Does Wood Choice Impact Guitar Tone?
Todd Simpson
Sep 24 2020, 01:55 AM
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Does Wood Impact Tone? Do you have a preference in terms of Body/Neck woods? Have you found it makes a HUGE difference or a subtle difference?

BODY WOODS

SWAMP ASH: It’s lighter in Weight than nor of thern ask for starters, due to it’s absorption of water impacting it’s density. It was the standard wood used on Telecasters in older tele’s. It’s easy to spot due to it’s open grain. The pores are filled before finish is applied. Otherwise it looks very different. The surface isn’t smooth by nature. It’s very dynamic with a quick attack. It’s often thought of as a brighter wood tone.

NORTHERN ASH: Dense and very bright. It’s a heavy wood and was used by Fender in the 70s.

ALDER: Can be identified by it’s lack of pores/grain and it looks a bit like cardboard. Fender started using Alder because it didn’ require pore filler like swamp ash did. The tone is a bit more mid rangey and more compressed an though to be smoother sounding. Typically less attack that swamp ash.

PINE: A vintage fender wood. Similar to swamp ash in terms of tone. It’s a very soft wood so it’s easy to work but also easy to relic and easy to damage.

BASSWOOD: Looks a bit like Alder but with even less grain. Typically lighter in color than Alder. If you have a sunburst finish on Basswood body, you don’t see much grain at all. Tone is similar to Aldern.

NECK WOODS

MAPLE: Maple is a very pale wood. This alone makes is a choice for many. In terms of tone it has a quick attack and harmonic content where the notes bloom. It makes a great neck.

ROSEWOOD (Fretboard) People think rosewood sounds warmer but it’s typically a difference in attack. The tone is very similar to maple but putting a strip of Rosewood as a fretboard on a maple neck makes the neck stiffer, it also is said to reduce attack.

MAPLE CAPPED NECK: A maple neck with no stripe of harder wood running through the middle. They accentuate the fundamental of the note. When an ash body is paired with a maple cap neck, it’s thought to “cool and assertive” with a big of “Ring” if not twang.
When paired with an Alder body, a solid maple neck creates a good combo. It accentuates the mids and has good attack and note bloom, warmer and a bit more compressed as a result of the combo.

EXOTIC WOODS: (Ebony/White Ebony/Buginga/Cocobola) Many exotic woods are quite stiff and strong. The stiffer and stronger the wood, the more it resists sympathetic vibrations and as a result, it is thought to have better note sustain. For example if the guitar was made of marble, which is crazy stiff, the guitar would have nearly endless sustain. In one of the vids, they take “cork sniffing” to a new level and actually start sniffing the wood samples brought in by a specialist. I don’t know why it struck me as funny, but I laughed like crazy smile.gif
Attached Image

These Vids helped inform the content of this article.
https://youtu.be/lcb_dRzANJ0

https://youtu.be/yJ0ndWYtkJI

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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Sep 24 2020, 01:56 AM
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Steve Gilfield
Sep 24 2020, 06:20 PM
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I recently saw a video where they made a guitar out of concrete!

If you close your eyes and listen to it, you won't think it was not made of wood.

So for electric instruments, I believe the wood makes little to no difference on your sound.

It's the electric components that matter the most (pickups, pots, amp, speaker).

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klasaine
Sep 25 2020, 12:46 AM
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WARNING; Old guy rant ahead.

Significant omissions in that list ...
No Mahogany (LPs, SGs, PRS) or Korina (Flying Vs, Explorers, Lots of Epiphones and Hamers).

Wood can make a huge difference in an electric guitar, especially when you have normal or vintage output pickups.
Put 3 stock Stratocaster pkups and Strat electronics into a Les Paul and tell me if it sounds even close to a Fender Stratocaster.

It's never about one element. It's the gestalt. Scale length, hardware, string break angle behind the bridge and nut, nut material, string height, neck wood combined with fingerboard wood, neck size (yes, it affects tone), lacquer and of course - pkups and electronics.

Even the shape of a solidbody influences tone.
I have a guitar that's an ashwood Jazzmaster body, Telecaster maple/rosewood neck and Tele pkups/electronics/hardware. It doesn't sound like a Telecaster (or a jazzmaster). The JM body is bigger and cut differently than a Tele. Even though the wood is typical Telecaster wood and all the electronics and hardware are Tele - the mass of the body is distributed differently. Hence, the resonance is different. Pickups react to resonance. So do your strings.

*The concrete guitar sounds "fine". It sounds like every other generic, budget but decent solid body Strat type axe, which yeah, is mostly all about the electronics (and hardware). That's not necessarily a bad sound, it's just not a "wood" sound, and way too average a sound for me. YMMV.

A lot of you guys play heavily polyurethaned guitars with high output if not active pickups and as low action as possible. The wood doesn't speak much in that environment. If you've never owned a Strat, Tele, LP or SG etc. with original pickups and nitrocellulose lacquer - do yourself a favor and buy one or borrow one for a few months and then tell me that wood doesn't matter.

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This post has been edited by klasaine: Sep 25 2020, 06:28 AM
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Todd Simpson
Sep 26 2020, 12:09 AM
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Ken, per usual, has a very good point here. Many of us do play guitars with a thick clear coat and high gain pups. At that point, you are mostly hearing the clear coat and the electronics. The guitar could be built from plastic or concrete and if you add enough polyeurethane you mostly hear the sealant and the pups. On an instrument with a light finish or no finish, the wood becomes more important as do the other details he mentions. It's a very different animal. Pull a few old teles/strats down in a guitar shop and plug in to a tube amp with modest gain and you can actually hear the subtle changes. Grab your standard shred machine and plug in to your fave plugin/processor, and it's far less evident.

QUOTE (klasaine @ Sep 24 2020, 07:46 PM) *
WARNING; Old guy rant ahead.

Significant omissions in that list ...
No Mahogany (LPs, SGs, PRS) or Korina (Flying Vs, Explorers, Lots of Epiphones and Hamers).

Wood can make a huge difference in an electric guitar, especially when you have normal or vintage output pickups.
Put 3 stock Stratocaster pkups and Strat electronics into a Les Paul and tell me if it sounds even close to a Fender Stratocaster.

It's never about one element. It's the gestalt. Scale length, hardware, string break angle behind the bridge and nut, nut material, string height, neck wood combined with fingerboard wood, neck size (yes, it affects tone), lacquer and of course - pkups and electronics.

Even the shape of a solidbody influences tone.

You are at GuitarMasterClass.net


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