How much does weight affect tone and sustain

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by MartinC, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. MartinC

    MartinC Member

    Messages:
    2,596
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    Sydney
    I was just looking through the PRS Mira's on the Willcutt website and noticed that the ones in stock range from 6lb 2oz up to 7lb 6oz. What difference in tone and sustain would you expect to hear between the lightest and heaviest Mira?
     
  2. OM Flyer

    OM Flyer Member

    Messages:
    3,483
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    Location:
    An island of blue in a sea of red
    I'm sure some golden-ear will tell you that there's a night-and-day difference between a pound of wood more or less, but once you plug it in, crank it up and start bashing out chords and leads, I'd bet any audible distinctions will get rendered meaningless in about four seconds. Your shoulder might thank you for getting a lighter one, though.
     
  3. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

    Messages:
    12,379
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2005
    Heavier guitars usually sustain longer.
     
  4. Lucidology

    Lucidology Member

    Messages:
    25,779
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2006
    Location:
    Monterey, CA
    I don't know .. but weight sure does a job on my shoulders after three or four hours..

    My '71 Tele is soooo heavy that by the middle of the second set I usually have to change guitars ...
    no matter how good it's sounding ...
     
  5. Dave Wakely

    Dave Wakely Member

    Messages:
    1,860
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Bucks, England
    I'm not convinced this is a linear relationship: my G&L ASAT is lighter than either Tele, but sustains longer. The lighter of the two Teles out sustains the other. I suspect the answer is to have a great afternoon playing several guitars and then buying one. Which doesn't sound that torturous to me, as afternoons go. Hey, I've had worse :)
     
  6. LaXu

    LaXu Member

    Messages:
    2,777
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Location:
    Finland
    Amen! :AOK

    I've had a 15 lbs doubleneck and it didn't sustain better than my 9.9 lbs LP copy and that doesn't sustain better than my 8.8 lbs ES-335 style Yamaha.

    I always say that any good guitar will sustain more than enough. How often do you play 10 second notes anyway?
     
  7. gkoelling

    gkoelling Member

    Messages:
    15,571
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    Location:
    In The Basement
    Another +1

    I've never weighed this as a complete guitar but the body weighed 3 pounds, 3 ounces and believe me, it sustains just fine. :)

    [​IMG]
     
  8. DavidH

    DavidH Member

    Messages:
    2,365
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    I would expect the heavier examples to have more low end,a more satisfying low end thump if you will,and the lighter examples to be lighter in the bass and have more mid emphasis,maybe sweeter/more resonant in the mids.That's what i would expect prior to picking them up and playing them but that might all change after playing them.I wouldn't necessarily expect a significant difference in the sustain,i'd expect them both to have more then enough sustain but if i had to guess i'd predict the heavier examples might have slightly more.

    If i was buying one unseen online i'd go for a mid weight to heavier end of the spectrum example,still a lightweight guitar.
     
  9. David Collins

    David Collins Member

    Messages:
    2,253
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Weight alone can't really be used to define changes in tone and sustain. There are a lot of factors involved. Consider two extremes; one body made from aluminum and carbon fiber - extremely light weight - and another molded from something heavy, say, wet PlayDoh. It's pretty easy to guess which would have greater sustain, while weight is certainly not the primary factor. While you're not going to find two pieces of mahogany of with properties so extremely different as that, the same principles continue on a more subtle level.

    In theory, if you were connecting a string end to an ideally rigid surface (guitar body), the more mass and inertia it had, the more impedance it would offer, more energy being reflected back, more sustain. Guitar bodies are not ideally rigid however, and can absorb and dampen vibrations differently at different frequencies depending on the wood. It's possible you could actually have a wood soft enough that the sustain could actually decrease with greater mass, or vise versa. And of course results vary with frequency and so many other variables.

    So there's a lot of variables here, and though weight is certainly one of them, it can't really be used as a reliable predictor on it's own.
     
  10. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    36,895
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Location:
    Northern VA
    Personally, I consider "exceptional sustain" to be among the most overrated of qualities in an electric guitar.
     
