Questions about tone woods

Loxley

Member
Messages
171
I had a few questions about tone woods. For one, is there a comprehensive chart about how tone woods sound? I'm disappointed by the one I've seen by Taylor, the list is pretty small... I want to be able to compare and contrast most tone woods out there in terms of their tone.

Also, is there a general trend on how wood density affects tone? Also, how about density within the same kinds of wood, say you have two Strats, both the same wood, but one is heaver than the other.. how would they sound compared to one another?

Also, how much does the neck's wood affect tone? Does this factor change much between set necks and bolt-on necks?

Thanks.
 

j2b4o

Member
Messages
2,860
Ive done a fair amount of research on the subject and there is no real definitive guaranteed tone chart or sure sound from a certain wood. you will always get different responses about how each wood sounds and by the nature of wood every piece is different so there cant be much of a sure fire system.

as a general rule harder woods sustain longer and are brighter (always exceptions though). softer woods are generally warmer in tone and are darker(but again have seen my fair share of bright sustainy basswood guit's and thats pretty soft). the neck is holding most of the tension so a harder maple will generally be brighter than slightly softer mahogany.

you can easily use existing guits as a reference. strats are made of alder or swamp ash with maple necks usually so compare that to an all mahogany SG and so on. do the same to compare set neck(gibb) vs. bolt on (fender)
you could also take several different slabs (diff specie) and bang on them and you will see the tonal difference of how they respond.

in the end everyone hears things differently so its really how they sound to you.
 

Malinoski

everything wrong possible
Messages
2,131
Ive done a fair amount of research on the subject and there is no real definitive guaranteed tone chart or sure sound from a certain wood. you will always get different responses about how each wood sounds and by the nature of wood every piece is different so there cant be much of a sure fire system.

as a general rule harder woods sustain longer and are brighter (always exceptions though). softer woods are generally warmer in tone and are darker(but again have seen my fair share of bright sustainy basswood guit's and thats pretty soft). the neck is holding most of the tension so a harder maple will generally be brighter than slightly softer mahogany.

you can easily use existing guits as a reference. strats are made of alder or swamp ash with maple necks usually so compare that to an all mahogany SG and so on. do the same to compare set neck(gibb) vs. bolt on (fender)
you could also take several different slabs (diff specie) and bang on them and you will see the tonal difference of how they respond.

in the end everyone hears things differently so its really how they sound to you.
Ditto all this.
There is no hard and fast mathematical precision to any of it.

But consider that more tone comes from the neck than you might expect,
it's not just about the body.
 

baimun

Member
Messages
1,271
Warmoth has some pretty good descriptors in color, weight and tone of the different woods for necks and bodies, as well as a "warmth" meter. There is a certain amount of variance based on the weight or density of an individual piece of wood, but they list aproximations of weights and in their in-stock gallery list the weights of the finished bodies.
 

Jazzgear

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
754
Ive done a fair amount of research on the subject and there is no real definitive guaranteed tone chart or sure sound from a certain wood. you will always get different responses about how each wood sounds and by the nature of wood every piece is different so there cant be much of a sure fire system.

as a general rule harder woods sustain longer and are brighter (always exceptions though). softer woods are generally warmer in tone and are darker(but again have seen my fair share of bright sustainy basswood guit's and thats pretty soft). the neck is holding most of the tension so a harder maple will generally be brighter than slightly softer mahogany.

you can easily use existing guits as a reference. strats are made of alder or swamp ash with maple necks usually so compare that to an all mahogany SG and so on. do the same to compare set neck(gibb) vs. bolt on (fender)
you could also take several different slabs (diff specie) and bang on them and you will see the tonal difference of how they respond.

in the end everyone hears things differently so its really how they sound to you.
Swamp Ash tends to be brighter and not really warmer (except hard Ash)
 

fazendeiro

Member
Messages
1,103
Yep. My lightweight swamp ash Tele is the darkest I've ever owned regardless of how many pickups I've tried.
 

PeakeGuitars

Member
Messages
32
The word "tone" denotes something about the damping characteristics of the wood as well as how much bass or treble it accentuates. Some woods like Brazilian Rosewood have low damping and just keep ringing whereas others like Spalted maple are pretty dead.

