#1
I stumbled upon this really cool article via a Tweet from Seymour Duncan.

This guy (Pete Lacis I believe) recorded (many ) sound samples of two Suhr Strat-style guitars, one with an alder body and all-maple neck/fretboard, the other with a swamp ash body and maple/rosewood neck/fretboard.

He was quite thorough in his comparisons, making samples of each pickup position, both dirty and clean, and he even switched the necks between the guitars at one point.

I was very surprised at how subtle the tonal differences were. I thought the article was worth spreading around and I thought you guys might find it interesting!

You can check out the article and sound samples here:

Alder vs Swamp Ash, Maple vs Rosewood and a Neck Swap - The Definitive Comparison with Audio Clips
Last edited by XylemBassGuitar at Dec 8, 2011,
#2
The swamp ash with the rosewood fretboard sounded the best to me, and i was actually surprised how much of a tonal difference there was between the two necks. Good find.
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#4
Guess you needed to be there huh?

Cant tell any real difference through my laptop speakers

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#5
To be fair, very few people have ever claimed there is that much of a difference between ash and alder in sound. Sure enough it's swapping the neck which makes the most difference in tone to me. Though I'm only listening through mid-range headphones.

But also this only shows the effect of changing woods with a bolt-on guitar with a trem and single coil pickups. Get a korina Explorer and a mahogany Explorer and there's more difference. Get a neck-through alder/maple guitar and a neck-through ash/maple guitar and again there's a different kind of change there.

There's really far too many variables to definitively say that wood does or doesn't effect X% of your tone. What does make a difference to one guitar may not make a difference to another type of construction or another type of pickup. You can't judge each element like this. You have to take everything as a whole, each element in context.

Plus all sound samples on the internet are bullshit, whether they prove what you want them to prove or not. By the time something is recorded, processed and compressed down as an .mp3 or whatever, uploaded and played back through computer speakers or headphones, you're going to lose a lot of the sound character. Again you're basically taking the elements out of context.

Also I'm pretty sure that the term 'tone wood' doesn't apply to electrics.
Last edited by grohl1987 at Dec 8, 2011,
#6
Oh look, another tonewood thread.
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#7
Quote by grohl1987
To be fair, very few people have ever claimed there is that much of a difference between ash and alder in sound. Sure enough it's swapping the neck which makes the most difference in tone to me. Though I'm only listening through mid-range headphones.

But also this only shows the effect of changing woods with a bolt-on guitar with a trem and single coil pickups. Get a korina Explorer and a mahogany Explorer and there's more difference. Get a neck-through alder/maple guitar and a neck-through ash/maple guitar and again there's a different kind of change there.

There's really far too many variables to definitively say that wood does or doesn't effect X% of your tone. What does make a difference to one guitar may not make a difference to another type of construction or another type of pickup. You can't judge each element like this. You have to take everything as a whole, each element in context.

Plus all sound samples on the internet are bullshit, whether they prove what you want them to prove or not. By the time something is recorded, processed and compressed down as an .mp3 or whatever, uploaded and played back through computer speakers or headphones, you're going to lose a lot of the sound character. Again you're basically taking the elements out of context.

Also I'm pretty sure that the term 'tone wood' doesn't apply to electrics.



I agree with this completely.
Moving on.....
#8
Quote by grohl1987
To be fair, very few people have ever claimed there is that much of a difference between ash and alder in sound.



I've always thought the difference was pretty obvious? While they're not doing much different from one another in the way of tonality, they're definitely different. That might just be me, though. I'm sort of a Swamp Ash fanboy.

Anyway, as with most things in electric guitar, as soon as you apply the gain most of the tonal nuances start going out the window. I could hear the differences pretty much only in the clean tests.
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Last edited by JustRooster at Dec 8, 2011,
#9
Quote by grohl1987


There's really far too many variables to definitively say that wood does or doesn't effect X% of your tone. What does make a difference to one guitar may not make a difference to another type of construction or another type of pickup. You can't judge each element like this. You have to take everything as a whole, each element in context.



Definitely, and once you factor in the person playing the guitar and the person(s) listening to the guitar, it is almost impossible to say anything definitive about tone because of the massive amounts of subjectivity.

Quote by grohl1987


Plus all sound samples on the internet are bullshit, whether they prove what you want them to prove or not. By the time something is recorded, processed and compressed down as an .mp3 or whatever, uploaded and played back through computer speakers or headphones, you're going to lose a lot of the sound character. Again you're basically taking the elements out of context.

Also I'm pretty sure that the term 'tone wood' doesn't apply to electrics.


Sure, the processing has some effect. But, I have posted a fair number of sound samples on the web, then subsequently listened to them at other people's houses on their computers with their various listening devices. True, low-quality speakers, headphones, etc. change the sound. But if you listen with anything decent, the sounds are quite close to the originals (at least with the ones I've created to my own ears).

I would also tend to agree that "tone wood" doesn't really apply to electrics...not in the way that it applies to acoustics at least. However, I've heard so many players, builders, scholars, etc. that espouse the different tone woods and their effects that I thought it would be worth the time to show this article around. Lots of guys say tone woods do something, not many actually offer any form of evidence to support their claims.

