#1
I know this has been asked a thousand times, and I have searched. But I'm yet to actually find a real answer.

Now, I can understand in acoustics where the sound is actually amplified in the soundhole itself and the woods do play a key role in the tone. When sound waves change medium (ie: air to wood), some energy is transfered into the new medium and some is reflected in the old medium. The amount of energy transferred is dependant on the difference and density of the new medium. The more dense the new medium, the more energy reflected and less transferred (resulting in a brighter tone). The less dense the new medium, the more energy transferred (resulting in a muddier tone).

As you can see, I do physics at school and have a pretty good understanding of wave motion. But I still fail to see how wood affects tone in an electric guitar. If my limited knowledge of pickups is correct, if you place a magnet inside a coil, it creates an electrical field. If you place a ferrous material inside an electrical field, it warps the field and alters the signal. Hence, when you pluck an electric guitar string (which contains iron), it vibrates within the electrical field, warping the field and creating the signal we hear on the other end of the amp.

If pickups only create an electrical field altered by ferrous materials (which wood certainly is not!), just how the hell does wood affect the tone? They aren't picking up the the energy reflected from the different woods, but the warping of the electrical field.

So, any of you tone-wood-gurus want to give me a real explanation on how wood affects tone in an electric guitar? I don't want crap replies telling me that denser wood = brighter tone and more sustain, etc. like all the other threads asking the same question seem to get. That's not what I want to know.

Thanks.
#2
I don't think you'll be getting any good answers here, because most people here don't care how it works, as longs as it works.
#3
Yes Insolent, you are one of the few who actually gets the physics correct and doesn't confuse power, force and energy together.

Isn't that what mainly determines the price of the guitar? I don't get it either, isn't the pickups that affect it?

Mainly the pickups, BUT the wood affects the sustain, due to different densities and porousness:P
#4
Quote by mr_hankey
I don't think you'll be getting any good answers here, because most people here don't care how it works, as longs as it works.



Hmmm... I think what he really asks is IF it affects. Not how.

I'm sorry but I don't know the answer. I have also thoughts about if it is true or not, but I seriously don't know. What I DO know is that some wood do FEEL better when you are playing. And for me, that matters.

#5
Wood is how the manufactures can justify their high prices. I contend its the electronics and pickups that will dicate the tone quality. Most electric guitars are ripoffs when you analyze the cost compared to the end product (tone). Most USA Fenders and Gibsons are nothing but collectors items.
#6
http://www.talkbass.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-43344.html

resonance works in a cycle. all things play into the tone of a guitar. they feed off each other.
if u were to paint, tape and glue an electric guitar, u would deaden the tone.
extreme example but shows how wood, neck joints, string thru, neck thru designs all effect the guitar's tone.
Jenneh

Quote by TNfootballfan62
Jenny needs to sow her wild oats with random Gibsons and Taylors she picks up in bars before she settles down with a PRS.


Set up Questions? ...Q & A Thread

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#7
I have modded Squiers and MIM Strats with premium electronics and pickups that sound just as good if not better than my American Standard Strat.

The caliber of wood doesn't matter in the sound of an electric guitar, only in the appearence, weight, and price.

Next the type of paint will matter to some.
#8
Quote by Siciliano
Next the type of paint will matter to some.


It does.

The thinner the finish, the more the body can resonate.
#9
Quote by Siciliano
I have modded Squiers and MIM Strats with premium electronics and pickups that sound just as good if not better than my American Standard Strat.


ah, but have you tried those premium pickups and electronics in the MIA strat?
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#10
There was a good explanation, IMO, in the thread that Jenny posted that I will repeat, as it may answer your question......

When the string vibrates, the entire bass, in turn, vibrates. The different wood will have different effects on certain frequencies, and absorb or let through the strings energy/sustain.

Think of it when you play your electric acoustically....in a good one, you fell the entire guitar resonate when you play it.
#11
also, when u play ur electric (acoustically) and touch the headstock to a wall or desk. the sound will get louder.
u have to ask urself why it does that.
Jenneh

Quote by TNfootballfan62
Jenny needs to sow her wild oats with random Gibsons and Taylors she picks up in bars before she settles down with a PRS.


Set up Questions? ...Q & A Thread

Recognised by the Official EG/GG&A/GB&C WTLT Lists 2011
#12
Quote by Dave_Mc
ah, but have you tried those premium pickups and electronics in the MIA strat?

