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

moehuh

Member
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307
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.
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
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,190
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.
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.
 

Imerkat

Supporting Member
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1,528
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:


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.
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,190
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:


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.
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.
 

Imerkat

Supporting Member
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1,528
I suppose I should have tested whether they sounded different plugged in while both were in stock condition
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:
 

zul

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,305
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.
 

rawkguitarist

Member
Messages
10,802
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.
 

Ferg Deluxe

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,005
Cause they cannot hear the difference. Which makes them non musicians.
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.
 

Ferg Deluxe

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,005
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:


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.
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).
 

xmd5a

Member
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2,190
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.
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.
 
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ballynally

Member
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2,130
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.
Hearing loss starts at the top.Young people can hear up to 16kHz. I have a limit of around 13kHz
I do this test all the time with my students using online frequency sweeps.Great fun.
None of that is relevant to guitars btw, just like resonant peaks for electric guitar bodies.
I wish people would stop putting that forward.It is a red flag..
 

moehuh

Member
Messages
307
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
The audio samples are great though! Interesting to hear the differences. Ask better questions and you might have really interesting results

Of course you will learn more about a guitar by playing it yourself, but your "tonal judgement" will be subjectively influenced by how that guitar feels in your hands.
If you really want to compare two different sounds you need a recording. Even if you record yourself.
 

ballynally

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2,130

ballynally

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2,130
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.
except that the tonewood people only have conjecture while the skeptical science guys have at least some evidence that body wood, outside of hardness,has little significance.
I might point out that the supposedly anti-tonewood people have tried repeatedly to clarify their position and that it is the tonewood matters crowd that insist on hearing the nuances that simpletons can't perceive.
I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt if they didnt constantly come up with non sequiturs.
Trying to be smart using questionable data can be easily dismissed.
But then again, i don't have the Golden Ears.
 

DC1

Member
Messages
15,357
The audio samples are great though! Interesting to hear the differences. Ask better questions and you might have really interesting results

Of course you will learn more about a guitar by playing it yourself, but your "tonal judgement" will be subjectively influenced by how that guitar feels in your hands.
If you really want to compare two different sounds you need a recording. Even if you record yourself.
The process of trying out a guitar is too complex for a recording of 2 guitars, presented for comparison, to be meaningful. You can certainly decide that you like one over the other, but that may not be the case with you playing it yourself. Also, as a songwriter and engineer who records all the time, I can tell you that my sound is the same out of the monitors on playback as it was on record, (at least before mixing) so that's really not a problem. I don't get surprised by my sound since I work hard to achieve it. As for feel, that really is not the issue here. It's really easy to separate the 2.

Years ago, I was trying to decide whether to get a custom guitar, with the wide neck I really wanted, or a vintage guitar. I went to Norm's and played a whole wall of 50's strats. One of them was pure magic. Best sounding guitar I've ever played. Felt awful with that leetle skinny neck and closed spaced strings, so I got a custom guitar with my wide neck. The wide neck felt far better, but the sound was not as magical. Oh well. We really aren't fooled that easily. I knew if I got the old guitar, I would be fighting that neck forever, yet the sound was far better than anything else I've played (until my first Anderson).

Blind testing, using recordings, is simply not a useful test for musicians. No matter the results, the player still needs to play the damn thing before you actually know anything. Blind testing, using recordings, is for home audio systems, and monitors, not for guitars.

dc
 

JaiRamana

Member
Messages
1,206
But then again, i don't have the Golden Ears.
Well, Bally, it seems you think the sonic analyzers can hear better than anyone on earth--and that they can display it meaningfully in visual fashion. So are you sure you don't think you have the golden ears (in a box, no less)?

Science is all about observation; scientific method is all about removing variables. Do you think it's possible that a person's ears can be trained to levels of heightened sensibilities and that years spent meticulously observing tone, timbre, etc, in their playing and in their listening to players can yield a keen sense of hearing? (We see similar phenomenon with blind people's hearing abilites).

Do you think maybe the process of trying to measure human hearing with inanimate equipment outside of human hearing can be potentially problematic in its own right? Could this be adding even more variables? "Things are not always what they appear" is a saying that cuts both ways. Do some fool themselves with tone wood lore by the appearance of the wood and such? I'd bet my life on it. But that doesn't mean all are doing that, doesn't mean that at all. And do some fool themselves thinking a machine can tell them better than humans what there is to be heard?

There's pride and prejudice to be had on both sides here. BTW, what makes anyone think that the basis on which they believe people cannot hear a difference is anything more than conjecture in The first place?

Is my hearing a difference and making equipment choices based on my hearing a problem for anyone in the world? Does it hurt you folks? So why do you feel the need to insist on your point of view based on conjecture?

Again, it's best both sides agree to disagree and move on to practicing music.
 
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