Guitar Finishes Have No Effect On Sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by gjohnson441496, Jan 5, 2018.

  1. gjohnson441496


    Dec 14, 2014
    Has this been cleared up, or is it still up for debate? Nitro, Poly, doesn't matter.

    Start it at 2 minute 40 sec to find out why...

  2. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    This is TB. It's debatable.
  3. mikeoso

    mikeoso Acoustic Curmudgeon

    Feb 14, 2014
    eastern Iowa
    Might be debatable with regard to solid bodies, I wouldn't know. It absolutely has an effect on hollowbodies and acoustics...that cannot be debated.
  4. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Anything can be debated. All it takes is one person to argue the incorrect position.
    whbjr, showens, Road Hat and 32 others like this.
  5. Luckydog


    Dec 25, 1999
    Or the correct one. Not to be argumentative LOL
  6. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    I will always be taking the correct position, so we really just need the other person...
    showens, DrewinHouston, Chef and 27 others like this.
  7. Bent77


    Mar 6, 2013
    I’m you’re huckleberry
  8. On TB, everything is debatable. lol

    Sustained. :laugh:
    Pbassmanca, lfmn16 and Lobster11 like this.
  9. Hmm, only thinking aloud here...

    From a psychological point of view, imagine one model of a bass. Maybe the bass model is available in basic solid colors and maybe a handful of nice tops. Would a musician be inspired to play something slightly different depending on the finish of the instrument he/she chose to sit down and test?

    I know anytime I get a new bass, I seem to be inspired to come up with a new melodic line.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  10. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    I had a black Stratocaster with a maple neck for a while. I replaced the stock white pickguard with a black one, to be more like David Gilmour or something. I preferred playing it, and seemed to play it better, when it had the white pickguard fitted.

    How does that work? :help:
    Pbassmanca, Big Shrek, Mr.Ace and 4 others like this.
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    The reason why a change in manufacturing process was made doesn't have anything to do with whether or not there was a noticeable difference in the sound of the instruments made afterwards.
    iceboxbass, RRR, Inara and 4 others like this.
  12. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic designer: Yorkville Sound
    mrb327 likes this.
  13. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    Mark Agnesi is basically recounting the history of why Fender moved over to a polyurethane finish during the CBS era. He points out, correctly, that the change wasn't made for tonal reasons. The cynic in me isn't entirely surprised that a salesman and purveyor of vintage instruments will be keen to downplay the perceived shift in quality from nitro to poly-finished Fenders and the according pre-CBS to CBS-era jump. Then again, when I was a kid cruising Harmony Central etc the general consensus was that Fenders started to suck as of the 1st of January 1968. Now it seems everything through to 1981 is good enough, and sellers on Reverb are further obscuring the notion that anything made by anybody before 1990 is resoundingly good, and should be priced accordingly.

    The skinny really is that Fender always found ways of making a process more efficient. They used nitro in the first place because it was the industry standard for automobiles (etc) during that era. It wasn't picked for tonal properties in the first place. The problem, as I see it, is that we're unconsciously discussing Fender instruments in poly v nitro debates. Gibson appear to have used more conventional finishing techniques when it comes down to grain filling, staining etc. Still, nobody wanted a finish that took weeks to properly cure or needed lots of very delicate work to produce an even, gloss finish. Fender were a company that were inventing guitars from the remaining stock of Bass V and Electric XII instruments that failed to sell (the Swinger and Maverick; the darlings of the 1969 Fender catalog). They weren't tapping individual body blanks to chose the choicest 'stock' or anything as artisanal as that.

    There doesn't seem to be a common consensus, but many believe that Fender began using Fullerplast in the last 1950s or early-mid '60s. Fullerplast was a modified alkyd resin (a varnish of sorts), which provided a hard catalyzed and chemically impervious finish that Fender could spray on thickly below colour coats or sunburst finishes. It is basically an industrial sanding sealer that suited Fender's production line ethos; spray quickly and thickly rather than fiddle about with more traditional grain filling techniques. Time equals money.

    The bad(ish) news is that Fullerplast basically nulls a lot of the arguments in favour of nitro finishes, at least on Fender instruments. All that hyperbole about nitro 'letting the wood breathe' (which was always fairly nonsense, and the creation of Fender's marketing department), or how nitro is a thin finish that allows the wood to vibrate more, is rendered null and void by the thick immovable layer of Fullerplast that loiters under the nitro coats above. When you see a stripped vintage Fender guitar or bass, you are usually seeing the Fullerplast layer with a yellow stain beneath, rather than raw wood.

