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Tonewood Question

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Bird Dog, Aug 31, 2020.

  1. PastorJay

    PastorJay Friend of Leo's

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    I recently saw a thread in which a poster had two apparently identical guitars, but they sounded different. One (I'll call it guitar A) was brighter. Thinking it was something in the electronics (slightly different pickups, different values, etc.) he swapped out all the electronics between them to see what effect it had.

    Guitar A was still brighter. The only difference he could identify between the guitars was the thickness of the grain in the wood of the body.

    Apparently wood makes a difference. But maybe it's the individual pieces of wood, not just what kind of tree the wood came from.

    I was hoping he had chimed in here, but don't see it.
     
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  2. Bearston

    Bearston TDPRI Member

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  3. 63 vibroverb

    63 vibroverb Tele-Afflicted

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    97485B1F-51BB-41A5-B396-03E82B13DBC7.jpeg Haven’t read the whole thread yet, but I would suggest cherry. I just finished a cherry body tele this past week and the tone/character reminds me a lot of mahogany. I’ve read a few people state that cherry is in between mahogany and rosewood (not quite 50/50, closer to mahogany). I feel that description is very accurate from my experience. It’s got the warmth and dry mids of mahogany with some of the overtones of rosewood. I feel bad because it’s one of the best teles I’ve put together and want to keep it - but I promised it to my dad!
     
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  4. joelguitars

    joelguitars TDPRI Member

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    Many things affect how the strings 'ring'; the nut, saddle, frets and their condition, string gauge and tension, the type and condition of the string itself, where it is plucked and what it is plucked with. Magnetic pickup height can also have an effect on string vibration but it is nominal. Enough sound pressure causes the instrument vibrate sympathetically but magnetic pickups do not pickup wood vibrations! They do however pick up the harmonic overtones of the string and then wood density becomes a greater factor, but it would be nearly undetectable at lower db. Assuming that the guitar is set up properly to allow the strings to work mechanically, the most important factor for 'tone' would be the pickups and the 'stuff' (pots, resistors, wire,) that conducts the signal to the amp or preamp. Any live performance will create decibel levels that cause your strings to vibrate sympathetically (desired or not) and this is where wood density will be a much greater factor in achieving the desired sound.
     
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  5. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah. it does.... but... if you cannot use that information in deciding what a guitar made with a specific piece of lumber will sound like, it is completely useless... It's no more a definitive indicator of anything that will happen in the future, than knowing that "Blonds have more fun" is to the future happiness once you're married..

    there exists no accredited rating system that determines if a piece of wood is “tonewood” or “fire wood”. It is a designation assigned to lumber by a merchant to improve his chances of selling it, and doing so at an inflated price.. THAT - IS - IT .

    The only accredited grading scale assigned to lumber has been established by the National Hardwood Lumber Association, the NHLA. It is recognized worldwide as being the definitive.

    Those subscribing to it assign a specific grade to a piece of lumber. That way if some consumer in Lawtey Florida needs a piece of FAS (the best), he knows he can call Steve Wall Lumber in North Carolina, ask for a piece of whatever in FAS and have no qualms about what he will receive. That grading system ONLY relative to visual appearance and structural integrity. You cannot hear either when the wood is used in a guitar.

    An example of an unaccredited rating system is that used on figured lumber, like 5AAA flame maple. That is an assumed rating system adopted by guys selling the stuff, and is about as reliable as a 2.00 electric drill bought from “Chinese Freight Co.com”.

    Those guys just buy a load, assign whatever grade they want and bingo they’re in the flamed maple business… Ya put your money down and take your chances..

    Now here’s the ticker.. just because a piece of FAS came from a certain log, does not mean ALL the lumber from that log is top quality… A plank may have everything from FAS to “fire wood” in it… the “good stuff” gets cut out and sold, the firewood goes in the . . well you get it…

    So there is NO tonewood, there IS wood. Wood used in a guitar is still wood… It doesn’t go through some magic transformation…

    Here is a classic example of wood, a few years ago pretty much no one would have suggested it was acceptable for use in a musical instrument… I call them the BarnBuster, made from lumber, usually 100 years plus old, from various notable sources around the Nation… And some of it, most wouldn’t defile their firewood bin with. Yet. . .

