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Let’s Talk Seriously About Guitar Tone…

Let's Talk Seriously About Guitar Tone...

...and see if we can agree on some things.

We understand that only a very small minority of guitar players are aware that a guitar’s finish is actually the most critical factor in determining how an electric guitar will sound. Not pickups, pots, “thin nitro,” long neck tenon, oil & paper caps, or virtually any of the popular myths about what makes a guitar sound good. Mostly everyone misses the point, because guitar companies do not provide this information, either because they themselves are not aware or, worse, they don’t care to tell the truth about tone.

With more than 10 years of actual experience under out belts with guitars finished traditionally and more than 50 years with guitars finished NON traditionally, we can state that mahogany based guitars that have had the grain filled (traditional finish) are inferior in tone than mahogany based guitars that have no grain filler (non traditional finish). Furthermore, on a traditional finish guitar, it does not matter what comes after the grain filler. Thin nitro, thick poly, or any other type of finish doesn’t matter. The guitar’s tone has been compromised, often severely, before adding the final finish. Non traditional finish guitars, on the other hand, keep virtually all of the natural resonance inherent in mahogany 100% of the time.

Now, this conclusion is not born out of comparing two or three guitars and forming an opinion based on limited experience. Kind of like the guy who has a 10 pound Les Paul that sounds really good, so he has formed an opinion that heavy Les Pauls sound best, because he once played a light one that was nowhere near as good sounding as his 10 pounder. No, our experience is with hundreds and hundreds of guitars, including dozens of original 50’s Les Pauls of all kinds, personally owned or played.

So, you may not yet be convinced that what is stated above is actually fact or fiction. How can you know, given the fact that, most likely, you’ve only been exposed to traditionally finished guitars, with no opportunity to experience a non traditional finish guitar? But, let’s assume what is written above is 100% factual and we’ll go from there.

Do you think it is a fair statement that all guitar manufacturers somewhere in their marketing materials are going to tell you the guitar “sounds great,” or, “…which makes great sustain?” Again, if what we say above is 100% factual, that would be an outright lie, no? Actually, our experience is that around one in ten traditionally finished guitars do retain some semblance of resonance and sound decent. The one in ten person who gets a decent one could say, “no, it wasn’t an outright lie.” The other nine, however, may disagree!

If a guitar manufacturer knows that how they finish their guitars compromises the tone, do you think they have an obligation to tell that to potential buyers? They really should, because they could offer a non traditional finish as well and let the player decide between a traditional look, or maximum tone. By the way, while a non traditional finished guitar will not have that “fine furniture” look on the mahogany, the top can be finished either traditional high gloss or, better yet, a satin finish, without affecting the tone. We vote for “tell the customer the truth and let him decide.”

You may think Corsa Guitars is hypocritical because we don’t offer traditionally finished guitars. We wouldn’t agree with that statement, because we think it’s really not right to produce an electric guitar with compromised tone, for any reason. After all, a guitar is supposed to be a musical instrument, and that’s our position. There is only one place you can get a newly built guitar with a non traditional finish (Corsa!), but hundreds of other options for guitars with traditional finishes. Our ideal customer’s main concern is tone, period. A look through our Galleries of finished guitars will show that Corsa Guitars not only have the best, uncompromised tone available anywhere, but they look great as well. Those two things are not mutually exclusive in a Corsa Guitar.

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