#1
For years i've heard many people struggle with wood species in solid body guitars. This kind of wood gives the best tone.. this kind of back with this kind of top gives the best tone, etc.

Then I look at guitars like the Steinberger that was originally all graphite.. and guitars like the Chapman Stick mentioned recently, or the Line 6 Variax guitars, and it seems to me that in a solidbody electric guitar, the species of the wood has little to do with tone.

Les Pauls 'Log' guitar was a hunk of railroad tie with a neck slapped on it. The 'wings' were just added later for cosmetic reasons.

I've heard guys go on about how nitro laquer lets the guitar breath and gives you good tone. Granted, nitro does let the guitar breathe.. but what about the original strats that everybody has to have now? They were painted with car paint. Maybe the paint can breathe thru the nitro, but how does the wood breathe thru car paint?

Finally, I hear people talking about 'tone robbing' pots.. and getting the 'bumblebee' or Sprauge caps for that classic 'tone'.

Electrically speaking, the pots in your guitar don't affect your instrument signal at all unless you're using them. If you're a guy like me who never bothers with the tone knobs on my guitars, then it doesn't make a difference what kind of pots you have in there.

Just thought since this is a room full of folks who like to build and tinker, i'd see what others thought about these 'tone theories'.
#2
You're right in that most of the tone-stuff are bollocky gimmicks. Most of it is probably down to simply thinking the tone is different. Kind of like placebo for sound. I'll bet you a custom shop LP nobody can tell the difference between an Epiphone and a Gibson with the same pickups. Even though the Epi has "inferior" quality wood/craftsmanship and electronics.

edit: this is also true for people who say their shiny new "Monster Cable" has cleared up their sound, improved their tone, blah blah blah. Sorry, bollocks.
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Last edited by Kanthras at Feb 15, 2008,
#3
If you have the right gear, you can notice a difference in wood. Pot values can make a huge difference, but I'm not sure that's what you meant. But the finish ones are BS, a thousandth of an inch finish on a two inch thick guitar won't make a difference at all.
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#4
Quote by FiddleMoor
Electrically speaking, the pots in your guitar don't affect your instrument signal at all unless you're using them. If you're a guy like me who never bothers with the tone knobs on my guitars, then it doesn't make a difference what kind of pots you have in there.
This is wrong.

A/B a 100k Volume Pot vs a 1M volume pot. Massive difference. That's the reason people use different kinds of pots. Higher values bleed less treble to ground and therefore yield brighter tone. This is why Strats use 250k and LPs 500k, as Strats need that Treble rolloff more than an LP does.
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#5
pickups with higher inductance need a higher value pot not to lose output and definition. humbuckers and hot single coils are nice with 400k~500k, vintage single coils are nice match with 250k.
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#6
A 'wide open' pot should register 0 ohms, or very close to it, regardless of the value of the pot.. 500K, 250K, 1Meg, etc.

The differences between the pots start happening when you start turning the tone knob.

So.. if you're a guy like me, who plays with his tone knob 'wide open'.. what brand (or size) pot I have in the guitar, or the kind of cap i've got installed means zilch.
#7
Quote by FiddleMoor

So.. if you're a guy like me, who plays with his tone knob 'wide open'.. what brand (or size) pot I have in the guitar, or the kind of cap i've got installed means zilch.


Then you disconnect the pot, and notice it has been stealing high end and volume all this time...
#8
Quote by mr_hankey
Then you disconnect the pot, and notice it has been stealing high end and volume all this time...


Just for the sake of argument, I grabbed what is generally considered a 'crappy' mini pot that's stamped 450K Ohms on the back that I had in my junk drawer that came out of some strat-esque import clone of whos name escapes me.

With the pot wide open, my meter measures a whopping .8 Ohms.



Not 8 Ohms.. POINT eight ohms.
#9
Quote by FiddleMoor
For years i've heard many people struggle with wood species in solid body guitars. This kind of wood gives the best tone.. this kind of back with this kind of top gives the best tone, etc.

Then I look at guitars like the Steinberger that was originally all graphite.. and guitars like the Chapman Stick mentioned recently, or the Line 6 Variax guitars, and it seems to me that in a solidbody electric guitar, the species of the wood has little to do with tone.


