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Poplar, Alder, Ash body comparison
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Crunch Berries
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:46 pm    Post subject: Poplar, Alder, Ash body comparison Reply with quote

Has anyone had the opportunity to actually compare different body woods on Mustang-style guitars- poplar, alder, and ash? I have a 76 Musicmaster (converted to a Duo Sonic) with a poplar body, and it is the best-sounding Fender I have ever personally owned, and I have owned vintage Fenders worth thousands before. It's a cheap guitar I slapped SD pickups in, and it just sounds awesome for no good reason really, and I can't stop playing it! On the other hand, I have a Warmoth ash-bodied project Duo which I havenít quite dialed in yet. I have come to the conclusion that the neck is more responsible than the body for tone, but I still hear a wild difference between the poplar and ash. Poplar is often described as similar in tone to alder. Having owned alder strats before- Iím inclined to believe poplar and alder do not sound alike other than the same basic EQ. My poplar body guitar has the softness of attack which is not a decrease in treble, but notes come out clear and are never harsh. Alder to me sounds more like the middle ground of what I expect a body to sound like and lacks this velvety top end- but admittedly I have never played an alder Mustang/Duo. And my ash body has a scooped quality which can very easily make the treble and bass too brittle- it is much more finicky about pickups than I expected too, but like I say, this may be an imcompatability with the neck it has. Iím particularly interested how an alder body compares- but the only alder Mustang is the Cobain or a custom body, if anyone has tried these.
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taylornutt
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is one of those issues that will be debated forever and everyone has a different opinion. When talking solid wood acoustic guitars there is no question that different wood combinations change the tone. I believe the same is true of electric guitars as well, but when you are talking about guitar bodies covered in layers and layers of nitrocellulose, Polyester or polyurethane it becomes more complicated. The finishes often mask the tonal differences and it's more about the electronics. Many guitar woods are often harvested based on cost and availability more than tone. I do believe there are sonic differences, but it's very subjective and subtle at best.

That said, I like Southern Ash because it's light weight and easy to work. I built a Tele and a Jazzmaster body out of Ash. I believe my rebuilt Mustang body is also Ash, but it was resurrected with lots of Bondo/wood fillers. My least favorite wood is Agathis. Too heavy and doesn't sound good.
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Doug
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:58 am    Post subject: Woodtones, mythology, and science Reply with quote

taylornutt wrote:
When talking solid wood acoustic guitars there is no question that different wood combinations change the tone. I believe the same is true of electric guitars as well, but when you are talking about guitar bodies covered in layers and layers of nitrocellulose, Polyester or polyurethane it becomes more complicated. The finishes often mask the tonal differences and it's more about the electronics. Many guitar woods are often harvested based on cost and availability more than tone. I do believe there are sonic differences, but it's very subjective and subtle at best.


Yeah, a classic debate, tonewoods, and I'm with ya 100%, Taylornut. We can narrow it down to more realistic terms. And the debate becomes less wanking and more useful. See if this makes rock'n roll sense...

It's part of our mythology that a really serious guitarist can hear the difference in tonewoods:

That guitarist must have that extra somethin, cuz he can actually hear the tone of his Buttwood...(hushed reverence...who ever calls "BS"?). Wink

And between myth and science, well, money actually beats myth and science. So Carvin catalogues have a table that describes the tonal differences of the tonewoods they offer. We see marketing stuff like that, and read the quotes of guitar heroes who swear by their Buttwood. And we forget all about science. Buy the myth. And Carvin gets our cash.

But even if there's no money in it for anyone, then myth still rules. Because we're emotional, imaginative creatures...brains and logic aren't so powerful. That's life and I respect the meaning and power of myth.

I'm not an expert on this stuff, but I pay attention to research and my best understanding is 1) it takes finely calibrated instruments to compare the tones of two pieces of wood, and it's also true that sometimes ya can knock on different slabs and hear different tones. 2) But significant differences in tone can be measured between five samples of Poplar. And 3) those differences can cover a spectrum as wide as the difference between one Poplar sample and one Ash sample. Let that sink in a minute.

In electric guitars, it's the pickups and amps that make most of the differences we hear in tone. The strings, nut, saddle, cable, pots, caps...and the finish, thanks, Taylornut...also contribute a little to the tone we hear. It's all these that we hear when we compare the same model guitars each made of different wood. Assuming all these are identical when we compare two guitars of the same model... each made of different woods... using the same amp at the same settings, with each guitar's controls at the same settings...any difference we think we hear can not be attributed to any one of the many variables. If five humans all agree there's a difference in tone, ya still can't conclude it's the wood yer hearing. "It's likely the wood..." is the best we can say but only under controlled quasi-experimental conditions.

