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  • Comparison of Tonewoods

    Hello...

    Here is something for the tone maniacs. The image below describes the differences and uses of some types of woods:




    It's interesting to compare the internal structure of different woods, and try to understand how it affects the tone !

  • #2
    Originally posted by Helloween 66 View Post


    It's interesting to compare the internal structure of different woods, and try to understand how it affects the tone !
    First, welcome to HCEG. Second, since you are posting this in the Electric forum (and talking about "fatter" tone) I'm assuming that you mean to relate these woods to electric guitar. Fwiw - I am already a believer that the woods selected for an acoustic guitar are a part of what makes it sound the way it does (I build acoustic guitars).

    However, to convince me that woods have any effect on the tone of an electric guitar you are going to have to point to side by side studies of the same guitar with the same pups and same strings played by the same player (better yet use one of the calibrated "plucking" systems documented in lutherie literature) thru the same amp into the same mic.... You get the picture. Bring two Les Pauls with everything identical except the tone wood into the studio and post the clips. You can use a simple program like Audacity to analyze both the time domain (which will give sustain) and frequency domain (the actual makeup up of all the partials) to graphically show the difference.

    Until I see or hear that I'll remain in the camp that says that the sound of an electric guitar has very little to do with the woods that it is made out of.

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    • #3
      The tuefell bird fish guitar. Same pickups same electronics...everything....only difference are the wood "tone bars" that are interchangeable. It makes a difference.

      Now whether you think that difference is significant or not is your opinion. To my ears it's noticeable. (there are clips somewhere on his website)

      Of course this is where people will say "but his picking might have been different" or some other nonsense to continue in their weird beliefs that different materials with different densities won't have a difference in the resonance of a guitar body which in turn affects how the string vibrates which in turn and picked up by the magnetic flux lines of the pickups.

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      • #4
        All I know is that my Alder, Poplar and Ash strats have never sounded remotely the same regardless what pickups I've had in them. They speak with distinctly different dialects. For me, Poplar is the most versatile for different applications, Alder the most dynamic, but too complex for jangly chordal stuff and Ash is the glassiest with the worst notch positions.
        "Prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you're listening. Playing the piano ['guitar'] allows you to do both at the same time." -Kelsey Grammer

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        • #5
          Here is the comparison between Alder and Mahogany near to rulers:




          The pores in the Mahogany are + or - 0,3mm in size. The pores in the Alder are much smaller.

          The amount of low-end a wood produces, is not related with it's density or color. It's related with patterns inside the wood. Just to remind: Fat tone doesn't necessarily mean warm tone, because some woods have good low-end AND good high-end.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by wankdeplank View Post
            All I know is that my Alder, Poplar and Ash strats have never sounded remotely the same regardless what pickups I've had in them. They speak with distinctly different dialects. For me, Poplar is the most versatile for different applications, Alder the most dynamic, but too complex for jangly chordal stuff and Ash is the glassiest with the worst notch positions.
            I'd love to hear clips...

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            • #7
              I've built quite a few electric guitars using a variety of woods that include mahogany (several species), black walnut, alder, ash, basswood, pine, cyprus, and maple. I know that wood does contribute to the tone of an electric guitar, but I've never been able to reliably predict what a guitar will sound like based on the woods used. I had an acrylic strat once. What did it sound like? A strat.

              100% of whatever your amplifier amplifies comes from a signal that is produced by changes in the magnetic field of the pickup produced by a vibrating wire. So you have to ask yourself just how much the type of wood and all of these other factors we talk about really influence how that wire vibrates.
              Please visit my website www.treeguitarworks.com

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              • #8
                Originally posted by stormin1155 View Post
                I've built quite a few electric guitars using a variety of woods that include mahogany (several species), black walnut, alder, ash, basswood, pine, cyprus, and maple. I know that wood does contribute to the tone of an electric guitar, but I've never been able to reliably predict what a guitar will sound like based on the woods used. I had an acrylic strat once. What did it sound like? A strat. 100% of whatever your amplifier amplifies comes from a signal that is produced by changes in the magnetic field of the pickup produced by a vibrating wire. So you have to ask yourself just how much the type of wood and all of these other factors we talk about really influence how that wire vibrates.
                Right...but you're not really considering just how sensitive the magnetic flux lines are. Even the most subtle change in the way the string moves will make a difference that can be easily discerned by human ears. Which are incredibly sensitive to frequency changes.

