How much diferrence does type of wood make in an electric?

Discussion in 'Wood' started by Axeman270, Jun 13, 2014.

  1. Axeman270

    Axeman270 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    9
    A debate the came up in one of the classes I took....

    How much do you think wood type makes a difference in electric guitar sound when plugged in to your amp, and which parts (i.e. top, body, neck, fretboard...) mater most?
     
  2. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    34
    A significant difference.

    My experience is that the neck makes the greater difference.
     
  3. Murkar

    Murkar Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2013
    Messages:
    579
    Likes Received:
    294
    I agree with Ron one hundred percent....now this is just my humble opinion, but I feel that anyone who claims the wood makes no difference either can't hear it, or they've not actually tested it for themselves. I made two identical guitars - one from african mahogany and one out of spanish cedar. I did sound tests, then moved all of the hardware from one guitar to the other. I concluded that the mahogany sounded much better, and I've yet to make another electric from cedro. For what it's worth, I also moved the same hardware a third time to another cedro guitar that I'd already made (the cedro was taken from the same board as the first guitar) and found the same result. Take from that what you will.
     
  4. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    149
    Are you completely sure that there is no placebo or subjective opinion involved ?
    One test with three guitars by one person hardly qualifies as empirical data .
    How does Honduran Mahogany differ from African ..... ?
    Was the fretboard figured into this as a factor ?
    There are so many variables like setups et al .
    Until I actually see real data on this under controlled circumstances , I will need to remain skeptical .
     
  5. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    1,511
    Likes Received:
    884
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    I've had customers tell me they don't believe wood effects the tone on electrics. I told them to plan the guitar as if they did, as they'll wind up much happier. Any builder who has been a lot of guitars can tell you this is true.
     
    Sully and Purelojik like this.
  6. Murkar

    Murkar Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2013
    Messages:
    579
    Likes Received:
    294

    In terms of bias or placebo, sadly I'd say no :mad: There are people who say that judges will rate a better looking guitar as sounding better. In this case the best looking guitar sounded the worst (and the ugliest guitar did not sound the best). There was also a test done over on MLP....sorry but I can't remember who did it. However they recorded sound samples with several different types of wood on identical bodies using the same hardware (including a guitar made of MDF). I will try to find the thread.....it was quite interesting. A lot of people rated the MDF as sounding better than some common tonewoods.

    Also on my guitar tests, all three guitars had the same fretboard wood and fret type. Now you're right, that's not a very scientific comparison - but it was enough to settle the issue for me.
     
  7. Purelojik

    Purelojik New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    365
    Location:
    Newport Beach California
    i believe it makes a difference. I plan guitars around pickups i've used because i've used more pickups in the same set of guitars than i've built guitars. Taking the subtle differences into account I build a guitar based on what certain pickups worked better to my ears in other guitars. I honestly dont care about science when it comes to this to tell you the truth.

    that being said i've heard a pretty fantastic plywood guitar. It was a metal song but still in a blind test i wouldnt beleive it was made from plywood.
     
  8. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    1,511
    Likes Received:
    884
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Enough gain can mask anything :D
     
    Purelojik likes this.
  9. Heretic

    Heretic Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    473
    Location:
    Norman, OK, USA
    Minimal, in my opinion. And what difference it *may* make can be obliterated by a nice gain stage, EQ, strings, technique, etc.
     
    aeleus likes this.
  10. aeleus

    aeleus Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2013
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    77
    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    I'm more in this camp. When it comes to what affects the tone on an electric guitar, I'd put wood near the bottom of a list that includes (not necessarily in this order) strings, scale length, pickups, electronics, hardware, technique, and then everything that’s on the other end of the guitar cable (amp, effects, etc.).

    As a guitar builder though, I think the choice of wood is critical in terms of workability, stability, weight, feel, looks and more. Sound is very subjective. The look and feel of a guitar combined with a person's preconceptions will greatly influence their perception of what sounds "good".
     
    KnightroExpress and Purelojik like this.
  11. TKOjams

    TKOjams Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2013
    Messages:
    1,259
    Likes Received:
    573
    Location:
    Connecticut
    If you can't hear the difference... you should be playing drums.
     
