Music has an ability to harness a more immediate connection with pure sensations than any other fine art form. The sensations of tone are the organic material of the art and can be felt through your whole body. The best music has the ability to transcend your favourite playlists or CD and takes you to a different time and place in your life and becomes your companion. This music’s tone has the power to bring you back and place you in your life, at a time that you will always remember. There is a quality to tone which enables an incredible power to draw inspiration and play.
Guitars embody the voice of the forest translated through the skill and dedication of the luthier. It is the luthiers job to give a voice back to the wood. Every grain and detail of the wood is a malleable material which alters the form and function of the instrument as well as the tone. In guitar construction, the tone becomes the ultimate material which guides our senses through the validity of the art form.
Judging guitar tone is complicated and very subjective. What I may find pleasing in a guitar may or may not influence your overall experience submerged in the quality of the sound.
[blockquote cite=Ervin-Somogyi]Sound is air molecules hitting and exciting our ear drums, pure and simple. But there’s no magic at all in this objective description. The magic in musical sound all happens subjectively, in the brain and in how it’s able (through innate ability, training, and acculturation) to processes the neural impulses being sent in from the ear. In this regard sound is very much like food and wine, where the magic happens in one’s own mouth, tongue, palate, nose, eyes, as well as in one’s brain. While many of us report that we “like” this or that sound or wine or food — the fact is that many of us hold these preferences because we’ve learned that we should have them, without ever knowing whether we have any authentic preferences that are different. So when it comes to guitar sound, I’m big on listening and really paying attention. And I recommend it to everyone.[/blockquote]
Sound is a complex material capable of shifting in and out of time and transforming any moment into a memory. A memory directly linked to the smells, sights and tastes involved in that experience. Good sound may be described as sound that pleases the listener, regardless if this person understands the complexity of sound or quality of which it’s timbre can be judged or categorized.
A guitar can have a combination of different elements that when mixed form the quality of its tone. A guitar’s tone may be described better by closely looking at the components of the overall quality of the tone. Components such as bass, treble, projection, dynamic range, warmth, volume, percussiveness, midrange, resonance, tonal bloom, note shape (round-flat), harmonic series, sweetness, clarity and definition, decay time, cutting power, evenness of response, note separation, brilliance, dryness of tone, tonal darkness or lightness and all the colours in between. These components enable a listener with a well trained ear the ability to describe the overall quality of tone.
Symphontree Music composed a new criteria for physical tonal analysis known as the Critical Tone Analysis (CTA). The analysis addresses physically measurable quantities on the guitar by looking closely at the overall components which define the quality of tone. We can use these criteria to describe what quality of tone one can anticipate from a particular instrument.
Criteria to Critically Analyze Guitar Tone
1. Chordal Response (how quickly the chord responds to your touch)
2. Individual note decay, as well as blended in a chord
3. Basic volume and presence
4. Individual note separation and focus
5. Systematic sustain (exact length of time it takes a chord to decay)
6. Response compliance (do you have to push the guitar or does it respond easily to your touch)
7. Balance and quality of tone (bass heavy, treble heavy or evenly balanced)
8. Even strength and balance of each string
9. Wolf tones (problematic loud or soft notes)
10. Tone projection (is the sound good up close or across the room)
11. A large dynamic range (quality of sound from playing very softly, softly, medium, harder, and/or really hard)
13. Tonal bloom (whether the sound comes out immediately at full volume or whether it integrates and gets louder before it begins to wane)
Quality of sound (Warm, sweet, tinny, rich, live, fundamental, shallow, breathy, open, held back, and/or has lots of overtones)
Ratings may be applied to the listed criteria above;
3 Lowest possible rating
5 Highest possible rating
The Critical Tone Analysis
1. Chordal Response: fast, deep, reactive, thick swell, round, versatile chordal weight, fighter jet speed 5.0
2. Individual note decay as well as blended in a chord: 5.0
14 sec + ~ approx sec as note ~ 14 sec + with vibrato
3. Basic volume and presence: LOUD, soft, classical, orchestral, powerful, grand piano control, profound presence, interactive volume with a ton of headroom, roaring, thunderous, thundering 5.0
4. Individual note separation and focus: clear, thick, crisp, very good note separation 5.0
5.Systematic sustain: earth trembling sustain, rich defined overtone series, interactive sustain, delay, lingering sustain that is malleable 5.0
6. Quality of sound: lyrical tone with supernatural strength, exuberant, thick, atmospheric, vivacious, very dynamic, rich, rings like a bell, cuts like a knife, soft / classical-nylon, gritty, fundamental shovel, defined overtone series, very pleasing, shivering soundboard, incredible tap tone snap to whoof, luxuriant
7. Response compliance: fast, energetic, interactive response, perfect finger style balance, 5.0
8. Balance and quality of tone: balanced with a crisp acoustic note loaded in fundamental, very energetic, open, ppp to fff, an enthusiastic voice, vibrant, malleable tone, interactive, 5.0
9. Even strength and balance of each string: every string is evenly balanced and pronounced with a crisp acoustic focus, thick and heavy mids and trebles, trembling and enveloping bass loaded with fundamental, 5.0
10. Wolf tones : none to report
11. Tone projection: Vivacious interactive swell, LOUD to soft, volcanic, tsunami wave 5.0
12. A large dynamic range: smooth jazz to classical to avante garde to contemporory to flat pick to finger style to orchestral, solo, virtuoso, PROFESSIONAL dynamics, new sounds you have never heard, percussive snap to jazz chatting, musical weapon 5.0
13. Tonal bloom: energetic bloom or slower warm bloom, interactive tonal control with even compliance 5.0