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                • #9
                  I have an old Jackson Soloist from the 1980's with an Alder body, maple neck with a Rosewood fret board, 500k ohms pots, 47mf cap, Floyd Rose with a Dimarzio (N) Evolution, (M) Dimarzio Fast Track 2 and a Dimarzio Evolution in the bridge. to me this combo made my tone semi-dark, but when I replaced the pot to a 250k ohms pot, it became a mean Thrash / Speed Metal guitar..... a real Earth shaker.
                  I have a Jackson JDR Dinky Reverse from 1997 made of Basswood with the same set up as my Soloist, and the tone is very Steve Vai / Joe Satriani like, a very 1980's Hair Metal tone.
                  My favorite tone woods are Alder, Soft Maple, Basswood and Mahogany.
                  Last edited by AJ6stringsting; 08-02-2014, 10:29 PM.
                  Guns don't kill people .... Fathers with beautiful Daughters do !!!!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Freeman Keller View Post
                    Until I see or hear that I'll remain in the camp that says that the sound of an electric guitar has very little to do with the woods that it is made out of.
                    I respectfully disagree and I believe the wood along with the finish has a substantial impact on a solid body guitar.

                    First let me qualify by stating I am not an engineer and have nothing to base this on except my experience as a player.

                    If I take my solid body guitar and place it on a large wooden table, the table will vibrate when the strings are plucked and it will sound different. I believe this is because the energy required to make the table vibrate is drawn from the vibrating strings and will dampen the strings - reduce sustain if you will. Different types of wood will absorb the vibrations of the strings differently and those differences in vibration will be picked up by the transducers on the guitar resulting in a different amplified sound.

                    These are subtle differences but I have been with the guitar long enough that subtly has become a major part of my playing and I notice a difference between two identical models from the same manufacturer. What causes that difference?

                    One example is my main guitar which is a '94 Les Paul Studio w/ebony board. When the guitar first started coming around my recording studio I didn't think too much of it. I preferred to play a strat for most things and an old 335 if I needed a 'Gibson' sound. One evening at a jam session the Les Paul fell over and ended up with a classic Gibson headstock break.

                    During the repair, the finish was completely removed from the guitar and, to me, the guitar came alive. I was immediately drawn to the SOUND of the guitar which had changed dramatically from what it was before the break. I own it now It is by far the best sounding guitar I have ever had.

                    I have also noticed a difference with an old 335 (although I potted the pickups the same time as the finish was removed) and a high end Japanese Stratocaster. To me, a thick finish is like wrapping rubber bands around an acoustic guitar but with much less drastic effect on the tone.



                    Last edited by onelife; 08-02-2014, 11:49 PM.
                    who you are in the world depends on the opinions of others - that is not important

                    what is important is who you are within yourself

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Freeman Keller View Post


                      Until I see or hear that I'll remain in the camp that says that the sound of an electric guitar has very little to do with the woods that it is made out of.
                      When I read statements like this I think, "This person must be deaf or have no experience with tonewoods".
                      MIA Fender Strat / Gibson Les Paul Studio / Custom Telecaster / Washburn WI66 / Custom Stratocaster / Martin D15S / Guild D55 / Simon & Patrick Cedar

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by billybilly View Post
                        When I read statements like this I think, "This person must be deaf or have no experience with tonewoods".
                        First, I said "very little to do with the woods", not that there was absolutely no differences. I can imagine, for example, a guitar built of balsa compared to one of ebony - yes, I would expect a difference (altho I don't know which one would be "fatter"). However most electric guitars are made of woods with fairly similar properties, often chambered for lightness or sometimes a body of one wood and cap of something else.

