Question on playability (Full Version)

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Skai -> Question on playability (Apr. 10 2007 13:15:41)

Hi guys,

Just a quick question. I'm sure everyone has tried various guitars only to find differences in playability. In my case, I've 2 guitars with the same strings on and similarly pretty low action. However I do find differences in playability. It's true that I may experience differences due to different scale lengths.

But I find that for even 2 guitars with similar strings, length and action, one can feel light to the touch while the other can feel stiff. What could be the reason for this? Assuming all other variables stay the same, is setup solely responsible for this difference?

Any info would be appreciated. [;)]


Anders Eliasson -> RE: Question on playability (Apr. 10 2007 13:26:39)

Besides setup, I find that pulsation (Stiffness of the guitar) is the most important part of the feel you get from the guitar.
In my hands a long scale soft pulsation guitar feels smaller than a short scale hard pulsation guitar

Skai -> RE: Question on playability (Apr. 10 2007 13:54:25)

I think you've hit on the exact thing I'm experiencing! What causes the stiffness? It's something I feel but yet can't point out nor do I see any sense in it.

stephen hill -> RE: Question on playability (Apr. 10 2007 16:16:54)

Hi skai

the stiffness you feel on a guitar is a mysterious thing, lots of factors, the way the top is built, the height of the saddle above the soundboard at the bridge, the scale, the doming of the top and the quality of the soundboard amongst other things.. I call it the 'string return' too.
I'm sure Anders will have some thoughts about this as well.

RobJe -> RE: Question on playability (Apr. 10 2007 20:50:05)

This is the story I tell myself about these things.
For guitars of the same scale length with strings of the same brand and tension ratings, the actual tensions of the strings are matched on each guitar. So why do the strings on one guitar fell stiffer than on the other when you play? Imagine you are lying peacefully in a hammock suspended between two trees with very stiff trunks. If you now try to bounce up and down the suspension will feel rather stiff. If however the trees are thin and bendy the suspension will feel much softer. On a less dramatic scale this kind of thing is going on when you pluck a string – the guitar moves!
I am not a luthier and it is difficult for me to imagine how all this is controlled. I do have some opinions based on owing and playing a lot of guitars.
1. I prefer the guitar to feel fairly stiff.
2. Changing string tensions seems to make very little difference to how stiff a guitar feels although it might make a difference to how it sings.
I would be happy to hear corrections and/or refinements of my story.

Anders Eliasson -> RE: Question on playability (Apr. 11 2007 8:28:44)


Your description is good. Its more or less how we feel it when playing the guitar.

Things that influences in pulsation are Soundboard thickness and stifness, Braces thickness and stifness, stringheight above soundboard and breakangle of strings.

Very often when I read and listen to discussions about how guitars should be and who is the best maker of them, I come across this subject. Not directly, but indirectly. Meaning that someone will have his/her idea of how things should be and telling everybody that its the only way.....
Its so personal... A guy playing old Archangel and old Ramirez has this attitude and is telling everyone that guitars have to be like that. This style of guitar works well for him. His playing is VERY close to the bridge and quite sloppy as well, so he needs a soft guitar and he cannot play anything else. On the other hand, his guitars are useless in the hands of a player with a strong tecnique playing closer to the soundhole.

Dont judge a maker on the pulsation. Judge yourself and look for a guitar that suits you.

RobJe -> RE: Question on playability (Apr. 11 2007 10:02:50)

Try these for an animated view of what goes on.


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