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Electric Guitar Wood Myth Busted? -- ongoing research

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by BigDaddyLH, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. meric

    meric Tele-Holic

    Age:
    55
    707
    Feb 17, 2010
    Vancouver
    Human sensing devices do not operate like mechanical devices. The brain is responsible for the interpretation of the signal. That is the place where all of the trouble begins. That is why some people 'know' that mahogany accentuates the mids but fur sure maple adds the singing brite tones....
    That is why scientists perform double-blind experiments....because the easiest person to fool is...you.
     
    enterprise likes this.

  2. enterprise

    enterprise Tele-Meister

    163
    Dec 18, 2012
    florida
    There will never be a consensus on this topic. Jesus, Buddha and Zeus could drop from the heavens and claim an answer either way, and there still wouldn't be an agreement.

    I personally think that "tone wood" is overstated when it comes to electrics (undeniably important in acoustics). I also think that there are too many variables to narrow the sound down to one aspect of a guitar. That's why you have to try them before you buy them. And a guitar that is a dog in one man's hands, can be golden in another's.
     
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  3. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    If the tone is in the wood, do I still need my fingers?

    Of course, some people would say that my fingers are made of wood after hearing me play.

    So, maybe tone is in the wooden fingers? Yeah, that seems about right!
     
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  4. etype

    etype Tele-Holic

    786
    Sep 23, 2014
    Dallas
    I remember a youtube video where a guy plays a strat and I think "yep, that sounds like a strat" and then he played a tele and I said, "yep, that's a tele all right." And then he played them each off camera and I couldn't tell the difference at all. While that didn't surprise me, it did blow my mind a little bit.
     
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  5. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    The only difference in a hollow body guitar and a solid body guitar is the acoustic has a sound chamber and the wood is thinner to vibration more intensely. Just because a solid body is thick, it doesn't mean that it doesn't vibrate and do the same thing as an acoustic. It still vibrates, just not as intensely and not as loud since there's a pickup and amplifier to provide sound. And since the pickups also get vibrations through the neck/body and convert that to sound, tonewood in acoustics are just as important in solid body guitars.

    Tone is in the guitar and in the way a person plays their guitar. SRV can play any guitar and sound like SRV, but each guitar He plays will be different in tone and only sound similar.
     
    t guitar floyd likes this.

  6. NotAnotherHobby

    NotAnotherHobby Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 27, 2015
    Da' Magic Mittin'
    And that is correct to an extent.

    Coils only generate a signal with one or two conditions: you use a magnet to disrupt the field, or the play with the space between windings. Loose coils, agitated by vibrations with fixed magnets I could see creating a signal. Potted pups, tight windings I can see reducing that. But, they are not a main part of the signal. Their influence is pretty small.

    And in each case, you'll get nothing without movement between the coil and the magnets. Friction and wax holding the coil together is actually pretty good. But from the diagrams I've seen of various pickups, the way the magnets lends itself to movement inside the core of the coil. And let's not forget that the linkage of most pickups to a guitar body are pretty poor. They almost always have a little bit of play in them. So either the coil is moving and the magnets are fixed in place, the coil is fixed in place and the magnets are moving, or both is what creates this condition. But that is direct mechanical agitation of the pickup. Tapping your finger on the pickup does the same thing.

    Don't get me wrong, I see what you are trying to say, however, the reality is that no matter how "tight" you think something is affixed to something else, it isn't. Outside of welding stuff, there is always room for a little bit of play.

    Vibrations in the body having a major impact on the overall sound? Highly unlikely. By the time you factor in the low force it takes to pluck a string, and losses along the distance between the string, to the nut or bridge, to the pickup itself you are losing a lot of momentum, not to mention delaying the signal slightly as it takes more time for a signal to go from the bridge or nut to the actual pickup via the body than it takes for the string to impact the magnetic field of the pickup itself. If you could actually hear these secondary vibrations, you probably wouldn't need to buy a spring reverb or whatever to "thicken" your sound. It'd be thick enough out of the pickup.