They sound LIKE guitars. That doesnt mean they sound like great guitars. I dont expect anyone who hasnt been playing for years, to notice much difference. Generally 5+ years of playing on better than average gear, will see your ears tuned enough to notice tiny differences. Same as MOST guitarists dont even realise their open D chords are way out of tune (try it). Same as most guitarists cant tell that their intonation is way off. Same as most guitarists think more DC resistance = better pickups. I wont go on...


Quote by FiddleMoor

I've heard guys go on about how nitro laquer lets the guitar breath and gives you good tone. Granted, nitro does let the guitar breathe.. but what about the original strats that everybody has to have now? They were painted with car paint. Maybe the paint can breathe thru the nitro, but how does the wood breathe thru car paint?


Because that 'car paint' WAS nitro. The automotive industry moved on to use acrylics later on (60's), but the guitar industry didnt. The effect on tone from finishes are more due to the thickness, rather than the material. Nitro finishes a generally thin. Poly etc are generally very thick. Would you notice one extra coat of nitro? Nope. Would you notice the difference between thick poly and thin nitro? Absolutely. Of course, this comes from personal experience of over 150 refinishes, and feedback from those clients. You can do thin poly finishes, but it is too hard to do in a production enviroment, and what the hell... most people cant hear the difference anyway (or dont care)...

Quote by FiddleMoor

Finally, I hear people talking about 'tone robbing' pots.. and getting the 'bumblebee' or Sprauge caps for that classic 'tone'.

Electrically speaking, the pots in your guitar don't affect your instrument signal at all unless you're using them. If you're a guy like me who never bothers with the tone knobs on my guitars, then it doesn't make a difference what kind of pots you have in there.


Try this. Add a switch before your tone pot, which lets you bypass the tone control. See if there is a difference, even though 'technically' their shouldnt be. Do the same with the volume control. Add a switch prior to the pot, that jumps the signal straight to the jack. Report back.

Quote by FiddleMoor

Just thought since this is a room full of folks who like to build and tinker, i'd see what others thought about these 'tone theories'.


No, this is a forum full of MAINLY people who are younger members, dont have better gear than an epiphone or a squire and a 25w solid state amp. It isnt frequented by hardly any pro's (both entertainment industry and luthiers). Ive also found this forum is full of people with opinions when they havent actually had any experience. There is nothing wrong with that, and Im certainly not having a go at anyone (hey, i like this place!), but the response will be relative to these people, versus lets say, the birds and moons forum, or a pro luthier forum...

If you dont think tiny improvements are worth it, or you cant hear the difference, thats cool. Heaps of people cant. Think yourself lucky. Because when you CAN hear those small differences, its an absolute pain in the butt, because you are constantly chasing all those things trying to dial in the tone in your head. For most people like that, they never quite get there...

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#10
ormsby knows his crap.... I thinks it's fair to say that unless you have been playing for like 20 years then don't worry about all those little things. Heck, it's not even possible to accurately record those small nuances.
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#12
Quote by FiddleMoor
Just for the sake of argument, I grabbed what is generally considered a 'crappy' mini pot that's stamped 450K Ohms on the back that I had in my junk drawer that came out of some strat-esque import clone of whos name escapes me.

With the pot wide open, my meter measures a whopping .8 Ohms.



Not 8 Ohms.. POINT eight ohms.


If I had some recording equipment set up, I'd record a clip of my Esquire with the tone pot bypassed vs. the tone pot at 10. You would hear the difference too.
#13
Just because you dont hear the difference, it doesnt mean there isnt one. Im not calling you a noob or anything, as i dont know how long youve been playing, but my ears have developed so much since i started playing. I thought my first rig was the shiz when i first started playing, but now im a tone animal, and have spent quite alot of money shaping it.
#14
some differences are way obvious and some aren't, seems like it depends on what combinations you're using.

say a nitro finish on an alder body, doesn't sound (to me) much different then a poly finish on an alder body

lay the same two finishes on mahogany, and i hear a world of difference.

i'd say a lot of this varies from person to person, and if you're the type who likes a hardcore crunch or lathers in effects, it matters even less.

so while tone changes from ear to ear, with some ears, it doesn't exist at all, i s'pose.
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#15
Quote by FiddleMoor


Finally, I hear people talking about 'tone robbing' pots.. and getting the 'bumblebee' or Sprauge caps for that classic 'tone'.

Electrically speaking, the pots in your guitar don't affect your instrument signal at all unless you're using them. If you're a guy like me who never bothers with the tone knobs on my guitars, then it doesn't make a difference what kind of pots you have in there.

Just thought since this is a room full of folks who like to build and tinker, i'd see what others thought about these 'tone theories'.


I'm not trying to just be mean spirited here TS, but who honestly is going to listen to opinion on tone from someone who hasn't even reached the point of really discovering the tone knob yet? I agree with a few of your points--pots (as long as they aren't scratchy and are of a proper value and taper)are pots, etc. But the little revealing comment quoted above doesn't give your overall argument much credibility.

Of course amp and electronics make up the bulk of tone, but if you take the time to start appreciating the nuance you can get (through things likebody/neck wood or your tone knob ) you'll see you can in fact get a lot of variety to the timbre of your guitar beyond these. (of course some active pups tend to completely cover up any of this nuance.)

I understand you're just throwing this out for discussion, but come on.
#16
There's a saying I heard once.. it's the Indian that makes the shot, not the arrow.

I picked up my first guitar and a Mel Bay book in 1981, and started playing in high school garage bands in 1986, by 1994 I was playing just about every weekend in bars.

I, like many other guitarists my age, started out just learning to play.. then wanting to sound like the guitarists that inspired me to play in the first place.. that means i've gone thru a whole lot of gear in search of 'that' tone.

About 1996 I had a weekend off, and a friend of mine told me I needed to come check out this hot player at a local club. So naturally, I went to see what all the fuss was about. Dude had an old beat up strat shaped guitar, playing thru an old Music Man hybrid head and into a seriously home made looking 2x12 cabinet.

From the first soulful bend, to the last seering lead of the night, this old hippy looking dude had tone to the bone, and delivered it by the bucketful. Naturally I had to check him out at the end of the night and see what kind of gear he was using.

His guitar was a old PLYWOOD harmony, the stock headstock sawed up to roughly look like a tele headstock. His pickups were 'lipstick' pickups he'd gotten out of a broken Danelectro he'd found in the trash.

His speakers? One was a JBL, the other was a Radio Shack speaker he bought at a garage sale. His effects? A Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah, and a TS9 (not a modded 9 or 808).

This defied all i'd been told prior to this point.. that pure tone was supposed to be created by a careful balance of just the right body wood, sprauge caps, low capacitance cables, 'vintage' or 'boutique' amps and effects, genuine PAF pickups, nitro lacquer.. etc.. but here this guy was.. with a plywood guitar blowing my mind with his tone.

"But..", I said.. still in disbelief.. "How do you get that tone?"

He laid his guitar in the case, latched it up, then turned to face me with his left hand dangling in my face.. and wiggling his fingers he said, "Tone comes from here, man."

Maybe I just don't have the kind of hearing a person would need to notice the differences between some of these things.. but the truth is, I don't think many people who show up at bars to hear a band hear the difference between Radio Shack caps and Sprauges, either.

If you're one of those folks with bat like hearing.. I wish you the best on your tone quest. For the rest of us who manage to be satisfied with the sub-par tone from our inferior effects and instruments, I suppose the old adage really is true.. ignorance is bliss.
#17
Quote by FiddleMoor
There's a saying I heard once.. it's the Indian that makes the shot, not the arrow.

I picked up my first guitar and a Mel Bay book in 1981, and started playing in high school garage bands in 1986, by 1994 I was playing just about every weekend in bars.

I, like many other guitarists my age, started out just learning to play.. then wanting to sound like the guitarists that inspired me to play in the first place.. that means i've gone thru a whole lot of gear in search of 'that' tone.

About 1996 I had a weekend off, and a friend of mine told me I needed to come check out this hot player at a local club. So naturally, I went to see what all the fuss was about. Dude had an old beat up strat shaped guitar, playing thru an old Music Man hybrid head and into a seriously home made looking 2x12 cabinet.

