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Old November 13th, 2009, 07:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Best wood for a strat body - ash or alder?

I know us tele players rave about swamp ash but Fender seem to use alder even on their high-end strats. Is alder a better wood for strat tone?

I don't know much about strats so any opinions are appreciated!

Thanks!

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Old November 13th, 2009, 07:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I have an Alder strat i put together myself and a Swamp Ash strat baritone i am putting together at the moment and a Swamp Ash G&L ASAT to me the tone woods a similar, Leo used to use whatever he had best supply of. Alder requires less work in the filling and sealing dept, Swamp ash is open and requires more prep but i love the way the grain pops with a clear coat Alder i prefer with a solid colour or a sunburst finish
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Old November 13th, 2009, 07:55 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Mahogany.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 07:56 PM   #4 (permalink)
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thanks very much for your reply Tony. The filling and finishing isn't really an issue for me (I've got plenty of time and patience!) but I was wondering more about the tone. I've heard Leo used to basically bang them out in alder or ash depending on what he could get his hands on easily, but I was wondering if either was any better than the other when it comes to that "strat tone"?
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Old November 13th, 2009, 08:29 PM   #5 (permalink)
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"Strat tone" has almost nothing to do with wood; 80+ percent will be in the pickup/amplifier combination, another 10 percent or so in the strings and how the player attacks them. The balance is distributed throughout the hardware and body and neck materials. If you heard two Strats with the same hardware and amp but entirely different wood, both played by the same artist, I venture that you wouldn't be able to tell them apart.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 08:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think your pickups and your electronics including winds and magnets are much more to do with your strat tone than the timber, of course something like Mahogony is a bit darker and heavier but the Swamp Ash and Alder are similar and once your guitar is wound up then the timber has very little to do with the overall tone when you compare it acoustically, then there's your own body mass against the timber that also changes tone. For me its pickups and electrics 1st to get that bell like tone. A set of Alnico 5's wound to vintage spec (resistance i dont like using as a spec but) between 5.6 and 6.5k gets you there, probably about 2.5 to 3 henrys.

Heres my strat wiring and setup i did and this thing screams and cries and drips tone, i love it.



My Alder strat


The Swamp Ash Baritone mock up
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Old November 13th, 2009, 08:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I just noticed Ironwolf beat me too it lol

so there you go pickups it is
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Old November 13th, 2009, 09:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I might hazard to say Leo was considering a lot of things when he made his wood choices - "tone" was probably about sixth after price, availability, workability, ease for finishing, looks .... scratch that - I don't think anyone considered Ash or Alder were even suitable for musical instruments back then.

Leo would have used MDF, had it been available. His tight arse business approach happily coincided with his good pickups and amps. He was an electrical engineer, not a luthier ... this is a good thing.

The strat is all about its pickups.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 09:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Jeff Beck's stat is Basswood
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Old November 13th, 2009, 10:25 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Nick your spot on there
Timber to me is more about looks, i love the stuff for its looks. My forte is wiring so thats where i put most of my hours when constructing my guitars is in the electrics. It starts with an idea in my head or a sound i am hearing in my head (yes i am nuts) and i begin to wire it up accordingly. The baritone is a totaly different wiring and pickup setup to the strat which i loosley bassed on a 57/62 vintage the bari is more about the sound i am chasing rather than any vintage significance.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 10:27 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I would say that the tremolo also has a lot to do with it. Possibly as much as pickups, but the pups do have a heavy effect, though. Check sound clips of the Robert Cray strat to see what I mean on the bridge. I would be interested to see what an alder strat with all tele hardware would sound like.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 10:27 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I have both, and acoustically they are pretty close.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 10:47 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Choose whatever wood you feel happiest with or like the look of the most, and then spend the rest of your time considering what pickups you are going to put in there! Like others have stated, that's the most important part of the guitar for determining tone.
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Old November 13th, 2009, 10:52 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joefaity View Post
I would say that the tremolo also has a lot to do with it. Possibly as much as pickups, but the pups do have a heavy effect, though. Check sound clips of the Robert Cray strat to see what I mean on the bridge. I would be interested to see what an alder strat with all tele hardware would sound like.
Anything that the strings come into contact with of course affect the tone in varying degrees and a strat trem has a block mass and spring retainers which all must come into the equasion for tone but its the pickups, they hold the key.


The bridge to me though is more about which one stays in tune and intonates the best thats the one i deem the best choice and at the moment its my ASATs and has been since 95 lol My baritone has a Vintage hardtail which i picked only for its wider string spacing which i thought would help with the fatter guage strings i will be using, i wasnt factoring the bridge into the tone, only that it worked for what i needed.

Inductance, magnetic strength and correct winding= tone and output
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Old November 13th, 2009, 10:59 PM   #15 (permalink)
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There are such things as "Dud" bodies but if you can steer around them, the vast majority of the remaining alder, ash and mahogany bodies are gonna do you just fine.

I presume the same thing is true with Nato, Sen, Paulownia, Pine, Basswood, Agathis, Poplar and even several types of plywood. The fact that are are so many material substitutions suggests that body material choice is not of extreme priority.

Let me make my usual pitch for a good bridge, tuners and nut as well.

These are some things to consider:

The wood must be stronger on a Fender style trem guitar to prevent failures in the bridge mount area;

The shape and routing (all the passages and honeycombing) of a Strat body mean punky and really crappy woods may result in a collapsed body - something very rare in a solid Telecaster shaped guitar or other hardtail; and

The Inertia Block Bridge is Heavy, so a trem style "S" guitar starts off at a disadvantage against a Tele style guitar. Buy a 4 pound 8 ounce Tele body and be happy; buy a 4 pound 10 ounce trem Strat body and maybe feel sick.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 05:13 AM   #16 (permalink)
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The biggest effect on tone is your fingers. Pickups, amps, wood or whatever. Give me a fantastic guitar and I can make it sound like crap .
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Old November 14th, 2009, 06:20 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Swamp ash on a Strat for me. For some reason, none of the alder strats I ever owned were keepers
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Old November 14th, 2009, 07:46 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Alder and ash sound alike to me. Ash has more attractive grain patterns, and alder is easier to finish because it does not need grain filler. Leo used alder for guitars with opaque finishes and ash for guitars with translucent/transparent finishes.

Ironwolf really got it right: " ... almost nothing to do with wood; 80+ percent will be in the pickup/amplifier combination, another 10 percent or so in the strings and how the player attacks them. The balance is distributed throughout the hardware and body and neck materials. If you heard two Strats with the same hardware and amp but entirely different wood, both played by the same artist, I venture that you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. "
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Old November 15th, 2009, 05:19 AM   #19 (permalink)
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it's the pickups...i have an alder 50's classic player strat MIM and when i changed the pickups it becae so much chunkier and strat-like. It has to do something with the wood too, but as someone sayd - it's about 10% of the sound... here's my alder strat
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Old November 15th, 2009, 10:22 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boris bubbanov View Post
Let me make my usual pitch for a good bridge, tuners and nut as well.
These are some things to consider:
The wood must be stronger on a Fender style trem guitar to prevent failures in the bridge mount area;
Very true, and often overlooked.

I love ultralight Teles (Ash bodies under 3.5lbs) I would not trust light ash, pine or basswood to properly hold the 6 screw vintage bridge over a long period of use and abuse. Hardtail? Do what you want.

For tone, I'm with the belief that the wood will make no difference or no difference that cannot be compensated for by turning a knob. Alder is easier to work with but I still build everything in ash because I'm comfortable with how it sands, routs and cuts.
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