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Tonerite for acoustic guitar substitute?
August 21, 2010 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I have been thinking about getting a tonerite for guitar. I have no doubt that they work, but don't really wanna spend $150.00. I am trying to think of a less expensive, but suitable substitute that will vibrate the instrument in the same way. I am thinking an aquarium aerator with its tiny motor may fit the bill. Tell me how wrong I am and why. Any other ideas for a sub for the tonerite?
posted by wsg to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The first problem is that Tonerite seems like complete bullshit.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:56 PM on August 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seconded. There is no magic in a musical instrument. The only things that can change their tone once they are done being manufactured are changes to the mechanics of the thing, or gaining or loosing humidity. Which wouldn't be a good thing, as that would eventually wreck it. If you want to change the tone on the cheap, buy lighter or heavier strings.

Or, to put it another way, anything that vibrates will have the same effect as your tonerite.
posted by gjc at 4:27 PM on August 21, 2010


I think an aquarium aerator, an old pager/cellphone motor or an inexpensive vibrator from a sex shop would work exactly as well as a Tonerite.
posted by contraption at 4:37 PM on August 21, 2010


A dollar store hand-held fan might do the trick. You could pop off the fan part and jam an eraser on the end. Then you could determine how much vibration you get by how centered the eraser is.
posted by keeo at 5:04 PM on August 21, 2010


LOL.

I've never seen this concept before, and I played guitar for a living for a long time and know many fine pro guitarists.

It *has* to be bullshit. Come on. You can't "simulate play-in," and "play-in" itself is rather a myth unless you're talking about years of aging, which cannot be simulated. A well made instrument is made precisely to vibrate in a particular, very complex, way. You don't need to change that, and this device won't do it anyway.

So it's unnecessary. Spend the money on a fret job or having someone work on your action until its perfect. That will make a much bigger difference in your experience of playing the instrument, and ultimately your sound as a result.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:13 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've played guitar professionally for 40 years. The instruments I gig with are in excellent playing condition. My two main gigging guitars are newer Larrivees. I have retired my Martin from the road. The Larrivees play well and sound great. It is also well-establablished that vibrating an acoustic instrument (especially a newer instrument) can noticeably improve its tone. A trick that's been used for years is to set a guitar in a stand in front of a home stereo speaker and let the music you listen work its magic. There's an extensive article on the topic in the August, 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, "Why Your Guitar Improves With Age." It explains the science of why guitars get better with time and how to speed the process. There's not much question that vibrating an instrument can improve its tone. Still looking for some thoutful input. Dildo? Who knows. I like the creative input.
posted by wsg at 12:59 AM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've played longer than me, wsg, but I still say this is like buying Monster cables. Acoustic Guitar Magazine ain't science, it's in the business of selling advertising to companies like Tonerite. Just like audiophile magazines tell you you need fancy cables.

Guitars get better with time for myriad reasons. Vibration loosens the grain of the wood and softens the finish over time (and eventually, if you wait long enough, the instrument comes apart-- ask any violinist). But there is no audible reason one would want to accelerate it. And if the point is to achieve play in, just leave the guitar sitting on top of a subwoofer every night and play your James Brown records. It will accomplish the same thing without adding a device to the guitar, which is actually detrimental to the tone of a fine instrument.

Martin D-28; Fender Telecaster.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:22 AM on August 22, 2010


Oh, and you'll still get a far greater return on investment from spending $150 having your action worked on by a good craftsman.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:22 AM on August 22, 2010


[i]It is also well-establablished that vibrating an acoustic instrument (especially a newer instrument) can noticeably improve its tone.[/i]

No, it isn't. It's widely believed, certainly. There has been some academic study of it, none of it to my knowledge has indicated that vibration improves the sound of an instrument. If you have a paper to cite, let's see it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:28 AM on August 22, 2010


> A trick that's been used for years is to set a guitar in a stand in front of a home stereo speaker and let the music you listen work its magic.

Are you looking for simple vibration, or vibration at particular frequencies (maybe frequencies that the guitar itself would produce?) if it's the former, any vibrating motor that can be placed in good mechanical contact with the guitar should do it. If it's the latter, you might try using an actual speaker transducer. Depending on the intensity of the vibrations you're trying to generate you could use a little speaker from a pair of headphones hooked to an mp3 player, or the driver from a small full-range stereo speaker attached to real amp. I would think the easiest way to modify it would be to fill the cone with RTV silicone caulking until you get an approximately flat surface, then rubber band the apparatus to the body of the guitar and play it the lullaby of your choice, whether that's acoustic guitar music played by some master, pure sine tones, or even your guitar itself.

The makers of the Tonerite are very handwavy about what their product actually does, so it's hard to say how to best approximate one without having a unit to inspect and/or dissect. Since they sell different models for different instruments I would guess they are trying to interact in some way with the typical resonant frequencies of the various resonating cavities of each instrument (either that or they are absolute hucksters slapping different labels on the same box in order to try to sell multiple units to each customer.) If we assume this to be the case and that they are trying to improve the sound of the instrument by vibrating it at its own resonant frequency, I think you could actually do that better than they can, since you can find out exactly the right frequency(s) for your particular guitar instead of using one that's really just a guess as to what would be right for any guitar. After you make the speaker transducer rig and attach it to the guitar, play some white noise through it and use a tuner or spectrum analyzer to see what the dominant tone is, then make yourself an mp3 file that's just that tone and use it to vibrate your guitar.

Since I think this whole idea smells strongly of hokum, I hope you make good recordings of yourself playing the same piece on the guitar before and after the conditioning, then save those files (or label those tapes or whatever) with names that do not identify them as "before" and "after" and have somebody else play back bits of them while you try to identify which bits are from which session, then report the results here.
posted by contraption at 2:45 PM on August 22, 2010


That's just it: blind A/B comparison evidence or it's bullshit.

Serious scientific work on this stuff goes on at any major instrument manufacturer. The art of seasoning, prepping, and finishing the wood is also a science. There is quite a bit of serious scientific evidence about the relationship between wood, time, and tone, although most of it has been applied to violins.

Most of what happens to a wooden instrument over time is a result of drying out, not vibrating. The sap in the hardwood crystallizes and loses its binding power, and the grain of the wood opens up as a result. You can accelerate aging just fine -- leave your guitar in an unhumidified location.

As for vibration, if you drive to the gig with your guitar in the back seat, your vibrating it far more than you are when you play it. So maybe throw it in your trunk and drive it around all the time.

Should be just about as effective.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:03 PM on August 22, 2010


It is also well-establablished that vibrating an acoustic instrument (especially a newer instrument) can noticeably improve its tone.

No it isn't, not anymore than it's well-established that a green marker can make your CDs sound better or a jar of rocks can make your stereo sound better.

It MIGHT be true but it isn't well-established at all.

A trick that's been used for years is to set a guitar in a stand in front of a home stereo speaker and let the music you listen work its magic.

If there's anything to this stuff at all, this is probably the best solution. The speakers are producing the same frequencies as the guitar would be if you were playing it.

There's an extensive article on the topic in the August, 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, "Why Your Guitar Improves With Age."

I just read it, and it's a pretty sensible article. Most of it talks about humidity issues, which fourcheesemac covered above. The sidebar about ToneRite and similar devices is about as negative as their editors could have allowed, considering that there's a full-page ad for ToneRite on page 29 of the same issue. Their conclusions are that (a) it's better to buy an instrument you like the tone of in the first place rather than hoping for it to "open up" later, and (b) the best way to "break in" a guitar is to play it, since you get better in the process.
posted by mmoncur at 11:41 PM on August 22, 2010


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