Single piece vs. two piece bodied guitars: Effects on tone?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by zerocharisma, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. zerocharisma

    zerocharisma Member

    Oct 27, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Hey all,

    I may have incorrectly posted this in the Guitar & Bass technical info section but wanted to get as many opinions as possible (so mods you can delete whichever one doesn't belong). Anyway, I was visiting a highly regarded luthier last week to buy some miscellaneous parts but also had the privilege of checking out some of his amazing guitars. Anyway, I'm not the most educated when it comes to luthiery but as he was giving me a tour of his shop and his methodologies in terms of constructing guitars he made a few interesting arguments. The most sensible one was that he only made guitar bodies out of a single piece of wood. He argued that a Strat or Tele, for instance, that was made by 2 pieces of wood glued together would lack the vibrational resonance and sustain of a guitar made from a single piece. He also believed single piece maple necks have more tonal advantages (in terms of uniform resonance and sustain) as opposed to a maple neck with a glued rosewood freboard. I'm not so sure I would completely agree with that assessment (as I am partial to rosewood fretboards) but it actually made a lot of sense to me. He handed me one of his Tele style axes and it sounded so heavenly unplugged and plugged into a tweed amp. I have been thinking about what he said since then and has me questioning the methods of most production guitars. For the record, I have 4 guitars: a Gibson R0, 62 RI SG, Fender Am Dlx Ash Strat, and a Martin HD-2LSV--all with rosewood fretboards, and all of whom I love. But of my electrics, my single piece mahogany bodied SG has the loudest, most impressive acoustic resonance when played unplugged.

    I know the construction methods of today's biggest guitar makers are dictated primarily by economics, i.e. bookmatching tops on maple capped LPs, 335s, etc, and joining 2 pieces of ash/alder for Strats and Teles. But from a tonal standpoint doesn't it seem reasonable that a guitar made out of as few pieces of wood as possible would translate sound better than otherwise? What are your thoughts on this matter?
  2. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

    May 19, 2003
    All things being equal, YES. But all things are never equal. So two nice pieces of alder will sound better than one average piece of alder. And an average neck on that really nice one piece body may not sound as good as a good neck on an average two piece body. And even if you compared a good two piece body to a good one piece body, the tonal differences may not be noticeable.
  3. tim gueguen

    tim gueguen Member

    Apr 3, 2005
    Saskatoon, SK.
    The majority of Fender guitar bodies from the beginning have been made with two or more pieces of wood. The '50s Les Pauls lusted after by so many have two piece maple tops. A lot of the pro basses in the last 30 years have been neck through designs. And on and on. So I think the idea that one piece bodies are the best is quite simply wrong. A good sounding instrument is what's best, whether its made of one piece of wood or plywood.
  4. matte

    matte Senior Member

    Nov 16, 2003
    my body.
    i used to think that 1 piece bodies were the only way way to go. now? not so much.
  5. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    If the pro builders or large builders have this figured out they are not sayin' 'cept if you want 1-piece it costs you more;)
  6. Glowing Tubes

    Glowing Tubes Silver Supporting Member

    Jun 14, 2004
    Northern Colorado
    I was told the opposite by Jeff Senn, wish I could remember exactly what he said :messedup(it as a few years back) but he made a compelling argument for 2 and 3 piece bodies.

    Basically I think your chances of finding a good guitar made of one piece, two pieces and even three is equal but what do I know.
  7. JDouglee

    JDouglee Member

    Dec 18, 2003
    Sunset Beach, CA

  8. Luke

    Luke Senior Member

    Aug 15, 2005
    Hysteria. Tone is the end result of thousands of interactions of parts. Would Hendrix be more of a guitar hero today had he only used ......? It's stupidity. Write songs that have a strong emotional content people can relate to, play the songs in a unique way, in time and well rehearsed and stop obsessing over every last wire, capacitor or string type. No one cares, it's just a fetish to avoid the aforementioned issues people do care about.
  9. Rosewood

    Rosewood Member

    Feb 19, 2007
    Weight, density, and looks are the ingredients that matter. 3 to 5 piece bodies (or necks) glued correctly should sound as good as a one piece if both bodies are the same weight and density, and I would add same wood (mahogany,maple, etc). I like the looks of one piece but it's a visual thing.
  10. uvacom

    uvacom Member

    May 18, 2007
    I don't think there is any tonal advantage to having a one-piece body or neck - and my main guitar happens to be both! The only advantage is cosmetic, a one piece body can look better, especially with ash or any other wood with a strong grain pattern.

    In fact, it might even be argued that mismatching wood densities could enhance a guitar's tonality, depending on what you're looking for. It would probably sound more complex than a single piece of wood, since it would have some strange and perhaps asymmetrical vibrational modes.
    skypeace likes this.
  11. shuie

    shuie Member

    Aug 11, 2006
    ...down Highway 61
    It depends on the pieces.
  12. digthosetubes

    digthosetubes Senior Member

    Jun 13, 2007
    More pieces means more stability, for one thing. One piece is more prone to warping. Ash, for example, is not very uniform. It can be hard as a rock in one place and then as soft as balsa. So using multiple pieces means that the concerned maker may have more of a chance of getting a really nice body if he or she uses more than one piece.

    Don't forget. These instruments are made in a factory on an assembly line.

    That's part of what makes them what they are. Teles, for example, were intended to be mass produced.

    Even guitars that are made painstakingly by hand aren't always going to be winners. There's a lot of pure chance involved. And the guitar you think is a dog, just may be someone else's prize. You just never know. Worth going out and playing a wall of guitars. But not in one day. Quite an education.
  13. mrfjones

    mrfjones Member

    Dec 21, 2004
    the mid west
    one piece bodies look great don't always sounds that way.
  14. Mrgearguy

    Mrgearguy Member

    Feb 10, 2004
    LA, NYC, Nashville

    True. A great lesson too.

    But, this is the Gear Page. We're all Waaaaaaay past those basics. Right?
  15. Ricky_Rockhardo

    Ricky_Rockhardo Member

    Oct 17, 2005
    North Carolina
    I have a 3-piece Ash Tele with maple neck and board that kicks major butt, no doubt about it. It has the best acoustics/resonance unplugged I have ever heard or held for that matter.
  16. JPF

    JPF Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    New England
    This post may well have cured me. Stop making sense. :D
  17. hogy

    hogy Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    This "one piece is better" thing is unfortunately just a myth. I've handled enough Strats to know better.

    Have a listen to the soundclips of Strats I posted here:

    The best sounding one of the bunch (to me, anyway) is a '56 that has a three piece body and is also the heaviest of them all. The one I like the least (again, IMO) is a '54RI that is one piece and light.

    Other one piece guitars in the bunch were the '54 and '55.

    In the old days Fender would use their crappiest pieces of wood for custom colors where you couldn't see it. I used to own a particularly great sounding '66 Strat that was originally olympic white. When I got it it had been amateurishly refinished several times, so I stripped it down to start over. Guess what, it was a seven piece body that looked like a butcher block. Best sounding big head Strat I've heard nonetheless.
  18. Unburst

    Unburst Member

    Jan 19, 2004
    Portland, OR
    The quality of the wood is far more important than how many pieces of it are used.
  19. scottlaned

    scottlaned Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2007
    Richmond VA
    I don't know about single vs multipiece guitars, but a guitar made of a trashcan can sound great!
  20. DanielT2

    DanielT2 Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    Hey great thread guys. Didn't know that multiple-piece bodies are as good, or better than, single piece ones. I guess separating the marketing myths from reality is getting harder and harder.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice