Jump to content

How Small Can A Body Be?


dpm99
 Share

Recommended Posts

For my next project, I need to think about some fundamental principles. It's often said that more a bigger body (more wood) doesn't necessarily mean a bigger sound. But there comes a point at which that's not true anymore. For example, a hollow body guitar sounds different than a solid body guitar. I'm wondering how small you can make a body and still have a half-decent solid body sound. For example, if you had a neck through guitar with no wings (like a Chapman Stick), could you effectively play what you've been playing on your electric guitar? Further, and maybe more importantly, where do you think having body mass matters the most? Around the pickups? Around the bridge area?

I realize I'm getting into theory. I'd sure love to hear opinions, even if you're not really sure.

Thanks,

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

finishedfront.jpg

This doesn't sound half-bad. :D

The main problem I found with this one and with my steinberger (wood, not graphite) isn't with the sound, it's with the lack of body. They don't hang where full sized bodies hang when you're standing. They don't sit as high on your leg as full sized bodies sit.

They sound fine. They don't feel the same.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have you ever seen the Stick. "You don't need no stinking body"

http://www.stick.com/

I think it comes down to the strap placement which determines the overall body weight, or how much you can shave off. From what I have gathered if you can get the strap button at the 12th fret on the neck the body weight issue is minimal or minimized. The stick strap goes from the nut or before the first fret as a reference of how this would work. This is also know as neck dive (been there, UGH)

Edited by Woodenspoke
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This doesn't sound half-bad. :D

The main problem I found with this one and with my steinberger (wood, not graphite) isn't with the sound, it's with the lack of body. They don't hang where full sized bodies hang when you're standing. They don't sit as high on your leg as full sized bodies sit.

They sound fine. They don't feel the same.

John, I was hoping you'd see this. I remember that guitar and was thinking about it earlier. Do you hear much of a tonal difference between something like that and a traditional body? If so, how would you describe it?

Have you ever seen the Stick. "You don't need no stinking body"

Yup. I mentioned it in my original post. And you're right about strap placement.

The heavier the wood...the smaller the body required to balance out the neck and give tone...

For what it's worth,bubinga is the heaviest actual tonewood I know about...I have used it...and it sounds excellent with a smaller body...

I'm not really worried about balance for my project, but you guys are right in pointing that out in relation to the topic. I'm thinking more in terms of tone.

Ok, let's take it a step further then. Let's say somebody wants to build this and asks you for advice. It's called "The Broomstick." Maybe they're like....allergic to wood or something. And carbon fiber and aluminum and plastic and whatever else you might suggest. Ok, bad analogy. But you get the idea.

Broomstick.jpg

Now, let's assume you could add a little wood in there. How would you alter the design? Assuming you've got enough reinforcement within the Broomstick to prevent bowing*, and ergonomics is not a factor, where would you add the wood? Or would you?

(By the way, I have no intention of building this. I'm just trying to isolate some design principles. And thanks for your replies.)

*It's made of Nobenda, a newly discovered wood from a remote area of the South American rainforest. Nobenda is tonally similar to Mahogany, but many times stronger.

Edited by dpm99
Link to comment
Share on other sites

John, I was hoping you'd see this. I remember that guitar and was thinking about it earlier. Do you hear much of a tonal difference between something like that and a traditional body? If so, how would you describe it?

NOTE: The Tulip is made from mahogany. From the end of the neck pocket (17th fret) to the end of the body is about 11". The bottom is 7 1/2" wide, and that's just about where the bridge is. I'm not sure about exact weight, but it's less than a brand new spindle of 50 blank disks, and noticeably less than my daughter's mini-strat.

Honestly, I haven't really given it a workout yet. All I've done so far is mess around with the clean channel (no FX) to make sure everything worked right. It's a bit late right now...

Tomorrow when I get home, I can plug it in and judge it side by side with a couple of guitars - your choice. I'd rather compare apples to apples, so let's limit it to guitars that have a HB in the bridge. That narrows it down to the alder strat-like body with Bartolini's or the sapele Avenger with a DiMarzio mega-drive. Whichever you think would most closely resemble the Kramer quad-rail that the Tulip has. If you really want, I can compare all three.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tomorrow when I get home, I can plug it in and judge it side by side with a couple of guitars - your choice. I'd rather compare apples to apples, so let's limit it to guitars that have a HB in the bridge. That narrows it down to the alder strat-like body with Bartolini's or the sapele Avenger with a DiMarzio mega-drive. Whichever you think would most closely resemble the Kramer quad-rail that the Tulip has. If you really want, I can compare all three.

