Question:
My dad tells me that putting an acoustic guitar by a radio (radio on) will vibrate the wood and give the guitar a better tone.  Will the radio give the guitar a better tone?

Eddie W.


Answer:
A solid wood acoustic guitar sounds better over the years as you play it and the wood breaks in.  The wood fibers actually loosen up and the wood vibrates easier, so the theory is: Why not vibrate the wood even while not playing it by using an external sound to speed up the process?  I know from experience that external sounds can vibrate a guitar.  While waiting my turn to go on, I'll be sitting there holding my guitar and the orchestra will be playing and sometimes my guitar will REALLY vibrate from the sounds of the orchestra.  It surprised me big time the first time it happened.

I've read about lab tests in which someone has tried to vibrate new guitars and measure the difference in sound.  The measurements were probably not too scientific since the differences were measured with human ears but on some certain models of guitars, they noticed quite a difference.  Other models not so much.

I guess if you have a safe place to leave your guitar out, others you live with don't mind the constant radio turned up loud enough to vibrate the wood,  and putting a lot of user time on your stereo isn't a problem, leaving your stereo on would be a thing to consider.

I know a music store that keeps their new solid wood guitars in a glass display case with music playing to break in the wood.

Gman ( o )==#


G-man:

The radio method WILL help to break in a good guitar---but there's a better way, and most of us can figure out a way to do it. Works not only on guitars, but all wooden instruments, including bassoons, violins, clarinets, etc.

A radio will ordinarily render a frequency range across a very limited spectrum. Even if your guitar "listens" to the "Steely Dan" station non-stop, nonetheless, the full spectrum of frequencies isn't accessed.

We want to vibrate our instruments across their full range PLUS as high up into the harmonics as our speakers will go, up in the 20K range, if possible, and even beyond, if we have engineering facilities and the tweeters to pull it off.

The best way to "vibrate in" a guitar is to create a sine wave---as bright as possible---and run it from low E up as high as possible, then back down, then up, etc. The issue isn't just rattling the wood; you could do that any number of other ways. The issue is that wood fibers connect together in many patterns, and to "shake them loose" (actually, we don't shake them loose so much as we straighten them out somewhat), it takes different pitches for different wood-fiber-connections.

The sine wave ought to take about one minute from bottom to top and one minute from top to bottom. You don't want to go fast, because in the lower register, the strings will pick up vibrations and ring out overtones and do some of the "rattling" work for the instrument all on its own.

The way I do this is as follows: I created a sine wave with some computer software I have, recorded it to a CD, then stuck a single speaker and the guitar in a closet full of clothes. Can't even hear it. I suspend the guitar by the neck so that the body can shake for all its worth. I loop the CD recording and it runs all day while I'm at work. You DON'T have to make it particularly loud! The objective is to vibrate the body, not shake the glue joints loose.

It drives the parrot crazy.

I picked this tid-bit up from some violin makers, plus just sort of thinking about it.

FWIW.

Nice website you've got.

Hal McSwain

 

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