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Oh look, another tonewood thread.


I know, I know

Like I said above, I thought this one would be particularly good because you rarely get to actually hear comparisons like this, mostly it's just one person's word against another.
#10
Quote by JustRooster
I've always thought the difference was pretty obvious? While they're not doing much different from one another in the way of tonality, they're definitely different. That might just be me, though. I'm sort of a Swamp Ash fanboy.
The way most people report it and how I've seen it written on most sites is that ash is very, very slightly brighter than alder. Among my own guitars I can't say I've spotted this difference though I don't have any alder and ash guitars that are that close in spec anyway.

But if you look at the Seymour Duncan website they put ash and alder together with poplar seperate. Warmoth say alder and poplar are the same and ash is the one that's a little bit different. Dimarzio says they're all different. Some people say poplar and basswood are the same. Some people say korina and basswood are the same. Some people say korina and mahogany are the same. Some people say maple and ebony fretboards sound the same.

So it's all subjective and down to personal experience and opinion. To me, alder and ash sound the same as far as I've ever been able to tell. To most people it seems they're only a tiny bit different. To other people they're very different. To each his own.

I think a lot of the time people only hear what they want to hear.
#12
Basically everything grohl1987 said

I agree that neck wood has a big impact with electrics, I noticed it myself when swapping the neck on my Ibanez S540. Both necks were maple with rosewood fretboards, built in exactly the same way apart from the heel (one was square heel, one AANJ)

Comparing the 2 necks off the guitar, one was much heavier (denser maple), and it was on the guitar originally. After swapping it for the lighter, less dense neck, there was a huge difference in tone. It was a lot darker and a bit muddier. The guitar has no tone pot, and it was far too dark for my liking, lost a lot of clarity. The neck and strings were the only thing that was changed, and if anything new strings should have made it brighter, but it was clearly much darker to me.
#13
Oh boy.
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#14
I'm not gonna bother writing or reading short stories on the matter, but it doesn't really make sense to me how the body of an electric guitar would influence the sound that comes out of the amplifier. What do the strings touch? a bone nut a metal bridge, and a metal stopbar. nothing to do with the wood itself.
#15
the same goes for paint. someone told me, without even hearing it first, that i ruined the tone of my guitar by having it repainted.

I can guarantee it didn't affect the sound at all, or if it did it's too miniscule of a difference to be picked up by human ears.
#16
Quote by JustRooster
I've always thought the difference was pretty obvious? While they're not doing much different from one another in the way of tonality, they're definitely different. That might just be me, though. I'm sort of a Swamp Ash fanboy.

Anyway, as with most things in electric guitar, as soon as you apply the gain most of the tonal nuances start going out the window. I could hear the differences pretty much only in the clean tests.


this

the differences were pretty apparent to me, even through laptop speakers
the swamp ash sounded best
#17
The differences are subtle and... difficult to describe, but they're definitely there.

The Rosewood/maple neck seemed to have more low end and mids than the maple one piece when used on both bodies. The difference in tone between the Swamp Ash and the Maple was as apparent to me as the neck swaps.

If he had tried mahogany vs alder there would have been a huge difference. I would definitely like to hear a mahogany body, mahogany/rosewood neck vs a carved maple top/mahogany body with a rosewood/mahogany neck.
#18
Quote by mike_oxbig
I'm not gonna bother writing or reading short stories on the matter, but it doesn't really make sense to me how the body of an electric guitar would influence the sound that comes out of the amplifier. What do the strings touch? a bone nut a metal bridge, and a metal stopbar. nothing to do with the wood itself.


Here's a test to prove you wrong. Strike the strings between the nut and the machine heads. You'll hear it through your amp.
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Dec 8, 2011,
#19
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Here's a test to prove you wrong. Strike the strings between the nut and the machine heads. You'll hear it through your amp.


the machine heads are made of metal, so the density of the wood still isn't going to play a part in the vibration of the strings.

with an acoustic guitar by all means, wood density is paramount, because the wood is what redirects the soundwaves which amplifies the sound.

I haven't done any research or experiments on the matter, it just seems like common sense to me. At no point are the strings connected directly to wood, ergo the wood doesn't affect the vibration of the strings. As long as it's not such soft material that the metal hardware vibrates where it's mounted to, of course. But if that were the case the neck would warp in no time.
#20
Actually I just palm muted the strings and knocked on the body of the guitar, and i could hear it through the amplifier when i turned it up a ways.

who knows. i'm too stoned for this shit.
#21
Quote by mike_oxbig
the machine heads are made of metal, so the density of the wood still isn't going to play a part in the vibration of the strings.


By doing that test, the only way the string vibrations get to the pickups is through the wood itself. otherwise you won't hear anything through your amplifier.

The machine heads are not directly connected to the pickups like the wood is.
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#22
Yeah i get ya. I pretty much realized i was wrong as soon as my dog barked when i knocked on the body because she thought someone was at the door.
#23
Quote by mike_oxbig
Actually I just palm muted the strings and knocked on the body of the guitar, and i could hear it through the amplifier when i turned it up a ways.

who knows. i'm too stoned for this shit.



