Do Classical Guitars Sound Better With Age?

Do Classical Guitars Sound Better With Age? | integraudio.com

One of the most important parts of a guitar is the wood with which it has been created since it essentially defines its sound. This article will discuss whether classical guitars can sound better over the years, and we’ll look at some of the reasons why this can happen.

To determine how time can influence an instrument is necessary to analyze what material it is made of, how it interacts with the conditions of the place where it is located, and how this can impact over time.

The classical guitar, as we know it today, was created in Spain during the 16th century, and although variations and some other stringed instruments have emerged from it, it maintains its main construction and tuning characteristics.

Do Classical Guitars Sound Better With Age?

Classical guitars, indeed, sound better over time. This is because their wood generally takes ten to fifteen years to settle down to offer its best performance. After this time, the guitar will have better tone, brightness, sustain, and optimal performance.

However, the amount of time we use it, the material with which it is painted, and the maintenance we do periodically will influence it in the same way. We necessarily have to consider these issues since a guitar will not sound better over time simply because it is older.

Over the years, the percentage of humidity in the wood decreases, and at the same time, its vibration capacity increases, which results in better sound transmission. The perfect balance of humidity allows these attributes to be highlighted to the maximum, but without the wood losing strength and firmness. Too low a percentage of humidity, on the other hand, could make the instrument brittle. These are specifications that all manufacturers take into consideration when building a classical guitar.

On the other hand, the guitar must be used frequently instead of stored in a case without any use. A guitar that has been played for a few years will age better than one that has been stored as we speed up the losing humidity process.

The finish of the guitar can also influence over time. The two most common types of paint on classical guitars are nitrocellulose and polyurethane. Nitrocellulose is a solvent of vegetable origin, used for almost a century in string and wind instruments. This product generates a fine protective layer similar to resin, which allows the wood to breathe, which is why it is widely used in acoustic instruments. It has a smooth texture and is more comfortable to the touch.

Polyurethane, on the other hand, is a synthetic material that offers a thick, highly durable protective layer and a very defined shine, similar to what we can see in a car. It is widely used in electric guitar finishes, but it is less recommended for acoustic instruments since the wood has less contact with the environment, and its thick layer tends to attenuate the instrument’s vibration.

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What Kind Of Wood Are Classical Guitars Made Of?

Each part of the guitar is made with a specific type of wood that allows highlighting its qualities. For example, the top typically uses German Spruce or Western Red Cedar, while the body and back typically use mahogany. Cedar is the most widely used wood for the neck of the classical guitar.

When selecting each type of wood, we look for the materials that offer the best balance between sustain, tone, brightness, and durability. On the other hand, the aesthetic part also plays an important role since we are talking about very showy wood and provides a good finish to the final product. Finally, the rigidity of the wood will be key, not only for the durability of the guitar but also for the manufacturing process to be simpler. Since these types of guitars are often built by hand, we must select resistant elements, but at the same time, they are relatively easy to work with.

  • German Spruce Pine
    It is the wood most used in classical guitar tops due to its outstanding sound qualities. Light in color, smooth and soft texture, it stands out for its way of vibrating. Due to its scarcity, it isn’t easy to obtain nowadays, and its price can become very expensive.
  • Western Red Cedar
    It is widely used on top of classical guitars. A little darker in color than the German Spruce, it shares sound qualities, with the difference that it has a little less brightness. As a result, its sound is warmer and usually has a higher output.
  • Mahogany
    It is a wood widely used in many guitars, mainly on slides, back, and sometimes on the top. Its sound is usually sweet and full-bodied and stands out in the low frequencies. Brown in color, dense in consistency, and with well-defined grains, it is a wood that resists changes in humidity very well.
  • Spanish Cedar
    It is widely used in the neck of the guitar since it offers firmness, stability, and at the same time, it is a fairly light wood. It is light brown, offers good sustain, and is easy to work with due to its low hardness.
  • Ebony
    It is a highly hard and resistant type of wood, making it a very good option for fretboards. It is black and has a natural shine, making it very showy. Despite being a heavy wood, it has excellent sound qualities, which is why it is also used less frequently in guitar bodies. Unfortunately, it is another of the wood that is currently scarce.
  • Rosewood
    Another of the most used options in fretboards, dark brown, is a little lighter than ebony, has a sweet tone, and has a warm and smooth feel. For some years, it has begun to be scarce.

It is important to clarify that in high-quality instruments, this type of wood has a prior settling period of up to 10 years, where the materials are left resting dry to reduce their humidity percentage.

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Do Classical Guitars Sound Better Than Acoustic Ones?

Classical guitars don’t sound better than acoustic guitars. They sound different. In terms of range, they have a more medium and sweet tone, compared to acoustic guitars that tend to be brighter. This is because the classical ones use nylon strings, while the acoustic ones use steel strings.

Although both use the same woods and their manufacturing processes are similar, they have some marked differences. Firstly, acoustic guitars are usually larger and have truss rods, which allow them to withstand the tension produced by steel strings much higher than the tension of nylon strings.

On the other hand, each one is used in different musical styles. While the classical guitar is typical of flamenco, bossa, or classical music, the acoustic guitar is more associated with folk, rock, pop, and blues. Regarding the feeling, classical guitars have soft strings, quite separated from each other since their fretboard is wider. On the contrary, the acoustic ones tend to have harder strings and are closer together.

Do Electric Guitars Sound Better With Age?

Electric guitars can sound better with age. The passage of time makes the instrument settle and offer its best qualities. However, we are talking about a very small difference since its sound will be not only defined by the wood but also by the pickups we use.

In this case, electric guitars can also improve over time in terms of tone. Compared to classical guitars, this is very evident because their sound depends exclusively on their wood and also have thin-gauge materials, which will be much more affected by the environment that surrounds them.

This process will be slower and less obvious for electric guitars because we are talking about a solid and much thicker body of the wood. The pickup sets that the guitar has will also largely define the sound, and if we change them, it is possible to access other possibilities, which means that the wood with which the guitar is made has less incidence.

How To Make My Guitar Sound Better?

The best way to make your guitar sound better is by giving it regular maintenance and renewing its strings periodically. Everything that affects its structure, or its painting, in the long term will be reflected the detriment of its sound. The rectification of the frets is also very important.

With each use, the strings of the classical guitar begin to deteriorate, especially the wounded ones. Every time we change the strings, we restore the instrument to its optimal tone. Before changing the strings, it is advisable to thoroughly clean the fretboard to remove any dirt that may have accumulated and check the condition of the frets. If the instrument is regularly used every one or two years, we should rectify the frets, depending on how worn they are.

If the guitar has blows, loose parts, or has lost part of its paint, it is best to repair it before continuing to use it so that it does not continue to deteriorate. The loose parts make the guitar not vibrate properly, and being an instrument that is in constant tension, if we do not repair it, it runs the risk of affecting other parts of its structure.

On the other hand, painting or finishing fulfills the function of protecting the wood. For example, classical guitars are assembled with water-based glues, so if we allow the wood to be in contact with moisture for long periods, this could result in some parts starting to peel off if they are not properly covered.

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Conclusion

Although classical guitars can indeed sound better over the years, we must consider that they are wooden instruments, which will be affected by the environment in which they are, how they are used, and the maintenance and care we give them.

In the same way, it will be key to have an instrument that is well manufactured and with quality materials, which will best withstand the passage of time and best manage to age.

If we consider these issues and renew its strings regularly, there is no doubt that we will be able to get the best possible performance out of our instrument. Until next time!

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