#1
My father doesn't believe that wood can impact guitar sound. Well everyone here says that the wood and pickups are what generate most of the sound quality. Well how does it, can someone scientifically explain it to me?
#2
I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't. The whole point of the solid block of wood is to render it inert and therefore as resistant to vibration as possible. Of course there will be small differences between woods but most people wouldn't be able to notice this. I think most people on this site think that it makes all the difference because they've read someone else spouting about it.

Edit: To try and make it perfectly clear, I'll explain properly. The vibrations from the strings go to the pickups in your guitar, these vibrations are not altered by the solid block of wood because it's so dense that it won't vibrate. Therefore, it will not change the vibrations from your strings going to the pickup.
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#4
on acoustics i have noticed differences with cedar and spruce. its like an empty hall way, if there is nothing on the wall and the walls are very hard, it ecos. but if the walls have fabric or sound board, the sound is absorbed, the different woods have different textures. i have not been able to notice this sound electrics.
#5
It definitely does. I'm no scientist, but some wood is denser than others, and when you pluck a string, the sound resonates through the whole guitar. And the woods density makes its tone brighter or darker. Someone else will have to explain it more in depth though, I've no idea how to explain it. :shrugs:

PS: I don't think you can have an opinion on this. It's kind of a scientific fact is it not?
#6
Quote by gdille
on acoustics i have noticed differences with cedar and spruce. its like an empty hall way, if there is nothing on the wall and the walls are very hard, it ecos. but if the walls have fabric or sound board, the sound is absorbed, the different woods have different textures. i have not been able to notice this sound electrics.


This.

I was going to explain how the woods made a difference in acoustics in my previous post but I didn't really think it relevant.
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#7
Sit down on a chair with a back, don't let the guitar touch the back of the chair at all.
Don't play amplified, strum a chord or pick a note.

Now this time, let the side of the guitar touch the chair and play that same chord or note.
Notice how it sounds slightly different just because your guitar is touching something?

Try it again just by letting the headstock touch your desk or something. It's all about the vibration really.

Imagine if your guitar was made out of foam rubber, the bridge would not be stable.
Hitting a note would make the bridge vibrate, and those vibrations would go through the foam, reducing sustain.
Now imagine your guitar is made out of something very hard and heavy, the bridge no longer vibrates but instead the vibrations from the strings just keep on going and going instead of dissipating.

Different woods have different weights, densities, grain patterns etc. Even two guitars made out of the exact same wood will differ slightly.

Steve Vai among others believe that the interval between the resonating pitches of the body and the neck has a play in this.
For example, if you knock on the neck and the tone of the knock is a C, and then you flick the body and it's a G then there will be perfect fifth interval, which as you could guess would sound better than a guitar that has a neck at C and a body at Gb, making a diminished fifth, a dissonant interval.
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#8
The bridge is screwed directly into the wood, and the wood dampens the vibrations of the strings, and certain woods dampen certain frequencies more than others.


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#9
Quote by Ed Hunter
I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't. The whole point of the solid block of wood is to render it inert and therefore as resistant to vibration as possible. Of course there will be small differences between woods but most people wouldn't be able to notice this. I think most people on this site think that it makes all the difference because they've read someone else spouting about it.

Pretty much.

There is a difference between woods though, just namely during weight. It's rare I myself, or even the people on here who have a sense of what they're talking about would complain of the guitar's body wood material affecting tone. I barely even consider it a factor when shopping around for guitars, although I do prefer Alder for it's light weight.

If you're a tone ***** you would be able to notice a difference, but even through some high-end amps you'd notice little difference. It's mainly the amp itself, pickups, wires, effects, etc. that will affect the way you sound, not to mention the biggest factor, the person behind the guitar.
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#10
Quote by windowmaker


Steve Vai among others believe that the interval between the resonating pitches of the body and the neck has a play in this.
For example, if you knock on the neck and the tone of the knock is a C, and then you flick the body and it's a G then there will be perfect fifth interval, which as you could guess would sound better than a guitar that has a neck at C and a body at Gb, making a diminished fifth, a dissonant interval.


Thats very true and relevant when buying a new electric guitar. My Jackson is just about a perfect 5th, I am sure it helps with sustain.
#11
Quote by Tempoe
Thats very true and relevant when buying a new electric guitar. My Jackson is just about a perfect 5th, I am sure it helps with sustain.


How did you find that out? Is there any special method you can use to find this?
#12
Quote by Tempoe
Thats very true and relevant when buying a new electric guitar. My Jackson is just about a perfect 5th, I am sure it helps with sustain.


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How did you find that out? Is there any special method you can use to find this?


I also play a Jackson and would like to know how I could find out the pitch of my neck and body.

I'm guessing that I would have to detach my neck, hang it from a string and then knock it? Help!
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#13
Depends how much gain you're laying with as well. The more distorted the signal, the smaller the portion of the actual wave that gets seen, which wll usually end up being a small spot from the mid range. At that point, it is basically just your pickups and amp shaping the tone.

