Can anyone help give a technical explanation of how tonewood effects solid body tone?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by john_ciampa, Nov 29, 2019.

  1. Swami Asango

    Swami Asango Member

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  2. Janus Alfador

    Janus Alfador Member

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    Ebony is fully at the bright end of the spectrum. Mahogany is warmer in tone despite being on the bright-side of wood colour.

    Warmoth classifies all ebony variants as brighter-sounding than maple, and ebony is Warmoth's brightest-sounding tonewood. You can see Warmoth's tone-grading for woods here, by clicking on the "More Info" button where you select the neck shaft and fretboard wood:

    https://www.warmoth.com/pages/CustomNeck.aspx?style=1

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    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 1:30 PM
  3. Mark Kerr

    Mark Kerr Member

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    Thank you very much for the insights, John. Is the wood database you use publicly available or is it proprietary?
     
  4. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    The end result is at the heart of the matter though. A lot of people here are trying to assert "because there is any difference, we must be able to hear that difference", and that's wildly illogical, wishful thinking, but so too is the claim that, for whatever reason, we must not be able to hear any difference.

    There is supposedly data from Manfred Zollner showing the admittance of the bridge and body is very low compared to the nut and neck, but there again, as far as I can tell, no computation that says the body wood contribution is necessarily inaudible.

    The 1dB rule can serve as a stand in, but a double blind A/B test is the most compelling evidence to be had. Some say "the pickups and electronics might be different!", so as to say that the only valid test involves laboriously swapping all the hardware, but if you have an LCR meter on hand, you could verify that the electronics are identical.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 1:57 PM
  5. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    I agree that people are not judging warm or bright based on color, but this sort of data is exactly the type of thing that instructs bias. A person sees this charts, remembers it's suggestions, and then confirmation bias takes over from there.
     
  6. Ripthorn

    Ripthorn Member

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    The reason I didn't try to address the end result is because that is fed through a whole host of variables, including the amp, room, individual, their experience/preferences/etc. Additionally, the "end result" is not well-defined. If you define it as the electrical signal on the output terminals, you need to factor in pickups, pick type, picking strength/technique/etc. and a bunch of other stuff.

    In the end, the science of it fascinates me, but I don't understand why people get so hung up on needing a statement that "this and only this is correct" on way or the other. We should acknowledge the wood as a component, but that, in the end, the sum effect of all the variables is what we are looking for, and overemphasizing any one variable risks not seeing the forest for the trees.
     
  7. Mark Kerr

    Mark Kerr Member

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    Thanks but I am one of the anti-tonewood people. I also do not believe that wood colour is of any significance, except possibly psychologicaly.
     
  8. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    In the wooden plank demo, the German(?) guy was running through a dirty Marshall. It could be said that the distortion was covering up otherwise audible differences, or maybe even emphasizing them, or that the limited response of the Marshall is hiding differences that would be exposed through clean acoustic amp, but nevertheless, the outcome would be valid for that set of circumstances. The only thing that invalidated that experiment was the lack of rigor.

    The Internet has served as a crazy myth propagation machine, people don't like seeing bad science proliferate. It seems that the guitar community has become collectively dumber since the dawn of the Internet. People used to get info from published works, but now they get it from speculation on the Internet, a lot of which comes from the manufactures themselves.
     
  9. Janus Alfador

    Janus Alfador Member

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    I know you think that. The reason I posted those examples is because in your previous post to me you said your research suggested ebony (dark-looking) is warmer-sounding and that Mahogany (towards the bright-side, but with some darkness) is somewhere in the middle in the spectrum, supporting your theory of psychological association. Your comment about there being a psychological association doesn't seem likely to be accurate, though, because looking at the woods which are brighter in appearance and looking at their reputed tone properties shows that the data doesn't conform to the theory:

    The darkest-looking wood, ebony, is reputed to be the brightest in sound. And there are multiple bright-looking woods which have dark tones.
     