    Freddy G, Murkar, Purelojik and 2 others like this.
  12. Axeman270

    Axeman270 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2014
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    9
    I know a few people here have made electric guitars from walnut. Wondering how you characterize the sound. I am likely going this route for at least one the guitars I am planning, and have found very conflicting info online. Some sites say the sound is nearly identical to mahogany and it makes a good substitute. Others say it's very bright like maple.
     
  13. Brian I

    Brian I New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2013
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    53
    Let me preface this by saying I've only built 3 electric guitars, but have played numerous similar guitars side by side at places like RetroFret, Gruhn, Rudy's, etc.

    IMHO, the wood choice does effect the sound of an electric guitar, but it acts to subtly change the color of the guitar's tone and doesn't cause massive disparities in the sounds of similar guitars.

    IMHO, if you take a mahogany bodied guitar and compare it to an ash bodied guitar, they're going to sound very similar; if played through the same amp with the same tone configuration and same pickups, I doubt if there would be any sort of massive difference in tone. While they may be similar, they're probably going to have subtle differences in tone that are most likely attributed to the choice of wood. In this hypothetical situation, I'm assuming both guitars are played without much distortion; should you crank the gain all the way to 11, I'm skeptical of any claims of tonal differences attributed to wood selection.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
  14. TKOjams

    TKOjams Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2013
    Messages:
    1,259
    Likes Received:
    573
    Location:
    Connecticut
    ya know what they say about opinions? :)

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLxE8iDWD_w&index=2&list=FL9seQgCX5cpOBsheVeJJyXQ[/ame]
     
    Purelojik likes this.
  15. Heretic

    Heretic Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    473
    Location:
    Norman, OK, USA
    Meh. Hardly conclusive, and hardly groundbreaking. In the video, it's not much more difference than you'd hear with a small EQ tweak, as the guy said before they started playing. I don't think the question is as much "is there a difference?" but rather "is there a meaningful difference when compared with the difference that pickups, strings, and amplification?"

    I don't think there is a meaningful difference. Whether the wood makes a difference or not, other factors seem to matter more.
     
    Brian I likes this.
  16. poro78

    poro78 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2013
    Messages:
    675
    Likes Received:
    415
    Location:
    Turku, Finland
    So why are we then buying expensive hardwoods if every wood sounds about the same?
     
  17. Heretic

    Heretic Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2013
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    473
    Location:
    Norman, OK, USA
    Some people don't. A lot of people make perfectly functional and nice sounding guitars out of pine and recycled 2x4s. It's not as popular, but I think that's mostly because they don't look as nice.
     
    Purelojik likes this.
  18. Purelojik

    Purelojik New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2013
    Messages:
    588
    Likes Received:
    365
    Location:
    Newport Beach California
    because they look spectacular when finished! lol
     
  19. otterhound

    otterhound New Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    149
    Because they sell and you promote them .
    This is a very difficult issue for many to see objectively .
    The industry has created a mystique that the buying public has bought into .
    Much of the exotic wood will be disappearing from the legal marketplace very soon just as some of it already has .
    Adapt or perish .
    Great luthiers will produce great instruments regardless of the woods used .
    Where will you be ?
     
  20. poro78

    poro78 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2013
    Messages:
    675
    Likes Received:
    415
    Location:
    Turku, Finland
    Well, I'm not a great luthier. Nowhere near. :D

    Actually I've been pondering the possibility of using native/domestic woods for a long time. Sometimes it just feels stupid to order some corksniffer wood from abroad, but since this is Finland where everything is expensive, I sometimes might get "exotic" wood about the price as the domestic "lame" stuff. :D

    Of course common and quite common woods are plenty: aspen, linden, ash, black alder, maple, curly birch, pine, spruce...
    The biggest problem would be the fretboard... I've heard someone using rowan as fretboard wood. Applewood could be another option?
    Can't think of any other options (yeah, maple fretboards don't exist in my world)...

    But anyway... I could go to nearest IKEA and buy a cheap table top from there. Put some paint over it, string it up and nobody knows, right? :naughty:
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice