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  #41  
Old 01-09-2013, 10:35 PM
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So considering differences due to variable factors, in order to definitively say that some variable introduces a predictable outcome (even widely ranging predictability), we need to study it closely with many controls in place. We must control all other variables if we wish to see the impact of changing one variable, for example "wood type". In the case of a musical instrument, with dozens of factors impacting it's construction and how it produces sound, this is a pretty big challenge.

We know from our historical understanding of variability and the scientific method that the "gold standard" in clinical research is the use of Randomized Controlled Trials to determine variability. (I'm sticking with clinical research as I'm getting to "tone" as a psychological concept) That basically means, double blind tests with random assignment. In a nutshell, double blind means that the "person being tested" does not know anything about what's being tested and neither does the examiner. By having both testee and tester "blind", nearly all of the "cognitive biases" that can be introduced in the test procedure are controlled. More on this soon. For a lot more regarding RCTs google is your friend.

*sidebar the second* I'm REALLY boiling this down, so if you have a scientific understanding of this topic and see flaws in what I've put forward, you're probably right, I do find it difficult to lay this out so straightforward.

So before I go more into cognitive bias and how that impacts "tone" and it's definition, let's look at some of the variables inherent in the system of a solid bodied electric guitar. (which i define as a guitar that is constructed in a manner that produces sound via metal strings vibration passing through the magnetic field of pickups that excite electrons, blah blah blah - not an acoustic instrument that produces sound entirely without the use of an electronic system).
  #42  
Old 01-09-2013, 10:40 PM
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Does paint make difference in tone?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

YES!!!! not the color ... but the thickness and material do make a difference.

Also what's the best paint for metal???

Black!!!
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  #43  
Old 01-09-2013, 10:50 PM
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..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
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Last edited by SJan3 : 01-09-2013 at 10:52 PM.
  #44  
Old 01-09-2013, 10:59 PM
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So in a solid bodied instrument, a short list of variables includes, dimensions, scale length, materials used of each component (bridge, strings, body, neck, fretboard, etc), finish and construction type (bolt on, neck through, set neck or some combination thereof). Again this is not inclusive, there is a lot more.

If we just pick the body wood, which is often the bone of contention in these discussions, lets consider some variables. For one, we have species. Within the species we have density, grain orientation, moisture content, etc. In fact, likely enough variables to be nearly impossible to control, even from within one species.

Let's say we take that down to the same tree. Well, we can actually mill a tree into a variety of different cuts which can result in grain orientation differences. We can cut two boards from the same plank in a flitch and take one and kiln dry it and the other air dried and that alone introduces variation. Even if we cut everything as close to the same as possible, dried it the same and stored it identically, within the two pieces, it is not possible for them to have an identical grain structure and therefore, variability cannot be entirely controlled, or meaningfully accounted for (I know that's a bad sentence ). So that above is just to show that variability is inherent in wood itself as an organic material, even when we have two boards cut from the same flitch.

The construction type also introduces variability into the system. Exactly how neck throughs, bolt-ons and set necks introduce variability is speculative at best. It would be a challenge to be able to predict how an instrument would perform as a functional system when it is designed a certain way and could not be altered to then function another way. For example, I can't make a neck through and then build it as a bolt on without impacting several other variables, any of which might be argued to be higher in magnitude of effect.

Speeding up, the choice of pickups (style, design, # of winds, you name it), pickup location, bridge type/function, electronic circuit, string (type, density, material, length, gauge), scale length, nut material, fretboard material, etc all impact the system here. Again, in order to definitively state which of these variables has the greatest magnitude of effect on the system, we would need to control for and test each one. Not a task for the faint of heart or those without access to millions in government grants to fund it all either. Especially when you consider the interplay of the variables (ie, scale length affects mass in the instrument -> longer scale = more mass).

So this now all leads up to the not so simple task of operationally defining "tone"...
  #45  
Old 01-09-2013, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by SJan3 View Post
..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
I'll rise and defend JC. It may, for some reason, be offensive to you when someone points out that a dead person was incorrect, misled or potentially deceptive, however Mr. Roman's writings were full of enough rhetoric to make any critical thinker's warning bells go off. In his writings he backtracked here and there from previous overstatements when better/clearer facts came to light - that to me is a pretty clear sign of a "confident speaker". His fairly obvious goal was that of sales, not of "enhancing the truth" about any concepts. I'm not one to "bash" a dead guy, but you need to realize that anyone can be right or wrong and our assessment of that, if knowledge is the goal, can't be impacted by the emotion connected to our sense of bereavement...
  #46  
Old 01-09-2013, 11:33 PM
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  #47  
Old 01-09-2013, 11:42 PM
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Now that I'm firmly in the realm of "tone", lets consider what that means. First off, I think it's pretty clear that we are not talking about an objective scientific measurement of something. Even if we just review definitions of "tone", we find enormous variability in how its defined. Here's the diambiguation wiki page on tone: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone Lots of things it could mean there, lots of definitions.

Even some of the non-audio/music definitions are worked into our use of language around tone. How often do we hear 'will this color my tone?' or the like? Pitch and timbre get worked into the realm of "my tone" as well. I don't think that "musical tone" is something that is explored to the same depth as other topics as evidenced by the two very limited references employed on the wiki page related to musical/audio tone, in fact many of the same tonewood statements that end up in arguments are right there.

Problem is, the impact of a building material on tone does not fall under the expertise/experience of a builder. It's a psychological phenomenon that is dependent on several factors, nearly all of which are outside of the specific instrument being examined, and lie instead, within the mind of the listener and the context in which the listening occurs.

The problem with the question of "will x make a difference in tone?" is that it is likely better worded, "will x make a difference in the tone I perceive?" and in that case, the answer is almost certainly yes. Humans are incredibly influenced and influential. If I hand you a glass of water, and tell you it's different than the glass of water you have in your hand, the likelihood that you will make that determination is not always connected to whether or not there is an actual difference. Your opinion of me, the environment, your experience with previous glasses of water, etcetera will all have a pretty strong impact on your assessment. What will likely not enter into your assessment, is the consideration of all of those variables. This is not to say that no person will ever recognize the impact of the other variables, but that most of us, in our general day to day lives, don't pay much heed to that.

So back to that question in the paragraph above, "will x make a difference in the tone I perceive?" As I said, likely the answer is yes. However if we further ask, "is this replicable with another person?" well now, I'd have to say no. And years of eyewitness testimony research would agree. How we perceive events around us and then our assessment of the same is highly variable as said above in other ways. One thing that has nearly been definitely proven is the fact that eyewitness testimony lacks credibility. It nearly has the same credibility as a guess. There are numerous studies where a group of people are asked to view/listen/experience something and then are asked to relay what occurred. Inevitably and almost without variation, the results are specific to each observer. In other words, if three people watch a video of a car accident involving a green pontiac driven by a bearded man and a red ford driven by a blonde woman (and don't know what they are watching or what they will be asked afterwards) and then are asked to recall what they watched, three different stories will be relayed, and the likelihood that any of them will get the facts straight is nearly at chance (blue pontiac, bearded man; red ford, blonde woman; plus who did what to lead up to the accident).

When we then introduce the concept of cognitive bias, things get really interesting, or sad, depending on your awareness of yourself!
  #48  
Old 01-10-2013, 12:19 AM
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LOL! Thanks Petey...

So, what's cognitive bias now? Well, in another nutshell, it is "a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations, which may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality." That's from wiki, but it's basically Kahneman's original 1972 definition. This is something that has been researched out the yin-yang over the decades and is widely understood to be a prime influence in human behaviour. Emotional bias is a similar effect of course but less researched and many would argue it is a form of cognitive bias.

So for example, I hear from a friend that his really good looking and inexpensive bass is the best tone he's heard yet. He decides to buy me one as a gift. The day I get it, I'm surprised, taken aback, humbled, affectionate towards my friend, and surprise surprise, it's the best sounding bass I've ever heard! This is an example of an emotional bias. I've painted it much more obvious than in real life, but this happens to all of us, including me, every day, all day long for our entire lives - just usually outside of our conscious awareness.

It's easy to read this and say "but wait a minute man, I'm not an idiot, I can hear the difference between the ash and alder P basses I played in the store and I don't have any emotions about them at all". Well, I'm not disputing that, the problem is, you may be "listening with your eyes" and also are likely making the assumption that the difference in sound is accounted for by the wood, when it could have been any number of combinations of other factors/variables in the construction of those two instruments. Our assigning of the wood as being responsible for the magnitude of difference is where we experience cognitive bias.

Now, if we could take those same two basses, paint them over and put them in a room, then have a random guy go in and select one and give it to a blindfolded musician to play, it would be most interesting to see if they could be differentiated. That alone shows there is a difference in those two basses. But in order to show a difference between the woods, to get some statistical significance, we need to do it with around 40 basses of each, have control groups, random assignment and around 40 players or so with no knowledge of what they are playing and the testers with no knowledge of which one is which. Then we need to get a pretty high level of consistency amongst the results in order to state there is a statistically significant difference (again there is lots of science in the real thing). Problem with this research problem is that there are so many other variables at play, even if you try to control for all of them!

So that might tell us that wood makes a discernible and predictable difference. The main issue here for me now, is that remember, we are talking about electronic instruments here and if the question is significant difference rather than any difference, what happens if I roll off the tone knob on one bass and leave it on the other? Well, it's obvious that the sound of the wood is masked by the influence of the electronics. Hence, obviously, the magnitude of effect on tone of the electronic circuit, dwarfs the magnitude of effect of the wood.

