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Alder Vs Ash For Strat

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this is a great forum, ive been reading around a lot.  my first guitar will be a strat.  i know i can buy one cheap, but id really like to learn about building and i love strats.

so starting from the basics, what are the tonal differences between alder and ash?


Well, alder's a pretty light wood that's not terribly hard and is pretty tonally balanced (although I've heard people complain of it being "middy," and, to a limited extent, I'd agree with them). IN GENERAL Ash is a bit harder and heavier, and so has a brighter sound and more sustain. There are two kinds (well, they're the same species, but they can be pretty different), Northern or Hard Ash and Swamp Ash. As I said, they're the same species, but trees that grow in very, very wet areas tend to have considerably less dense wood - hence the distinction. A heavy hard ash body often sounds shrill, trebly, and bright, while a light hard ash body or a swamp ash body (the line's pretty blurry, really) will have a nice balance between clarity, warmth, and sustain.

I have an actually Fender Strat that's made from a very light piece of northern ash (it'd be standard/heavy for swamp ash) that sounds fantastic, and if I were going to make a traditional strat myself (i.e. either ash or alder), ash is what I'd use. Ash was used a lot in the 50's and is used currently on Fender guitars with clear finishes as it has a more distinct and attractive grain. That said, a lot more strats have been made over the years with alder than with ash.

You should be able to find a lot in the forum if you search for "tonewoods" or ash and alder, and you can also find information on www.warmoth.com by looking in their guitar bodies section and then clicking the wood information button on the right side of the page.

If you decide on an ash body, most people will probably tell you to find the lightest piece of ash you can get your hands on, although I'm sure there are plenty of people who want the brightness of a big heavy piece.

Edited by jnewman
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I have both Ash and Alder guitars in my collection.  Ash can be really different from board to board, it's really inconsistent.  Alder, on the other hand, is easier to cut and work and the tone is really consistent.

For just getting started, I would suggest starting with Alder.

Yeah, you're right... when ash is good, it's pretty good - and when it's bad it can be awful :D. It never hurts to start simple, I'm just not very good at it.

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