Guitar Tonewoods

 

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Of interest to acoustic guitarists

                  

As guitars pass through my studio, I am continuing to build my database of tonewood sampling--now over 35 different very fine guitars. My objective is 3-fold as follows:

1--since a guitar sounds different straight on then it does from above, I wanted to get more of a listener's perspective on a couple guitars I was auditioning awhile back.  I got carried away and added in a few more of my favorites as well...now, the process continues...!

2--knowing that some guitars record more easily then others, I wanted to see if I could glean any insight between the guitars being tested, woods used, shapes and construction, and then which I might want to use for recording certain compositions.

3--in light of many "13th Fret" List discussions on koa and rosewood back and sides, spruce and cedar tops, vintage guitars versus newer build boutique and production guitars, etc., I thought it might be beneficial for myself and others to compare using real audible samples for their own perspective.

Methodology utilized:

In an attempt to add minimal color to the signal, the guitars were recorded mono with only a mic (a Neumann KLM 184), 2 - 3 inches from the 12th fret (my preferred setup for this particular mic--sorry "13th fretters"!). Everything was recorded flat (absolutely no EQ), and the input signal passed through a high end Pendulum tube mic preamp prior to being converted to 24bit "0s and 1s." All guitars were recorded in similar manner, one take each (mistakes and all), and have 2 or 3 of the same short musical samples per guitar. The first 2 samples are the same on all guitars.  During mixdown for the CD tracks just a touch of reverb was added because my studio is unrealistically dead (normally a good thing)--for this test I was shooting for more of a living room feel.

Group One samples (1a - 6b)  (answers provided)

The guitars used (not listed in order recorded), are all approximately SJ size/style except for the Baranik (obviously).  They are just a few of so many very fine, handbuilt guitars available today, the "golden age of acoustic guitars," and are listed as follows:

1. Kevin Ryan MGC Indian rosewood b&s/cedar top, Ryan light strings  Answer, Samples 4a - b...

2. Kevin Ryan MGC Indian rosewood b&s/Sitka spruce top, elixir nano lights Answer, Samples 2a - b...

3. Baranik Parlor Indian rosewood b&s/Adirondak Spruce top, NewTone Masterclass Med/Light strings (the give away track!)  Answer, Samples 6a - b...

4. James Olson SJ Koa b&s/Sitka spruce top, Elixir nano light strings Answer, Samples 5a - b...

5. Webber Roundbody Indian rosewood b&s/Sitka Spruce top, new strings--not Elixirs  Answer, Samples 3a - b...

6. David Eichelbaum Grand Concert Koa b&s/Cedar top, Elixir nano light strings Answer, Samples 1a - b...

 

Group Two samples (new, 7a - 11b) 

same setup as above

1. Gerald Sheppard  Gerald Sheppard Auditorium size koa b&s with Englemann spruce top--coated light strings, standard scale  Answer, Samples 9a - b...

2. Martin  small bodied, laminate mahogany/spruce, uncoated light strings Answer, Samples 7a - b...

3. Santa Cruz   H (small body) koa b&s, sitka spruce top, coated light strings Answer, Samples 11a - b...

4. Dana Bourgeois   OM style Indian rosewood b&s w/ sitka spruce top, coated light strings Answer, Samples 8a - b...

5. Mitchell (not the luthier)--no website  2000 indonesian made acoustic. spruce top, laminate b&s (not sure about the wood,  Gibson jumbo shape Answer, Samples 10a - b...

 

Group Three samples--Rosewoods (12a - 16b) read guitar reviews here!, 

Methodology modification

Forgetting that I had only used one mic in the first set of samples done several months earlier, these have the same setup but with a second mic (Neumann TLM 103) placed in front of the soundhole approximately 3 feet.  The 2 tracks are then positioned in the stereo spectrum approximately 10:00 and 2:00.  The net result is a bit fuller sound, but still accurate, probably even moreso than group samples 1 and 2.  All else is the same as mentioned above.