From the first soulful bend, to the last seering lead of the night, this old hippy looking dude had tone to the bone, and delivered it by the bucketful. Naturally I had to check him out at the end of the night and see what kind of gear he was using.

His guitar was a old PLYWOOD harmony, the stock headstock sawed up to roughly look like a tele headstock. His pickups were 'lipstick' pickups he'd gotten out of a broken Danelectro he'd found in the trash.

His speakers? One was a JBL, the other was a Radio Shack speaker he bought at a garage sale. His effects? A Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah, and a TS9 (not a modded 9 or 808).

This defied all i'd been told prior to this point.. that pure tone was supposed to be created by a careful balance of just the right body wood, sprauge caps, low capacitance cables, 'vintage' or 'boutique' amps and effects, genuine PAF pickups, nitro lacquer.. etc.. but here this guy was.. with a plywood guitar blowing my mind with his tone.

"But..", I said.. still in disbelief.. "How do you get that tone?"

He laid his guitar in the case, latched it up, then turned to face me with his left hand dangling in my face.. and wiggling his fingers he said, "Tone comes from here, man."

Maybe I just don't have the kind of hearing a person would need to notice the differences between some of these things.. but the truth is, I don't think many people who show up at bars to hear a band hear the difference between Radio Shack caps and Sprauges, either.

If you're one of those folks with bat like hearing.. I wish you the best on your tone quest. For the rest of us who manage to be satisfied with the sub-par tone from our inferior effects and instruments, I suppose the old adage really is true.. ignorance is bliss.


If that guy played through a Gibson 1959 les paul standard and an original Marshall JTM45 he would sound different to him playing through his rig. Not all tone comes from the hand, most comes from the equipment.
#18
Quote by GeorgeWFletcher
If that guy played through a Gibson 1959 les paul standard and an original Marshall JTM45 he would sound different to him playing through his rig. Not all tone comes from the hand, most comes from the equipment.


I'd disagree. Whether I'm playing a cheap amp, my own rig, or an acoustic, I still sound like me (I've been told anyway, by my guitarist friends). But it depends on what you mena by "tone", that is, two players playing through the same rig can have the exact same settings and equipment but the "tone" will be different because of how they play. If you give Mark Knopfler's strat to Michael Angelo Batio, you can be pretty damn sure you won't recognize any of Mark's "tone", you'd just be hearing some wanker with a dead mammal on his head playing a strat.
Last edited by Aziraphale at Feb 18, 2008,
#19
The precise nature of the woods, laquer, pots, and so on does decrease the less 'acoustic' your sound becomes. A violin's sound, for example, is extremely dependent on the finish (it's where a Stradivarius's particular sound is partly believed to come from) and so on.

A guitar with wah, a good chunk of distortion, and possibly one or two other effects... it's hardly going to be noticed, is it?

Plus, as someone pointed out, it's going to be very difficult to ensure that any recordings you make are of high enough quality to make those distinctions clear.

Pete Townsend, while not having a tone that everyone envies and tries to emulate, used to say that he could get his sound out of any guitar, and hardly fiddled with the tone knobs much. He sounds pretty damn good on record.
Hendrix used Strats, SG's, a Flying V...could you tell which guitar he uses on which track or even whether he's using a different one on different songs? I'd be impressed if you could state categorically that one guitar part was recorded with a different guitar to another.

When it gets right down to it, it is the amp and pups that pretty much define what the sound will be. Wood, laquer, pots, and so on, merely shape bits of it.
#20
I agree with all of this. Anything can sound good reallyand if you want tho have a tone from a crappy 10watt squier practise amp and plywood guitar then hey who cares. but everything a comprimise, there the company who makes the all graphite acoustics( cant remember the name but they have no bracing so there is less comprimise in the sound reflections within the body. Yes but we all know the sound of a normal acoustic and its what guitarist want, this is part of the reason guitarist are reluctant to experiment new gear and we all want a 63 strat (ok maybe some of you want a 59 les paul)
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#21
I have noticed differences in tone depending who is playing a guitar. When I play my set up and hand it over to the next guy with no changes the tone is so much different. It's insanely noticeable. I give it all to hands, and the players the own techniques.

