Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

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deeaa
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Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » February 24th, 2012, 6:10 am

I had some time to kill so I went ahead and did my own 'mythbusting' thingy...I recorded a bunch of guitars, all more or less totally different, first unamplified with stereo condensers, 24bit WAV, and then amplified with a straight cable to amp, low gain, to see if there are differences, which I expected there to be not much...

The truth is...there are differences but they leave me completely perplexed. Everything went totally the other way I would have expected. There were a couple of clear differences, but they were pretty much exactly the opposite what I had expected. The 'dark' guitar I had was pretty much the brightest on recording, etc. And I can't for the life of me detect the pickup type, even whether it is active or passive...but then there were some surprising differences that I had not expected too.

This whole thing really is a quagmire...and it just further reinforces my beliefs, and the most this: easily the greatest differences in the sound are achieved not by changing the guitar type even drastically (and I do mean drastically like from a passive Telecaster to an active SG) but simply moving your picking position 1,5" in either direction. THAT gave wayyyy more difference in how the sound recorded, than the change in guitars. Not even starting on how easy it'd be to change the sound with amp controls.

http://youtu.be/Z8jmJmlnWkc
I regret I can't do a very scientific approach where each guitar would be perfectly portrayed and the changes in picking position effect demonstrated, so this is just a peek to what I myself gained from the experiment...all I can say is whoa. I always did claim the body woods etc. make little differences, but now I'm still left awestruck simply about the fact that also what little differences there are, are very much the opposite of what I expected! I need to think about this long and hard.

Here is my video on the tests...15 minutes or so...go ahead and try to make sense of it. The guitars used are a strat, a tele, an sg, and two are my own 'builds' including the recent aluminum-top guitar. I won't even ask anyone to guess which is which because it is indeed quite impossible...but any guesses welcome. Unamplified ones are in same order always from 1 to 7 and then A to G for amplified sounds, but A is not (necessarily) 1 etc.but the order is different for those two and totally random.
--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

deeaa
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » February 25th, 2012, 12:52 pm

Not a lot of comments?

I think I've come to some ideas about all this now.

It seems to me a great conflict that while I can detect and feel great differences between guitars when I play them, it seems pretty much that they can sound very very similar when recorded *with a set playing position* and also when playing pretty basic notes and chords.

Now, playing style etc. obviously makes a huge difference...but the playing style *is* greatly influenced by how the guitar sounds and feels, and how it's positioned when you play it, lots of things.

In 'real life', whereas a Gibson and a Strat may sound very similar if both are played strictly with same style...every player knows you can't get the strat sound with a gibson.
You would use neck or several pickups with a strat, and you'd reinforce its innate sound with your playing style, so to say, coax out the properties it lends to well, and it'll sound like only a strat can. A positive cycle that leads to it sounding entirely different.

So it could be deducted that if you took a Gibson and made it sit the same in playing position and gave it strat pickups...you'd play it like a strat and it would largely sound like one too. The differences in structures are so small that if you don't adjust the playing style and *what* you play according to it, they are pretty much lost in the wash. That would also explain why a beginner can sound equally bad with any guitar - he or she has no idea yet how to get the instrument's true sound out.

It's like...you can drive at 90mph just as well in a Toyota or a Ferrari, no problem. It's only when you take the instrument to the zone it works best in that the small details come to play.

Same with all sub-differences, so to speak. I can't tell by these which ones are done with passive, which active pups, but in real life there is a big difference in their performance.
It tells me the sonic differences between pickups can indeed be very small if taken strictly but same applies as above - it's only when taking it to the right zone that those differences become important.

I think that's a good thing to know for sure. It means, you need not worry so much about exactly which is better, a DiMarzio or a Seymour or ash or alder etc...you can concentrate on what is it that makes the thing you want to happen, happen. If you want it to sound more like a Tele, get a tele! If you want Gibson sound, get an LP! It makes no sense trying to make just any guitar sound like something else than it is, because the sound doesn't simply come from woods or pickups, it's the entire experience and combination of the *player* the *amp* and lastly the guitar that makes it all sound like it does.

For me it's kinda...well I never wanted my guitars to sound like a Gibson or Fender - I always immediately modded mine to sound like I wanted them to sound, rather than go for the route of trying to sound like a favorite artist. I have a clear image of what I want, and it's neither gibbo or fender. I just want a sound that rings well i.e. is not dead, has good clarity but not too much brightness, doesn't have excess top or low end, keeps it tight and nice at all times. I always felt a Strat is way too jangly and bright, and standard Les Paul is way too dark and thick, and tele too spanky, and 'metal' axes lacked any real timbre to the sound with them Floyds and thin necks. I wanted more...universally, evenly, good sounding guitars. That's why all my builds mix and match properties from each sides of the fence and don't sound like either.

But that's just what I like.
--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

Cat
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by Cat » February 25th, 2012, 8:49 pm

Wow...you've been the busy little bee!

From what I think I read...you did all this to figure out that if you pick in different places, axes sounds different???