There are hard and fast mathematics behind the "note" that plays when you tap on a fingerboard or something like that. Based on the material and the dimensions of the piece you can calculate the frequency of vibration. The equation is basically the square root of the stiffness divided by the mass. This is a fundamental concept that engineers everywhere use to calculate resonant frequencies in things like airpline wings...bridges...rotating equipment...etc..

Here's a link to a page showing different woods plotted out on a stiffness/density chart.
http://www.amjbot.org/content/vol93/issue10/images/large/abot-93-10-07-f01.jpeg

At the end of the day the wood is only "potential tone". It's way more important to have a good builder than it is to have good wood....!

Best,
Trev
 

Jef Bardsley

Member
Messages
2,951
The word "tone" denotes something about the damping characteristics of the wood as well as how much bass or treble it accentuates.
The damping of the wood is what keeps guitars from sounding like steel strung on a piece of plywood. The word "tone" is seldom associated with plywood guitars. ;)

At the end of the day the wood is only "potential tone". It's way more important to have a good builder than it is to have good wood....!
My luthier friend is fond of saying, "The best woods in the world won't have great tone if they're not glued together properly."
 

GA20T

Member
Messages
4,616
Tap test, that and the construction of the actual instrument, neatness of joins/joints etc... There are so many variables that I would suggest that the best method be the old fashioned listening method. Weight, grain tightness/direction and species are merely good launching points IMO.
 

uOpt

Member
Messages
897
Mahogany and Ash in particular can come out in huge variety sound-wise. You can't really put all of that into a chart. Both of these will - for whatever you chart - come out sometimes left and sometimes right of your "reference".

Mahogany is also very sensitive, it seems more so than other woods, to body thinkness. A SG can turn into a bright piece very quickly. Some of the cheaper Strats and Tele with Ash or Alder than have thinner than U.S. Fender bodies retain the character more.
 

Buckshot

Member
Messages
460
In addition to the tone charts already mentioned, Suhr & Tom Anderson both have decent charts on their websites
 

Runn3r

Member
Messages
74
The word "tone" denotes something about the damping characteristics of the wood as well as how much bass or treble it accentuates. Some woods like Brazilian Rosewood have low damping and just keep ringing whereas others like Spalted maple are pretty dead.

There are hard and fast mathematics behind the "note" that plays when you tap on a fingerboard or something like that. Based on the material and the dimensions of the piece you can calculate the frequency of vibration. The equation is basically the square root of the stiffness divided by the mass. This is a fundamental concept that engineers everywhere use to calculate resonant frequencies in things like airpline wings...bridges...rotating equipment...etc..

Here's a link to a page showing different woods plotted out on a stiffness/density chart.
http://www.amjbot.org/content/vol93/issue10/images/large/abot-93-10-07-f01.jpeg

At the end of the day the wood is only "potential tone". It's way more important to have a good builder than it is to have good wood....!

Best,
Trev
imo, absolutely spot on Trev
 

Jack Briggs

Member
Messages
1,608
General statements about the weight of a wood species relating to overall tone will not hold water.

The heaviest parts Strat I ever built was also the darkest sounding I've ever owned. It had a solid rosewood body. Basswood and light alder are similar in weight, yet the basswood will usually sound more mid-strong and darker.

YMMV.


Cheers,
 

PeakeGuitars

Member
Messages
32
Tap test, that and the construction of the actual instrument, neatness of joins/joints etc... There are so many variables that I would suggest that the best method be the old fashioned listening method. Weight, grain tightness/direction and species are merely good launching points IMO.
From a players perspective I definitely agree...from the standpoint of a builder you really have to worry about the responsiveness of the guitar long before it is strung up.

Mahogany definitely has a wide range of variation in density. I've got a really cool board out in my shop right now that is from the center of a tree...it almost has a marbled appearance and is really dense. I also have other mahogany parts of the same species (Swietenia Macrophylla aka Honduran Mahogany) that are probably half as dense!

Best,
Trev
 






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