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How do I feel about vintage instruments?

Question on a forum: “Let’s focus lower on the totem pole around those under $10k. How do you feel about these as a player? Do you think modern production more than makes up for old wood? Would you pay the asking price if you intended to play it, rather than resell it? If you found one at a yard sale, would you flip it and buy a reissue instead?”

I don’t think old wood makes any significant difference to tone. I think it’s a myth, superstition. It’s also utterly impossible to test so it’s a moot point (because nobody can make two identical guitars from the same piece of wood and send one off in a time machine to age and then bring it back and compare to the other guitar). Besides, ask a violin player how they feel about 60 year-old wood. They’ll say it needs to be centuries old. And remember that blindfold test with virtuoso violinists presented with a number of 200 year-old instruments and modern ones? They copuld tell there were differences between individual instruments but couldn’t tell which was which and tended to prefer the modern instruments!

Do painters get all excited about vintage paints? No. And if they did but nobody else could tell the difference, who cares? Only the artist. And even if the audience could tell the difference, who is to say which version of which colour is better? It’s a subjective decision, beauty in the eye of the beholder. The same is true of musical instruments. The artists uses what feels/sounds/looks right to them in producing the works they present to the world. For me, vintage instuments don’t hold anything special in that regard.

And when it comes to actually playing and creating real music, I want a guitar that feels right and stays in tune well. In terms of tuning stability and manufacturing consistency and quality, modern instruments are often superior to vintage.  Yes, vintage instruments are cool, great pieces of history, and may sound and play great too. But if our focus is on playing and creating music, our decision should be inspiration, which can come from anything. It makes no sense to cut out inspiring instruments because of the age or youth. So let’s not needlessly mythologise vintage instruments. Let’s just focus on making great music, making the best use of the various tools we have to do so.