Now, check out this guy playin a bunch of guitars, quality ranging from high to shite. He makes em all sound good. Do ya envy his tonewoods? Or the way he plays guitar. And amp... Confused

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=k7xfLiTy16A

Cheers,[u]
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taylornutt
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is link from Taylor Guitar's website.

http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/features/woods

I know this for acoustics, but it helps explain where each wood sits in terms of tone and frequency ranges.

There are differences in solid electric guitar tones, but as stated there are so many factors that influence your tone and then the amp is a huge part of the equation as well.

If a guitar maker could reproduce the exact guitar in every way except for the tone wood with no finish then you might be able to decipher a more audible difference.
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Doug
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:51 am    Post subject: A guitarist's need. For wood. Reply with quote

taylornutt wrote:
Here is link from Taylor Guitar's website.

http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/features/woods

I know this for acoustics, but it helps explain where each wood sits in terms of tone and frequency ranges.

There are differences in solid electric guitar tones, but as stated there are so many factors that influence your tone and then the amp is a huge part of the equation as well.

If a guitar maker could reproduce the exact guitar in every way except for the tone wood with no finish then you might be able to decipher a more audible difference.


Thanks, Taylornut. You got me thinkin, maybe this is why we love acoustic guitars so much. We really hear the wood. Especially if we also love electric, which gets more and more high-tech over time, we need that true wood tone.

Cheers,
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Stuart
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've said it before but I really just don't buy that wood can make any kind of a difference to an electric guitar with normal pickups. The sound is simply a product of the magnetised strings disturbing the magnetic field of the pickups. The wood doesn't play any part in that story, you're not getting any of the acoustic sound of the guitar through the amp.

People will perhaps say that as the hardware et cetera, is anchored into the wood the quality of the string movement, is effected by the wood, the vibrations are different or something. But I don't find that convincing, sure the bridge and the machine head are vibrating a little put they are effectively fixed points the variation between two woods has to be tiny. What would make more difference to how much various parts of the guitar are vibrating would be how close we are standing to bass amps, or kick drums and none of us are worried about that.

My tele doesn't suddenly sound like a les paul when I take a couple of steps backwards towards the amps...or whichever way round it is supposed to be.
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Doug
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here, here, Stuart! Hear, hear!

Cheers,
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your replies. Iím sure there is some tonal variance within the same type of wood. I may have got a lucky good slab of poplar, and a not so good ash body, who knows. I know there are many variables that contribute to tone, but I can certainly hear and differentiate the aspects of tone that are caused by electronics, and those that are the guitar itself. I find pickups etc. are a great way to fine tune a guitar, but some guitars just inherently have magic to them and itís not in the electronics. Pickups donít make a lackluster guitar into a great one in my experience. For example, anyone who has taken the pickups out of a Les Paul and put them in a bolt on Strat body knows that those pickups will not make it sound like a Les Paul. Iím just after the sound qualities produced by the guitar wood itself, with all other factors more or less equal. If I build another guitar, Iím inclined to order poplar instead of alder at this point, since my poplar Musicmaster sounds better than my alder or ash Strats did- but these are apples and oranges. My buttwood is poplar at this point- I seriously think it sounds better on average than alder or ash. I would just be curious to hear from someone who owns an alder body and a poplar one of the same guitar.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crunch Berries wrote:
Thanks for your replies... My buttwood is poplar at this point- I seriously think it sounds better on average than alder or ash. I would just be curious to hear from someone who owns an alder body and a poplar one of the same guitar.


Good sense of humor, CB. I have several guitars made of your Buttwood. Very different guitars butt I really like each one a lot.

1965 Fender Mustang, light as a feather Poplar and has plenty of tone;

1997 and 1999 Gibson BluesHawks, very light-weight chambered Poplar bodies, Maple caps. Top of my list axes.

Cheers,
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This discussion would be interesting if you brought semi-hollow electrics into the mix because of the acoustic dynamic and the top moving more like an acoustic. I think you would hear more differences in those guitars because the internal would is unfinished like an acoustic guitar.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it does make a difference, albeit in an indirect way. Different woods have different densities so will affect the weight and balance of the instrument. The weight and balance will affect how it feels in your hands and, if you're playing standing up, how it hangs on your shoulder. I find I play better on a guitar that feels balanced.

The same goes for string gauge. I've not noticed a *direct* sonic difference between the different gauges I've tried, but physical 'feel' under my fingers and response are different. This affects how I play, so in that sense it too can affect how the guitar sounds.