I'd expect a guitar around $1000+ to already be configured with premium electronics and pickups.
#13
different woods will resonate differently so they'll cause the strings to vibrate in a different way and you'll get different harmonics, which means that you'll get a slightly different sound.
#14
Quote by Siciliano
I'd expect a guitar around $1000+ to already be configured with premium electronics and pickups.


not necessarily.

added to the fact that even if it does have good pickups, they may not suit your style.


wood affects the tone, basically.

pickups probably affect it more, but the wood still has an effect.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#15
My take: The strings and electronics are all that matters- in the first millesecond of the note. But once it's started ringing, the grip of the nut, the pressure of the frets, the hold of the neck on the frets, the material of the bridge, the material of the body that's holding the pickup, and the pull of the pickup magnet are all going to affect how long, and in exactly which frequencies, that string is going to vibrate.
#16
If a $1000 guitar is not configured with premium pickups and electronics then what are you paying for? Not the wood!!! I suspect people are paying for the "Made in USA" stamp on a Fender or Gibson making them collectibles.
#17
Everything vibrates, from the world to the glass of water in front of you. Each article of matter in the world is composed of something totally different from virtually anything else, and those different matters all vibrate differently. A pillow will vibrate differently from a wood table no?

The same thing applies to guitars. Different woods all have different densities, grades, characteristics, hardness/softness and wieghts. All these things affect the tone of the vibrating string because of the way the body vibrates when you pluck the string. The vibrations from when you pluck the string make the body vibrate thus creating 'tone'. The different woods all have different densities, grades, hardness/softness, ect and are all going to vibrate differently, which in turn creates different tones.

There are WAY to many factors though to consider the body wood the MAIN producer of tone. Bridge material, bridge type, bridge depth, nut material, fret material, fret heights, tuner material, headstock angle, neck wood, fretboard wood, string material, ect, ect. All these things have differnet characteristics which help shape and produce tone, it's as simple as that.
'Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose despondency and laziness make them give it up as unattainable.'
#20
Quote by Dave_Mc
added to the fact that even if it does have good pickups, they may not suit your style.


Quote by Siciliano
If a $1000 guitar is not configured with premium pickups and electronics then what are you paying for? Not the wood!!! I suspect people are paying for the "Made in USA" stamp on a Fender or Gibson making them collectibles.


did you even read what I said?

anyway, I second algee.

I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#21
Behind a wall of distortion you can't really tell anyway haha
- Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty w/EMG 81 & EMG 85
- Ibanez S470 "Baby Blue"
- Jim Dunlop Zakk Wylde Wah Pedal
- Digitech Whammy Pedal
- POD 2.0
- Vox AD30VT
#22
Threadstarter: It is true that the pickups respond to the strings and not to the wood. There is no direct relationship between the pickups and the wood. However, the wood directly affects the way the string vibrates.

Of course hardware plays a role as well, but for the sake of the argument we're just talking about wood.

Plucked string --> Resonating wood --> Resonating String --> Pickups

American Stratocaster + Blues Junior

#23
Quote by AlGeeEater
<snip>

The same thing applies to guitars. Different woods all have different densities, grades, characteristics, hardness/softness and wieghts. All these things affect the tone of the vibrating string because of the way the body vibrates when you pluck the string. The vibrations from when you pluck the string make the body vibrate thus creating 'tone'. The different woods all have different densities, grades, hardness/softness, ect and are all going to vibrate differently, which in turn creates different tones.

<snip>

Yes, but you haven't told me how the wood vibrating affects the pickups. It's all well and good to say that different woods vibrate differently, but when the pickups only react to the strings, how does this difference in wood have an effect? That's the question I'm asking.

I think 666_Belial is the only one that has sort of answered my question.

Quote by 666_Belial
different woods will resonate differently so they'll cause the strings to vibrate in a different way and you'll get different harmonics, which means that you'll get a slightly different sound.


This seems to make sense. So:

The string is plucked and begins vibrating. This vibration is then passed on into the guitar itself through the headstock and bridge (the only two points where the string is in contact with the guitar). These vibrations pass through the body and back along the string. Of course at this point, the original vibration and the new wave heading along the string will collide and alter the way it is now vibrating. This in turn affects how the electrical field created by the pickups is altered and the signal created.

?
#24
Basically, what AlgeeEater said. It's all feedback waves with everything vibrating.
Waves feedback into the vibration of the strings, additionally waves will be
vibrating the pickups themselves, so in the final analysis there's a sum total
chaotic vibration pattern from all the components of your guitar causing both
the strings and pickups to vibrate relative to each other in new ways.

That's why hollow bodies are prone to feedback. The pickups are on a highly
vibrating surface. When loud sound waves hit this surface they vibrate more.
This sets up a positive feedback loop = feedback.

Does it all matter? While some woods will tend to give you certain predictable
qualities, it's mostly all a crapshoot. The pattern is chaotic. At higher volumes,
it matters more than at lower. Probably you could get a plywood guitar to sound
great when combined with other stuff in just the right way.
#25
Ok, I'm not entirely happy with any explanation so far, so I'll try to give it a bit more depth.

When you pick a string, the vibration in the string travels around the guitar in a cycle due to resonance, which keeps the string vibrating longer. Due to the fact that the body wood doesn't resonate at the exact frequency of the note, but at many different multiples (overtones) of it due to the natural frequency of the wood changing due to shape and density, new frequencies (harmonics) become present in the string. This is why different woods sound different. It's also why a piano sounds different to a guitar, though they both use strings, because different overtones are present.

