Alder or Ash?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by welder, May 28, 2020.

  1. welder

    welder TDPRI Member

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    Hello. New guy here. I've owned Strats and Teles with both alder and ash bodies. Currently, nothing with an ash body. Rosewood, Pau Ferro, and maple necks. I'm no expert, but any differences that I could tell may or may not be because of what the body is made of. Does it really matter? Can you tell the difference? I'm thinking of selling a guitar or two to help fund the purchase of a new American Tele. I want it to be the last one that I ever buy. Will probably have to order online due to Covid-19, so can't play before buying. I'm considering either the American Professional Tele (two single coils, ash) or the American Performer Tele that has the humbucker in the neck position (alder). I'm just thinking out loud. Maybe the body wood is not such a big deal and I should put more thought into pickup configuration, neck profile, fingerboard material? Part of what has me thinking of this is Fender's announcement that ash will be used on a limited basis going forward...not on standard models. Thanks for listening. :)
     
  2. Si G X

    Si G X Tele-Afflicted

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    I prefer alder, but body wood is pretty low on the list when it comes to picking a guitar for me.

    I think most of my preferences are actually falsely arrived at, I always thought I liked rosewood fingerboards best, but my last guitar I bought was ebony and the one I'm putting together now is maple and I think they both feel great too. I think it's more about how it feels and sounds as a whole than any specific bit.
     
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  3. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    If it’s going to be the end-all Tele, I would go with the ash and have it be a black guard with the butterscotch blonde body. So traditional. I love the look of ash under a translucent finish as well. Difference in tone? Not so much. If you have to do controlled experiments and pour over sound clips to be able to decide the difference, then obviously it doesn’t amount to beans.
     
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  4. Danb541

    Danb541 Tele-Afflicted

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    Sound difference is negligible if at all IMHO. I'd go with ash mainly because they are discontinuing it. There's a chance an ash guitar may become more valuable should you ever decide to sell it years down the road.
     
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  5. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I don't find that different species have predictable tones in an electric guitar. The pieces may all sound different, but not by species. It's not like an acoustic guitar.

    Pay attention to the things that matter to you. If it's ash, then get ash. But imagine tomorrow Fender changes their mind, said it was a typo, big apologies. They're discontinuing alder, not ash.

    Would that influence your opinion?

    Oh, and last Tele ever? Uh huh...
     
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  6. Unionjack515

    Unionjack515 Tele-Afflicted

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    Difference in sound? Negligible. Difference in weight? Can be quite drastic. One more thing to consider, if that’s at all important to you.
     
  7. Lobomov

    Lobomov Friend of Leo's

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    Such a can of worms .. in practice there is at best a muniscule difference and stuff like pups etc play a much larger role. I've never experienced a correlation between wood type and the guitar I prefer .. pretty random
     
  8. KW1977

    KW1977 Tele-Meister

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    It took me some time to notice this because I do a lot of unplugged electric couch strumming. Also when I wanna buy an electric my first trial is hearing how resonant it is or isn't unplugged. This lead to a bias that excluded how the dang thing sounds plugged it! I took notice at band practice last year - I'd typically been playing a 52RI - Ash & Maple, but for a change of pace I broke out my MIJ Foto Flame - Alder with Basswood Cap, rosewood board, and it had every bit of the same harmonic chime. DOH!
     
  9. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I can tell the difference, over time... but it ain't big.
     
  10. 53Strat

    53Strat TDPRI Member

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    I used to think I could tell the difference but as the years add up I'm sure I can't.

    One thing for sure is the overall sound of an instrument is the sum of all it's parts.
    So to get that special "one" you need to get out and play, play, and play as many teles you feel attracted to - through the amp you are going to use.
    That is often as difficult as sorting out all the verbal decriptions from well meaning forum members. :)
     
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  11. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Afflicted

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    I can’t tell the difference between Ash and Alder either.

    My Tele selection criteria is:
    1. Feel of the neck
    2. Sound of the pickups
    3. Color
    4. Weight - I prefer between 7.0 and 7.25 lbs (every guitar I own is 8.0 lbs)

    I told my wife I need just one more Tele but she doesn’t seem to believe me. Where’s the trust?
     
  12. Christof73

    Christof73 TDPRI Member

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    My Strats and my tele are ash. Sold the alder (Fender)strats.
    Difference is minor. Nice lightweight ash hmmmmmm .... resonates like Crazy and that’s what I like.
    Also, it’s easier to get a great ash body then a nice alder one these days. Each it’s own....!
     
  13. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    No and no.
     
  14. BuckNekkid

    BuckNekkid Tele-Meister

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    Ah, the never-ending "what wood" question. I suspect this will be going on long into the next century. Or whenever they run out of wood.