    As per Dan Erlewine's sumptuous 'Guitar Player Repair Guide', the recipe for a gorgeous Fender Candy Apple Red finish, circa 1964, is:

    1. Seal the body in 'yellow sealer' (I think Dan is combining two steps here, as the yellow 'dip dye' was one process and the Fullerplast sealer was another, a photo of the former process is sometimes displayed as the latter).
    2. Apply a coat of white lacquer.
    3. Apply a layer of gold (bronze powder).
    4. Apply a layer of transparent red.
    5. Apply a clear topcoat.
    Now, Fender being Fender, some of these steps were probably skipped or jumbled up. Custom colours (like CAR) were sprayed over sunburst finishes, and some Custom Color Fenders didn't gain a topcoat (like Herbie Flowers' Lake Placid Blue Jazz bass). Still, that is a 5-step process at least! This somewhat dispels the romantic notion of nitro being a hair-thin finish that slumps into the grain of the wood over time. Plus, modern nitro finishes are muddled up with additional plasticizers (Gibson do this), so they aren't the brittle finishes of yore.

    Basically, there is the wistful belief that old stuff is always better, then there is the more muddled and complex issue of 1) what did Fender actually do in the '60s and 2) what do Fender do now when they spray a 'nitro' finish (or at least what they call a nitro finish).

    EDIT! I spent too long chasing my own tail. In short, Mark Agnesi's video doesn't fulfill OP's premise in any way. It certainly doesn't dispel or validate any sort of nitro/poly/either/neither argument. In short Mark drops a brief, unverified, history lesson into his usual Dice-Clay-of-old-guitars schtick of rapping while waving the headstock of a vintage instrument around near some wooden shelving, then phoning in a few licks while his girlfriend/wife/secretary giggles and snickers unseen behind the camera. He does all of this because he wants to SELL THE INSTRUMENT. Is he going to rock the boat? Is he going to slay some sacred cows? Plenty of Youtube celebrities are willing to do this (or lack the business brain to see the error in doing this), but Mark isn't one of these guys. To get the Norman's Rare Guitars gig he must be a shrewd operator and good salesman. As such he isn't going to devalue 50% of NRG stock by claiming they are finished in an inferior manner.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  14. Sixgunn


    Jun 6, 2012
    Colorado Springs
    I don't wait 30 minutes after eating, to go swimming.
    That's debatable.
    whbjr, Mr.Ace, joker820 and 2 others like this.
  15. Sixgunn


    Jun 6, 2012
    Colorado Springs
    I don't wait 30 minutes after eating, to go swimming.
    Soda tastes wrong in a coffee cup and cars run better after you wash them.
    Mr.Ace, SDH, J-Bassomatic and 14 others like this.
  16. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Styrofoam or ceramic?
    kobass and JRA like this.
  17. Sixgunn


    Jun 6, 2012
    Colorado Springs
    I don't wait 30 minutes after eating, to go swimming.
    Are you kidding? Ceramic. Everyone knows that!! ;)
    kobass likes this.
  18. As long as the finishes are applied thinly there shouldn’t be a sonic difference I think. I like the way that nitro ages but some may not. My one nitro bass does feel different to the hand but that could be because it’s been deglossed and reliced.
    I don’t think there should be any debate that it’s a more painstaking process or that environmental regulations are slowly killing it.
  19. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Finishes (including nitro), moisture in the wood, and organic compounds in between the fibers add damping (deaden vibrations). Over time, the moisture tends to leave the wood, and the organic stuff crystallizes. As a result, old wood (or torrified (aka baked)) wood does indeed resonate more (ring longer) than young green wood. If you've ever driven screws in timbers in an old house (some of them scream when you do this) you know this is a very real thing.

    Now assuming you believe that wood damping affects how an instrument responds (it does, the question you can debate is whether it's audible or not), then the less finish you put on a piece of wood, the more resonant it will be - especially when it gets old.

    Part of the "nitro sounds better" thing may be that the instruments with nitro finishes have....older wood at least in general).

    I, for one, put thing poly finishes on my basses, and use torrified wood for the necks (where it should make the most difference). I like my basses. The one where everything (body, neck and fingerboard) are all torrified - it does sound different. On the good side, but they're all good.

    What was the question?
    Big Shrek, Figjam, Steve-Mo and 4 others like this.
  20. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    There are still people who believe the earth is flat and NASA faked the moon landing
    dukeorock, Leiria, SDH and 8 others like this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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