When you play clean/not full blown, square-wave distortion, I've found the wood does indeed impact tone, but not as much if they're similar species, but more along the lines of 'good wood' and 'bad wood', hence why guitars with the same specs and manufacture sound different. There is a difference in tone between mahogany and swamp ash, and if you can't hear it I don't know what to tell you.

Hollow-bodies are a whole other story
#14
The vibrations transmitted through the woods do have an effect on the tone. The reason is because they vibrate back through the bridge and neck(to nut and/or frets) and back into the strings. Different woods are better at this than others and the ones most used each have better resonance at different parts of the audible range.
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#15
Wood has an immense effect on tone and overall sound, a good example is the difference between an ash tele and a alder tone, theres whole threads devoted to comparing the two

but if the guitar has active pickups it will have hardly any effect, cant really explain that one some scientific reasons. It has most effect with vintage soundinbg humbuckers, think Gibson style.
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#16
Quote by Ed Hunter
I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't. The whole point of the solid block of wood is to render it inert and therefore as resistant to vibration as possible. Of course there will be small differences between woods but most people wouldn't be able to notice this. I think most people on this site think that it makes all the difference because they've read someone else spouting about it.

Edit: To try and make it perfectly clear, I'll explain properly. The vibrations from the strings go to the pickups in your guitar, these vibrations are not altered by the solid block of wood because it's so dense that it won't vibrate. Therefore, it will not change the vibrations from your strings going to the pickup.


Something may be lost in translation here but: denser materials vibrate/ transfer soundwaves faster and more efficiently than materials of lesser density, hence why sound travels faster in water than air. The only time something (anything known to man for that matter) "won't vibrate" is when it is at absolute zero, whether it's a block of Iridium or a kitchen sponge is irrelevant.
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#17
Quote by Ed Hunter
I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't. The whole point of the solid block of wood is to render it inert and therefore as resistant to vibration as possible. Of course there will be small differences between woods but most people wouldn't be able to notice this. I think most people on this site think that it makes all the difference because they've read someone else spouting about it.

Edit: To try and make it perfectly clear, I'll explain properly. The vibrations from the strings go to the pickups in your guitar, these vibrations are not altered by the solid block of wood because it's so dense that it won't vibrate. Therefore, it will not change the vibrations from your strings going to the pickup.

By your logic, an acoustic guitar with a magnetic pickup should sound the same as an electric with the same pickup.
Also, by your logic, semi-hollows should sound near the same with an electric if they have the same pickups. Which, they obviously don't.

When the strings vibrate the vibrations are picked up by the magnets in the pickups. The sound waves of the strings go everywhere. The ones that go towards the body of the guitar will bounce back and hit the strings again (Some will at least). The ones that hit the strings again can change the way the strings are vibrating, thus changing what the magnetic pickups are picking up. Part of the frequencies that the sound waves have will be absorbed and basically stolen by the guitar body. Which frequencies those are would depend on the density and formation of whatever substance that is. If it's wood, the density and grains will each effect the frequencies, and the density and grains vary between different species of wood. Plastic (In my mind) would be a more 'sluggish' substance, stealing more frequency than wood. Glass (Again in my mind) would be more 'smooth' and take less frequencies.

Also, there's what every person above me has said about bridge neck and nut vibrations.

Now, I don't know how accurate this is, but in my mind it all makes sense. None of this has been tested, as far as I'm concerned, so I wouldn't swear my life by it.
#18
You really have to take everything you hear here, or anywhere on the internet, with a grain of salt. No one really knows what they're talking about, that's why you get so many different answers. But it's just logic to know that some woods will sound better than others, including the material your guitar is made from. Of course, ash or oak or maple will sound better than a cheap wood like agathis,
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#19
Everything on your guitar has an effect. Nothing in existence is completely solid, they are all tiny units vibrating at different speeds. When you strike a string every point in your guitar, as well as anything your guitar is touching will vibrate and cause a part of the vibration that is produced. From there, the vibration will hit every surface it can reach and vibrate them slightly as well. When you play, you hear much more than your guitar- you hear a little bit of everything around you. The vibration is then processed by your ear which tells you what pitch, texture, and everything that we register as sound.

I find the best way to test the toneful-ness of the wood is to strike a string then feel the headstock.
#20
Having compared an alder and pine tele, it very much does. I actually have an old copy of Guitar Player from last year detailing the differences, let me finish writing out lyrics for a song I'm working on and I'll write that in.
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#21
i do not believe wood has any significant effect on electric tone. I want to set up a oscilloscope and prove everyone wrong. It certainly makes a difference with sustain though. My old parker fly was incredible
#22
Here we go;



All About Tonewoods

A lot of ink is given to tweaking tones by swapping pickups, mixing and matching pedals, and dialing in the right amp, but enlightened tone freaks understand the core of your guitar sound begins with its most fundamental component: wood. Different types of wood have different resonant properties, and these "tonewoods" --as they are called by guitar makers--are critical in setting the base for any electric guitar's voice. A guitar's sound begins with the transference of vibrations from the strings into the wood of the body and neck (via coupling elements such as the bridge saddles, nut, and frets). The frequency spectrum that results from this acoustic interaction yields the sonic palette that will be amplified and modified by whatever pickups, effects, and other audio processors reside in the signal chain.

