I can say that, in general, my guitars so far have been responsive. I tend to be daring and thin the top and not overbrace, and then use a very thin finish. Those things together tend to produce a relatively responsive instrument. And I can do a passable setup (good enough for me as a player). I need to get better at making them look like they are worth a lot of money. And I am working on getting the body resonances to work together instead of being random.

Anyway, those are the things I think about when I am evaluating guitars, mine or somebody else's.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post (total 2): CraigSz (Mon May 18, 2020 6:12 pm) • Barry Daniels (Mon May 18, 2020 8:58 am)
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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 11:30 pm 
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For me it’s absolutely whether the tuners have ebonized buttons.


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These users thanked the author James Orr for the post: Pmaj7 (Sat May 23, 2020 1:55 am)
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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 11:45 pm 
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There are a number of things that can really impress me. The craftsmanship, originality, the aesthetic form of the guitar as a whole, a number of various tonal footprints do it for me... Etc. In that sense I think guitars are a bit like food and wine, in that they’re all so different yet almost always have something I really appreciate. Tyler White’s finish work for White Mandolins, for example, amazes me. It’s masterful. Ted Astrand’s sense of line...

For something specific, Jeff Traugott has a recording on his site that grabs me every time I hear it (I have the album on my iPhone) called, “An Daingean.” It’s an *incredible* performance, but tonally, I think it’s the best recording of an acoustic guitar I’ve ever heard.

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These users thanked the author James Orr for the post: Pmaj7 (Sat May 23, 2020 1:56 am)
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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 6:00 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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First off, Fit & Finish. Especially the small details. Things like fret ends, finish at inside corners etc... this includes neatness inside the box as far as glue up and part fitment. It must be perfection here to rate a "WOW"

Playability is the other key ingredient. It must play clean and easy.

Beyond that we enter the realm of the unquantifiable. Fell of the neck and/or body while playing is subjective and very individual. a guitar that feels great to me may not feel at all pleasant to you, Case in point would be some of my 20lb. electrics. And tone is even more subjective.... Literally like trying to define which flavor of ice cream is the absolute best. Design and aesthetics are also in this category as are wood choices and all that other stuff. It is all highly personal.

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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 6:42 am 
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Walnut
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As you encounter a guitar, first you see the guitar - so appearance matters. Fit and finish isn't a matter of taste, but of craftsmanship. Bling, wood / color choices, and overall style IS a matter of taste - mine's kinda conservative. Second, you pick it up - feel and playability, which again can be a matter of taste. Some folks like a chunky neck, some like a smaller one, etc. Third is the sound / tonal signature as you play it - which can also be somewhat a matter of taste. Responsiveness, sustain, clarity and volume (I like loud guitars) matter to me.

Those are in sequential order.
Playability and sound are the most important to me.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 9:04 am 
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Watching youtube videos of Waterloo guitars when they were introduced by Collings, I thought they sounded great and I was curious as to how they could offer them at that price point. When I saw some in a store I quickly realized that the price difference is in the finish. Tone and playability are obviously required for you to be interested in an instrument for more than five minutes. The wow factor comes in the form of fit, finish, feel, quality of materials and aesthetic design.

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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 10:22 am 
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You can tell more or less how a guitar sounds in about 2 seconds and that's what I pay attention to at first. But what might draw me to pick up a guitar is what it looks like. If it doesn't sound like what i consider good, I don't care what it looks like and in 3 seconds it's gone.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 12:04 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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The first thing I look at is the neck profile and the setup. If there are issues with the construction that make a good setup difficult or send red flags for future issues like a low saddle and marginal neck set then I am less interested no matter how good it sounds.

It has to have a neck I like and be capable of a great setup.

If all that is OK, tone, string balance, etc for sure. Cosmetics are way down the list for me but usually a guitar that sounds and plays great will also have acceptable fit and finish.

As far as sales, I think that setup and playability are much bigger deals than folks think.

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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 12:18 pm 
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Terence Kennedy wrote:
As far as sales, I think that setup and playability are much bigger deals than folks think.


Amen to that. Say what you want about how Taylors sound, but I can go into a music store, pick a random Taylor off the wall, and it will have a decent setup. You ought to be able to say the same about any high end guitar, but can you, really?


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 12:24 pm 
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Koa
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As far as presentation for sales, I really hate going into stores where they do not keep the instruments tuned.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 1:33 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I've played more then a few guitars that have looked fantastic but sounded dead. Tone is of the most importance to me. I like a guitar that has balance and a piano like tone to the lower notes.


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PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 2:25 pm 
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It's all about making music, if it looks good that's nice but it absolutely has to be setup right and have balanced tone up and down the fretboard.

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"Music is what feelings sound like"


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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2020 9:14 am 
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A maker that sticks on my head is Ivan Schmuckler from Brooklyn. Most of his guitars are very simple in the bling dept., and most are Martin copies, but they present so beautifully they make you want to pick them up. When you do they play so easily that you just fall into them. And they sound so crisp and clean.

http://leedsguitar.com/ivonschmuklerguitars/

So for me it is those 3 things in that order - looks, feel, sound.

I'm OK with a guitar that does not have the first two down perfectly, but on the other hand, there has to be a reason to pick one up in the first place to be able to hear it.

Ed


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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2020 1:08 am 
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Two things...
The feel of it in my hands and the sound.
Hard to qualify either of those.

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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2020 2:06 am 
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First is a good set-up, I feel like if it's not set up well I can't really experience the sound. The main thing for me has to be low volume dynamics. If those notes just start jumping out I get excited.

Pat

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