But I mean, there is a tonal difference in different set ups and little things. Potentiometers change your tone a ton. I threw a 500k in my tele, and it's really nice and bright. Plus upgrading from Mexican pickups to Vintage noiseless is a given, they are so much clearer, and brighter.

I am still to the point where I don't think imperfections or slightly lower grade wood is that big of a difference, but that is un 'testable' if you will. You can't take 2 pieces of wood and compare them. 2 Pieces of the same grade wood would sound different. There are too many variables to even try to compare them!
#22
Very interesting thread indeed. I have been building speakers for years and it seems anytime the human ear is involved, it seems to be purely personal preference once past a certain point.

On the speaker building forums I frequent, most "seasoned" builders tend to use phrases like "my ear hears yadda, yadda, yadda while your ear hears yadda, yadda, yadda" and I think that is a very valid point.

Add to the mix the EQ factor (lows/mids/highs) and it really gets to personal taste. I also believe as the poster stated above, some of the tone (ok, allot of it!) comes from the fingers.

Chris
#23
but even to the untrained ear certain things can make your tone much better. 10 minutes after getting it, i was playing through my fender vibrochamp XD and my mum walked past and, without even seeing it, she said, that sounds nicer than what you were playing earlier, is that your new amp?

and weep......
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#24
Quote by Samzawadi
Hendrix used Strats, SG's, a Flying V...could you tell which guitar he uses on which track or even whether he's using a different one on different songs? I'd be impressed if you could state categorically that one guitar part was recorded with a different guitar to another.

When it gets right down to it, it is the amp and pups that pretty much define what the sound will be. Wood, laquer, pots, and so on, merely shape bits of it.


Right on, man.
#25
It's an odd topic, that I am going to visit a lot, but I think the tonal differences do come from somebodies head and thier ear.

When I refinished my strat, I sanded directly down to the wood through the whatever finish it is, and I 'thought' it sounded different but I convinced myself otherwise just because of how dumb that sounded to me. But now it's not so hard to trust.

Also, I always take the finish off the back of my necks, and apply oils, I love the feel and I've done it to all of my guitars. I didn't notice anything different from that, but I am sure there is something.

If we got into the physics, there is a lot to come into play. Wavelengths, and the densities and speed through the materials the guitar is made of. Also just the sheer fact that a larger body has quite the more room to resonate.

I really think solving things always goes into math. Numbers explain everything.
#26
Quote by FiddleMoor
Just for the sake of argument, I grabbed what is generally considered a 'crappy' mini pot that's stamped 450K Ohms on the back that I had in my junk drawer that came out of some strat-esque import clone of whos name escapes me.

With the pot wide open, my meter measures a whopping .8 Ohms.



Not 8 Ohms.. POINT eight ohms.
I'm of a similar mind about limited importance of "tonewoods" and finishes when it comes to solid body guitars, but you're clouding the issue about pots.

You obviously don't understand the effect loading a pickup has.
Yes, you have a low resistance from wiper to cw terminal when the pot is rotated fully clockwise.

BUT...

The important part is that the entire resistance of the pot from the cw to ccw terminals is in parallel with the pickup at all times. You will have a low resistance in series with the signal wire of output, but the parallel resistance affects the frequency response of the pickup.

With a load on the pickup of just the amplifier input, and the parallel capacitance of the guitar cable, the resonant peak is at a very high frequency. In some cases, well above 15kHz. - Extremely shrill.

Putting resistance in parallel with the pickup will lower the frequency
and amplitude of this peak.

This is FACT.

Selecting a pot with an appropriate resistance will cause this peak to be mild and pleasant.

If the resistance is too high, the pickup will sound overly bright.

If the resistance is too low, there will no longer be a peak at all.
The internal series inductance of the pickup coil
and the parallel resistance
form a low pass filter.

Noticeably reduced output for the higher frequencies.

... aka: Tone Sucking.

Please do your homework before making brash, false conclusions
based on an incomplete analysis.


...
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