Let’s talk Guitars!


Wow. What a great share!
I love this type of insight.

As would I!


I will, but it will take awhile for me to sort out something that isn’t 20 pages long (or more):joy:


After some careful thought I’ll take a stab at this. However, this conjures images of legendary fist fights in 15th century Vienna between instrument makers and musicians duking it out over tuning’s and intonation. The root of the problem lies in what Pythagoras discovered in examining the mathematical relationship between musical notes and how the human ear perceives them. This is called the Pythagorean Comma which essentially shows that across octaves the human ear wants those octave intervals to be widened from purely mathematical multiples such as A-440 (A above middle C), to A-880, A-1760 etc. Violinists and bowed instrument players along with vocalists are not confined to fixed tonalities and naturally use their ears to make these minute adjustments where the fixed tone instruments (stringed instruments which include piano family) are somewhat “locked in.” “Somewhat” because this is where our touch (ears) comes into play even on fretted instruments.

From the above came the concept, development, and necessity of equal temperament which is a series of widening and narrowing certain intervals in order to play RELATIVELY in tune when changing keys. Octaves were divided into 1200 “cents” with of course a half step i.e. one fret equaling 100 cents. However, from what I stated above the small or high “e” string (again e above middle C) is 329.6 HZ where A- is 440 HZ… If you happen to have a tuning fork look at the frequency stamped on it. If it is anything other than “A” it will not be a division of 100 cents. Thus… this is equal temperament.

So…what does this have to do with why a Gibson sounds one way and Fender have its own characteristic sound? Or a Martin or Gretsch or Paul Reed Smith or Taylor or, or ?

Well, everything. To dive into this the measurement system has to be fully understood including its inaccuracy between mathematical divisions and what the human ear perceives. If interested what will follow will be a discussion of fundamental tones, even and odd order overtones and partials measured as hertz and the differences expressed as timbre and amplitude.

Note Sparky that I am avoiding using the term “harmonics” like the plague…then we can get into why tubes sound one way and transistors sound another. :joy:


So, now we can go into how guitars are constructed as far as fret placement. Each ‘big brand’ has their own unique scale length and each has their own distinctive sound. Take Fender: they use a 25.5 scale length based on nut to saddle length. While some are modified like Gretsch “true tempered” (NOT) scale length, all makers begin with a simple logarithmic calculation which will result in the above mentioned 1200 cents per octave. Dividing Fenders 25.5 inch scale by 17.817, then subtracting that figure will determine nut to 1st fret placement. ( 1.431" ) Divide the remaining length and subtract each time which will result in 12 decreasing lengths up to the mid point at 1/2 the original scale length which is of course the octave of the open string.

With a fretted instrument, there can not be a more mathematically correct method. Equal temperament is applied to the open string intervals but can not be applied to frets. Piano’s are tuned in equal temperament.

I avoided using the term harmonics because of confusion and utter nonsense associated with it. Any string playing a fundamental note-the loudest one- is also sounding that first harmonic along with many others. Playing ‘harmonics’ is nothing more than muting the fundamental. Some are even order, others are odd order just the same as with electronics. There are partials sounding.

So, a musical note is perceived as one sound, the quality or timbre of that sound being a result of the relative strengths of the individual partials. Each overall scale length tuned to whatever fundamental pitch has its own sound and character. This is why you can’t make a Gibson (24 3/4") sound like a 25.5 " Fender or whatever and/or vise versa. You can get close, but that is all.

I learned this the hard way. I deviated from using a Martin scale length for my acoustic guitars and sales suffered until I went back to it. There are many other factors that affect overall tone as well but the bottom line is accuracy and quality (timbre).


Wonderful explanation! Really diggin this!!! And of course the aggregate resonant frequencies of string and instrument materials determine relative strengths of the frequencies produced. Add in filtering from pick-up characteristics of electronic stringed instruments and you have quite the complex playground. We need to change your name or biline to Mr. Physics!!


Well yeah. It is the sum total of everything and the complexities are huge, but they are measurable and definable. In your case, the strength, weight and mass of the carbon fiber can equal or exceed the use of woods under the right conditions and applications. Young’s modulus is at play.

Also I should have added that I of course have no way of knowing what parts or all of this that anyone might know. So I made an attempt at a summary explanation hopefully in a easily understood manner by anyone interested.


Thought you guys would appreciate this - while evacuating you should grab your most prized articles first.

TBH it probably isn’t real but the sentiment is there.


Why would anyone try to save a piece of firewood like yamaha pacifica or ibanez gio? :slight_smile:


I think you missed the overall message > any guitar should be saved over any wife/girlfriend


i’m picky about guitars :smiley:


Reminds me a of a song…Sam Maghett

I cut my teeth on this album


Magic Sam…his borrowed guitar… and some Chicago west side blues

What's playing in your head?

Got the blues in a bad way. This is my friend and legendary guitarist Sherman Robertson. Sherman disappeared from the American and European Blues scenes a while back after suffering a very bad stroke. I learned today that it is highly unlikely that he will ever grace the stages again. Check out his music on youtube and his bio and discography. Extraordinary.

Incidentally @ 55 seconds (and elsewhere) into the video is a guitar I made for him. It is the one with his name inlaid into the fretboard.


This one: (2001)


You are a legend. That must be a great feeling.


Sherman is the legend, but yes I am very proud to have been associated with him. He endorsed my work for promotion purposes. But other than that, he is just a really fine human being as well as a fantastic musician. He was the guitarist on Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album among others.


Hot off the press…


Very very tasteful cover man!
Well done to the lot of ya’ll!


How did you know I love that song? :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing it!


Thank you kindly brother Sparks! On behalf of the band, we very much appreciate that!!!