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

photoguy

Member
Messages
2,703
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. :)
 

Ben Furman

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,760
So in our example, the wood is a component in the circuit (actually, it is 3 lumped element components for each end of the string: the compliance, mass loading, and acoustic resistance). Now, can we completely predict the result? Nope, not without a ton more information. But can we see the mechanism of how it comes in to play? Absolutely. It presents a total of 6 component parts just in the effect it has on the string boundary conditions. The OP mentioned pickups and relatively vibrations. Well, now you have 3 more components in the pickup/body interface. How about the transfer efficiency from neck to body? There's another 3 lumped element components.
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?
 

DC1

Member
Messages
15,361
This one is great and everybody in this thread should do the test themselves!

One thing to mention: I'm not sure if perceived difference is a good measure for this. How different is different after all? It's better to take some notes for each sample and compare it to the results afterwards (something like B tighter bass, B more open sounding, B quacky sound, ...).

To me, all samples were pretty close (0-2 in difference out of 10). After all, it's always a Strat on the same pickup (IMHO a 9 or 10 would be a semi acoustic with humbuckers vs. a Strat on the bridge pickup...). So, I always took notes on each sound sample and ended up with a pretty conclusive result: the ash/maple Strat has a very open sound with an aggressive quack (hard to describe but pretty much the sound you relate to old 50s Strats). The alder/rosewood Strat was the most mid focused with tighter bass and less open compared to ash (it didn't seem to have more mids, rather just less bass and less top end). Ash/rosewood sounded a bit tamer and mellower than Ash/maple, but still very open/wide. Alder/maple was very close to alder/rosewood but lacked some punch. I redid the whole thing after a while, so I forgot the sequence and ended up with a pretty similar result. The ash/maple Strat was the easiest to distinguish from the rest. Could just be the best guitar of all four, at least I liked it most.
My first electric guitar was a Strat, it's what I love and played all the time. Redo this test with Les Pauls and I probably won't hear a lot of differences...

Side note: one of the samples is the same riff played again on the same guitar, but one sample has less bass and is a bit brighter. Heard the same when relistening to the sample. The guitarist probably played the riff a bit closer to the bridge one time. Shows how much your playing affects the sound. Also really liked the eq'd samples, shows how easy you can color and change your guitar tone.

Conclusion:
- Differences are small (compared to two different guitar types like Fender vs. Gibson, solid body vs. hallow body). It's better to have two different guitar types for versatility rather than two of the same type but with different woods. EQ makes a big difference as well
- It's better to worry about a great guitar in general, rather than wood combinations. What you hear is always the sum of all parts, and there is arguably more impact from other parts (e.g. pickups). That's why I'm not a fan of custom orders, I want to play the guitar and then decide if I like it or not
- If you can't hear any difference at all: Great, just get a guitar that feels nice and looks good. Happy days ahead. Most people will not notice anyways...
- Jeff Beck is 100% right: it's in the fingers!
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
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,238
we play guitars that are held in our hands. This is how we evaluate guitars.
The idea that the sound an instrument makes is secondary to how it feels in hand, is definitely a novel point of view.
 
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DC1

Member
Messages
15,361
The idea that the sound an instrument makes is secondary to how it feels in hand, is definitely a novel point of view.
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
 

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,072
Someone maybe wants to sell his composite basses maybe? Rocket Scientist? He claims he worked for Mercedes and according to his bio he never yet has even finished his thesis because he had to stop to make basses. You for real with this guy?
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.
 
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Timtam

Member
Messages
2,072
Well, though you weren't directing the question to me, I know that because I've swapped every last piece of many of my guitars and heard what difference it makes. The neck of a guitar shapes the character of a guitar more than the body does, but they both play a part. If you take the same neck and swap it between any number of bodies with the same everything else, there will be a particular prominent sound of the guitar that goes wherever that neck goes. I've done that and so there's no opinion about it for me. Swap that neck with another of the same wood type and the same build, and you suddenly have a different sound in that guitar. Then swap that neck between any number of identical bodies and THAT neck's defining sound will go wherever that neck goes.
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.


