I know little about music and musical instruments. However, my distinguished New Leaf Journal colleague, Victor V. Gurbo, not only plays guitars professionally, but also builds them (see his articles on his nine-string guitar and Res-O-Glas guitar). Victor also has a collection of vintage guitars (see some examples). Back in 2021, he wrote an article making the three-part case for the superiority of vintage guitars. Victor argued that older wood produces a better sound:
Guitar aficionados will argue endlessly about what kind of wood produces the best sound for a guitar. Different woods do produce different sounds. But the age of the instrument and how it aged is just as significant in how it sounds.
Moreover, Victor emphasized the point about how it aged:
Modern guitar companies are aware of the benefits of aging for wooden guitars. For that reason, they try to remove moisture from newer guitars by kindle-drying the wood. While this does lead to an improvement in the guitar’s sound, it does not fully capture the sound of a guitar that aged naturally. There is no substitute for the real thing.
Since I know very little about what makes a guitar sound good, I am inclined to defer to the resident expert on the subject. I came across an article published on January 17, 2023 in Chicago Magazine titled The Violin Doctor. This excellent article is a profile of Mr. John Becker, the preeminent violin luthier:
There are other luthiers with expertise in instruments from the Italian craftsman’s golden period, from 1700 to 1725, but master violin restorers are rare — around 20 worldwide now — and Becker is widely regarded as the best. At 64, he has worked on more than 120 Stradivarius violins — likely more, he says, than any other living person.
Mr. Becker has decades of experience working with very vintage violins, some of which are now well over 400 years old. The top violinists in the world entrust Mr. Becker with their instruments. I say this only to establish Mr. Becker’s expertise. When I read the article, I stopped when I saw Mr. Becker express a similar sentiment to our own Mr. Gurbo:
Becker has collected wood for decades, and most of his blocks are at least 40 years old. The longer the wood ages, says Becker, the better it gets.
Count Mr. Becker as another vote in favor of properly-aged wood for musical instruments. Lest one thinks that this only applies to violins, the article notes that Mr. Becker has expertise with guitars as well:
Becker got to work. When he eventually finished the guitar, five years later, he put it in a case and presented it to [Randy] Wolfe before a Spirit concert at Beginnings, a now-shuttered venue in Arlington Heights. ‘His eyes — he was just mesmerized,’ Becker recalls.
(He also has experience building and restoring harps, because of course he does.)
The lesson seems to be clear. There’s a certain sound that can only be produced by high quality, properly-aged wood.