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demonx

Tonewood Myth Busting Project

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If you want to build only high gain monsters, then you may as well build from MDF. I build guitars to have clarity, cut through a mix, and have great tone. I'm not having a go, but high gain pickups just don't do it for me (or my clients once they see the 'benefits'). I'm working with some pretty extreme bands (the one above is for Psycroptic), and I virtually never use high gain pickups. You don't need them with the amps available today. My 'go to' metal pickup is 9.3k. I'm just on the cusp of signing a huge band based on low(er) output pickups. You can't take gain OUT of a high output pickup easily, and you can't replace lost treble without processing.

+1 Truth!

I am glad Perry said it because when I say it no one listens.

Guess what. Our guitars shared a stage last night. Sensory Amusia and Psycroptic. Got to spend a little bit of time with one of your guitars. Nice work. I offered to re-oil a part of the side where Shaun has literaly worn it out from playing too much. He loves it :) Shaun's a nice guy.

That is awesome. How many times does that happen on this forum? Must have been a killer show. I can not wait till they come State side.

Shaun is great! And his band smokes. I am working on his backup guitar... I only use woods that can take beating with him. I have a picture of his guitar covered in blood from a long show.

I would be honored if you would fix his guitar he is one of my favorite customers!

I used Waco Danish Oil on it... he is so rough on it I wished I had done a different finish for him (I had no idea when he bought it). Strip the wax and fix it up. He also managed to crack the trussrod cover. Send me the bill or I will reimberse Shaun. :)

Please don't convert him to Ormsby Guitars as I like him and love having him as my advocate "Down Under".

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He's loving what he has mate, no converting him :) The bloodwood top is perfect, not a scratch. The side where his forearm is, has worn through to the wood. Easy fix! Shaun has always been nice, friendly, and has used my pickups and promoted them in the past. All the guys in the band are great. They are main supports for all three Psycroptic shows here this weekend. I really like their new shirt design too!

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He's loving what he has mate, no converting him :) The bloodwood top is perfect, not a scratch. The side where his forearm is, has worn through to the wood. Easy fix! Shaun has always been nice, friendly, and has used my pickups and promoted them in the past. All the guys in the band are great. They are main supports for all three Psycroptic shows here this weekend. I really like their new shirt design too!

Good to hear. I think the metal scene and the high end luthiers in AU are taking off (or getting the exposure they deserve). I have seen so many good luthiers and bands from down under recently.

Back to the tone thing... Sorry to hijack your thread Searls. You have my respect as a builder.

I have been at this a long time. I have a holy grail hanging on my wall. In 1990 I built my first super strat. I used a Seymour Duncan Jazz (7.46k) neck pup for the bridge pup. The guitar has a one piece quartersawn 4/4 thick Zebrawood top attached to a carved 6/4 one piece Khaya back with a solid one piece Hard Northern maple strat neck. It is the most tone laden chunk of wood I have ever built/owned. It managed 5 years of touring playing thrash and progressive metal before being retired (too rare and too heavy). To this day it creates awe and wonderment when I pull it out and let some young guy play it. I chase the tone it produces constantly.

I am a firm believer that anyone who subscribe to the DiMarzio/SD nothing under 14K pickup cult is not capable of fully understanding the true effects of wood on a solid body guitar. (How do you like those PAF A4s SR?)

The Diablo pickup is 11.3k and my newest pup (Whiskey) checks in at 9k of 42awg goodness allowing the wood to speak before being colored by magnetic mojo.

I laugh every day as I chase the "dragon" that is the crap shoot of building guitars from wood. I think my favorite part is playing them when they are finally finished and thinking "Wow. I thought it would sound like this...and... it didn't"

Have fun with your experiment.

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I've deliberately avoided reading the rest of this thread and instead concentrated purely on the pre-amble.

This experiment is fundamentally flawed on the basis that it does not truly isolate the one aspect under the microscope. Merely altering the "tonewood" (I think that is an imaginary term we all need to unlearn) does not acknowledge the other aspects of an instrument build which in my opinion have more bearing on the final product's playability and interaction with the vibrating string lengths secured on them. As an example, we all know that a good neck joint in a bolt-on can affect the sound so an MDF-bodied bolt-on instrument will have a weaker and floppier neck joint than a solid hardwood. The material is simply not designed for the forces that a neck will put upon it.

Tonewood as a word is a meaningless and obfuscating term which was invented as a way of classifying material X as "excellent" in instruments in comparison to others, often leaving other being felt as being inferior ("insuperior"?) or lacking in qualities. Would anybody call White Oak a tonewood? Chestnut? Elm? It seems apparent to me that a wood gets called a tonewood depending on whether it is the wood du jour. Every wood has a range of characteristics which are far more important than whatever "tone" is meant to denote. In my opinion, considering every aspect of a build and how the individual material's characteristics lend their strengths (such as strength!) to the final product is far more important than pouring "tonewoods" into the BOM.

