a perennial question: ash or alder?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by chaz bernstein, Dec 11, 2005.


  1. chaz bernstein

    chaz bernstein Member

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    building my third parts guitar, a hardtail strat. i'm after a woody, bouncy, rootsy, articulate sound: unmuddy low strings and un-ice-picky high strings.

    my other two parts guitars are an alder trem strat and an ash tele. the strat (with fralin vintage hots) loses definition on the bass strings, and the tele (with fender's so-called vintage pickups) gets pretty shrill on the high strings.

    i love 'em both, but i want number three to voice well from low to high without me reaching for a tone control.

    the body will probably go under a fender '57-'62 pickguard assembly, a rosewood warmoth vintage-style neck, and a vintage-style hardtail bridge.

    so: ash or alder? weight considerations? finish? number of body pieces and joining? hollowbody advantages?

    all opinions helpful and welcome - thanks!
     
  2. axpro

    axpro Member

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    Ash or alder?

    I'd push for mahogony, ( I LOVE mahogony with a maple neck!) but barring that, I think ALder, ash tends to sound a little bright to me.
     
  3. CharlieNC

    CharlieNC Member

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    alder. more punch in the mids.
     
  4. apd

    apd Member

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    pine. my pine tele sounds awesome with a maple neck.
     
  5. leofenderbender

    leofenderbender Supporting Member

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    I'd go with light weight Ash or Alder...

    Swamp Ash:
    Twangy
    Good bottom end
    Bright
    Open ring with good clarity
    Distinct ringing tone
    Balance of brightness & warmth
    Lots of pop
    Transparent timbre with bell-like overtones

    Alder:
    Well defined lows
    Clear highs
    Full sound without the bite of ash
    Moderate attack
    Smooth decay
    Strong in lower midrange

    Yes, flip a coin...
     
  6. 85db

    85db Member

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    If you want something different (and it sounds like you do), try ash body and a rosewood fretboard/maple neck.

    I don't know if it will satisfy all of your requirements but this combo should help with shrill on high strings. Also, ash bodies do have a tendency to sound woody, just as you asked. I don't recommend swamp ash though as they shrill even with rosewood fretboards, just plain ash -- I had good luck with Japanese ash. As to unmuddy low strings -- I'm able to get that only with alder/maple fretboard combinations. You can't have everything... Unless you'd be willing to build a double-neck guitar.

    The only application where I don't like ash/rosewood is electric bass. Those typically lack punch and are unslappable on the low E.
     
  7. stratofied

    stratofied Member

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    Good combo.
     
  8. royd

    royd Member

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    I'd go with alder... but the choice in pups is pretty critical here.

    I've been really happy with my Vintage Vibe SP90's - strat size P90's. They are warm and articulate and evenly balanced across the entire spectrum.

    The guitar they're in is an alder body hardtail with a flamed maple cap, quartersawn maple neck with pau ferro fingerboard and stainless steel frets. The guitar acoustically is on the bright side (not terribly though) but the pups even things out very very nicely.
     
  9. chaz bernstein

    chaz bernstein Member

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    the pickups will (at least to start) be fender '57/'63 reissues - got the whole pickguard assembly for $105. i want low-wound pickups for this one. the neck will be rosewood - got a gorgeous vintage-style warmouth neck with winders for $200.

    so the big question is just the body. maybe something chambered?...

    -------------
    "so many guitars, so little money." leon fullerton
     

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