How do you test your guitars?

mazzolar59

Strat-Talker
Silver Member
Apr 27, 2018
265
Chicago
I'm opening this discussion because we all talk a lot about how well our guitars sound... but, how do we test them? Are we doing it properly?

My story: I found some strats sounding quite good in my home studio... pretty cheap btw. Then, I usually try to test them through friends' good vintage amps (blackface, hiwatt 100)

Eventually I am testing the guitars in a professional studio (again of a friend of mine): plugging the guitar through a pristine vintage Hiwatt Custom 100, a microphoned 4x12 Marshall vintave cab and listening it through the pro studio monitors in a well conditioning mixing room, and assisted by a good sound engineer.... I have managed to listen some kind of nuanaces otherwise imposible... I can tell if a guitar could cut well in a mix, the harmomic content, not being biased by a thick low end (which is not the natural place for a guitar in a mix...)

With this method I have changed my opiniom about some guitars, in both ways

How do you approach testing a guitar?


Since I don't record or play live anymore; if they sound good in my living room, then they will do. That said, I don't own any cheap guitars. I prefer to buy American made guitars (although I do own a Mexican Tele that's just killer).
 

bobbybro

Strat-Talk Member
May 30, 2021
59
Zurich, Switzerland
I had a Mesa Boogie Express Plus 5:50. I could plug any guitar into it and they magically sounded the same! And that's one of Mesa's best clean amps. I had a Celestion Gold in that amp.

On the other hand, I had a Marshall 2061x (had 2 of them over the years actually) with a nice Celestion Gold and a Vintage 30 in a 2x12 2061xc cab, and you could hear the distinctness in every guitar. It made my Dan Electro quite fun to play. The amp emphasized the guitar's character. That's a good amp to test a guitar on.
 

jblue

Strat-Talk Member
Feb 27, 2019
17
NY
Sadly, I usually just give them a quick run-through, making sure it's completely functional. If I have a good feeling playing it initially, I buy it. It takes some time for me to bond with a guitar or not. That said, it goes one way or the other from there. I don't overpay cause if it goes the other, I'll sell it down the line.
 

ladewd

Strat-Talk Member
May 25, 2018
29
LA
I have the greatest guitar player ever to have lived, the late, great Mike Bloomfield, play them and report back to me. If he approves that's good enough for me.

TP
The first concert I ever attended was the Blues Project with Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper.
 

JeffBlue

Senior Stratmaster
Oct 25, 2012
1,000
Southern California
After I build or mod a guitar, I usually hit the strings with the guitar unplugged and with one hand, I grab the headstock. I feel the vibration, the strength of the vibration and the duration in seconds to assess the neck/body connection, sustain and overall components interaction. A low timed thud isn't a good sign.

I have several amp rigs and I play my guitars through most of them and that is a good indicator whether or not it is a good sounding guitar.
 

DaMasta

Strat-Talker
Feb 9, 2019
117
California, USA
I'm opening this discussion because we all talk a lot about how well our guitars sound... but, how do we test them? Are we doing it properly?

My story: I found some strats sounding quite good in my home studio... pretty cheap btw. Then, I usually try to test them through friends' good vintage amps (blackface, hiwatt 100)

Eventually I am testing the guitars in a professional studio (again of a friend of mine): plugging the guitar through a pristine vintage Hiwatt Custom 100, a microphoned 4x12 Marshall vintave cab and listening it through the pro studio monitors in a well conditioning mixing room, and assisted by a good sound engineer.... I have managed to listen some kind of nuanaces otherwise imposible... I can tell if a guitar could cut well in a mix, the harmomic content, not being biased by a thick low end (which is not the natural place for a guitar in a mix...)

With this method I have changed my opiniom about some guitars, in both ways

How do you approach testing a guitar?

I don't really get hung up in specs or equipment. If it sounds good through what I own and makes the noises I want it to make I'm happy. Test passed
 

Bladesg

Funk Meister
Silver Member
Oct 31, 2013
3,831
Australia
I don’t adjust my amp and rarely adjust anything on my pedalboard for any of my guitars so I guess there’s my reference.
 

buzzword

Strat-Talker
Silver Member
Nov 12, 2020
118
Los Angeles
First I check to see if the neck is comfortable, I'll take any modern C or D, and I'm ok with any radius on those (although modern C compound preferred). I prefer medium jumbo frets but can live with tall and narrow as well, it just doesn't make all that much difference to me, in fact I enjoy the challenge of having to compensate for the differences, variety is the spice of life. Admittedly I might feel differently if I was a pro playing out 3 or 4 sets a night, I'm not.

Most importantly, I then bang the head stock against the edge of my desk a few times and then again against the wall, as I'm likely to do when tuning or playing while sitting or standing. I use wall hangers but I also have a floor stand so I can briefly put down the guitar I'm currently playing to go to the bathroom or answer the wife's call, so I place it there and let the the 2 cats rub up against it as they're quick to do if I leave the room while a guitar is on the floor stand.

I then pick the cat hair out of the strings and pick ups (thus the reason for wall hangers) and if it still makes any kind of audible sound after all that *sold* :D
 

Tremoluxer

Strat-O-Master
Gold Supporting Member
Jul 28, 2020
514
Ypsilanti, Michigan
I test them when I buy them. If they don't pass I don't buy them. If they pass, they've graduated -- they're all done with tests -- and I buy them, playing "Pomp and Circumstance" as I walk out of the store with my new guitar.
 

Guitdog44

New Member!
Oct 17, 2017
7
Chicago
The weirdest thing that I've noticed is using a guitar that I really didn't like. I didn't like the pickups. To me they needed to be replaced. I used that guitar to record a song idea because it was handy and was surprised at how awsome it sounded in the recording!
Maybe it would have sounded different with different pickups. Better? I don't know. Surprised? I was!
Lol
 

eclecticsynergy

Senior Stratmaster
Sep 23, 2014
4,328
NY
First the basics: a decent neck with no buzzing or dead frets. Does the wiring work?
Then I check the other most important thing for me: the feel. Is it lively?

Many dismiss the headstock-tap test as irrelevant because it can't tell you anything about the tone.
But can reveal much about the liveness of the neck.
If a neck quivers when tapped it's almost certain that guitar will feel alive.

As someone else posted, certain guitars sing when you play them.
To me, those are the good ones.
They're eager to come alive and will take off & fly even at pretty moderate volume levels.

The way I see it, the sound of a guitar can be manipulated in dozens of different ways.
But very little can be done to alter the liveliness of a guitar's feel.
That's in the wood itself.

Another thing about evaluating guitars primarily by their tone: I agree when hearing any guitar by itself it's hard to gauge the usefulness of its particular tones. Certain traits only show up at volume. And qualities which sound odd or harsh outside of a mix may work really well in a band context.

But as always, YMMV.
 


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