The body and neck both contribute to the sound, and these components can be of single- or multi-wood construction. Also, woods of the same species cut from different trees (Or grown in different regions) will sound slightly different, and have different weights, different densities and so on. So the sonic variables exist not only between woods, but in subtler degrees, between different guitars made from the "same" wood--which is part of the magic in searching for your dream guitar amid ten of the same model hanging on the guitar store wall. In this "All About" we're talking about tonewoods in solidbody and semi-acoustic electrics. The properties of wood used in acoustic guitars will be tackled in another issue.


Guitar Player Magazine, February, 2008.

It goes on to detail the tonal properties of various woods that I'm too lazy to type as well.
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#23
Wood will affect the tone of your instrument no matter if you have an Electric or Acoustic guitar. While electric guitars rely on pickups and amps to create the sound, even before this happens your tone will already be affected by the wood the guitar is made of. Mahogany, for example, gives you a round, open, and warm tone, while Swamp Ash gives your tone more of a "twangy" nature.

So yes, the type of wood used does affect even an electric guitar.
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#24
I've always thought that wood effects an acoustic more than an electric.

For example, I have a laminate maple top acoustic guitar. Probably with a maple neck. Supposedly laminate tops sound "plasticy." But a mahogany back and sides changes it all.

It's a Samick, probably $400 from about the 1990's.

Whereas with an electric guitar, it's been said that wood really doesn't change the sound. Pickups affect the sound over the wood. This is obvious from humbuckers to single coils.

Wood really effects the price of a guitar. Obvious because most basswood guitars are rather cheap (of course this excludes Guerrilla Guitars), mahogany are moderately to very expensive, and exotic woods like Koa and Korina are incredibly expensive. Adding tops, whether it's veneer or real maple, obviously, also increases the price. And also adds to tone.

But I'm not saying wood doesn't affect tone. I'm sure after I'm an old fart and have been playing guitar for 40+ years, I'll have it all figured out.
Last edited by r0ckth3d34n at Aug 29, 2009,
#25
I've been reading around at Agile guitar forum and people there claim that they notice the different in tone between the models with thicker maple tops the regular ones with thinner top. As far as I know those guitars use the exact same hardwares and were built the same way. Most of the people there are pretty experienced players. So yes, I do believe wood type affects the tone of electric guitars.
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#26
Quote by James13v
Something may be lost in translation here but: denser materials vibrate/ transfer soundwaves faster and more efficiently than materials of lesser density, hence why sound travels faster in water than air. The only time something (anything known to man for that matter) "won't vibrate" is when it is at absolute zero, whether it's a block of Iridium or a kitchen sponge is irrelevant.

Nope. Less dense materials will transfer motion more quickly than denser materials.
#27
It's all on vibrations man, Lighter woods will vibrate differently to heavier woods, usually giving a more trebly sound.
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#28
absolutely wood does. if it didn't there would be no need to make guitars out of anything but reenforced plastic or poplar or something. if you compare a very light wood (like swamp ash) with a notoriously heavy wood (mahogany maybe, or walnut) there would be a really obvious difference. the heavier wood should be brighter because it would be more resistant to reverberations. a lighter piece would be bassier because the guitar would pick up and carry vibrations more easily.

a really easy test would be to take 2 boards of the same size, cut a pocket in them for a neck, bolt it on and string them up, wire a pickup straight to a jack, and see what each plank sounds like (with the same pickups, of course). the heavier piece should be brighter.

EDIT: another good test... go find a dreadnought size acoustic with rosewood back and sides and one with mahogany back and sides. the rosewood should have more bass. you'll definitely notice a difference in the sound.
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#29
Quote by pixysticks
Nope. Less dense materials will transfer motion more quickly than denser materials.


Lol, you sir are an idiot... I know for a fact that denser materials transfer sound waves faster than materials of less density.

I wasn't questioning myself on that fact.
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#30
Quote by Absent Mind
The bridge is screwed directly into the wood, and the wood dampens the vibrations of the strings, and certain woods dampen certain frequencies more than others.

This. If the guy above is saying wood won't vibrate with the strings, he's obviously never tried placing his guitar against a wooden cabinet or something similar while playing.
Also, there's a whole thread in the GB&C on tone woods and what aspects of the wood make them sound the way they do.
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#31
Of course it makes a difference. Perhaps not as massively huge as some people would like you to believe, but it does make a difference. If you can't feel the vibrations in your guitars when you play, then there is something seriously wrong. I can feel the vibrations in the neck of my guitar whenever I play, and as every wood has a different density, of course it makes a difference.
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