    I will say that the wood that makes up a guitar does have SOME impact on its sound, but not a dramatic impact like everyone claims. Softer woods will deaden sustain. This effect varies depending on what frequencies you are talking about, but usually across a spectrum. But the harder woods? I doubt anyone would hear a dramatic difference. And there are pre-built biases that people bring with them when they listen to a guitar.

    I will say this: someone did a demo of a Ash, Basswood, Mahogany, and some other sort of body using the same body style, pickups, bridge, nut, wiring, etc. And I DID hear a slight difference in the basswood body. The rest? Couldn't distinguish the difference. I think it was the fact that basswood was significantly softer, and it had a slightly "thicker" sound because it was attenuating the high end much sooner than the low end.
     

  7. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    String vibrations are going to travel through the nut and bridge into the neck and body and back to the strings, this is what gives a guitar its sustain and the makeup of those parts will factor in the amount of sustain you'll have. Some wood will offer less and some more. Swapping pickups and bodies has taught me that.

    Whether the magnet is moving or the coil is moving when tapping, the tapping still comes through with the string muted. I've even done this without strings on the guitar, the body/neck vibrations come through and add to signal. Therefore the wood matters and the tone thereof.
     
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  8. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Ad Free Member

    Jun 22, 2010
    Osaka, Japan
    Well, you will still need underpants...
     

  9. soulgeezer

    soulgeezer Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Nov 5, 2006
    Sinatra's World
    For the wood?
     
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  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    57
    Mar 2, 2010
    Maine
    I've been swapping pickups and bodies for 37 years and I have to say that such activity will not teach anyone what you claim about string vibrations traveling through the body and neck to give a guitar sustain.

    While we share a similar understanding or belief about the wood being a part of the overall sound of the amplified electric guitar, I find many of your technical statements serve to muddy the facts instead of supporting your argument.

    We can perform tests and observe our results, but that would be limited to changing parts and observing any changes in sound.
    Theories about the physics that cause the change are created in our minds.
    We cannot assemble and play a guitar with the result that we observe sound waves traveling through the wood.

    If you claim that you are able to observe sound waves traveling through wood, you kind of make all who have heard a different sounding guitar as the result of swapping only the body look like unreliable observers of phenomena.

    Maybe you could write about what you have observed and leave out some of what you imagine is happening but cannot actually see?

    The facts are far simpler than the endless speculation and theories.
    What are the facts?
    A row of new guitars with the same parts sound different.
    ?Well maybe the wood is consistent but the pickups and pots sound way different?
    OK, so use the same parts and only change the wood.
    ?Well maybe the screws are tighter on one and looser on the other?
    ?Or maybe the listener believes the sound is based on the color of the wood?

    See, if we let them sound crazy we don't have to work as hard.
    Ha ha never mind.
     
    jimash likes this.

  11. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    The last 2 sentences in my post were on a separate line(should've had a space between the other sentences). It was a blanket type statement that meant when I was swapping pickups and bodies, I came across many different results and had to look further into those results that I've posted in this thread already and in others. I'm sure things could've been said better.

    String vibrations do in deed travel throughout the entire guitar whether you've realized it or not. I offered 2 simple examples of vibrations through the body/neck(physical experiments) that showed this result, but most simply dismissed this as nonsense, laughed and went on without actually doing the tests for themselves. Why would it be a stretch of imagination that a wood body would have an effect on the guitar's sustain? It's part of the guitar and all parts reflect the string vibrations back to the source to prolong the duration of string vibrations. It could be hard to assign a number degree of influence for every part, but every piece of the guitar plays a part.

    Everything I've posted in threads on this forum are based on my experiences. Whenever speculation or theory was talked about on my part, it was stated as so or was followed by a ?.

    Question for you based on some pickup swapping I did.
    3 guitars of the same scale, with Maple necks, same brand and gauge strings, bone nuts on all 3, metal bridges(Strat type), 1 set of pickups placed in all 3 guitars, electronics were same brand parts, values and wiring scheme. Some of the same parts(hardware,electronics and neck in one case) were used in the swaps.

