#1
Not sure if this is the right place for this, but anyway...

I'm a strong believer in the importance of pickups and amps - I have often said in this and other fora that I think the lump of wood is just that, a fancy lump of wood. However, when it comes down to the tonal fine print I wonder about the effect of necks and bodies. I have two LP Jr type guitars, a Gibson and a Burny, that seem to have more "bounce" in the note attack than the three strat types, and I'm wondering if it is due to the body, and more particularly the neck timber. Or whether it is mostly due to the bridge and tailpiece - the two LPs are typical stop types, the strats are either hardtail or blocked trem. I don't believe that bolt-on v glued has any effect, but others might.

I also wonder if neck effects predominate on the high frets and body effects on the low frets. I have a 335 kniockoff, an '82 Westone, that has a good maple neck. It sounds great on the low frets, but is a it of a clunker on the highfrets. - In contrast to the solidbodies which sound better on the high frets than the low ones.

Has anyone done any useful comparisons between mahogany and maple necks on the same type of guitar?
#2
I don't know if this directly answers your question, but this popped in my head as being related. My opinion is EVERYTHING has an effect and it's difficult to predict sometimes. Anyways. the guy that does these videos usually explains WHY he thinks what he does, which is kind of nice these days, and often demonstrates his theories to prove the point.
#3
Quote by Hydra26
I don't know if this directly answers your question, but this popped in my head as being related. My opinion is EVERYTHING has an effect and it's difficult to predict sometimes. Anyways. the guy that does these videos usually explains WHY he thinks what he does, which is kind of nice these days, and often demonstrates his theories to prove the point.


That was interesting, but wow that guy has too much time on his hands!
"A well-wound coil is a well-wound coil regardless if it's wound with professional equipment, or if somebody's great-grandmother winds it to an old French recipe with Napoleon's modified coffee grinder and chops off the wire after a mile with an antique guillotine!"
- Bill Lawrence

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#4
If you mean too much time by making all those videos.. yeah, maybe.

But knowledge sharing is good and he's entertaining to watch at times.
#5
Quote by Tony Done


Has anyone done any useful comparisons between mahogany and maple necks on the same type of guitar?


I don't know about "useful," but I have a few examples of guitars that are virtually identical, but with different neck woods (LP type guitars with both maple and mahogany).

The problem is that identical guitars have differences in wood density, etc., that change things. So it's virtually impossible to make "useful comparisons."

I've got several solid maple guitars -- the 70's Gibson L5S is maple body/three-piece set neck, the 70's Gibson L6S is maple body, maple set neck, the 1989 Carvin DC-150 is maple body, maple neck-through, the Carvin V220 is maple body, maple set neck, the 70's Moonstone Vulcan is maple set neck on a one-piece maple burl body, etc. and none of them fit the internet myth that this should be an overly bright guitar. All of them have Ebony fretboards.

I tend toward neck-through and set neck guitars, and a lot of those have maple necks, some multi-piece. Interestingly enough, multipiece maple necks show up on cheap guitar sometimes, but VERY often on the very high-end guitars (L5 acoustic, old 1939 Epiphone Emperor, Moonstone V, L5S solid body and even on the high end (for a Samick) artist series neck-through superstrat (which, by the way, has an elm body).

Woods probably have an effect on the sound of a guitar, but I don't think that the general wisdom on WHAT that effect is should be taken seriously. Probably neck construction type (set neck/bolt neck/neck-through) has an effect, too, but I'm not at all sure how much or what, exactly, it might be.
#6
I have a Gibson SG Special Raw Power, which is a pretty radical all-maple construction, and its sound is very aggressive, very brittle, often too brittle. With a regular all-mahogany+RW fretboard SG, I tend to crank up the highs, with this one I tend to turn them down, because they're pretty extreme, even for thrash metal.

The PU's are actually '57 classic HB's, which according to Gibson are "softer" than the 490s used in regular SGs. If this is true, then the maple RP sounds much more aggressive despite using more moderate pickups.

I'm pretty sure pickups are more important than anything else, and I don't know if it makes a significant difference if you have an ebony or rosewood fretboard. There's a massive flame war going on on the net about if wood type affects tone, full of nasty insults and accusations of mental deficiencies.

While the impact of tone woods may be exaggerated by some, I don't buy the belief that it's irrelevant. It usually goes that string vibration may be affected by the hardware but not by body or neck material. Body and neck of my Jackson vibrate a lot when I pluck the G-string, so there's definitely some interaction going on between string and body, and hence body and neck must have some impact on sound, and hence, mass, shape and material of them.

With slightly trained ears, you can definitely tell if a guitar uses passive humbuckers or EMG81's, and I think it's much more difficult to tell what wood it is made of. I think of pickups as the core of an electric guitar in a fish or fowl way, while body and neck do the spicing.
#8
As a rule of thumb, I think in terms of the signal chain in reverse order when it comes ot sound on an electric: The amp had the most readily noticeable effect, then the electronics, then construction features. For my own personal enjoyment, the construction features/feel rank more highly in there than the effect they have on the sound. I also prefer a set or thru neck. A bolt neck is perfectly fine, but the philosophy there is to cut costs and ease maintenance, not to make the best instrument possible. This is not to say bolt necks are always crap, a good bolt neck can sound better than a crappy set neck, when other factors come into play, but it's just a design philosophy thing. After the amp, I think the biggest tone shaping item is going to be the pickups and their associated electronics.

Now, when it comes to acoustics, I have 2 dreadnaughts, they're both solid wood. One is made out of maple with a multi-piece maple neck and the other has a multi-piece maple neck (slightly different config) and a walnut body. They both have spruce tops. The walnut guitar sounds NOTICEABLY warmer and has much more emphasis on the bassier tones. The maple guitar is very articulated and has what I would call a much more even tone across the board. It doesn't sound shrill, it has bass, but when played side by side next to the walnut guitar, it seem like it gives up some depth for clarity. But I don't think you can expect the effect to really be noticeable on an electric. There are too many variables at play before the sound ever gets to your ears.

I'm going to compare some guitars here that I owned concurrently. All Gibsons. So they're ogin to have a lot of commonalities. A Flying V, a faded flying v, and an explorer. So, they all were mahogany, set neck, used the same glues, etc and had identical electronics configurations. SO what I noticed was the explorer had more low end. It was subtle, but there. The faded flying v sounded brighter than the standard flying v. Almost airy by comparison. So it's easy to make some assumptions here because they seem logical. One might assume that the explorer is bassier because of it's increased mass or different shape or that the standard v sounded fatter because of the additional layers of finish. Are these things true, strictly speaking? I don't know. I don't have the equipment to test these things and it could have been more a function of wood density/moisture content/rigidity. THrow another explorer into that mix that has different pickups and sounds in a completely different class (deeper lows, brighter highs, more articulation, less saturated gain) and my takeaway is that the electronics package mattered more in the long run than the shape of the guitar. I have a slightly smaller explorer pro with a maple cap and the same pickups as the last first (this is guitar number 5 now) and it was actually kind of blah sounding. Switched the pickups out to what the second explorer had and it sounded pretty much identical to the second explorer at that point. Dynamic, punchy, clear. So... the maple cap doesn't seem to have mattered for much of anything but looks and the pickups seemed to drive the sound. This is all very subjective and I don't have measurements to back it up so take it with a grain of salt. But I thought I'd give it as an example because the commonalities lend themselves better to testing fewer factors.
#9
Quote by Knarrenheino
I have a Gibson SG Special Raw Power, which is a pretty radical all-maple construction, and its sound is very aggressive, very brittle, often too brittle. With a regular all-mahogany+RW fretboard SG, I tend to crank up the highs, with this one I tend to turn them down, because they're pretty extreme, even for thrash metal.

The PU's are actually '57 classic HB's, which according to Gibson are "softer" than the 490s used in regular SGs. If this is true, then the maple RP sounds much more aggressive despite using more moderate pickups.


Gibson lies <G>. Well, more accurately, Gibson Marketing does. I'm not sure that I'd characterize '57s as "softer" than 490s in the same guitar.

Worth noting that the Raw Power guitar is chambered, while it's doubtful that the all-mahogany SG is. I'm not sure that either of them are "radical" construction (given that all-maple construction has been available in other gibson guitars since the very early '70's and perhaps even earlier than that).

As we've noted, however, it's very difficult to characterize the woods in a guitar unless everything else is identical (different sets of pickups would present an issue there in your case, as would the chambering and body construction of the Raw Power).
#10
@dspellman

I agree really, it's not quite like I take everything for granted Gibson says, however, the SG RP is much more aggressive sounding than any other Gibson I ever managed to get my hands on, and if that is by pickups alone, then they put some really ****ed up shit in there.

