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

CTownSlinger

Member
Messages
326
Tonewood is just like Big Mac, Pepsi or other million dollar word created to evoke emotion in the consumers mind. It's all smoke and mirrors and marketing designed to part you from your $$.

Try watching several guitar videos blindfolded and you quickly realize without your eyes tonewood means nothing.
I would disagree with this. Two guitars with identical parts, pickups, and construction even made of the same types of wood can sound different as even two pieces of the same species of wood can resonate differently or have different densities. I built two strats, both with basswood/maple top bodies from the same manufacturer. Both with the same two piece maple necks from the same manufacturer. Same fret size, same tuners, same pickups, same bridges, pots, caps, etc. Everything identical, but one sounds vastly brighter than the other. I assumed the difference may have been from the pickups, so I swapped them back and forth, and yet the brighter guitar always sounded brighter regardless of which set of Suhr Aldrich pickups were in it. To me the only difference are the individual pieces of wood.
 

Ron Kirn

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
6,800
I built two strats, . . . Everything identical, but one sounds vastly brighter than the other.
what would you have done before you ever started building them to be certain that did not happen? Which of the methodologies addressed in the dissertations above could have been applied?

r
 

qblue

Member
Messages
1,038
No tonewoods do not effect tone.

Tonewoods may AFFECT tone, but we can't explain it.

Just play your guitar!
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,295
Everything identical, but one sounds vastly brighter than the other. I assumed the difference may have been from the pickups, so I swapped them back and forth, and yet the brighter guitar always sounded brighter regardless of which set of Suhr Aldrich pickups were in it. To me the only difference are the individual pieces of wood.
After the pickups would come the neck. The long, thin piece of wood under stress will play a much bigger role in defining the harmonic decay rates than the comparatively substantial body. Swap the necks and see what happens.
 

Ben Furman

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,764
what would you have done before you ever started building them to be certain that did not happen? Which of the methodologies addressed in the dissertations above could have been applied?

r
I’m so glad you asked since that is the ultimate (only?) value of the discussion.

I’d focus on the neck. Maple sucks - literally. It’s a high-damping material that is highly variable due to being sawn in all kinds of ways from different species grown all over the world. So I’d start by restricting supply, carefully selecting cut, and using a flexural bending jig so that I could either avoid certain pieces or match the carve to achieve a small range of deflection. That’s not too far from what small builders, such as yourself, do already, i.e., 100% quality control.

Ruokangas and Reverend bookend the thermo-treated wood story, and I think they’re onto something. It isn’t magic, but it reduces damping and board-to-board variability as well as moisture sensitivity. When coupled with other quality control testing, it’s a win-win technology, especially if you’re gonna stick with maple.

The elephant in the room is the damn adjustable truss rod, but that’s a whole different discussion. Some of Rick Kelly’s instruments don’t need ‘em....
 

SPSurgeon

Member
Messages
616
Every part of a guitar affects it’s sound, wood/shape/weight/saddles/strings etc to differing degrees. The big issue with hearing those effects is how and where the guitar is used. In a quiet room, with a good quality clean amp that you are familiar with - you hear everything, provided that you are listening. On a loud stage with other instruments when you are concentrating on content, perhaps not.
 

Ron Kirn

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
6,800
I’d focus on . .
Possibly the premise of my question was lost... the point of which is, you want a guitar that produces a specific voice, so how do you guarantee that from the inception, basing the choices on the wood...

You can't.. While certain species are touted as yielding a certain sound... no one's gonna bet their "first born" on that eventuality.. One can bonk wood, scrape it, sand it, listen to it as it's being sawed, routed chiseled, drilled... in an attempt to weed out a dud from the field.. but none of that guarantees a certain tone..

If you build a few hundred of the same exact model, that may produce anecdotal evidence. that guitar sounds a certain way (within a margin of error).. but building a few guarantees nothing..

The reason I mention it is because throughout the preceding 23 pages, guys seem committed to the idea that the nonexistent type of wood called "tone wood" is the magic bullet that guarantees a quality sounding guitar.. I doesn't, it has far more to do with who's building it than what it's made from ... the sound resulting from a piece of wood is only one of the many variables that makes a guitar a study in compromises...

r
 

xmd5a

Member
Messages
2,295
I’d focus on the neck. Maple sucks - literally. It’s a high-damping material that is highly variable due to being sawn in all kinds of ways from different species grown all over the world. So I’d start by restricting supply, carefully selecting cut, and using a flexural bending jig so that I could either avoid certain pieces or match the carve to achieve a small range of deflection. That’s not too far from what small builders, such as yourself, do already, i.e., 100% quality control.
If the viscoelastic properties of a material are a liability, then why use wood at all? A viscoelastic structure does "suck" up some of the energy that is inflicted upon it, but that's a quality that people appreciate in a guitar.

There are a lot of things that can be done "better", yet they make a guitar somehow "worse", none the less.
 
Last edited:

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,158
I would disagree with this. Two guitars with identical parts, pickups, and construction even made of the same types of wood can sound different as even two pieces of the same species of wood can resonate differently or have different densities. I built two strats, both with basswood/maple top bodies from the same manufacturer. Both with the same two piece maple necks from the same manufacturer. Same fret size, same tuners, same pickups, same bridges, pots, caps, etc. Everything identical, but one sounds vastly brighter than the other. I assumed the difference may have been from the pickups, so I swapped them back and forth, and yet the brighter guitar always sounded brighter regardless of which set of Suhr Aldrich pickups were in it. To me the only difference are the individual pieces of wood.
Your two 'identical' guitars with the same pickups and electronics - that sound different - in fact have a plethora of string vibration frequency-affecting differences, mostly in the neck, bridge and set up, that are mostly not apparent to the naked eye or simple measurements. It makes no sense to say 'it must be the body', just because you don't know of anything else to explain the sound difference ...
https://www.gitec-forum-eng.de/2019...of-physics-of-the-electric-guitar-is-on-line/
 

Ben Furman

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,764
Possibly the premise of my question was lost... the point of which is, you want a guitar that produces a specific voice, so how do you guarantee that from the inception, basing the choices on the wood...

You can't.. r
You got me, Ron. Truly, in life there are no guarantees. And without the element of surprise, what would life be?

P.S. Any friend of Bill Lawrence is a friend of mine by association. :beer
 
Messages
834
...I’d focus on the neck. Maple sucks - literally. It’s a high-damping material that is highly variable due to being sawn in all kinds of ways from different species grown all over the world. So I’d start by restricting supply, carefully selecting cut, and using a flexural bending jig so that I could either avoid certain pieces or match the carve to achieve a small range of deflection. That’s not too far from what small builders, such as yourself, do already, i.e., 100% quality control...
Slight tangent - there were a few attempts in the 80s to try and get away from wood, move the resonances way outside of the normal range of guitar, so there'd be no dead notes - Modulus Guitars, Auroc - marble body, graphite neck, Bond Guitars, for example. AFAIK they succeeded in their goals, but people didn't buy many. Bass players (more adventurous) kept Modulus alive a little longer. Today I'm only aware of Aristides.
 

mwym

Member
Messages
69
Human voice is the lead instrument in music.

Electric guitar is used as lead instrument for decades already, and it already replaced violin at the top of the list (due to several reasons).

Human voices are genetically prevented (created by nature) from having the exact same timbre.

Electric guitars are prevented from having the exact same timbre by using the wood (created by nature) for building them.

'Fixing' the very idea and the main advantage of the design is ... (chose the word to your liking to finish the sentence).
 




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