The problem with settling the body wood argument is that it's such a subtle and minor thing. Getting all the other variables equal in order to make it a fair 'scientific' test is really difficult, and being able to notice any differences is, again, not easy to do. Hence why a lot of people don't worry about it much!
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George
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i think it makes a difference, not really noticeable by the time it comes out of your amplifier though
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

on jag-stang and stratocasters do diference

Some Humbucker Mahogany Stratocasters sounds like Gibson.

Jag-stang made of Basswood Sounds Wool , Muddy , Out Of Life

most notable difference are on acoustic guitar , while mapple ones sounds bright , mahogany ones sound Warm

jag-stang was suppose be Alder or Poplar but nah Stupids did cut of Custs and made of Basscrappo , not even basswood it is.

mine on Bridge i still not managed sounds good. maybe i put an EMG and forget about. , neck sounds Ok
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are a lot of factors that play into this that the type of wood can make a difference, but that's assuming that all other bits are equal. A lot of it is the fit of the neck pocket and bridge type.

I have multiple alder guitars that do not sound the same to each other, but then they have different bridges, different pickups, and different fit at the neck pocket. All of those things make a difference that it makes the wood type mostly inconsequential to the result, however I always have guitar bodies made out of alder simply because I know how to work with it to finish it, it doesn't need to be grain filled and I know it works well.

But as far as getting a body from a factory you have so many other factors at play that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to worry that much about it. Pickups mean more to the sound than anything else. I will say that my Musicmaster has an alder body, string through bridge and an extremely tight neck pocket, and it resonates better than any guitar I've ever played. Those are the biggest factors before wood does. If you are using a trem it's really not going to make that much of a difference.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When researching what to build my Mig Mk II guitar bodies out of I came across this page

http://jemsite.com/jem/wood.htm

it has quite a bit to say about a lot of different kinds of woods.

mind I also phoned and spoke with rob(og) about it, and just opted for Pine, a wood that the page above doesn't talk about.

despite being a softer wood, it certainly has worked out quite well for me..

but I'm never bothered by dents and such in my guitar bodies.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pens wrote:
There are a lot of factors that play into this that the type of wood can make a difference, but that's assuming that all other bits are equal. A lot of it is the fit of the neck pocket and bridge type.

I have multiple alder guitars that do not sound the same to each other, but then they have different bridges, different pickups, and different fit at the neck pocket. All of those things make a difference that it makes the wood type mostly inconsequential to the result, however I always have guitar bodies made out of alder simply because I know how to work with it to finish it, it doesn't need to be grain filled and I know it works well.

But as far as getting a body from a factory you have so many other factors at play that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to worry that much about it. Pickups mean more to the sound than anything else. I will say that my Musicmaster has an alder body, string through bridge and an extremely tight neck pocket, and it resonates better than any guitar I've ever played. Those are the biggest factors before wood does. If you are using a trem it's really not going to make that much of a difference.


What do you mean by "resonates" here?
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the most part I think it doesn't really matter. The thing that makes me open to the idea of it being important is that sometimes pickups sound shit in guitars and fantastic in others - something that's undeniable for anyone who watched years of people unsuccessfully mod jag-stangs before giving up and selling them. I do think that some parts matter, like the material the bridge is made out of but I don't believe in the 3 saddle tele nonsense though.

An awful lot of guitar mojo is based on the mistaken idea that the way things were done in the 50s and 60s is the way to the best tone, when a lot of the time it was just cost effective or convenient and better ideas have come about since. The list for those things is near endless but I think alder as a tone wood belongs there. Not that there's anything wrong with alder, just that there's nothing magical about it either.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stuart wrote:
Pens wrote:
There are a lot of factors that play into this that the type of wood can make a difference, but that's assuming that all other bits are equal. A lot of it is the fit of the neck pocket and bridge type.

I have multiple alder guitars that do not sound the same to each other, but then they have different bridges, different pickups, and different fit at the neck pocket. All of those things make a difference that it makes the wood type mostly inconsequential to the result, however I always have guitar bodies made out of alder simply because I know how to work with it to finish it, it doesn't need to be grain filled and I know it works well.

But as far as getting a body from a factory you have so many other factors at play that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to worry that much about it. Pickups mean more to the sound than anything else. I will say that my Musicmaster has an alder body, string through bridge and an extremely tight neck pocket, and it resonates better than any guitar I've ever played. Those are the biggest factors before wood does. If you are using a trem it's really not going to make that much of a difference.


What do you mean by "resonates" here?


I mean the guitar vibrates through the wood more than any other electric I've ever played. As in, I strum an E chord, and I can feel the guitar vibrating through the neck and against my thigh in the body. The strings vibrating the guitar as a whole.

Is that weird?
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Link

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can no one else hear a change in sound when he moves the guitar off of his body?
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