I wasn't aware about it being chambered (it's pretty heavy compared to regular SG's), but I noticed some other differences: it's slightly more compact (7/8?) than a regular SG, as well as slightly thicker.

While I'm still uncertain about how and how much any of this affects tone: if any of it does, it means that body and neck construction do have an impact on tone. I'm not saying it's necessarily a great difference, just that I'm pretty sure it's wrong to say that it doesn't have any impact at all.

As to if it's radical or not, there may have been some all-maple Gibsons over time, but it's rather an exception, isn't it? Haven't seen all-maple constructions even on pure metal axes (the BC Rich Kerry King signature Warlock apparently is all maple, but according to BC Rich other Warlock models are basswood or mahogany). Maple necks are pretty common, but bodies rather not, are they?
#11
Thanks for the input, I think it is a useful discussion. Most of the thoughts echo my own, that the guitar is a resonating system, so everything affects tone. - But in solidbodies, body factors are a long way down the list compared to the amplification chain.

I was hoping that someone might have tried, say, swapping a maple neck for a mahogany one. I'm thinking about trying it, but is an expensive experiment for the sake of idle curiosity.

FWIW, with my two amps I prefer (er, on most days) the LP Jr types to the strats, given that the pickups get swapped around a lot for non-typical types in all these guitars except the Gibson.
#12
My bet is that an alder/maple LP still sounds like a LP in comparison to a mahogany Strat, and that changing pickups from humbuckers to single coils and vice versa will make much more of a difference. There are LP's with single coils, mostly for nostalgic sounds, and Strats with HB's, usually to adapt the Strat to hotter hi-gain sounds.

Again, I'm no expert. But personally I wouldn't bother swapping the neck, I honestly don't believe it will make much of a difference. And even if it does, you don't know if it's a desireable one.
Last edited by Knarrenheino at Dec 20, 2014,
#13
Quote by Knarrenheino


I honestly don't believe it will make much of a difference. And even if it does, you don't know if it's a desireable one.


That's why I'm not about to try it. While I'm interested in such things, there's a limit on how much I'm prepared to spend to satisfy my curiosity.
#14
Quote by Knarrenheino
@
As to if it's radical or not, there may have been some all-maple Gibsons over time, but it's rather an exception, isn't it? Haven't seen all-maple constructions even on pure metal axes (the BC Rich Kerry King signature Warlock apparently is all maple, but according to BC Rich other Warlock models are basswood or mahogany). Maple necks are pretty common, but bodies rather not, are they?


If you figure that most of Gibson's sales are LPs or SGs made of mahogany, then yes, the other guitars themselves are exceptions. They reissued the L6S (in solid maple) just recently, along with the 335-S (a solid body smaller size 335), which was originally also available in maple.
Carvin's guitars were solid maple for years. Still available. I have at least three of those that are solid maple, including a five-string bass.
Moonstone has always produced guitars from maple (some of their most famous have bodies of maple burl), yada yada.

Basswood and alder guitars were usually considered low-end, even if the neck was maple.

There are more out there than you think, but they tend NOT to be the cheapos that hang on Guitar Denter's walls. Truth be told, maple was always considered the upscale wood, while mahogany was mid-price and below. The expensive archtop jazz guitars had maple necks, sides and backs (tops were variable, with some spruce, etc.). The L5S, a solid body version of the L5, was solid maple. High end LPs like the 25/50 anniversary model in '78 had multipiece maple necks. Les Paul originally requested that the LP be solid maple, but was refused based on both cost and weight concerns, and the maple cap was a concession to that request.

I have several guitars with koa necks/bodies, one with a maple cap, another with a cap of flamed maple. Carvin used to build guitars of solid koa for a slight upcharge over the maple versions. Now a rather larger upcharge. I have one of those that was solid to me apologetically, "This is sort of a cheaper Hawaiian mahogany" (it's not).