  11. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,732
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005

    That's what I usually find too. One other thing, in working at a music store for many years, never have I played a great, gutsy sounding real light weight guitar of any make. Vintage strats or Gibsons, CS..They always seem to have less sustain than their heavier bros. That's been my experience. Some people swear their lightweight holy grail is a beast, and maybe..but when I got to play some of those that people thought were these holy grails, well I didn't think they had enough bottom end/sustain at all.

    I believe it's real simple, when it's real lightweight, there's simply less mass and less meat in the tone. They tend to have this airy, hollow tone that's somewhat slow responding to very percussive techniques or real fast playing.

    But that's not to say heavy ones always sound great. Sometimes they can sound thin and bright. Like the wood is too stiff to vibrate and it ends up real plinky sounding. So you still have to play before you pay!
     
  12. pickaguitar

    pickaguitar 2011 TGP Silver Medalist Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    20,552
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2005
    Location:
    TEXAS
    To each his own...I consider sustain to make or break a guitar IMO.
    If the sustain is not there...I don't buy.
     
  13. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,732
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005

    Me too. Nothing worse than a guitar that doesn't want to sing. No pickup change will ever help it.
     
  14. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    36,895
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Location:
    Northern VA
    Read my post carefully. I'm not saying I want dead guitars. I am saying that "exceptional" sustain is overrated. I simply don't need it, I have a variety of techniques, including using my hands, location relative to my amps, and pedals (lightly flavored), to coax all of the additional sustain I ever need.

    I also play a fair amount of music, including rockabilly, where exceptional sustain not only isn't necessary, it literally gets in the way.

    So give me an axe with moderate, even sustain up and down the neck over a sustain-monster most of the time.
     
  15. Funky Monkey

    Funky Monkey Member

    Messages:
    3,255
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2006
    Location:
    Springfield, IL
    Non-issue. I stopped considering weight altogether as a factor for sustain when I found the best guitar I had ever played at the time- which also happened to be the lightest guitar I'd ever held.


    There isn't a Les Paul I've tried that I feel sustains better than my chambered tele-style guitar. To be fair, I've never tried this one...
    [​IMG]



    I don't know what the exact weight on it was, but the very first thing I noticed about the Mira that I tried (and it totally won me over, too) was how light it was...and the sustain was delicious. It is what first made list one of my (beloved) Suhr guitars.
     
  16. Pat Healy

    Pat Healy Member

    Messages:
    10,959
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    When I bought my PRS Singlecut Satin from Wildwood Guitars last year, they brought out three "identical" (other than finish color) guitars for me to try out. I put "identical" in quotes because there were major weight differences between the guitars - the lightest was around 7.8 pounds, the middle was 8.5, and the heaviest was about 9.5. I took turns with Troy from Wildwood playing and listening to all three guitars for about an hour, with 4-5 other guys standing around and listening. At the end, to a man we all agreed that the lightest guitar not only sustained the best, but had the sweetest, smoothest, most balanced tone and character of all three. I was very surprised, having always believed that heavy = sustain. So now I have a sub-8 pound guitar that's easy on the shoulder yet sings all day long. :)

    I don't really know why that is, but I assume it's mostly due to a nice piece of wood, and perhaps manufacturing tolerances that ended up on the tighter side with my particular guitar.
     
  17. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,732
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005

    But the sustain is often also apparent in the initial attack of the note. Some guitars want to sing and that almost "overdrive on" tone is built in to the wood, and noticed at the initial attack of a note. (Those guitars do end up actually sustaining longer before the decay btw), but they also have more "drive" or girth in the initial attack. so a lot of times, when people talk about sustain has come to mean more than just the duration of the note. Like the way a Les Paul has sustain, that sweet compression or singy quality is part of it.
     
  18. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    36,895
    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Location:
    Northern VA
    Fair enough and that's why I stressed from the outset I was expressing a personal preference. As usual, my sig line sums it up!
     
  19. Swede

    Swede Member

    Messages:
    17
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    Sweden
    I only use Strats and I think that the neck is the most important part
    to the sound.The bodys wood and weight is second to that.
     
  20. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,357
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Location:
    Ghent, NY
    Depending on your pickups and amp - not as much as you think it might.
     

Share This Page