    Only major and marginal difference between the 3 guitars were bodies made of different materials(plywood body, Aspen body and Basswood body).
    All 3 guitars offered 3 different tones from the only pickup set used.
    If the only difference is the body/neck used, then we have to admit that they have an effect on the guitar's tone.
    If the wood used in the 3 tested subjects are of different species of wood or engineered material, we have to admit that the species/engineered material yields a different result.
    But, as usual on this subject, instead of considering the results, I get questions about whether screws were tight enough?, hardware was slightly different or not?, was the electronics soldered good?, were the strings new or old?, Are you hearing what you want to hear? or was it variables in the wood(as if that matters, but nothing else about wood)?

    I didn't set out to do this little experiment. I was simply trying to make 3 guitars I have sound better and chose a set of pickups that I had on hand before buying more.

    No one wants to consider if it's the wood type in most cases, because someone they trust told them that it doesn't matter. Most become entrenched in those beliefs and refuse to consider anything else.
     

  12. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    Please keep in mind that I may not be the best at writing or getting my thoughts through in the best manner. Sometimes posts can be thought to imply an attitude if emoticons aren't used and I don't use them enough. I'll have to get better at that. I need a new keyboard too, not all things I hit are showing up the first time and long posts can get hard to catch all the mess ups.
    I do not wish ill towards anyone and I'm sorry if any of my posts come across as such.:cool:
     
    t guitar floyd likes this.

  13. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Holic

    821
    Jul 2, 2015
    PNW USA
    Some things Man was not meant to know.


    Now go play yer guitar! :D
     
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  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    57
    Mar 2, 2010
    Maine
    Yeah @Zepfan I agree with the later parts of your post re: what we do- and then hear, as well as the fact that people in general become entrenched in their own beliefs and only take in info that supports the belief while rejecting info that contradicts the belief.
    Belief is different from experience.

    My issue is with beliefs we generate after we do and hear stuff, which is another basic behavior; we want to explain our experiences to create understandings.

    The idea (you and others have explained) that the energy it takes for the string to make the rest of the guitar vibrate is then sent back to the strings to help them vibrate longer is IMO an idea.
    There is also a physical fact that to put a stationary object into motion requires energy.
    And energy expended is energy lost, even of the energy is for example expended hoisting a deadweight or spinning a flywheel to store energy for later retrieval.
    Energy is always lost, never increased.

    A similar but different bit of science is that a boat hull resonates as the boat travels through water. It has been proven that the energy lost to making the hull resonate slows down the boat, or requires more power to travel at the same speed. Eliminating hull resonance results in a faster boat because all energy (or more of the energy) is saved for propulsion.

    For the (guitar) body to actually give back more energy to the strings than it takes from them, resulting in an increase of sustain, would go against the laws of physics that prevent a perpetual motion machine from being physically possible.

    But more, my point is that when we speculate and theorize stuff we think might explain the cause of what we experience, it serves to perpetuate the argument and rob energy that might actually further our collective acceptance of what actually happens if you swap your stiff heavy northern ash body for a light resonant paulownia body.

    Either it sounds the same or it sounds different.
     

  15. backporchmusic

    backporchmusic Friend of Leo's

    Nov 28, 2006
    USA
    Put this in the other thread, I'll put it here too.

    This might take a bit to set up and explain, but I think it's relevant and hasn't been given much space here.

    The world of wine is based on tasting subtle flavors, and the nuances of the product as it is savored and swallowed. Can anyone do this? Sure. The average person can taste what they eat and drink.

    Also, given enough time and some helpful education, a 'palate' can be developed. Yet there will always be people who 'can't taste the difference' between a $10 bottle of wine and a $100 bottle of wine. They've likely never cared enough to cultivate their palate, and that is fine. But then simply saying there is no difference between the $10 and $100 is unnecessary and ignorant.

    In the world of wine, there is also something known as a 'supertaster.' Their palates have been carefully cultivated, but they also have an innate ability to discern the subtleties that others can't. They are valued and have high-paying jobs that frankly, other people could not do, because their DNA and nature did not prepare them to.