    As to if it has totally tenacious qualities… I’m not tellin’ .. I’m gonna leave that to those of y’all that own one to share your experience…


    r

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    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
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  6. Anacharsis

    Anacharsis Tele-Holic

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    I also love when a company says "select" tonewoods. Or "select" anything. That word means absolutely nothing other than "we chose to use and sell it." But it sounds exclusive and high end, so it gets used again and again.
     
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  7. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

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    You'd think a post like this would be a thread ender. It's just sense, no voodoo, no baseless opinions. It's undeniable logic based in experience.

    But it's not a thread ender. People will still chime in with the voodoo.

    So either people just see the thread title and skip to the last page to add their two pennorth, and therefore don't learn anything, or they don't know common sense when they see it, or they are just not budging, whatever the evidence says.

    Look, I have posted my share of baseless crap over the years. Usually in inverse proportion to how much I actually knew. But I hope I don't do it too much anymore and that I am open to listening. I hope.

    I'm not really sure there is a conclusion to my point. But surely people can appreciate and learn from posts like this?

    Or maybe not.
     
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  8. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    Leme just add.. over the many, many years I've been doing this.. I have made guitars from about every type lumber you care to mention... while sure, occasionally a real turkey results.. I never assign the failure to the type wood, and have no qualms about immediately beginning another from the same species... If the results are the same after a few shots.. then I'll put that species on the "verboten" list... to date, I have none on any such list..

    I build guitars that sound good.. that's actually what ya want... I do NOT build guitars that make "you" sound good... that's entirely up to your talent... no talent . . no sound good... sorry... I deal in pragmatic realities.. The wood really has about Zero to do with it.. In fact the whole darn guitar has very little to do with it... it's has to do with that no talent thing. You can take a guitar that you think doesn't sound particularly good, throw a little talent at it and bingo .. Now THERE'S a transformation. No tonewood involved..

    r
     
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  9. Rjelecaster

    Rjelecaster Tele-Meister

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    "tonewood" is but a lumber grade.
     
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  10. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    True. . . but it is one with no accreditation behind it...

    For instance Sitka Spruce, routinely used as the soundboard in finer acoustics... and assuming one chooses some quartersawn with a very tight grain structure, there exists no indices as to what such a piece of lumber would be best intended for, Heck, it COULD be used in a replica Spad... No one cares about the tone from a Spad as it sweeps the audience at an Air show... yet those sections of the wings and supports MUST be QS fine grained Sitka Spruce to be authentic.

    To me Tonewood is as horribly offensive as the phrase Partscaster ... it suggests far more about the knowledge of the one using the terms than anything germane to achieving a quality guitar.

    For the record, any "caster" out there is made up of parts sourced from secondary manufactures, be it a 30,000.00 masterbuilt, or that 65.00 Strat kit advertised on Banggood this morning... thus they're all "Partscasters" by definition.

    r
     
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  11. Anacharsis

    Anacharsis Tele-Holic

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    It's a valid point. When I use the term, I am not pretending to knowledge nor implying a pejorative, but simply using it as a shorthand for "home assembled" - or so I think. I'm sure I have applied it to guitars which are not branded by any company or builder, but may have been assembled by someone who does it for a living. Clearly there's some inaccuracy in there (as there is with many terms).
     
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  12. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

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    yep. I get it... however generally speaking, or typing as the case may be, when the phrase Partscaster is used it's done so in a manner that suggests a bit of disdain toward such guitars..

    What few seem to realize, the vast majority of headliners touting specific brands of guitars rarely play one that has remained unmolested by a tech.. often swapping pretty much everything, most often the neck, among guitars... Sorry but the way the word is used, that leaves them all playing "partscasters"..
     
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  13. hemingway

    hemingway Poster Extraordinaire

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    Funny, I've never found the word to mean anything negative. I'm happy to refer to my self-assembled guitars as partscasters. if someone uses the term pejoratively I would just assume they were snobs. Interesting take on it, though.
     
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  14. lestbrown

    lestbrown TDPRI Member

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    Sounds like the electronics have to compliment the wood to get the full effect. Pretty complicated...
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  15. Erwin

    Erwin Tele-Meister

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    Someone once told me that most things in life are either technical or marketing. And marketing is the BS sales people start telling when they do not understand the technical aspects that are involved or when these are to simple stunn people and trick them in to paying a lot more than what the real value of a thing is.