Different woods tend to push the frequencies the body will vibrate at certian ways. mahogony is quite dense, and due to the density combined with the hardness of it, it tends to accent the lows and lower mids. Taking spruce, a softer lighter wood, the mids and highs are more present, giving a bell like tone. Basswood gives quite an even sweet tone where almost all frequencies will be resonated. The shape is also of concern, as it does effect the pattern of this resonance cycle, and hence the tone. But really honestly, its very hard to notice too much difference between some woods, never mind shapes.

All these harmonics are detected by the pickups, but only the original note is usually loud enough to be heard properly, the harmonics usually just tend to add depth to it.
My name is Tom, feel free to use it.
#26
Quote by Insolent
Yes, but you haven't told me how the wood vibrating affects the pickups. It's all well and good to say that different woods vibrate differently, but when the pickups only react to the strings, how does this difference in wood have an effect? That's the question I'm asking.

That's because the wood vibrating doesnt affect the pickups. It's how the strings are vibrating because of the body wood and bridge material mostly, so the string vibrating differently because of wood, bridge type, ect are picked up by the pickups. It's not really rocket science...
'Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose despondency and laziness make them give it up as unattainable.'
#27
Quote by AlGeeEater
That's because the wood vibrating doesnt affect the pickups...


It doesn't?!

Body wood vibrates -> pickup screws vibrate -> pickups vibrate

Relative to the PU point of view, if only it's vibrating and not the string, there will be
a delta in the PU electromagentic field which would definitely factor in to the tone.
Not saying a lot, but it should be there.
#28
Quote by edg
It doesn't?!

Body wood vibrates -> pickup screws vibrate -> pickups vibrate

Relative to the PU point of view, if only it's vibrating and not the string, there will be
a delta in the PU electromagentic field which would definitely factor in to the tone.
Not saying a lot, but it should be there.

Does that really affect the magnetic field of the pickups though? I really have no idea, i've never really looked into it though.
'Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose despondency and laziness make them give it up as unattainable.'
#29
Quote by AlGeeEater
Does that really affect the magnetic field of the pickups though? I really have no idea, i've never really looked into it though.



It should, but only marginally, and the pickups are usually mounted on springs or pads so that the move as little as possible. Of course you're a luthier, you know that.
My name is Tom, feel free to use it.
#30
try putting your ear on the body (wood part) of a solid body electric guitar, you will see.
#31
Quote by AlGeeEater
Does that really affect the magnetic field of the pickups though? I really have no idea, i've never really looked into it though.


It should. It depends on the guitar how much. On a solidbody the string
vibrates a lot more than the PU. On a full hollowbody, the PU is mounted on
surface that vibrates a LOT. Hence the reason hollows are prone to feedback
at loud volumes.
#32
Well, electronics is NOT my forte, not yet anyways. It's common sense yeah, but i'm not much on an electromagentic field guy.
'Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose despondency and laziness make them give it up as unattainable.'
#33
Quote by edg
It doesn't?!

Body wood vibrates -> pickup screws vibrate -> pickups vibrate

Relative to the PU point of view, if only it's vibrating and not the string, there will be
a delta in the PU electromagentic field which would definitely factor in to the tone.
Not saying a lot, but it should be there.


^^pickups don't vibrate as much as i know, it's the strings' vibration that causes variable magnetic field in a pickup (and around it) and that magnetic field causes electricity in the pickup

and about the screws vibrating, if that happens it's a really, really small amount of vibration, actually, they're moving WITH the pickup so they aren't moving inside of that magnetic field and are causing no electricity and no signal at all.
if it happens anyway, that means your pickup screws are really loose...
Last edited by 666_Belial at May 22, 2006,
#34
Quote by 666_Belial
^^pickups don't vibrate as much as i know, it's the strings' vibration that causes variable magnetic field in a pickup (and around it) and that magnetic field causes electricity in the pickup

and about the screws vibrating, if that happens it's a really, really small amount of vibration, actually, they're moving WITH the pickup so they aren't moving inside of that magnetic field and are causing no electricity and no signal at all.
if it happens anyway, that means your pickup screws are really loose...


I'm not sure what you're getting at.

What I meant was if the body wood is vibrating, then since the pickups are attached
to the wood they too will vibrate as more or less a single rigid body.

If the pickup is vibrating, then so is its magnetic field (which comes from the pickup).
If a stationary object like a string were put into the field, it would appear TO THE
PICKUP's FIELD that the string was vibrating relative to it. Therefore a signal
would generate.

Compared to how much the string vibrates, the pickup vibration is really small. But
it's there. Also, on a hollow body it's larger and more significant. In fact, that's
the main reason a solid body was invented -- to provide a stable base to keep the
pickup from vibrating too much.