Strat swamp ash body lighter=better? why?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by AndrewSimon, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. AndrewSimon

    AndrewSimon Member

    Messages:
    2,355
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    I am shopping for a swamp ash body for a Strat.
    I see 1 piece and light (3Lbs 12oz) bodies are "desired" by some and cost much more.

    1 piece body better then 2 piece? why?
    How does it effect to tone?

    Same question for light weight.
    My logic says heavier bodies will have more sustain.
    So why is everybody looking for light weight?
    Light weight sounds better? why?

    Thanks
    :)
     
  2. Martian

    Martian Member

    Messages:
    404
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Location:
    Central NJ, originally from SI, NY.

    In the guitar world, a one piece body of any wood usually costs more than two or more glued pieces. Naturally, the prettier the grain, the more aesthetically pleasing it is. Many simply don't want two or more grains going on at one time and don't believe in the whole bookmatched thing. Many claim it affects the tone, but of itself, it really doesn't to the degree that most insist it does. As a matter of fact, two or three glued pieces are oftentimes a good thing. See, if the one piece of wood begins to warp for whatever reason, that warp is just going to keep on going. With glued pieces, the other pieces will resist the warp by pushing back on it. Remember too, because the glue joints are air tight, the sound cannot get absorbed into them, rather it will be resonated off the body at these seams.

    It should be noted that ALL species of wood exhibit many diverse characteristics even among themselves. I've had some Ash Strats where the tone was dead as a brick and others where they would sing irrespective of whether they were one piece, multiple piece, light or heavy bodies.

    Heavy body = heavy sustain doesn't always follow. Sure, sometimes this is true. Oftentimes, the body simply absorbs the sound due to lack of and so, there is no sustain. We won't even get into the hardware, etc. and their influences.

    Aside from the lighter weight being easier on your back, lighter weight guitars tend to be more springy in the sense that they resonate better because they are more porous. Here too though, the sound can get absorbed and die if the porousity is excessive.

    I'm sure you've investigated the many properties of many guitar woods. Remember, all, including my statements, are general rules of thumb about whatever species but there are NO absolutes.
     
  3. fyrwyr

    fyrwyr Member

    Messages:
    6,244
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2005
    Location:
    Windsor Ont.
    I have a one piece swamp ash body that is pretty light, but it sounds more like a Tele than a Strat, so that is how I treat it. I actually prefer alder and mohagony for Strats and sometimes Swamp ash for Tele's, but that is just me;)
     
  4. AndrewSimon

    AndrewSimon Member

    Messages:
    2,355
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    Thank you both for the help.
    I did a lot of comparisons between Alder and Ash.
    I am set on Ash, I like how it sounds.

    Almost everybody that I talked to said the same thing, 1 piece or 2 piece, it doesn't matter.

    As far as weight, it's a little more complex.
    It sounds like a light one would be better.... but not too light?
    It's hard to decide when you are shopping on-line, maybe if I could tap on these bodies before purchasing I could make a better decision.

    Can anyone recommend someone who builds bodies, someone you trust, that will hand pick a "winner" for me? I don't mind paying a premium price for the service.

    My guitar tech, who I trust, told me to get:
    "a medium heavy ash body with the same properties that were used in 1977 Starts"...... whatever that means.... it doesn't mean much to me but maybe someone who builds bodies can go "aha, ok, that one"

    :)
     
  5. Martian

    Martian Member

    Messages:
    404
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Location:
    Central NJ, originally from SI, NY.
    Glad to help!

    Truth be told, my #1 Strat is Ash and the sound just jumps off it. I never weighed the body by itself but the entire guitar weighs 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

    Unfortunately, I can't recommend anyone to hand pick a body for you. Please remember though, tone is subjective and so, your best bet is to choose the body first hand.

    I have no doubt that your tech is trustworthy. However, I've owned 3 of those heavy Ash Strats from 1977 which I bought new back then. They would be my absolute last choice. Some were as heavy or even heavier than typical Les Pauls and the sound would just die on all of them. As a matter of fact, they even sounded weaker through amps in comparison to my Alder Strats. Again, this goes back to my prior paragraph.
     