  10. Mark Kerr

    Mark Kerr Member

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    I am sorry, but we are each talking about different things. That's ok though. :)
     
  11. photoguy

    photoguy Member

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    Everybody's gotta be somewhere.
    Ok, 17 pages in and no one has brought up the violins...?

    Oh, wait a minute that's because that's part of the 'vintage is better' thing.

    Nevermind. :)
     
  12. Ben Furman

    Ben Furman Member

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    I would like to understand more about the energy transfer assuming the nut as the anchor. It is intuitive to me that a neck having high mass and low compliance maximizes vibrational reflections, but where does the resistance term come into play? Is it contact friction?
     
  13. Duffy Pratt

    Duffy Pratt Member

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    Here is an article on the use of acoustic resonance to identify species during architectural restoration. It does seem to imply that wood species are uniform enough to make such identifications. On the other hand, to do the identifications, they seem to need to use ultrasonic frequencies.

    http://www.asrg.contactincontext.org/asrg/pdfs/wood ars ocr.PDF
     
  14. Husky

    Husky Gold Supporting Member

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    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 7:06 PM
    Mark Kerr likes this.
  15. DC1

    DC1 Member

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    Useless test because it asks the wrong questions.

    We don't listen to guitars, played on a recording, we play guitars that are held in our hands. This is how we evaluate guitars.
    This is not home stereo, and guitars are not hi-fi cables.

    That test tells you nothing.

    dc
     
  16. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    The idea that the sound an instrument makes is secondary to how it feels in hand, is definitely a novel point of view.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 7:50 PM
  17. DC1

    DC1 Member

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    Well it would be if I had said that, but I said nothing about how it feels.

    In fact, guitars respond tonally (timbre) to how we play them, where the pick is, how hard we pick, the angle of the pick, and more.
    When we evaluate a guitar, we play passages that we know so that we can hear how the guitar responds to our music, in real time.
    If I pick here is it too dark? if here, is it too bright? it compresses a bit when I lay into it harder, there's a little zing on the top end that I love when I play lead, and much more. None of this information is available in a recording, which is why, when we buy a guitar through the mail, we open it up and play it immediately, hoping that it sounds good.

    Guitars are not home hi-fi, they are musical instruments. We only know what they sound like, by playing them, unless we know someone who plays exactly like we do, and I've never met anyone like that in 50 years of playing.
    Home hi-fi is different and can be meaningfully evaluated with double-blind tests because the source of the sound we are listening to is identical in all cases.

    To evaluate a musical instrument, one must play it. The source is never identical. It's interactive. (Notice I have yet to speak of feel)

    dc
     
  18. Timtam

    Timtam Member

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    Re Heiko Hoepfinger ..
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

    Address the physics, not the man.

    Re motives, there are plenty of people who pay little attention to the body wood of a solid body electric when they buy, because they have taken their experience and also looked at the physics and come to the conclusion that it does not matter. If I were to build guitars I would follow a similar logic (eg any good looking, machine-able wood will likely work), or I might choose a composite material if I had that engineering expertise. As Hoepfinger apparently has. It would not make sense for someone to believe one thing based on the evidence and do the opposite.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 9:07 PM
  19. Timtam

    Timtam Member

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    No argument on the neck. Don't mix up the discussion. The physics of the construction and the respective string bearings (bridge / frets / nut) are different for body and neck in a solid body electric guitar. We're saying that the body wood doesn't matter, because little or no string vibration energy reaches the body.

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    https://acoustics.org/pressroom/httpdocs/137th/fleischer.html
     
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  20. JaiRamana

    JaiRamana Member

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    I am glad you brought up the issue of misrepresenting arguments because there so much of this thread is anti-tonewood folks misrepresenting the tonewood argument...repeatedly even after many attempts on our side at clarification. So much so I gave up responding.

    End of the day I don’t need to convince anyone of something I and so many others already understand empirically.

    Agree to disagree and move on.
     
    CaptNasty, pressure and DC1 like this.

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