Maple bodies/necks are far from radical, but volume manufacturers these days crank out a lot more mahogany and alder and basswood and poplar guitars. Cheaper to do and no one seems to care. If you're interested in radical, look up AC Guitars (http://www.acguitars.co.uk/acg_admin/wordpress/ ) and others working in custom or lower-volume guitar and bass production. Some of the newer body and fretboard woods are resin-impregnated (or they'd wear too quickly as a fretboard). I wonder what guitarists will make up about THEIR sound qualities if they migrate from the bass world. Bass players always seem to get the cool toys first these days.
#15
I think bass players look at their instruments differently. SOme of them seem to be less hidebound traditionalists when it comes to trying new construction techniques and materials, whereas I think a lot more guitarists fall into the "I want everything vintage correct." camp.

I had thought the LP had not been made entirely out of maple for reasons of weight and that the market wanted a mahogany guitar (the maple cap being painted gold and bound to hide the fact it was a different wood). A couple years ago, I did take a brief look at the reissued L-6S. It was a HEAVY son of a beast. In the end, I decided if I ever got an L-6S (and I would love to), it would be a "real" one with the vintage wiring setup, otherwise I was just buying an extremely heavy Les Paul. Kind of like I passed on the RD reissues as well. It just seems like they left the most important features that really set these instruments apart off in order to package up the same old thing in a snazzy body kit. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the electronics config, I just have plenty of them like that already.

I personally like mahogany for looks and perhaps erroneously, I equate it with a warmth of sound when used to make a slab body.
#16
Wood does have an effect but it is not as dramatic as many people would want you to believe.

Back in the 90's I put together a couple partscasters. I could do this because I lived 20 miles from Warmoth guitar parts and due to the fact that the internet has not yet taken off I could pick over items that customers did not pay for etc. I got a flyer every month and it stated prices. They were a fraction of what they cost new. (I was also single at the time) I made a walnut Jazzmaster with a maple neck it did nto sound that great but looked cool and was heavy as hell. I changed out the neck for a Wenge with ebony fretboard neck and well now it sounded great. The new wood combination extended the highs and lows a bit so it was not this mindrange honkey guitar. It still sounded similar but it was the difference between good and meh sounding.

There are a few guitars with very different woods than normal and they do sound different. Try some demos of rosewood telecasters they do have a different sound. they still sound like a tele but filtered. Try a ash les paul I thought the one I tried sounded good and very un Les paul like. You need to get dramatically different woods to get a noticeable change in tone.

The price of the wood does not matter and AAAAAAAAA tops sound no better than generic maple. There are great sounding guitars out there made of basswood and poplar. There are a few awful sounding guitars out there made from expensive woods. But it is one little thing in the system that makes sound.

I do believe also that it will make fore of a difference in a string through body guitar as opposed to a guitar with a vibrato because some of those nuances are absorbed by the springs.
#17
Quote by Zhaezzy
Wood does have an effect but it is not as dramatic as many people would want you to believe.

Back in the 90's I put together a couple partscasters. I could do this because I lived 20 miles from Warmoth guitar parts and due to the fact that the internet has not yet taken off I could pick over items that customers did not pay for etc. I got a flyer every month and it stated prices. They were a fraction of what they cost new. (I was also single at the time) I made a walnut Jazzmaster with a maple neck it did nto sound that great but looked cool and was heavy as hell. I changed out the neck for a Wenge with ebony fretboard neck and well now it sounded great. The new wood combination extended the highs and lows a bit so it was not this mindrange honkey guitar. It still sounded similar but it was the difference between good and meh sounding.

There are a few guitars with very different woods than normal and they do sound different. Try some demos of rosewood telecasters they do have a different sound. they still sound like a tele but filtered. Try a ash les paul I thought the one I tried sounded good and very un Les paul like. You need to get dramatically different woods to get a noticeable change in tone.

The price of the wood does not matter and AAAAAAAAA tops sound no better than generic maple. There are great sounding guitars out there made of basswood and poplar. There are a few awful sounding guitars out there made from expensive woods. But it is one little thing in the system that makes sound.

I do believe also that it will make fore of a difference in a string through body guitar as opposed to a guitar with a vibrato because some of those nuances are absorbed by the springs.


Thanks, that's the kind of specific instance I was hoping for.

I don't believe in "cosmetic"/price effects either. It is lunatic to think that just because a timber is rare, it makes a good tonewood. - Whatever "good" means. A couple or three decades ago acoustic aficionados were talking about even close-grained tops. You never hear it mentioned now, especially from luthiers - becuase there isn't any.