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

JaiRamana

Member
Messages
1,206
"Wood does not affect tone" is a bit of a strawman. The argument is usually, "The species of a wood does not perceptibly affect the tone of solid body guitars." This tonewood issue initially arose as a backlash to claims made by some companies regarding the tonal qualities of their expensive woods types. There are things about wood that definitely can affect tone, we just don't believe that species of the wood is significant.



Again, this misrepresents the anti-tonewood argument. We are not denying resonant frequency; we are claiming that ascribing resonant frequencies to a species of tree is impossible. The resonant frequency in different boards cut from the same tree can vary greatly, nevermind boards cut from different trees in different locations. Why do luthiers tap on different boards of spruce if they all resonate and behave identically? And incidentally, the resonant frequency of a solid guitar body is mostly determined by the luthier, and may vary greatly from the RF of the original board of wood.

Peace out!
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.
 

DC1

Member
Messages
15,361
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.
Of course it matters. As Terry said “a child could hear it”.

dc
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,238
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.
You're right, he makes some good points that have gone overlooked here, such as

https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/24287-bass-bench-searching-for-resonance
Resonance isn’t a broad frequency phenomenon—it’s limited to small frequency bands. ... Due to the sharpness of the resonance peak, each and every resonating part other than our strings will to some degree cut sharp dents into the remaining spectrum.
While it's true that the guitar has various resonances, they have some particular frequency and some particular Q factor, so you won't always hear those resoancnes when you play the guitar, they will only manifest when you happen to play a note or a chord with a frequency that overlaps with that resonance. This serves to make it even less likely that you would hear a difference between woods where the key difference is resonance, because the difference would only occur when you happen to play certain notes. This also makes the idea of doing an A/B test more tricky, because it might not be enough to just strum two guitars of two wood types, you would have to play a lot of chords up and down the neck in order to identify the particular frequencies at which any difference manifests.
 

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,072
"Wood does not affect tone" is a bit of a strawman. The argument is usually, "The species of a wood does not perceptibly affect the tone of solid body guitars." This tonewood issue initially arose as a backlash to claims made by some companies regarding the tonal qualities of their expensive woods types. There are things about wood that definitely can affect tone, we just don't believe that species of the wood is significant.

Again, this misrepresents the anti-tonewood argument. We are not denying resonant frequency; we are claiming that ascribing resonant frequencies to a species of tree is impossible. The resonant frequency in different boards cut from the same tree can vary greatly, nevermind boards cut from different trees in different locations. Why do luthiers tap on different boards of spruce if they all resonate and behave identically? And incidentally, the resonant frequency of a solid guitar body is mostly determined by the luthier, and may vary greatly from the RF of the original board of wood.

Peace out!
There are different pro-tonewood arguments for body wood - what one might call them 'hard' (strict) tonewood arguments and 'soft' tonewood arguments. The hard adherents say that 'species A produces a warm tone, species B is bright etc'. The soft argument adherents say that body wood makes a difference to amplified tone but it is not strongly tied to species, because wood varies too much within species.

Amongst the anti-body-tonewood crew, there are probably some who argue against one but not the other (so are really 'pro' tonewood). But the science suggests that neither position is tenable for body wood.
https://www.gitec-forum-eng.de/2019...of-physics-of-the-electric-guitar-is-on-line/
https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Physics-of-E-Guitars-:-Vibration-–-Voltage-–-(-Zollner/88a7c4bedb89fdfda7ed01f11f77d9e14939c004
https://www.researchgate.net/public...r_T_Mechanical_vibrations_of_electric_guitars

Then there are those that argue that neck wood matters but body wood doesn't. Again the science supports that (ie that neck wood / construction matters).

The one thing we probably all agree on is that there are (sometimes/often/very often?) amplified sound differences between the same model of electric solid body guitars. However some people have concluded that those differences are commonly due to body wood, and others argue that that is (somewhat/very/extremely?) unlikely.

Misrepresentation shouldn't come into it as long as you make it clear what you are arguing for or against, and what evidence you have for that position.
 
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mwym

Member
Messages
69
Colorblind requesting evidence red and green are two different colors. What we all fail to notice is that this is what SJ gets you. This is not about facts. This is about how one feels. That is why it cannot be resolved.

In the end, those who do not hear well enough KNOW they will not hear well enough no matter the evidence unless they use hearing aid and hear what music really sounds like. But this is not about competence and facts. This is about SJ compensating unjust genetic lottery. Which is the definition of insanity.