  6. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    33,555
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    to be fair, those late 70s strats, along with being heavy as bricks, usually had enough plastic finish on them to seal a boat hull, and on top of that came with crappy pot-metal molded bridges.
     
    rwijaya likes this.
  7. AndrewSimon

    AndrewSimon Member

    Messages:
    2,355
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    There will be no finish, just Teak Oil.
    I'm considering hard tail....
    Joe Barden pups....
    12" radius with jumbo frets....
    Not resembling a 70's Strat at all..... or any other vintage thing...
    but if the body sings, I'll take it.

    ;)
     
  8. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,732
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005
    I have two identical strats here with a swamp ash/maple combination. These are identical in every spec, even down to the same color!

    Well they couldn't be further apart in tone. One is very lightweight, hollow and mellow with more bass, while another was bright and more scooped. They were pretty much at the opposite ends of the tone spectrum, though they were the same model. As far as unplugged, that tells you just what the guitar woods and build sound like without amp and room influencing and changing things to a degree.

    For example the light weight, mellow strat has a slower string response. Nice for some light jazz or something. The other one has a very fast, bright attack and that worked for certain things.

    Every single guitar I've ever had that's real lightweight never has punch and a meaty low end. It usually has a hollow kinda sound that sounds like it wants to be a semi-hollow body or something. When you palm mute and try to grind it out, it sits there and flubs and doesn't want to cut through with that tightness. Heavy weight guitars don't always sound better though. It's hit or miss with those, but often they have more of the punch, meat and sustain I want from a guitar.

    But the trend is light and that's why it costs more.
     
  9. michael30

    michael30 Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,738
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Location:
    Veikkola, Finland
    Because people are getting old and have aching backs.
     
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    33,555
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    also, the lightweight ones might be more "bluesy" and "woody" sounding, rather than the clear, sustain-y, more "rock" vibe of the heavier ones, and most vintage gear snobs fancy themselves blues players, i think.
     
    m-m-m likes this.
  11. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

    Messages:
    12,379
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2005
    Heavier woods usually do mean more sustain. But sometimes the heavier and denser woods boost trebles to the detriment of bass tones because of decreased flexibility. Because flexibility can attenuate trebles. Sort of like a shock absorber. This can sometimes make for a bright and cold sounding guitar. This is probably the reason why slightly lighter guitar bodies are popular. I don't think one piece or multi-piece bodies have that much difference in tone as long as the same wood is used. And it doesn't contain too many pieces. Because when a whole lot of pieces are used the body can begin to take on the attributes of plywood. And since plywood is very stiff it can make for a cold and lifeless sounding guitar. But a lot of this is just generalizations. I have a Baretta that is probably all maple except the fretboard which is rosewood. And it is one of my warmest sounding guitars.
     
  12. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    7,648
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2002
    Location:
    Santa Barbara, Marin, Chico, CA
    Another thing to consider: There are GENERAL tonal characteristics of different kinds of wood, and then there are the characteristics of YOUR particular piece of the same wood.

    Ash in particular has tonal qualities that vary greatly from piece to piece, as Buddastrat wrote about referencing his 2 ash body Strats. Like others who posted here, I've heard great ash bodied guitars, some lighter, some heavier. Lighter ones cost more because 1) They're more in demand and 2) they take more time to select.

    I have a great sounding relatively light swamp ash and maple neck Strat - '95 Fender CS John Page/ Vince Cunetto built. It's wonderful, but there are many other Strats that sound good. My '56 Tele is one piece swamp ash, and very light. It sounds really good too, especially for twang stuff, but not everybody wants their Tele to sound like that.

    My point is that ash varies widely in tone from piece to piece, and if your piece of ash (I know, sorry) doesn't like the neck you've chosen, or rather, if it doesn't vibrate well/sympathetically with the wood in the neck you've chosen, it'll sound like crap.

    There are guys who seem to be able to tell in advance which pairings of body wood and neck wood will work out well together (Bill Chapin comes to mind). If you're buying body and neck parts on your own, I honestly don't know how you'd do it successfully - I mean, describe a tonal characteristic(s) you're looking for, and then try to get someone at the 'factory' to select one for you that has those characteristics? How would they do it - tap testing? Grain? Figure? Weight?

