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. DC1

    DC1 Member

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    Of course it matters. As Terry said “a child could hear it”.

    dc
     
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  2. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    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.
     
  3. jonnytexas

    jonnytexas Supporting Member

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  4. Timtam

    Timtam Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019 at 10:32 PM
  5. mwym

    mwym Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019 at 2:06 AM
  6. ballynally

    ballynally Member

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    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.
     
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  7. Mr Fingers

    Mr Fingers Member

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    "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.
     
  8. mwym

    mwym Member

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    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.
     
  9. GiorgioV

    GiorgioV Member

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    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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  10. moehuh

    moehuh Member

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    Great video! Shows how important the neck is!

    However, I think the anti-tonewood people are not saying that wood does not affect tone at all, just that it does not dependent on wood species, am I correct?

    Personally and IMHO, wood species certainly have different tone properties, which contribute to the final timbre of a guitar. BUT there are a lot of variables, which contribute as well to the final sound, like the neck thickness as clearly shown in this video and of course the hardware. Further, it depends on where and in what time/climate the tree grew and from what section of the tree the wood comes from. Again more variables.
    At the end you can have two guitars made from "the same materials" and they sound really different, whereas you can use different woods and end up with a similar sound. However, this does not "proof" that wood species don't matter, it simply demonstrates that there are a lot of variables and it's difficult to show very significant differences with different tone woods in the final product. Doesn't mean there are no differences.

    For me tone wood is about tendencies
     
  11. ballynally

    ballynally Member

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    Ive only read the first post but i think that..
     
  12. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    This is a great video. To my ears (and what one would expect to have happen) is that the sustain is improved due to the increased rigidity of the structure, causing more energy to be retained in the strings. In the first demo, the full block style, the high frequency harmonics linger around far longer than I've ever heard with a Stratocaster, as if there was a sustainer pedal involved. But as soon as it's carved the first time, from a rectangle to a C shape, the harmonics decay about as fast as I've come to expect. I think the process of rounding the neck removed so much wood all at once that it pretty much sounded like a normal Strat from that point onward, even as more wood was shaved off.

    At the very end of the video they demo them all back to back, but unfortunately all of the riffs are played really fast. The difference comes through in the sustain, which you only hear when the chord is allowed to ring out. In the very first instance, all guitars of a given setup will sound the same, because the differences are subtractive, and it takes time for that subtraction to occur.
     
  13. Imerkat

    Imerkat Supporting Member

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    The most technical way I can explain it:

    When you cut woods in certain shapes that resemble a guitar it triggers the feels in guitarist. When you tell these guitarist that you can make guitars out of different materials other than wood and what they believe about tonewoods are myth, they start catching feelings and try to make arguments. When you tell them they have no data to back up their arguments they get their feelings hurt.

    True story, I bought two guitars this year from the same run:
    [​IMG]

    One of them was warm, sweet top end and sparkly with a tight bass. the other was dull, muddy, harsh, and flabby; very obvious from the pics which is which so i kept the prettier one.
     
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  14. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    I bought two identical MIJ Teles last year, one for myself and one as a gift, they sounded acoustically different, had different weights, and sounded out a different resonance when knocked on. I suppose I should have tested whether they sounded different plugged in while both were in stock condition, but I could always take a trip to the guitar store and just pull two similar guitars off the wall.
     
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  15. Imerkat

    Imerkat Supporting Member

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    The coronets above are from one piece African mahogany and one piece neck. I also have a wilshire that is basically plywood. I can change how they acoustically sound unplug by stringing the tremolo suspended on the spring or anchored against the wood. it's much louder when the strings are anchored against the body acoustically. The only difference I heard plugged was the sustain which I attribute to the strings being supported against the spring vibrato and not the wood:
    [​IMG]
     
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  16. zul

    zul Supporting Member

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    I tend to follow the neck. I have a neck that I love that I have put on
    various bodies of different types of wood and density and they all fall
    in the same general ballpark. Of course, my ranges are not extreme in
    that it wasn't paper to concrete, but I did try swamp ash, cedar, spruce,
    alder, mahogany, various other ash, rosewood, basswood and korina.

    Disclaimer: no resonant peaks were penciled. I have no idea on what one
    does to try to determine that measurement. The guitar is a hottie so I have
    no problem tapping her, but am embarrassed that I don't seem to know how.
    Please refrain from relaying that information to Ms. Black Widow. She still thinks
    that I know all there is to know about wood.
     
  17. rawkguitarist

    rawkguitarist Member

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    I'm not going to argue about how particular woods are expected to sound. This stuff gets people's undies in a bunch... But 100% different woods, construction methods, cuts, bridges, tuners et al change the resulting sound at the amp. If this wasn't the case the three guitars that I have with the exact same Lollar pickups in them wouldn't sound drastically different. However the physical reactions and resonances get to those magnetic devices its not even close to just the pickups.

    For those irritated about expensive tone wood promotions... Well, how about having a guitar built out of some nice, unique organic materials. Makes me happy to have nice guitars with nice materials. Brazilian rosewood, roasted quarter sawn maple and dark streaky African limba are all pretty cool.
     
  18. Ferg Deluxe

    Ferg Deluxe Gold Supporting Member

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    This is absolutely untrue. You’re conflating being a good musician with hearing minuscule differences in timbre. It’s entirely possible that two different musicians have different levels of sensitivity (or hearing loss) at certain frequencies.
     
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  19. Ferg Deluxe

    Ferg Deluxe Gold Supporting Member

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    No doubt. We’ve all had similar experiences of trying two supposedly identical guitars. But just because two “identical” guitars sound different, it doesn’t mean the difference must automatically (and nearly universally) be attributed to “good” or “bad” wood.

    Maybe one had a capacitor that was at the -20% end of the spectrum and the other was a +20%. Perhaps the pot values were way off. Happens *all the time*. And there’s a list of things a mile long that could be different between two electric guitars, and the difference between two blanks of wood from the same species is just one of those things.

    Every other variable would have to be removed for there to be any objective evidence that the wood specifically was the only thing accounting for the difference.

    I’m not a hardcore believer one way or another, though I’d prefer a more scientific look at the question rather than relying on anecdotal evidence based on sound memory (which is notoriously unreliable).
     
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  20. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    Cap values wouldnt matter unless the tone control were turned down, and small variations wouldn't matter until the tone control was turned down to around one or zero. Varaiance in pot resistance matter, but a way to account for this is to just roll back the tone to about 8 on both guitars. The variation in pot resistance just alters the Q factor slightly, but so too does the tone knob when it's near the top of the sweep, so any difference in pot resistance can be equalized by adjusting the tone controls slightly.

    The values of the guitar pickups tend not to vary much if they're the same model, because almost every manufacturer uses a turn counter, and the turn count is the most deterministic factor involved. The cheaper guitars tend to have cheap pickups that are entirely machine made, and those are the most consistent of all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019 at 5:50 PM

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