                        However, I also have no experience with any direct A/B comparison of two guitars that are otherwise identical with the exception of the woods. I've asked for someone to point me to a study that will help me understand this.

                        In the acoustic world there is a great deal of literature, on line discussion, analysis, and sound clips that attempt to show the differences between tone woods and all kinds of other things about the guitar. I have been a participant in a double blind study of sound holes (the same guitar that can have the hole opened or closed), and here was one from the 2008 GAL conference studying the effects of bridge mass (which related directly to the wood used) on a classical. The guitar is suspended so that there is no affect from the players fat belly, the bridge is driven by a little solenoid and the response is recorded with a laboratory quality microphone.



                        If, in fact, the body wood of an electric makes so much difference. please educate my with some sort of similar study. If you are going to throw around meaningless terms like "fat tone" (and I suppose the antithesis is "skinny tone") show me some examples - define "fat". And don't show me pictures of wood and tell me its the pores that cause that "fatness" - use some engineering terms like "density", "stiffness", Youngs modulus. sound propagation speed.

                        Until I see or hear this I'll remain skeptical that the choice of wood has very little to do with the sound.

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                        • #13
                          I did a comparison several times here where I posted clips and pictures of the signals passed through a frequency analyzer.

                          I did the comparison using both pickups and using a contact mic so I could pick up the vibrations directly from the wood.

                          The results proved there was a difference in tone coming from the wood, and that tone was carried up from the wood into the strings and captured by the pickups.

                          There is one big point which many like Freeman might miss which makes him think there's little or no difference.

                          You could clearly see the differences in the frequency analyzer from both the Contact mic and pickups, when you had clean tones dialed up.

                          "But" and this is a big but, when you dial in drive to the pickup and again samples the response, the overtones that make the differences between wood types disappear to a good extent. The tops of the waves and overtones flatten out and the hills and valleys of the frequency response, smooth out.

                          What you end up with is a mild frequency curve and a roll off in frequencies on the low and high end due to the pickups limited frequency response between 100~6Khz. Without drive the peaks and valleys in frequency response are sharper and more refined. Its easy to see the resonant peaks in different types of wood and you do hear them.

                          How well you hear them requires a trained ear. If you put your ear directly against the body of a Les Paul made of Mahogany and rosewood or a Strat made of Basswood and Maple and you can the same tones those guitars make when plugged into a clean amp that has good fidelity. Those are signature tones those guitars produce and many guitarists love. So long as you don't overdrive the signal the pickups produce those same tones.

                          Electrics do get overdriven however and they are midrange instruments. When they are places in a mix with other instruments their frequency range is often limited intentionally to make room for other instruments. The differences between one electric and another may be only a few decibels at one particular frequency. Anyone into recording and mixing knows this and uses these small changes in midrange response to make the instrument sound its best within a mix.

                          An acoustic on the other hand is usually recorded with a mic or Piezo contact element and have a much wider frequency response. If you were to EQ the high and low frequencies down an acoustic begins to sound just like an electric, in fact you could use a poor quality mic inside an acoustic like Keith Richards did recording Jumping Jack Flash and have the tones of an electric if you want.

                          The bigger key however is how a guitar feels when you play it. Its easy to deceive the ears when you're hearing someone play an instrument, but when you pick one up and actually feel the instruments vibrations, that adds to what someone's hearing. As MR freeman says, he's used to acoustics which can both be felt and heard. An electric unplugged doesn't make much sound, but those who play electrics long enough know there's a huge difference between wood types, and though the pickups may EQ the signal to varying degrees, they do hear what they feel in their hands.

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                          • #14
                            That's exactly what I want to see. Link?

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                            • #15
                              I don't require science to validate what I hear. Science is self limiting for there is always more to discover. Did gravity exist before science could validate/explain it?

                              I suppose I am lucky to be able to clearly identify the difference in tonewoods.
                              MIA Fender Strat / Gibson Les Paul Studio / Custom Telecaster / Washburn WI66 / Custom Stratocaster / Martin D15S / Guild D55 / Simon & Patrick Cedar

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