    Seems like a crapshoot to me. I wish you the best of luck, but I mostly buy guitars that are already assembled, so I can hear what they REALLY sound like before I buy 'em. (Big help, I know ...)

    Thanks, Dana O.
     
  13. Eagle1

    Eagle1 Member

    Messages:
    8,678
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2007
    Location:
    The Twilight Zone
    It's actually about density AND rigidity not just weight.
    The reason a 4lb body is "desirable "is mainly it results in an 8lb strat ,which feels about right to most of us.
     
  14. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

    Messages:
    19,893
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Location:
    New Orleans + in the past

    For the same reason they are selling their Super Reverbs and Twin Reverbs and buying Princetons and Deluxe Reverbs.


    One of my lightest bodies is in fact my least appealing ash body. Certain body providers are better at selecting wood than others; best go to them and worry less about the precise weight.
     
  15. OWENMUSTANG

    OWENMUSTANG Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    If your going with an aftermarket body. go to USA guitars, talk to tommy
    about what you want.
    He nailed 2 different bodies for me (1 ash 1 alder)

    If you were looking for a vintage style body and rout, I might be interested in selling my ash body.
     
  16. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,741
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Location:
    Southern California
    I agree with Dana. It is really difficult to predict the tonal results of ash and the variance can range anywhere from 'utterly spectacular' to 'practically useless.' Add to this the fact that neck materials, thickness, neck/body union, and hardware will also greatly affect the way everything vibrates so just having a 3lb body doesn't really guarantee anything except fewer backaches.

    My tele with the 3.1lb one-piece swamp ash body (and thin nitro finish w/Callaham hardware & pickups) still doesn't have the magic resonance I was hoping for even though all the pieces are there.
     
  17. Dana Olsen

    Dana Olsen Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    7,648
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2002
    Location:
    Santa Barbara, Marin, Chico, CA
    Hey Testing1two -

    My pal Pete had a favorite Strat that was finished in poly he sent to be refinished by Lay's in nitro. Pete was so excited - it's actually the best sounding Strat I've ever heard, built with a hodgepodge of parts including a real '54 Strat bridge.

    The guitar came back - great finish. Pete put it together, set it up, and ....

    It sounded like crap. Pete almost cried - he thought he'd wrecked the best sounding Strat he'd ever heard. As the weeks went by, he thought he noticed the guitar beginning to sound a little better, and after a couple months, we BOTH thought so. Pete began to leave the guitar in the earlier morning sun for a couple hours a day, thinking after a few months that perhaps the nitro wasn't really dried and cured yet.

    It turns out, that's exactly what it was - a year later, the guitar was nearly back to it's old self, and now that it's 3 years since the refin, it once again is the greatest Strat ever.

    Don't give up on your light ash Tele yet - it'll get better as time goes by.

    Good Luck, Dana O.
     
  18. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Messages:
    14,732
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2005
    That's crazy, Dana. Don't you think it's a bit of our ears getting used to it and learning how to get the sounds out of the particular guitar as well as the guitar learning to be a guitar again?

    I've had guitars that have downright fooled me, and sounded so good one day and the next day it's like a totally different thing and those frequencies were not there like I heard the day before. So I'd chalk it up to me being human and it's me that's the variable, BUT OTOH, why do I have some guitars that always sound consistent? Very weird.
     
  19. AndrewSimon

    AndrewSimon Member

    Messages:
    2,355
    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    Thank you all for the feedback.
    I decided to let my tech do the work for me.
    He has all the contacts and years of experience.
    I played some of the Strats he put together so I like what he does and he has a pretty good understanding of what I'm looking for.
    He will pick out all the wood and hardware as he sees fit. (he likes USACG)

    :BEER
     
  20. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,741
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Location:
    Southern California

    Thanks for the encouragement Dana. Perhaps the guitar needs just needs a tan. I'm also debating putting the threaded inserts in the neck mounting holes so I can use machine screws and get more uniform pressure in the neck/body joint...
     

Share This Page