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Ask Bob: What does “running out of steam” mean?

Thursday, November 4, 2010
By: Bob Taylor

Question: In the last issue of Wood&Steel, you responded to an inquiry [about the sound of a cedar-top BTO 512c] regarding how cedar would “run out of steam” before [a spruce-topped] rosewood [712c and 814ce]. I also hear about a guitar’s “headroom” from time to time. What does “running out of steam” mean in this context, and what is a guitar’s headroom?
Robert Kelly
Texas

Answer: Robert, what I mean is that it reaches a point where it won’t get louder, but rather, will distort. Spruce will be louder, and you can play it harder. Cedar is actually louder than spruce with a soft touch, but then reaches its limit, or “runs out of steam.”

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