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#24
Quote by mike_oxbig
I'm not gonna bother writing or reading short stories on the matter, but it doesn't really make sense to me how the body of an electric guitar would influence the sound that comes out of the amplifier. What do the strings touch? a bone nut a metal bridge, and a metal stopbar. nothing to do with the wood itself.

maybe if you bothered to read the short stories you're complaining about, it would make sense to you, because it's been explained pretty well..
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#26
well fair enough if you don't wanna learn about anything, just don't pretend you know anything related to this subject and you'll be fine

honestly, not everyone cares as long as it sounds good and not everyone needs to know why something sounds the way it does. that's the way i look at it most of the time, although the sound that i tend to like is a sound that is heavily influenced by the resonance of the wood. i think the tonewoods influence how some guitars sound more than others.
I like analogue Solid State amps that make no effort to be "tube-like", and I'm proud of it...

...A little too proud, to be honest.
#27
Quote by mike_oxbig
I haven't done any research or experiments on the matter, it just seems like common sense to me.

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#28
Well one of the most famous guitars in the world is not made of Tone Woods and if you heard the sound you would know the name...... The Red Special played by Brian May for over 40 plus years.
That guitar was made from Crap from around the house.. The body is made out of a Oak table insert with Blockboard glued to it. The neck is the Fireplace Mahogany... Really it is a piece of a mantel that supported a mirror on a fireplace mantel and the fretboard is Oak painted black.
Pieces of shelf edging for binding Motorcycle valve springs the list is long....
The guitar is still today BHM main guitar.
In 2007 I started building the Red Special Copies in Nashville Tn and today we still make them just like BHM and his dad did back then.... No sewing kit buttons but its is made from Blockboard and oak and we have all the hardware Custom made....
So next time you hear that reply on the Classic Rock station playing Queen remember that the sound is not coming from some fancy hard to find tone wood, it is coming from a Junk found aroun the house back in 1962.




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#29
^Yep, it's all from his guitar. It has nothing to do with his AC30 or his handful of pedals.
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#31
So agathis would be the same as alder, korina or even maple? Cardboard would sound the same as a guitar made out of graphite, cement or even a pure rock? Next thing to do would be to buy 15 pounds of crack and build a guitar out of it.
#32
@everett wood: with all due respect, i don't really get what your point is or what it really contributes to this discussion.

all i can gather from your post really is that we need an objective definition of the word "tonewood".
I like analogue Solid State amps that make no effort to be "tube-like", and I'm proud of it...

...A little too proud, to be honest.
#33
Quote by Woffelz
Affect is the verb, effect is the noun.


I always have to look this up to remember. I even tried to change the title of the discussion to "Effect" instead of "Affect", but I don't think my change is reflected in the thread index.

#34
Quote by mike_oxbig
I'm not gonna bother writing or reading short stories on the matter, but it doesn't really make sense to me how the body of an electric guitar would influence the sound that comes out of the amplifier. What do the strings touch? a bone nut a metal bridge, and a metal stopbar. nothing to do with the wood itself.


Agreed one hundred percent. I cannot to this day hear a difference between my warmoth maple sg and my warmoth mahogany sg with the same electronics.
#35
Quote by Everett Wood
So next time you hear that reply on the Classic Rock station playing Queen remember that the sound is not coming from some fancy hard to find tone wood, it is coming from a Junk found aroun the house back in 1962.

i'll take all the 1962 "junk" i can get my hands on.

not much back then was actually what we today would consider "junk".

it was probably old growth oak that had been dried for years while used as a table, which i would suspect would be a terrific tone wood to build from. fireplace mahogany? yes please..

i don't think you quite understand the amount of you posted right there. or you had your tongue in your cheek and i missed it.

i know this guy that lives in wisconsin that built a tele out of a table. pretty epic little tele, i'll just leave it at that.
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Last edited by gregs1020 at Dec 10, 2011,
#36
I heard a clear difference between the alder and the swamp ash guitars. The swamp ash had more top end and was a little more shrill sounding. Enough difference for me to consider when buying. But the rosewood fretboard made a smaller difference. It seemed to smooth out the top end. Its not enough difference for me to love or hate the guitar though. Gain seemed to drown the differences. It would have been nice to heard different woods though, theyre both known to be at the brighter end of the spectrum.
#37
Well as I was setting the neck to day I left the key in the slot and the metaltube attached to it to gain more force...I created strange india scherpa music djinghi djinghiiii...
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#38
Eric Clapton have once said that he is addicted to musicstores and pawnshops!
He plays the guitar...ok? Knock on the wood..
Old wood is good wood a aged guitar sound better than a new thats a fact.
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#39
Quote by Davenir
Old wood is good wood a aged guitar sound better than a new thats a fact.

No, thats not a fact. The age of the guitar is irrelevant, its the age and quality of the wood that is important. You could get a new custom built guitar with old growth woods and it would sound better than any guitar with lesser quality woods, no matter how old that guitar is.

I've played a '78 Les Paul Custom that weighed a ton and had the resonance of a brick, and an '08 Standard that was far more lively, resonant and light.