Here's a body Size, scale length, and rosewood challenge.  The guitars used (not listed in order recorded), are all rosewood B & S, and each a different size.  3 are of old growth Brazilian rosewood construction, and one is East Indian rosewood.   They are listed as follows:

 

1. Gerald Sheppard  Auditorium size old growth Brazilian rosewood b&s with bearclaw sitka spruce top--non-coated light strings, standard scale  Answer, samples 12

2. Alan Carruth 12-fret 000 style guitar with Old growth Brazilian b&s and red spruce (Appalachian/Adirondack) top--non-coated light strings  Answer, samples 14

3. Huss and Dalton smaller 12 fret 00 style and shape.  Old growth Brazilian rosewood b&s, Englemann spruce top, non-coated strings, 24.9 scale  Answer, samples 16

4. Charlie HoffmanSJ size Concert 12 fret, East Indian rosewood b&s, Englemann spruce top, non-coated, light strings  Answer, samples 13

5. Charlie Hoffman same as #4 but with reversed phase on 1 mic producing bass cut/cancellation  Answer, samples 15

 

Group Four samples--Vintage Tone challenge--1/2004, (17a - 27c) see pics  My vintage prewar guitars here, 

Recording methodology is the same as "Group Three" above.

Here's a vintage prewar tone challenge.  The guitars used (not listed in order recorded), are mostly either Brazilian rosewood or mahogany B & S with red spruce tops, from Baystate Parlor size 2 to Martin size 00s.  They are listed as follows:

 

1. 1905 Martin 1-21  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top--nylon strings, 24.9" scale Samples 23

2. 1991 Santa Cruz H--(For comparison!) 14-fret koa b&s, sitka spruce top--coated light steel strings  Samples 25

3. mid 1800s Martin 1-26  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top--nylon strings, 24.9" scale  Samples 24

4. 1905 Martin 0-28  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top,  X- Light steel strings, 24.9" scale  Samples 26

5. 1905 Martin 0-28--same as above recorded +3db higher than the rest  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top  X-light steel strings, 24.9" scale  Samples 17

6. 1919 Martin 00-18  Mahogany b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top--X-light steel strings, 24.9" scale  Samples 20

7. Late 1800s Baystate Parlor size 2  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top, ladder braced--nylon strings  Samples 27

8. 1913 Martin 0-42  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top--Light steel strings, 24.9" scale  Samples 18

9. 1930 Martin 00-40H converted to Spanish style  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top--Light steel strings, 24.9" scale Samples 19

10. 1927 Martin 00-18  Mahogany b&s with Red (Adirondack) Spruce top--X-light steel strings strings, 24.9" scale  Samples 21

11. Early 1900s American Conservatory Parlor  Brazilian rosewood b&s with Spruce top--X-light steel strings, ladder braced, 24.9" scale--don't let this one fool you! Samples 22

Group Five samples--Vintage Prewar Martins vs contemporary prewar vintage Martin specs 

Methodology--same as group 1 above (single mic)

Here's a body Size--rosewood, mahogany, koa, vintages contemporary tone challenge.  The guitars used are listed as follows:

1. 2006 Osthoff 00-12C   12 fret 00 style and shape, 24.9" scale, like the old Martins. Koa b&s, Adirondack spruce top--non-coated light strings  Samples 31a - c...

2. 1931 Martin 000-18  12-fret 000 style guitar with mahogany b&s and red spruce (Appalachian/Adirondack) top--4 month old strings  Samples 32a - c...

3. 1903 Martin 00-28  12 fret 00 style and shape.  Brazilian rosewood b&s, Adirondack spruce top Samples 33a - c...

4. 1923  Martin 0-18 12-fret 0 parlor style guitar with mahogany b&s and red spruce (Appalachian/Adirondack) top  Samples 34a - c...

All the music is mastered in to stereo pair tracks, burned on CDR, and converted to mp3. Each guitar has 2 cuts/styles minimum for quick and easy a/bing between the different samples.  All previous Tonewoods Quiz samples are available to anyone interested via mp3 format (two or 3 mp3 files for each guitar) at "From the Woodshed,"   More recent Quiz samples may also be available by CD (preferable for quick a/bing and best acoustic accuracy) via mail for $5.00 thru PayPal (just click here).

Thanks, and enjoy!    

 Ken

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2001 Graceworks Music                  Last modified: March 17, 2007