This is not to say that certain materials do not lend characteristics to the "tonal quality" of the final instrument. They clearly do. Using specific materials to alter that characteristic of the final product is just part of the bigger picture. Reliance purely on tonewoods is the equivalent of becoming very good at painting just the eyes of the Mona Lisa but never learning to paint hands or appreciate the play of light on materials.

We have quite clearly been misled into the wrong way of perceiving the woods and materials we use which in many ways can blind us to the wider disciplines in instrument making and stifle creativity. If all Les Paul style instruments were made with "Mahogany", Maple and Rosewood the world would become a very boring place.

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Despite being a slightly different type of pickup, my next instrument on the table is an oiled bolt-on five-string bass with an AlNiCo SD Music Man pickup. The next instrument after that will be much the same instrument but compound scales, neck through body, custom brass hardware, the same SD pickup but painted. Perhaps those should be interesting comparatively, however I think there are so many differences that the difference as it ends up at the amp will be a combination of more factors than can be quantified.

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Many people get confused between "tone" and "vibrational transfer." In a solid body electric the wood affects the vibrational transfer of the tone from the neck through the body. In essence, the material used to construct the guitar affects the overall length and strength of sustain. The tone is purely constructed from the pickups, wiring, quality of pots and caps. To most, this translates to the ear thinking they hear a tone difference. However, you are hearing the tone amplified and often sustained longer.

I'll go even further in saying that wood choice has very little affect when speaking about acoustic construction. I have in my possession right now a Martin OMC made with cherry back, sides, front block and neck with a sitka top. The braces are unscalloped sitka and the guitars sounds almost identical to my traditional rosewood/sitka. To go even further to debunk the "all maple= shrill and bright" argument. I just purchased a Martin GPCPA prototype made in 2007. It's made with Flamed maple top, sides, back and neck. The fretboard is Richlite. The bridge is Richlite and the front block is made of stataply (which is a mixture of burch and maple.) It's got enough low end bass to over power any mix and the midrange and treble are perfect. Keep in mind that this is a big body Grand Perfoermance Martin so it's expected to be loud. The maple did nothing to demising that.

You can take a guitar made with any crap wood and match it with the correct electronics and have a wonderful sounding guitar. Look at Danelectro. Guitars made from pressed board and I doubt many can deny their classic tone.

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I hate these kind of topics (although hate is such a strong word!) I personally think the wood in use does make a little difference, but there's still no reason to build a guitar from anything you can get your hands on. It seems to me you will conduct this experiment, come to the conclusion that mdf sounds as good as any 'tonewood' and then go back to building guitars out of said 'tonewood', so I don't really see the point.

Just my humble opinion :)

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IMHO, the weight and density of the wood is the main factor in tone. Two different species of timber that have the same weight and density as each other will give the same tone due to the way the wood resonates sympathetically to the string vibrations. I base this on a guitar I worked on in the 1980s. It was a Strat type guitar with a mahogany body. The mahogany was heavy as lead, extremely tight grained, and as hard as iron. Not the sort of guitar I would want to play standing up for a couple of hours, but he played sitting down most of the time so the weight wasn't an issue for him.

The owner had picked it up second hand and used it for a few months playing jazz. Due to severe buckle rash on the back and several deep scratches on the edges and front, he decided to have a new body made out of rock maple. I was given the job of making the new body. He had recordings of him practising scales, so we had had something to compare the finished job with. I shaped the maple exactly the same as the mahogany, and the same thickness. After finishing the body, it was only about 1/2 an ounce different in weight to the mahogany body. After assembling and setting up, he played and recorded the guitar in his rehearsal room and it sounded identical to the original body. Obviously, the weight and density of both bodies were pretty much identical, giving pretty much identical tone and sustain ;)

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Circles, as always. <_<

I think it was mentioned earlier on in either this thread or another related one about high gain pickups removing the influences of the body woods on the "sound" of the instrument. That much is a definite. Trees don't grow with the express intention of being instruments so a material being termed as a "tonewood" is completely ridiculous and misleading. We're not talking forced agriculture and the breeding of cows to produce more milk or "better" meat. Wood is wood, but good wood is better than reliance on something being termed a "tonewood". Solid reliable construction that makes the instrument a better system. Acoustic instruments are a totally different ballpark to electrics of course.