    From my perspective, when we're dealing with solid body guitars, the only thing wood means to me is weight and durability. A George Harrison Rosewood Tele is a pretty thing, but man, is it heavy! A balsa wood Tele (if such a thing exists) would be super light, but put it down too hard and it's broken. So, in my experience owning guitars with all kinds of wood construction point to just those two things: Can I wear/play it without throwing my back out of whack, and will it hold up to the rigors of travel?
     
  15. Ragin Cajun

    Ragin Cajun Tele-Meister

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    The echoic of wood is pretty much a personal preference thing based on appearance and weight IMO. Like 8barlouie, I like Ash under translucent colors. I have both ash and alder, and it's funny that they both sound like Telecasters!
     
  16. Rockhead

    Rockhead Tele-Meister

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    If you want a translucent color with some nice grain showing get Ash. If you fancy an opaque color choose alder. To me, those would be the determining factors as far as body is concerned.
     
  17. sjtalon

    sjtalon Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If you had done a search here on body woods and tone woods, you could have read 100 pages just as this thread will most like go into.

    And still no nothing about the subject either way.

    You are buying an electric guitar right ???????
     
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  18. drmmrr55

    drmmrr55 Tele-Holic

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    I like the ash on my Tele, of course it's BSB, black pickguard, and the ash grain looks lovely through the poly blonde finish. It's as heavy as a boat anchor however.
    BSB 1.jpg
     
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  19. TimTam

    TimTam Tele-Holic

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    It's encouraging that the weight of responses seems to be that the body wood doesn't really matter. That is consistent with the experimental science from real guitars. But there was a time when many people would wax lyrically in forums such as this about the dominant tonal properties of solid body wood. And others would repeat that, thinking it must be true. Some of those statements were coming from the manufacturers who, while they are master craftsman, are not known for a detailed knowledge of the physics of the instruments they build (fortunately that's not necessary to build great electric guitars). And some major pieces of work on electric guitar physics have only recently been translated into English (see links at bottom) - most electric guitar scientific work has come from Germany and France. It might be said that we have moved from the pre-scientific age to the scientific age of solid body electric guitars. ;)

    Even Fender seems to be changing their tune in some recent writings, at least presenting both sides, which they never did in the past (in general, the further back you go in their public statements, the greater the disconnect from basic physics) ...
    "Is the tone of an electric guitar affected by what type of wood is used? ....
    In short, it’s a muddy situation, as there are vociferous defenders of each side of the issue. It’s undeniable that are dependent on tonewood for their sound, but much more goes into it with regards to electrics.
    Those who don’t believe wood affects a guitar’s tone point to the physics of how an electric guitar works. The sound is caused by the vibration of strings through the magnetic field emanating from a guitar’s pickups."

    https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/do-different-woods-affect-your-electric-guitar-tone

    But they still get some of the physics wrong, particularly regarding the solid body ...
    "The strings might not directly touch the wood, but the energy from a strummed string is transferred from the bridge and nut into the body and neck, creating frequencies that move through that wood.
    Then how could the wood not play a role in your guitar’s tone? The answer is that it does. Generally, heavier woods like mahogany resonate differently than a medium-bodied wood like alder and a lighter wood like basswood. "


    Firstly bridge 'admittance' (conductance) is near zero in a solid body electric (but very high in an acoustic guitar), so very little string vibration is transferred through it to reach the solid body (many different lines of experiment from different labs show that). The neck is different - the nut and frets transfer vibrations from the strings much more readily to that flexible structure. But any string vibrations transferred to the body or neck are lost from the strings (you can't have both - energy duplication - that's physically impossible), so the whole notion of a very "resonant" solid guitar body being a good thing is flawed. If solid bodies really "resonated" highly then there would be little vibrations left in the strings for the pickups to detect. Fortunately that doesn't happen. And people who think body resonance is substantial / good are mostly mistaking the feel/sound of all the vibrations remaining in the strings for what they think are resonating bodies - because the vibrations must remain almost entirely in the strings for the pickups to detect them and convey them to the amplified output.

    What has also emerged from the experimental studies on real guitars is a plethora of other factors that explain differences between ostensibly similar guitars - and not just the commonly-suggested ones like pickups, pot / cap variances etc. So while it may have once been easy to say "it must be the wood", that is no longer the case. That doesn't mean "everything matters" - it means that some things always matter, some things matters sometimes but not always, and some things never matter.
    https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Physics-of-E-Guitars-:-Vibration-–-Voltage-–-(-Zollner/88a7c4bedb89fdfda7ed01f11f77d9e14939c004
    https://www.gitec-forum-eng.de/2019...of-physics-of-the-electric-guitar-is-on-line/
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
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  20. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I like the look of ash, though I cannot tell any difference between ash and alder, sonically.
    I prefer rosewood to maple for fingerboards.
    I can’t hear any difference in them, once the guitar is amplified.
     
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