So even in this little mental exercise, the wood may have some form of impact, but what is the magnitude of that impact? Is is predictable? Is it meaningful? Hard to say, but it's certainly clear that the electronics have an impact!

I have more to blather about, but it's getting late and I need to sleep...
  #49  
Old 01-10-2013, 06:02 AM
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As a wise man once said, "the truth will piss you off before it sets you free".

This should be a sticky.
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  #50  
Old 01-10-2013, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by SJan3 View Post
..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
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  #51  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:04 PM
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..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
First of all, the fact that someone is dead does not make them right when they were alive. The fact that they are dead, does not make them smart, honest, or a good person.

Secondly someone may be forthcoming with their beliefs, doesn't mean they are correct. Many people believed the world was going to end on the 21st of December.

I have Squier VM P bass with a thick poly finish made of agathis, which is a pretty soft light weight wood. I have two Jazz basses with nitro finishes that are made from northern ash and sapele, which are heavy dense woods. When played acoustically, the Squier resonates much more than the other two. Which proves that your argument of your nitro jazz vibrating more than your poly P holds no water.
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  #52  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:06 PM
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I agree that black sounds better.
It's a well known fact that red is faster though and purple sounds funkier.
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  #53  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJan3 View Post
..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
Awesome, glad your Jazz vibrates better. The finish has little to nothing to do with it.
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  #54  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:25 PM
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Everything on an instrument has an effect on the sound. The shape it's cut in, the electronics, wood selection, and even the particular pieces of each selected. Whether that's audible to you or not is another story.

As far as I can tell, there are two things going on when an instrument is played. First, the instrument is resonating the string vibrations, as the strings are attached in some way to the body and neck. That's where the body and neck shape and materials have an effect..the finish not so much.

The second thing happening is that between the strings and the instrument a magnetic field is created due to the magnetic waves being released from the strings and bouncing off the pickups and instrument top. Here, it would make sense that there is some type of difference, much like when you place your instrument facing your amp you get feedback between the instrument and speaker...same concept but within a much smaller magnetic field.

That said, the latter seems to be an amplification of the the body woods and sound themselves, and would make up less of the 'sound' of the instrument and more to do with things like clarity, note separation, and pickup performance. Those are all colorations that can be fixed with an EQ though...dead-sounding wood cannot be EQ'd out though.

Personally, I've never paid any attention to what a guitar looks like when I buy it. I just find something comfortable that sounds good and has been at least somewhat maintained over the years. So I really have no idea how much measurable difference it would make.

Emibass has a good idea...if only I had the time and patience.
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  #55  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by SJan3 View Post
..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
A quick visit to the "rant" section of Ed's website pretty much tells the story. There's no doubt he's was forthcoming with his opinions. A few of them may even be correct.
  #56  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:29 PM
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I'm a believer.
I took a dead sounding guitar, stripped the finish completely off and the sound was completely different.
It wasn't in my head, my wife heard the guitar and asked me why it sounded so much better. She had no preconceived ideas and couldn't care less.
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  #57  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJan3

..and to you Musiclogic, you should lay off the dead. Maybe you're the BS artist. I knew Ed and found him to be extremely forthcoming with his beliefs. And, by the way, my nitro Fender Jazz does vibrate better than my poly P Bass.
Awesome, glad your Jazz vibrates better. The finish has little to nothing to do with it.
And even if it did at some perceptible level, the amount would be tiny. So let's say said jazz did have a minute amount better upper mids that you could actually perceive with your ear, and that you could somehow prove that it had to do with the finish and not the wood, neck, etc... So then when plugged in, that translates to turning your mid knob up on your amp about 1/64 of a turn when you plug in the PBass.
  #58  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:38 PM
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The second thing happening is that between the strings and the instrument a magnetic field is created due to the magnetic waves being released from the strings and bouncing off the pickups and instrument top.
This is factually incorrect. That is not what happens, and is not how electromagnetic fields work.
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  #59  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:41 PM
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Nitro vs poly or whatever?
And One is better than another for the body to resonance or it's just a look question?
It's not possible that poly as such kills the sound. Music Man instruments are proof, as well as PRS guitars. You might not like PRS's not-LP-not-Strat sound but they sure ring properly.

Bulletproof thickness poly with lots of ingredients to make it more flexible is more of a dampener.

I once finished nitro over an extremely thin poly finish (Ibanez Blazer) and it me it sounded like there was more "going on" afterwards. I speculate that the hard nitro was reflecting sound. However, this is another one of these studies with sample size == 1, so...
  #60  
Old 01-10-2013, 04:42 PM
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This is factually incorrect. That is not what happens, and is not how electromagnetic fields work.
Actually, it is correct. The magnet in the pickups create an electromagnetic field that transfers the motion of the strings into electrical energy, which is read at a frequency and translated into sound through the amplification. The body of the guitar continues to vibrate, being connected to the strings, thus creating further motion, or resonance.
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