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Regarding Tap-Testing

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 58
Hi Everyone - I'm probably gonna ruffle some feathers here, but I think we need to be very cognizant of all the components going into our creations and not get hung up on something not even the masters can agree on (just go to Cumpiano's newsletters). I believe there is a reason you can go to a guitar shop and play 10 of the same model guitars, by the same production manufacturer and feel lukewarm about 8 of 'em, hate 1 of 'em and absolutely fall in love on the last 1! The reason is each guitar is made of natural products and they may all be identical woods, but they are different pieces, having different characteristics. I'm a sax player by trade, and when I was buying my last sax I drove all over PA where I lived trying different horns (course the one I loved was the first one!). Some sax players buy a box of reeds and test them - if they're good outta the box they keep 'em, if not they pitch 'em. I buy a box of reeds and fine tune them so each one plays identically...I know what I'm doing there after 35 years. The same thing applies with guitars, we know fundamentally what to do, who to listen to and we can make minor changes (or even major changes) hear and there (pun intended!), but essentially there is no realistic way to do an A / B test, or a blind test on the same exact woods because each wood is different. Perhaps someone smarter than I will come up with a 'sound tunnel' computer model (kinda like a wind tunnel for race cars) and actually map out sound waves in a given soundbox and then change minor details and visually see what happens, but until then, I'm not gonna lose sleep over tap-testing other than to make certain things aren't too 'stifled'. That's my two cents worth. I think the artistry and the centuries old craft and the common sense approach are the way to go.


Sep 20, 06 | 4:06 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
AND ------ who is to say what sounds good to you sounds good to me?? Get the intonation correct and its a musical instrument. Segovia loved the sound of Michael Kasha's guitars until he saw what they looked like.


Sep 20, 06 | 7:26 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Our individual response to sound is the same as our individual response to everything else. You like catsup on scrambled eggs; I don't. I like catsup on Mexican food; you don't. You like the wind; I hate it. etc., etc., etc.

So, we all have varying responses to sensory input. That's Ken's point, and there's no argument there. We also describe what we're hearing differently, so even if something sounds exactly the same to you and me, if we describe it differently, the impression will be that we are hearing different things -- when we might not be.

Barry, I don't know. I believe that the tapping of a top or back is a useful part of the centuries-old craft. I'm sure Stradivari used it, just as Wm Cumpiano does. I don't think you'll ruffle any feathers -- the feathers in this flock seem pretty stable -- and we're not married to our procedures, either. But, I think that tapping (and every other little technique that builders use) is an attempt to get 1% or 2% closer to an ideal, and if someone can gain that much or even more, others will agree that they've gotten closer to the ideal, and you'll have the differences between a Kevin Ryan and a James Olson, or between a Martin and a Taylor, or between my first kit guitar and my fifth. I think that small gains are important, and the only way you can achieve them prior to buttoning up the body is to test, and one of the few ways of testing is to tap.

Then you add the difficulties, as Ken said, of individual sensory response ... and people changing strings and thereby negating everything that the luthier was striving for ... So, the whole effort can be spoiled just because we aren't the builder and we want to hear different things than he or she built into the instrument ...

Now, if I can just, someday, get the hang of exactly what it is I'm after and what to do to try to get it ...

But, that's just me. -- Bill

Sep 25, 06 | 6:19 am

Total Topics: 9
Total Posts: 58
Agreed - and I'm still gonna tap it - I'm just not gonna lose sleep over it (for me sleep is over-rated anyway!) . I think the personal responses we get and process are of value, but we lose it when we try to 'translate' and discuss it...because we are all different. What will be exciting will be to find what differences we make and what the results know a comfort level type scenario.


I'm thinking about putting a small knob on a guitar (any guitar) and see what differences people hear! Maybe label it 'Colour' (fancy spelling implies it works). The knob would be hooked up to absolutely nothing...imagine the critiques of the sound changes...I know I'm a bit mischievous!

Sep 25, 06 | 6:33 am

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