There is no end to this. Nothing compensates. A suicide of a culture begins the very moment it starts going against the nature.

Lacking in hearing ability is a joke. Lacking in intellectual ability is the end. Game over.

But we'll have our fun in the meantime, with threads like this one.
 
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ballynally

Member
Messages
2,137
You're right, he makes some good points that have gone overlooked here, such as

https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/24287-bass-bench-searching-for-resonance


While it's true that the guitar has various resonances, they have some particular frequency and some particular Q factor, so you won't always hear those resoancnes when you play the guitar, they will only manifest when you happen to play a note or a chord with a frequency that overlaps with that resonance. This serves to make it even less likely that you would hear a difference between woods where the key difference is resonance, because the difference would only occur when you happen to play certain notes. This also makes the idea of doing an A/B test more tricky, because it might not be enough to just strum two guitars of two wood types, you would have to play a lot of chords up and down the neck in order to identify the particular frequencies at which any difference manifests.
Spot on.People often talk about resonant frequencies as if those are GOOD things.They are BAD things, people.To be illiminated, destroyed.No pesky resonant frequencies for me.
I dial them out of my guitar, amp, speaker.
I need a LEVEL playing field.I don't need sudden peaks appear playing certain notes.
However, no neck can be without natural tendencies/resonance peaks.But the less the better, unless the neck is so stiff it starts to interfere with the overall sound.
 

Mr Fingers

Member
Messages
2,500
"Vibrations interact..." "pickups move" etc., etc., in posts from the OP and others make this a speculative exercise in creative writing, not acoustics, physics, electronics, or materials thinking. It's fun to BS/theorize, but it's more helpful to get real information from those who have, well... knowledge and stuff. There's really quite a body of knowledge about how different materials transmit (or absorb) sound/energy, and how glue joints or contact points for different pieces/materials affect transmission. Many builders learn this stuff through experience, not by studying theory -- in other words, they have done their own experimental work.
 

mwym

Member
Messages
69
Let's try and make one thing explained.

Musicians can chose the best sounding instrument out of any number of instruments that are the same to a non musician..

Musicians do not want perfect engineering deployed for making music instruments. The cost of having no dogs is having no stellar ones. But musicians have no problem with having dogs among guitars. Musicians hear good enough to avoid them.

Musicians will always pick stellar ones. But they will have no stellar ones to pick if all guitars are identical = average. Music we all enjoy cause it touches us is played by musicians on stellar sounding guitars.

The only people scared of a task of picking a stellar guitar and avoiding dogs are those who cannot do that.

Cause they cannot hear the difference. Which makes them non musicians.

So, the only question of all guestion is : is this a business of making money selling millions of average guitars to non musicians to maximize the profit or enabling talented musicians to create music that touches us humans played on most stellar instruments we are able to produce? Or, actually a compromise of both?

That is why discussions like this one are prevented from having a resolution of any kind or making a slightest hint of sense.

But we call it fun and there we go. Again.
 

GiorgioV

Member
Messages
1,614
I always like this video:


If you can't hear that the size of the neck influences tone (and by quite a lot I might add) then you're on the wrong forum.

It's hard for me to say if "alder" sounds different than "ash" or if the difference between a body made of ash and a body made of alder can be lesser than the difference between two bodies made of alder. However I do believe that, if anything, the mass and density of the wood the guitar is made of definitely does have an impact on the instrument's tone. I also believe all of this is secondary to hardware: bridges, pickups, pots.

All of this anyway is very hard to talk about on forums. You never know who is on the other side of the screen or where they come from. A small difference for someone is "totally different" for someone else. Some people are interested in tones that bring out these differences more, some go for very compressed and gain-heavy setups that cancel out a lot of nuances.

And lastly, lots of this is measurable, but is it really quantifiable? Lots of differences might be minor tone-wise, but impact the "feel" and "response" of the guitar much more. When you own multiple guitars, do you assign a numeric value to each of them and only play the best "scoring" one? My Tele score is 78, my Les Paul score is 73, I'll just play the tele from now on. I bet you don't reason like this. You play the ones you like best or that fits better the vibe you are going for.
 




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