electric guitar tone woods

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by chucker, Jan 27, 2020.

  1. chucker

    chucker TDPRI Member

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    this is a big thing for me being a cabinetmaker, the lore and attraction of wood species and all, so i am asking whether it means a hoot in relation to telecaster quality. what's the deal. is there going to be appreciable difference between basswood, swamp ash, alder, or pine?
    i draw the line at poplar, have run plenty of it through the shop, and have a prejudice against it as middling in quality. not saying there is any guitar sense in this and only sentiment.
     
  2. suave eddie

    suave eddie Tele-Afflicted

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  3. TeleTucson

    TeleTucson Tele-Afflicted

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    It's odd that you ask ... I don't think this topic has ever come up before on TDPRI.
     
  4. suave eddie

    suave eddie Tele-Afflicted

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  5. suave eddie

    suave eddie Tele-Afflicted

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    He's new.
     
  6. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I like pine and ash for tele's myself. Bright, resonant and generally lightweight.
     
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  7. Dan German

    Dan German Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I don’t care what species it is, as long as it’s made from the sapwood. I like those moist, sticky tones.
     
  8. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    As a cabinetmaker, you may not like poplar, but you do know in your heart that poplar is easily worked, doesn't tend to burn like cherry, is cheap and very renewable. It's also not very pretty, and it's soft, but no more so than a lot of the mahogany you get. So all THOSE kinds of qualities of woods are the same for any woodworker - Maple is great, super hard, but hard to stain because its' so close grained etc. You know a lot about the qualities of "tonewoods" as building materials - but none of that translates well to the SOUNDS they make when played. You also know that wood is more than just the species - some trees are dense and heavy, others light, the wood varies even inside of a single tree. And the wood that was available and plentiful even 50-60 years ago is gone forever......

    There has never to my (our?) knowledge been a real scientific study that showed that "tonewoods" even affect the final sound of the guitar in a consistent, verifiable, identifiable way - but some research has concluded the opposite. People will argue forever and ever about it. Many of the MIJ Fender guitars that everybody swears by are made of poplar. One thing I always notice is that the tonal qualities that people assign to mahogany and korina are the same that people will assign to Gibsons which are almost always humbucker and short scale guitars, and the qualities people assign to ash and alder as the same that people assign to Fenders which are almost always single coil and longer scale guitars. Put a humbucker in a telecaster and all of a sudden it's a very "warm" guitar, go figure. And remember that the electric guitar produces sounds mainly by electromagnetic means (vibrating strings produce changes in a magnetic field, etc.) not mainly by vibrating wood.
     
  9. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    well it depends on your definition of "appreciable" .. Some are "cursed" with hyper hearing... so they will detect subtitles completely lost on others... but for the majority of the guitar pickin' world, there would be no significant difference that rises above the threshold of noticeability..


    Ya gotta remember, no one notices the "tone" of the guitar that a good guitarist is playing, they notice the music, and if a poor guitarist is playing, there's nothing he is capable of doing that will make anything noticeable, other than the noise.

    r
     
  10. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Having built several out of various woods I don't think the species matters much except in regards to cosmetics and weight, but what does seem to matter is the number of pieces. All of my 1-piece bodies (Alder, Ash, Basswood, and Pine) are louder and more resonate when playing unplugged than a 2-piece of the same species. Does it matter plugged in? Probably not a whole lot, but I grew up being told to judge a guitar by how it sounds unplugged so I still lean that way today.
     
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  11. Vibrolux59

    Vibrolux59 Tele-Meister

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    We grew up hearing Fender guitars made of Ash, Alder, and Maple with sometimes a Rosewood board. My opinion is that if you play low wind pickups through relatively clean Fender amps these woods sound the most like what I am expecting to hear. If you are into hot pickups, pedals, and high gain amps it probably becomes unimportant what woods are used as long as they are resonant and stable.
     
  12. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Geee, I never thought about this before. Glad you brought it up.
     
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  13. grooveiron

    grooveiron Tele-Holic

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    Oh just STOP IT!
     
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  14. modavis99

    modavis99 TDPRI Member

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    It all matters, some things more than others
     
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  15. Texicaster

    Texicaster Tele-Afflicted

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    Back around 1995 Taylor guitars took wood from some shipping pallets out back and ran it through it's guitar making process..... Came out sounding like a Taylor....

    Or Taylors sound like shipping pallets....
     
  16. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Before the "internets" nobody knew or cared about what kind of "tonewood" his solid body guitar was made from.
    They just bought them and played them.
     
  17. suave eddie

    suave eddie Tele-Afflicted

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    If you haven't figured it out yet by all the snarky replies, this subject has been beat to death. Some will claim to be able to hear huge differences and predictable qualities in different woods in solid body guitars. Others will say it makes no discernible difference.
     
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  18. IronSchef

    IronSchef Tele-Holic

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  19. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    Sugar maple sounds sweet.

    Pine can be pitch-y.

    Basswood is, well... bass-y.

    Canarywood really sings.

    You get the picture.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
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  20. DougM

    DougM Friend of Leo's

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    I like the sound of Strats that I've owned made from Ash, Alder, Basswood, and Poplar. They all sound very similar, though not neccesarily identical when played through a clean or lightly driven amp. I agree that the higher output pickups and higher gain amp settings will tend to gloss over the differences in body and fretboard woods. I've never owned a Strat made from mahogany or maple, or any other woods, so I can only comment on the four that I mentioned.
     
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