Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag - Tonerite

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In this episode, Robbie O’Brien talks about Tonerite – a product that helps accelerate the break-in process for an instrument.

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag]

Mailbag question: How long does it take for an instrument to open up, and is there a way to accelerate this process?

Robert O'Brien: Today's Tips Du Jour mailbag question comes from California.

"Dear Robert, how long does it take for an instrument to open up? And also is there a way to accelerate this process? Eric, in California."

So your question is coming at a good time because I just recently had in my shop some representatives from a company called ToneRite. And what they do is they make a product that introduces vibrations into the top of the instrument. And I'll let you listen in on what we talked about when they were here in my shop.

All right, I'm in the O'Brien Guitars workshop here with Valerie and Davion from ToneRite. Now, the question we got was, is there any way to speed up the process of the opening of the soundboard, the opening of the guitar? So I'll let them talk a little bit about what this product does. It's called ToneRite and it helps open up the guitar quicker. So go ahead.

The ToneRite device

Davion: So the ToneRite is what we call an automatic playing device. It is designed to mimic the effects of play as much as possible. The way it does it is it presses into the strings of a stringed instrument and it sends vibrations through the strings just like playing does, to get the instrument used to the state of vibration. And that's exactly what happens when you play, all the little square boxes inside of the wood as time goes on have a tendency to open more up. And that's why the vintage guitars are so sought after, it's because they've been opened up and they have this wonderful tone and sound. So what this does is it basically tricks your instrument into thinking that it's getting played when it's not being played.

Robert: Right. And so this is what this does, it simulates playing of the instrument then. Can you show us how it works?

Valerie: Absolutely.

Davion: Yeah, absolutely. So here's the ToneRite for the guitar, as you can see, it's got three feet. It presses in between the spacings and the strings. So what you would do is you would slide the product down towards the bridge so it's nice and snug and that'll allow as much vibration to happen through the instrument. I'm going to go ahead and turn it on here. Generally we recommend that you hang it and that'll actually help because it doesn't allow the cord to sit on it or anything like that, so it won't cause any wear or tear to the finish or anything like that. So musicians have been doing it in the past. They've been putting their guitars in front of speakers. And the problem with that is you have music running all the time. And although it does open the instrument up, it's very invasive. So this is a non-invasive way of getting the same effects without keeping you up all hours in the night.

How long does it take to work

Robert: Sure. How long does it take until you notice a difference?

Davion: It really depends on the instrument, how much it's been played, how old it is. But generally after the initial treatment of five days, you'll definitely notice a difference.

Robert: I noticed that on the ToneRite here, it has a dial. So apparently you can dial in the frequency?

Vibration intensity control

Davion: It actually controls the intensity of the vibrations that are going through the instrument. So the higher you turn it up, it's going to really shake the top and the neck and all the parts of the instrument. And then the lower it is, it's going to send a softer vibration through the instrument. Now the key for that is that, say you have a guitar that's very bass responsive, but the highs don't really sing out a whole lot, it's not very well-balanced, what I would recommend doing is putting on a low vibrational treatment, because those type of vibrations of play in the upper registry of the neck are softer vibrations. They're not as heavy as the bass vibration. So it'll help get the instrument used to vibrating at that level. So your highs will want to sing out and your harmonics especially will want to carry a little bit more.

Available in American 110 and European 220 voltage

Robert: I noticed that this is 110 volt for our American customers. Is there a European voltage?

Valerie: Absolutely. And that's one thing that we've really wanted to work on more recently, is to be able to roll out a ToneRite that does not require a converter in each of the different countries. So the first one that we started with was the 220 volt for the guitar model. So that one is available without the need of a converter.

Recommended ToneRite procedure

Robert: All right, so if I just put this on my guitar, do you recommend I do sessions or just put it on and leave it?

Valerie: Yeah, it really depends. Some people have discovered ways that they like to work with their individual instrument. What we recommend is about the first three days you put it at the higher intensity to really bring out the overall increase in sound [inaudible 00:04:25]. And then as he was talking about earlier, the lower vibrational settings, bringing out the sweeter harmonics and the highs of the instrument.

Robert: All right. Valerie and Davion, thank you very much for coming by the shop.

Valerie: My pleasure.

Robert: I appreciate you visiting O'Brien Guitars and letting us know about ToneRite.

Davion: Absolutely.

Valerie: Absolutely.

Robert: Thank you. So Eric, thank you for sending your question. I hope the information that the representatives from ToneRite and the answers that I have given have been helpful. So happy building and happy play.

[More Luthier Tips and online courses at www.obrienguitars.com. Private and small group guitar building and finishing instruction available.]

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Robbie O'Brien

Luthier and Instructor, Lutherie Academy