How to Maximize Acoustic Guitar Resonance with TruTone
Have you ever taken a step back to think about the true simplicity of an acoustic instrument? Long before there were ways to create volume with electricity, instrument makers had to find ways to get the most volume as possible using basic physics. An acoustic guitar uses just a few basic ingredients to create some truly amazing sounds. No moving parts, no electronics, no magnets, no amplifiers- just strings vibrating the air (and materials) around them. That being said, an acoustic relies heavily on several key factors to allow the strings to resonate to their maximum potential.
If you examine a vibrating string on a guitar, it is attached at two points: the headstock and the bridge. Those are then directly connected to the headstock and neck woods and the body and top woods, respectively. So as such, these tone woods that are used in these various locations are incredibly important to allow the string to transfer its energy to the woods, which in turn naturally amplify the sound. Some tonewoods boost the low-end of a guitar, others offer more shimmering treble qualities allowing a guitar to ‘sparkle’ more; and everything in between.
So because of this “natural amplification”, it goes without saying that preserving as much of the original tone is of the utmost importance (even more important than using those snazzy buffered pedals or pure copper cables in your electric setup). Paul Reed Smith actually demonstrates this very concept of how tonewoods really allow for maximum “natural amplification” during the ‘subtractive philosophy’ segment of his TEDtalk. Check out his “elbow harmonic technique” at 6:05, where he strikes some harmonics on one of his acoustics and as they ring out, he tries to get the guitar to shut up- and it won’t. This maximized resonance, even down to the most delicate of harmonics are preserved due to the high quality tone woods that he used in the construction of this guitar.
Here is a fun tone experiment you can do right now at home! Have you ever played your acoustic standing up (with or without a strap)? Have you ever played your acoustic on a stand? Have you played it on your right vs. left legs, and noticed the difference in sounds? Have you ever been in the process of tuning your acoustic and set it on a desk or table, strummed it, and noticed how the guitar can transfer its sound to the surface it sits on? (**seriously, go try it! But be gentle so you don’t blame me for scratching your guitar or desk!) You will notice a drastic increase in volume and overall tone, and this is due to more surfaces vibrating from the transfer of energy across materials.
When recording acoustic guitars in studios, many producers not only experiment with microphones and placement, but also with how the player holds and sits (or stands) with their instrument. Many times, they’ll actually have the player hold the guitar away from their body to let the full back of the instrument resonate fully. Holding a guitar close to one’s body can drastically dampen the tone of the instrument. Seriously, try this out! Sit with your acoustic ‘normally’, and then hold it “out” in front of you so it doesn’t touch any part of you but your leg. Notice the difference? Full disclaimer: since tone is subjective, this may or not sound better to your ear, but there should be a difference between the two. If you’ve tried a new set of strings, a full setup, and various mics and still find that your acoustic isn't quite “singing” how you want it; this new product from Wales might be worth trying!
Known as the TruTone, this new product is a non-destructive, non-permanent modification that anyone can make to their acoustic to increase the resonance and add that extra tone you’re craving. If you have that elusive 'holy grail' acoustic in your collection already, then this isn’t for you, but if you have an acoustic you love that just needs that “little extra somethin'”; read on.
Inspired by a physics lecture, TruTone’s inventor realized that allowing a bit of separation between the guitar’s body and the player’s body was the key to letting the instrument fully resonate and “breathe” properly. If you tried the above tone experiment, it’s pretty amazing to hear the difference in tone, especially if you have some good mics at your disposal. The only downside is that it certainly ‘feels’ awkward to hold your acoustic so far from your body. And thus, it’s TruTone to the rescue.
This device attaches to the back of your instrument, without glue or mounting hardware, with simple plastic suction cups. This puts both an exotic piece of wood and a layer of air between yourself and the resonating back of the guitar body. This allows the back of the guitar to resonate as if you were holding it away from yourself, but also allows you to comfortably rest the guitar against your body as you play. The tone gets a boost, and the feel of holding the guitar remains for an acoustic win-win!
In addition to the boost in tone/resonance/volume, the guitar may also see an improvement in feedback mitigation, perfect for those mic’d or amplified gigs.
As the folks at TruTone say on their website: “… it is my understanding that getting the two main plates moving in unison actually helps with the reduction of feedback. The Larsen effect is a trapped sound loop in-between the input and the output of a sound system. Feedback in an acoustic instrument starts when the trapped sound can’t dissipate within the guitars box due to one plate being live and the other damped, so there is your loop front moving bouncing off the back, amplified and round and round we go… but remove the damped back and dissipation happens rather than a trapped wave."
These simple $100 wooden add-ons can also provide a layer of protection against your prized acoustic and your belt buckle - or any other items of apparel that make guitar shop staff cringe when they see patrons testing out an instrument.
The Wales-based woodworker offers the TruTone in 2 forms: Sapele and Ash, and lucky for you left-handed players out there, he can make those to order as well! There are also plans in the works to create these for ukeleles as well.
So far, these products are so new that there aren’t any demos just yet, so we look forward to seeing them popping up on YouTube! You can definitely expect us to revisit these awesome products in future string things, so stay tuned! Pretty elegant, we must say!