Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Everything I read (and people I talk with) suggests that, although there are a seemingly infinite number of contributors to sound, the top wood has the single largest impact.
Let me guess: none of those you read or talked with that told you that the top wood has the "single largest impact" specified what kind of impact they were talking about, nor what precisely about the top wood was making the impact, nor for that matter, specified what was being impacted, by the soundboard.
Am I right?
The impression you must have received was that just that somehow, some kind of "good" flowed from making some kind of "good choice" about the soundboard. Kind of vague, right? The advice sounded pretty convincing (after all, the strings sit right on the soundboard, right?), but it nevertheless left you with that funny feeling that you had been given important information, but you didn't know whether you were smarter now after knowing it--or not.
The advice must not have been so enlightening, because here you are asking me to confirm or decipher it for you.
Welcome to the world of guitar lore.
If you're interested in eventually making consistently good guitars, my first advice is to a) learn to recognize lore when you hear it and then b) disregard it.
How can you distinguish what is lore? If the source is a person, ask, "how have you come to that conclusion?" He better sound very convincing to your well-developed skepticism. If it's something written, if it is couched in broad, vague generalities ("the top wood has the largest impact"), put all the red flags up. There's nothing to be learned here.
There is no "best" soundboard wood specie, so don't waste your time trying to find which one it is. There is no "best" bracing pattern, so, likewise. There is no "best" body wood, so, likewise. And so forth. So what makes the greatest "impact" ?
Precision of construction
Quality of cut and seasoning of materials
Precision of scale and saddle placement; uniformity of fretwork
Architectural choices: i.e. structural efficiency and minimal adequate structure
Closely following precedents set by cultural models
The precedent set by cultural models is, with a very few exceptions, coniferous softwoods. The precedent is vertical grain, resulting from the plates being sawn from a split billet. The demands of woodworking excellence is that the workpiece be scrupulously well-seasoned. There is no precedent for species.
Monday, January 11, 2010
It takes a lot of guts and knowledge to take this piece of wood down to the bare minimum. And Hauser, with the traditional regularity of thought, the strength, the rigidity, all things--he couldn't really go further in his thicknessing of the wood as the Spaniards. And that is because the bass resonance of the Hauser--it hasn't got to the level of the...if you listen to the first recording of Segovia in 1912, Ramirez, Santos Hernandez, the bass is...deep. And the Hauser never got that resonance, never got to that level. And that is precisely--this is my opinion, for what it's worth--because he didn't quite go a step farther into that situation
I like the adage that the best guitars are built at the cusp of disaster. Which means that--just strong enough to hold together. So that they're maximally able to respond without breaking.
..there is a lot of talking about tuning the guitar to G, G sharp and all that. Because some of the innovative guitars, they are tuned to that. And they haven't got the quality that is required for the classical guitar.
There is a lot of speculation about tuning the soundboard to a specific frequency. And that, it cannot be done on the open [plate]. And when you put it on [the guitar], the thing changes. What happens is that some guitars for some reason sound better, or people think they sound better. But what happens, that's the area where the normal guitar, the resonance of the normal Spanish guitar concentrates in the space of about 10 or 12 cycles (gestures up and down) and that is it.
But you cannot control that. It happens by, if you like, by natural resources, that the guitar is built up to that set of frequencies.
And when some people think, it hits there, its a good sound. Well, I don't think that is because if you could tune anything to G sharp or G and not produce the sound quality.
I read somewhere that Herman Hauser used to sit on a chair with a jug of beer and get the guitar in tune by taking [off] here and you know, there, pieces and scraping. I think that is to me, total nonsense.
People today, they finish the guitar and then they tune the guitar by, with a little plane, taking a piece from the bass...and that sort of thing, until they get the resonance they think [is good]. Well it could work to a specific frequency, but we haven't got to, we haven't acquired enough knowledge to produce, or more or less control, fixed resonance. And all this is open...it's good in a way, because it creates a field for people to think about it, you know...but there is you know, you could really change [the soundboard] by scraping.