I was born confused...and have been perfecting my confusion ever since...but, yeah, wiping the strings in different places makes different tones. Some of the stuff I do...I'll wipe over the 14th-ish fret and get a more of a square wave...but I'll only do this sporadically, usually at progression endings where I let it ring out a bit, chimed out under the meat of my long thumb line. It's a great effect if you can do it right...

Still...I'm not sure what you are after! :?

Another mad scientist in the making...

Cat
"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"

deeaa
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » February 25th, 2012, 8:58 pm

Basically, yeah, the final finding was that playing in a different style and place seems to make more difference to to guitar's recorded tone than its woods or construction or even pickups yield.
--
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A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by Nick » February 26th, 2012, 4:57 am

As I always say, the magic is in your fingers...and I guess picking position

I never tested it, but I've always thought that once you put any effect on a chain the ability to discern anything as subtle as the tone wood disappears.
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by dogbite » February 26th, 2012, 8:45 am

I am a believer.
the tone is in the hand for sure. the point of a pick sounds different than the side or rounded corner when playing. guitars have sweet spots. my strat has one where the 28th fret would be located. picking there sounds very different than anywhere else.
my 22.5 inch lap steels act similarly. when I pick over the frets (neck and body joint area) my tones are rounder; woodier. when picking near the bridge, the tone is brighter; metallic.
Tone knobs matter. backing off my treble a bit my strat sounds completely different. add in finger pressure, pick attack. how I hold a pick and where all matter a great deal. it has taken me years to be able to hear those subtle things.
recording changes much. microphone placement is critical. overdriving a tiny amp can sound huge on a recording.
finally. pickups matter. knowing how to play them matter even more.
I am a die hard single coil tube amp guy.

I read a story a long time ago in a guitar magazine. the author was a stage tech. at one big show he learned that Clapton was going to be backstage. as typical he probably would come out and join in. the tech wrote that all the amps were being used, but one smaller not too good of an amp. sure enough, Clapton joined the stage, grabbed a guitar and plugged into the crappy amp.
the tech was worried. Clapton played and sounded just like Clapton. the tech couldn't believe that the small crappy amp could sound so good.

deeaa
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » February 26th, 2012, 8:51 am

I agree completely with that...except I'm a die hard bucker and tube amp guy.

Except in that too...I can't believe what an awesome tone I get out of this small Behringer 40W combo I paid 40 bucks for...the thing gives nigh the best driven lead tone out there at bedroom volumes or near there! It's pure crap when it comes to channel switching and many small things, but man that amp has incredible driven tones.
--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by Cat » February 26th, 2012, 12:10 pm

dogbite wrote:I am a believer. the tone is in the hand for sure. the point of a pick sounds different than the side or rounded corner when playing. guitars have sweet spots. my strat has one where the 28th fret would be located. picking there sounds very different than anywhere else.
my 22.5 inch lap steels act similar it has taken me years to be able to hear those subtle things.
(Paraphrasing)

Dogbite's spot on with that....

Hey...Hendrix used a Strat anyone could buy...but could anyone get the SAME out of it????

Randy's right: YEARS!

Cat
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by Chris C » February 27th, 2012, 4:10 pm

Interesting experiment Deeaa.


This seems to be a good point
deeaa wrote: You would use neck or several pickups with a strat, and you'd reinforce its innate sound with your playing style, so to say, coax out the properties it lends to well, and it'll sound like only a strat can. A positive cycle that leads to it sounding entirely different.
There does seem to be a cycle of reinforcement that goes on. You hear a particular sound that 'catches your ear' and so you build on it by finding it again, working out what else works with it and so on.

This seems to happen not just with particular instrument sounds but with personal styles too. I seem to recall reading BB KIng saying that he could make any guitar sound like BB KIng, so the reinforcement thing could go in more than one direction. You could shape your own sound to whatever the guitar seemed to do best, or you could go in the other direction and make the guitar do a version of your own style.

All I know is that the things seem to have minds of their own. One day they'll do what you ask and another day they just seem to want to be mischievous and play hard to get.... :?

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by Moonrider » February 29th, 2012, 8:42 am

There's another thing to consider when close-miking an amp. if you ask any good studio engineer why they spend so much time placing the mikes in front of an amp, you'll get a reply similar to: "Mike position is equalization."

Different spots on the speaker emphasize different frequencies, and a move of a few millimeters can totally transform the recorded sound.
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deeaa
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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » February 29th, 2012, 10:12 am

Absolutely. Although I haven't really close-miked amps in years, because the D/I outs are far superior these days. Just use those live and when recording mix with a room mic and you're set.

That way the sound is also the same every time.
--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by rparker » March 2nd, 2012, 8:30 pm

I only got about 1/2 way through the video, but I have to say that I did hear a difference from one to another each time.

I'm curious. Did you have a compressor on? I could have sworn I heard the words "threshold" and maybe another compressor setting somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes. If you did, this could kill quite a bit of dynamics.