The comment on transmission of energy within a system is pragmatic and realistic because it can be measured and isolated. The endpoints of the vibrating string length that induces a current in the tranducers are secured to a system which vibrates in sympathy, with various frequencies in that system being reinforced or attenuated (think "wolf" notes found in the same place on Fenders of the same period and design for example and the opposites, "dead" notes) which in turn affects those endpoints (bridge, nut, frets) and the overtones of the vibrating string. A perfect case in point is my Aria Pro II Integra which has a wolf note at the 8th fret on the E string, but none on the corresponding note on the 3rd fret of the A string. This is because those fretted notes have different endpoints and hence the system works differently. This is not a pickup issue, but one of the instrument's inherent flaws or as some would say, "character". Or tone.

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Many people get confused between "tone" and "vibrational transfer." In a solid body electric the wood affects the vibrational transfer of the tone from the neck through the body. In essence, the material used to construct the guitar affects the overall length and strength of sustain. The tone is purely constructed from the pickups, wiring, quality of pots and caps. To most, this translates to the ear thinking they hear a tone difference. However, you are hearing the tone amplified and often sustained longer.

I'll go even further in saying that wood choice has very little affect when speaking about acoustic construction. I have in my possession right now a Martin OMC made with cherry back, sides, front block and neck with a sitka top. The braces are unscalloped sitka and the guitars sounds almost identical to my traditional rosewood/sitka. To go even further to debunk the "all maple= shrill and bright" argument. I just purchased a Martin GPCPA prototype made in 2007. It's made with Flamed maple top, sides, back and neck. The fretboard is Richlite. The bridge is Richlite and the front block is made of stataply (which is a mixture of burch and maple.) It's got enough low end bass to over power any mix and the midrange and treble are perfect. Keep in mind that this is a big body Grand Perfoermance Martin so it's expected to be loud. The maple did nothing to demising that.

You can take a guitar made with any crap wood and match it with the correct electronics and have a wonderful sounding guitar. Look at Danelectro. Guitars made from pressed board and I doubt many can deny their classic tone.

exactly! the vibrations of strings is what makes the sound. the wood and construction methods used (bolt on, neck thru, neck glued, side blanks, veneer, headstock joint, thickness, stabilization due to hand and body touching, every place that is glued on...) essentially creates a platform. my analogy is going to be that the strings are your force, nut/frets and bridge(anywhere the strings contact really) tectonic plates, and the body being your earth (all based loosely off of my knowledge of earthquakes) and your pick-ups being seismographs. Seismographs pick up the force of an earthquake, the force resonates on the tectonic plates, which are held by the earth (and gravity) as to not just be a constantly morphing blob. since the earth holds the tectonic plates in a certain way only allowing them to resonate to a certain degree, the earth, or your guitar body, does affect what the seismograph puts out. a marsquake should be different from an earthquake, if mars even has quakes, but you will get a similar feeling of panic as you race to the nearest doorway of your mars colony :P

since the strings' ability to vibrate is affected by what it touches (fingers included) yes the wood and construction does affect tone. how noticeable it is... now that is the question.

at this point I'm gonna drop some nirvana on everything and say that one should find what they like or continue to explore, that's what's always been the fun part for me. if you make a guitar out of a wood that some may say sounds inferior though you like it, CRANK IT UP TO 11!!!!!

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Like Paulie,I have already done it myself.In fact,my first guitar was Plywood with incredibly cheap hardware.The only good thing about it was the bridge pickup.

It sounded like a guitar,but it did not sound as good as one made of quality wood with quality hardware.This has been done a hundred times even just on this site,and those who know that wood makes a difference will just assume you are tone deaf if you think otherwise.

Still worth doing it for your own knowledge.But you should realize it doesn't help your business to cry voodoo about tonewood.

Since I almost always use EMG or Duncan JB/59 in my guitars,I already know how they sound with maple,mahogany,alder,bubinga,and yes,plywood.

I stand in the middle of the argument. I've compared guitar like this between one made of mahogany and one of a 2x4 from home depot and they sounded the same mostly, The pickup was from a Gibson Les Paul. The only real difference was the sustain, the mahogany had way more. I've found mixing mahogany with an ash neck really brings out sustain too.

Using EMG's makes me laugh a little in my opinion any active will basically cancel out any effects the wood has on the tone, minus maybe some sutain, but that's because I've never been a fan of actives because I can't ever get them to be versitile enough for different tones. I think they are good if you are the type that has one tone that they want to always play with and not have any versitility in it.

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Shaikoski - I don't think I have ever read such a comprehensive and demonstrative first post as that for a long long time! Good work and welcome :-D

I see people still bandy about this nonsense "tonewood" term like it has some meaning though. :blink:

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All this is on the backburner at the moment anyway as I've got four guitars mid construction and taking another couple deposits as we speak, so I'll have my hands too full to do gimmick builds.

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