    For me there are very few things that are instrumental to the sound of an electric guitar. If we do not look at the rest of the chain, longer or shorter cables, pedals, amp and speakers..., the the main variables in an electric guitar are:
    • string type (flatwound, roundwound.....)
    • string size(thickness, scale length) This and the type are to be seen as contributing to a specific mass of the string
    • string material (steel, nickel, .....) together with the mass of a string this will determing the voltage that is induced in a pickup. i.e same pickup at the same distance different string mass or material will result in a different sound
    • strenght of the magnetic field and the form of it. Not what the magnets are made of but the strenght AlNiCo 1, 2, 3 .... CuNiFe in the and there is no difference other than the resulting strenght of the magnetic field.
    • lenght and shape of the coil and the gauge of the wire.
    • placement of the pick-up
    • resistive value of the pots, not the brand
    • falue of the capacitors and their possible dc leaking. again not the brand
    I do understand that different alloys for the magnets do play a role in how much magnetism remains after magnetizing the rods in the same magnetic field. I.e CuNiFe may have a stronger or weaker magnet as the same size rod in one of the alnico's after magnetizing in the same field for the exact same time. But if both magnets from different materials are equally strong, the sound will be the same in the same pickup.

    Wood only plays a role in the stiffnes it has.
     
  16. PoorNoodle

    PoorNoodle Tele-Meister

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    If your guitar sounds dull or dark there’s another thing you can do...change rooms! Probably has a bigger impact on what you hear than the wood (if it’s electric).
     
  17. PastorJay

    PastorJay Friend of Leo's

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    You made my point exactly. Much better with more detail than I could have done. Thank you.
     
  18. vintageampz

    vintageampz Tele-Meister

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    First off - Sorry Walnut is not even close to Mahogany. While we dabbled with Walnut a couple times at Fender, they flat out were NOT popular and the reason is Walnut resonates FLAT. Nice for your Bedroom furniture, sucks for Guitars. Want proof, how many manufacturers have made Walnut solid body guitars and what's the ratio to Mahogany and Maple / Alder / Basswood??

    Tonally, Rosewood is the closest to Mahogany, ... yeah just try to find Rosewood to make a body these days, plus Rosewood "chips and splinters" too easily.

    The truth is that Maple is the best choice and so is American Alder. Even Gibson choose an ALL Maple solid bodied guitar that I think was the most versatile sounding axe that Gibson ever made. Carlos Santana and Al di Meola, and several others loved it (so did I, Gibson gave me one before I went to work for Fender). Oh, the ALL maple Gibson was the L6S, 1972 - 1985; same shape as an L5 but w/o carved top and not Mahogany w/Maple.

    American Alder bodied Stratrocasters with the right PuPs, particularly Active with Noiseless like the Lind Fralins on the 83 - 86 Fender Elite Stratocaster, Telecaster and P-Bass/Jazz basses. can and do sound just like a Mahogany/Maple top Les Paul Std, while still selectable to be a Strat or Telecaster sound. The Fender Elite's were all American Alder bodied, usually with Rosewood "slab" (thick) fretboards, although some Maple board versions were made.

    Here's a nice wood article on the ever-increasing problem with getting Mahogany and what are the substitutes. While the article addresses "woodworking", not instruments, the atributes for Mahogany are similar to the these folks. https://www.woodshopnews.com/news/demand-shifts-to-mahogany-substitutes

    PS - despite the fictitious "rumors", Fender (and us Luthiers that make guitars) is not having any problems getting Ash or Alder, yes the prices have gone up, but there are ample supplies.

    L6S-1974 Santana ad.jpg 977 Gibson L6-S Guitar Print Ad - Al DiMeola.JPG
    1972 Gibson L6S  Mint2.jpg Fender Strat Elite front.JPG
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
  19. ctmullins

    ctmullins Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    Wow, that’s a nice flourish of Argumentum Ad Populum combined with Appeal To Authority.

    But I am genuinely curious to hear what exactly you mean by

    Can you elaborate please?
     
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  20. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

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    Please make it stop!!!!!!!!
     
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