Tone burnout and ear training play also a factor. Did you notice more differences the day after you made the tests?
Nick wrote:I never tested it, but I've always thought that once you put any effect on a chain the ability to discern anything as subtle as the tone wood disappears.
I think this is true as well, but have not done any real testing. Not sure how to go about it as everything I go through to record is essentially a digital effect.
Roy

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » March 2nd, 2012, 10:01 pm

I used a gate with a set threshold on the amplified tones, yes, because that shows where does the volume fall below a certain level & thus marks uniformly for how long do the sounds ring out before they are ducked by the gate, i.e. show how long is the sustain.

But there's no effects, just direct line to amp when played & recorded.

And yes, when playing you hear the differences well, especially acoustically, but also amplified.
The thing is, those differences are quite small and get lost in the wash once recorded and mixed in. I just recorded 15 songs with my setup, using all my guitars on the recordings...and I could not tell any more which guitar I used for which part, no way.

BUT when you play the guitars, the small differences in playability and sound make you reinforce those traits, and you notice the differences quite easily. For instance, if the guitar has a hair more sustain and a touch more singing quality of the sound, it will become a lead player maybe, and its leads will sound quite different from another guitar that feels better for cleaner rhythms.

Of course, for this test and also I usually do the same - the differences between the guitars have been evened out a little; if one guitar sounds a touch darker I of course adjust the pickup treble side a touch higher etc...and all these differences, or like cutting the volume down on some guitar so the output level is the same - make much more difference than the tiny differences they have in woods.

What I have concluded, is that never mind what the guitar sounds acoustically...if it's dark, it may be the brightest one on 'tape' anyway.

Also, it matters basically nothing what the materials are - a guitar is either good or bad, and a good or great sound may just as well come from an aluminumn one, a stone one or a lexan guitar just as well as any tonewood one, and vice versa...as long as the materials used are uniform and not 'dead' as plywood, they may sound just the ticket...it's much more about the construction i.e. layers and tops and rigidness and even the lacquer etc. than what exactly is the material used.
--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by deeaa » March 3rd, 2012, 5:31 am

The gate does NOT affect the sound at all, it does nothing until the SPL falls below set level, after which it indicates that by lowering the signal. That's after-the fact stuff that I put there because if you just let the sustain go on, it's impossible to determine which lasts longer when it drops below hearing. Now it can be heard which rings longer before it falls to -20db > has better sustain.

As for just one guitar - no problem - of course I can tell them apart in that case - and also I know certain bits must have been played either with this guitar or that guitar, simply because some part is clearly played with a single-coil etc.

There is no question that guitars don't sound different - of course they do. Why, if one pickup has output of 6,5 and other 13, of course they are going to sound entirely different. And if one guitar has 250K pots and the other 500K or 25K etc...of course they will be different. BUT that makes no difference in this test; what I'm testing is whether the materials etc. used really matter any.

Just like when you test a car for consumption or such, of course all cars are made to drive the same route at same speed, not so that a Ferrari races it and a Toyota takes it easy.

So in order to see if the guitars themselves sound the same, some basic adjustments have to me made. Of course I'm not changing amp EQ or anything like that, but I have used only the bridge pup, and adjusted the volume a little lower on my most powerful-output axes, so as to reveal their real character instead of just riding the insane output.

For this test I did not change the tones on axes, but normally I would, of course, if some axe was very bright for instance, that I meant.

And basically---yeah this confirms my thinking that it's mostly everything else than woods etc. that govern the sound. I'd say at best when talking overall guitar sound, the importance of what wood it's made of is below one percentage.
--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock

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Re: Guitar MYTHBUSTING - check this out!

Post by CitiZenNoir » March 7th, 2012, 1:51 pm

Ah - I know many of you were waiting for me to get around to this one :wink:

Recording - With the equipment I have (my mic is my webcam), the best recorded sound I can get is when
I turn the amp down so low, that the sound is the lowest it can be that I can still hear while I play.
Then I hang the webcam over one of the speaker edges right against the front of the amp.
Sounds pretty good when I listen to the playback. Is that the BEST tone I can get from my guitar/amp....?
Of course not. But it is the best recorded sound I can get.

As far as what the guitar is made of, well depends on WHAT you can hear and what you are looking to hear.
Guitars are finicky beasts. Just having one made of all the right tonewoods and finishes doesn't ensure anything.
But if you hang out with enough of 'em, one is sure to shine through. Everything will come together.
If you want a smooth, bluesy, midrangy tone with quack and compression in all the sweet spots, you wont find it in
an Ash bodied Strat/Indian Rosewood fretboard combo.
Conversely, if you want a hard rockin', midscooped sound that burns incandescent in all the sweet spots, you wont get it in a Strat with an Alder body and a Maple board.

When you are actually playing a guitar, these differences become more evident.
Much harder to hear these things when you are just listening.
Although, I have to say that I have a pretty good ear for picking out Strats with Alder/Maple boards, and also ones with Ash bodies.
The ones that work the way they are suppose to, have a very specific sound to them.

Of course, if you're just going to use a ton of effects, why bother worrying about what the guitar is made from....?

Ken
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begins to live more simply without"
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