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Thread: Unplugged sound in an electric guitar

  1. #11
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    Every guitar (including electric guitars) is the sum of all parts and design, and every one of them involves inherent compromises.

    Having been strictly an acoustic player for years, I have recently been exploring a variety of electric guitars, from full-sized hollow jazz boxes, to thin-lines, sound posts, center blocks, chambered and solid. All have their merits, depending on what tone you are trying to get out of it, how loud you are going to play it, whether solo or in a band with drums and bass, and how much feedback resistance you need.

    My experience has been that, plugged in, a fully hollow archtop sounds significantly different than one with a sound post. Not better or worse, just different. And some of that difference can be best appreciated when the guitars are unplugged.

    My comment was in no way intended to denigrate late Westerly X-170's with sound posts (I'd still happily own mine if the neck had been a bit beefier). And there are lots of times when I find myself fighting the feedback on a fully hollow archtop that the sound post is designed to solve.
    Neal

    '53 "X-150" Redburst
    '54 X-50 SB
    '54 X-200-S SB
    '71 F-20 ("Tonya")
    '71 D-25 BR
    '73 D-35
    '81 D-212 SB
    '12 F-50 STD SB
    '13 F-47R



    Others: '59 Gretsch Clipper, '74 Dobro Round-Neck Resonator, '87 Dobro Square-Neck Resonator, '09 Huss and Dalton TD-M Custom dreadnought, '11 Huss and Dalton 12-fret 000 Rosewood, Tele Partscaster.

  2. #12
    Super Moderator Default's Avatar
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    You could go the Dwayne Eddy route and stuff your guitar with cotton balls.
    "Steve, you are a man of many goats."~ capnjuan
    "8 of 18", "19 of 22", "25 of 25"

    "Alternatively, you could just go the ultra-relic route with it. Basically go for a look that says the amp was on fire and they put it out using belt sanders. "

  3. #13
    Senior Member walrus's Avatar
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    If I'm playing, the audience may need the cotton balls!

    wlrus
    1984 Guild D64
    1998 Guild Bluesbird AAA

  4. #14
    When I bought the Santa Cruz, I a/b'd it vs a Fender Tele unplugged. The Cruz won hands down. It like was not even close...
    Wood

    1971 D25 Br

  5. #15
    Senior Member walrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Westerly Wood View Post
    When I bought the Santa Cruz, I a/b'd it vs a Fender Tele unplugged. The Cruz won hands down. It like was not even close...
    LMAO!

    walrus
    1984 Guild D64
    1998 Guild Bluesbird AAA

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Westerly Wood View Post
    When I bought the Santa Cruz, I a/b'd it vs a Fender Tele unplugged. The Cruz won hands down. It like was not even close...
    But did they have comparable strings?.... (to be sure you're not comparing apples to oranges)
    Last edited by bluesypicky; 01-11-2017 at 06:33 PM.
    D25BR 1972
    DV72 1994
    F212 1975
    S100 1973
    S100 1974 (carved)
    Starfire IV 1966
    X175 1978
    Jetstar 1974

    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    In this world there are always those who march to the sound of a different drummer. These wayward marchers go off and break boundaries. Blistering leads on an acoustic. Purple spandex, and proud of it. Gibsons on a Guild forum. But the world is a better place for their pioneering efforts.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by bluesypicky View Post
    But did they have comparable strings?.... (to be sure you're not comparing apples to oranges)
    LOL Pascal. Exactly...
    Wood

    1971 D25 Br

  8. #18
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    Speaking of strings, I tried out acoustic strings (PB lights) on the ~53 X-150 I recently acquired. It sounded pretty good as an acoustic instrument, despite the pickup mounted on the laminated spruce top.

    It sounded horrible when I plugged it in, however. Turns out that you can't have it both ways.
    Neal

    '53 "X-150" Redburst
    '54 X-50 SB
    '54 X-200-S SB
    '71 F-20 ("Tonya")
    '71 D-25 BR
    '73 D-35
    '81 D-212 SB
    '12 F-50 STD SB
    '13 F-47R



    Others: '59 Gretsch Clipper, '74 Dobro Round-Neck Resonator, '87 Dobro Square-Neck Resonator, '09 Huss and Dalton TD-M Custom dreadnought, '11 Huss and Dalton 12-fret 000 Rosewood, Tele Partscaster.

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Neal View Post
    Speaking of strings, I tried out acoustic strings (PB lights) on the ~53 X-150 I recently acquired. It sounded pretty good as an acoustic instrument, despite the pickup mounted on the laminated spruce top.

    It sounded horrible when I plugged it in, however. Turns out that you can't have it both ways.
    Interesting. I wonder how Nickel acoustic strings would fare on electric plugged in.
    Wood

    1971 D25 Br

  10. #20
    Re: the timbre of an electric guitar plugged in vs. acoustic, if the wood didn't matter, then they wouldn't be made out of different tone woods. Still, I doubt the sound of an electric guitar unplugged can be discerned all that much from the plugged in sound. To say that "it doesn't matter", though seems as dangerously ignorant as saying, "it does matter" when both positions are likely devoid of any absolute proof as is the case of most arguments that go on forever.

    Also, the physics of the electric guitar circuit are amazingly complicated even though the circuits themselves are relatively simple. Each pickup is a coil which makes the guitar into an LCR circuit. Check out this Wikipedia link for the math on just the LCR aspect of a guitar (pickup/cap/pot). How do you fit "woodiness" or "chime" into those forumlas?

    I will absolutely play an electric guitar unplugged before I even consider plugging it in, though. Why? Because I'm looking for a couple of things. They are: Sustain, resonance, and feel, all of which can be masked, altered, or massively overwhelmed by an amp. We tend to focus on the sound and feel of the amp when plugged in, and to Pascal's point, since that's all the audience hears and feels, maybe that's all that should matter, but as the player I get more out of playing when I have a good interaction with the instrument and for me that is best experienced when unplugged.

    Example: I have a Fender American Deluxe Strat that I bought new back in 2008. I am not a Strat guy. I tried it in the store because it looked pretty and I figured I should have a Strat. One strum unplugged and I knew I had to have it. The feel, resonance, and sustain were all remarkable. I plugged it in and it sounded like... a Strat. I took it home, gutted the terrible noiseless pickups and S1 electronics and replaced it all with vintage-spec boutique parts and now it sounds MORE like a Strat!

    Pics because I'm the pic guy:

    Before:




    Original vs. my electronics:




    After:




    Do I sound more like Mark Knopfler because of the unplugged characteristics of this guitar? Hardly, but I like playing it more because of the responsiveness and feel of the guitar and I can concentrate on those things better when I play it unplugged.
    S100s: [ 1997 red ]
    S300s: [ 1981 ]
    X170s: [ 1994 SB ]
    X500s: [2001 P90-T]
    Starfires: [ III-90 2002 'burst | IV 1998 blond | IV 2000 blond ]
    Bluesbirds: [ 1997 red | 2016 Iced Tea ]
    Nightbirds: [ GG 1986 Flamed 'burst | 1988ish curly lava-burst ]
    Non-Guilds: [ Meh ]

    My Blogs: GADsGuilds.com | Blog | Cozy Tales

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