    We've all known someone who is very sensitive to spicy food, while other people eat it with no problem. Some people can handle sour patch candies, others think they are too strong. That's because we do not all have the same, balanced palate.

    A similar thing occurs with our hearing. Some can hear higher pitches, and some can discern the difference between low, deep notes better than other people. Also, some people's hearing isn't well cultivated, and others is.

    And to be clear, I'm not talking about being able to tell an 'A' from a 'D minor'. That's a different skill.

    What I don't see in these studies is what must be a first consideration--you have to select test subjects that actually have the sort of refined hearing ability necessary to hear what you are testing for. How are these subjects picked?

    I do come from the point of view that wood colors tone. Because I can hear it.

    But, just as with wine--if you deny that wood colors tone because you cannot hear it--that might just be your issue, and maybe you don't have the innate ability to tell the difference (which is no crime). It's not a big deal. And I'm not insulting anyone who feels there is no difference.

    But I wonder why people who can't hear a difference have to go into threads with people who can and shout them down. It's like going into a wine forum and telling everyone that all that stuff tastes the same. The internet is an equalizer, an 'every man (or woman) is an expert' place. Not a lot of recognition of one's shortcomings when the whole paradigm is to have an opinion.

    The way people talk about 'cork sniffers' on the internet is a fine example of this, of turning an 'expert' into a joke and target of ridicule. Every man an expert!
     
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  16. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Strings are mounted to a bridge stop tail/bridge block/ferrels, nut, and tuners. Those items are in turn mounted to a body and neck which are connected to each other. This creates a chain of reactionary materials. This is why a acoustic guitar vibrates enough to create sound waves into a acoustic chamber to produce volume.

    A string will have a set duration of vibration by itself, but what it's mounted to can influence the duration of said string by enhancement or muting.

    A boat can slip through the water's resistance if the hull is designed right and decrease the power needed to make it go forward. A poor design will have the opposite affect. So a guitar's make up material can also enhance or detract for the tone and sustain.

    I'm sure there are many people on this site that have had guitars that sustain more than others.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017

  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    57
    Mar 2, 2010
    Maine
    Allrightythen!
    @backporchmusic, I've gone down the perception road on this subject and found it IME hurts the move toward consensus more than almost any other tack.

    You can even point out that when we hear can be separated from what we are genetically capable of hearing.

    Take for example the County Fair with a multitude of sounds coming from all directions.
    Our minds sift through and select certain sounds to hear above the others, but not by loudness.
    Game barkers, snorting clydesdales, crying babies, vintage tractors, hormonal teenagers, roller coasters, your mate or kids...
    Ask a new mother, and old farmer, and a teenager what they hear and you'll get a different list from each of them.

    Apply this to the electric guitar where we set our knobs and adjust our pick technique to get the sounds we like.
    What exactly does the player who feels that wood has no influence listen for when they listen for a difference?
    My guitar makes lots of different sounds when i play it.
    And if it doesn't make the sounds I want I automatically adjust my technique.

    When i was a newer player I could not make an upstroke sound the same as a downstroke.
    FWIW if anything.
     
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  18. backporchmusic

    backporchmusic Friend of Leo's

    Nov 28, 2006
    USA
    I think the whole question should be rephrased as simply: can you hear the difference in guitar woods, yes or no?

    Not--is there a difference?

    If everything we accept about how sound travels through space (and therefore objects) is true, and different woods have different densities/structures, then there IS a difference. To say there isn't negates everything we accept about sound/space. That's a different argument, and one you will not win.
     
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  19. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

    May 15, 2016
    Silicon Valley
    A boat being pushed through the water by a propeller has nothing to do with strings resonating on a body, at least to me… this seems like a more appropriate example: http://www.livescience.com/34608-break-stride-frequency-of-vibration.html

    Important distinction: Not "more" energy… rather, "some" energy.
     

  20. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    I'm a former soundboard guy, and I'm used to singling out one sound from others or at least trying to. Sound guy's always start out doing a guitar mix with clean and then add effects, so it's easier in most cases for a sound guy to catch that sound out of a mix.
    Probably makes me more obsessed too.:twisted::lol:
     
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