I don't want to put you out. Do you have the quad-rail tapped? I'd think the Avenger would be a closer comparison to that either way, assuming that the quad-rail is passive, which I think it is. I'm not starting construction anytime soon, but I'd be curious to hear your impressions if you find time to compare them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't overlook avenger's point: it won't feel the same.

Actually, it's a question of ergonomics -- and that's going to depend on the way your own body works (and your age).

I find it extremely uncomfortable to play smaller guitars -- they do something to my back when I'm sitting down. Although this is true even with 'normal' guitar shapes, like the tele and strat. But I much prefer playing full-sized semi-hollowbodies, both standing and sitting.

The lack of support for the right arm is a big problem with smaller guitars -- think about how much you use that arm while your playing. Not just the hand, but the entire arm. You're balancing the guitar, keeping it close to your hip, which functions as a pivot. It allows you to keep your shoulders relaxed and your back relatively straight. When you take away that support, you throw everything out of line...not a big deal for five minutes, maybe. But after an hour, two, three...then weeks or months like that...you will develop problems.

A huge issue with smaller guitars, and weird design shapes in general is also where the guitar ends up on your lap -- a poorly designed shape places the guitar in the wrong position for you, making you fight the guitar much of the time you're playing.

The neck balance issue IS a major problem. Because you cannot support the neck and play at the same time for very long. You'll screw up your wrist and your shoulders for one thing.

And even if you're young enough where this issues aren't necessarily going to affect your body, they will affect your playing -- because, consciously or not, you'll put your energy into correcting for the guitar's shortcomings and less into your playing.

Now, of course, this is different for everybody. I gather that John Mayall played his cut-down Squier for years.

The funny thing is, I had to learn all of this the hard way. When I think of the three major builds I've completed since joining the PGF, they were ALL wrong! The Bocaster (cutdown tele) was horrible to play-- neck dived while standing, impossible to balance on your leg while sitting. The Longhorns were a bit better, but still, the curve in the lower bout makes them really uncomfortable to play sittng, since it shifts the guitar forward. And the Rick 350 clone I built was just too small -- too short really, missing about 10 centimeters behind the bridge. This meant that, whether standing or sitting, there was no support for my arm. The whole guitar would shift forward-- and I'd end up with weird cramps on my left side! There's no wonder the pics always show Lennon playing his 335 with the guitar pulled up to his chest (though the short-scale neck helped). It's the only possible way to make the guitar work.

Anyway, this is just meant as food for thought. If Robert Irizarry is around, he'll have lots more to say on this subject!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

well i guess you can strip a guitar down even further like the gittler stuff

49415752_3515a33cc3.jpg

but i am really not sure how that sounds

something truly revolutionary... but still vaguely guitar like is the teuffel birdfish. the wooden tonebars can be changed between alder or maple for different sounds

lots of info on construction and the use of the tonebars here

http://www.teuffel.com/english/guitars/bir...rdfish_main.htm

teu-bfguitar.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You wouldn't be putting me out at all. Like I said, I haven't given them a good workout yet anyway. Besides, it's an excuse to go play for an hour. :D The quad-rail is the basic wiring. It's two series HBs wired together in series in the space of a standard HB. And MAN does it have some power behind it!

I'd LOVE to play with some of those Teuffel guitars. I've had the "advanced engineering" guitar for a long time, so that's not it. I want to hear how they sound in person and how comfortable they are to play.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So...

I don't really like ANYTHING about the way the Tulip felt when I;m playing it. It's neck-heavy, but doesn't divebomb like a bass when you let go. It falls about paralell with the floor, which still means I'm fighting it the whole time I'm playing it. It's placement on my body is OK, but it didn't take but a couple of minutes to get re-adjusted to playing with such a small body. I need to do some re-thinking on the body - make it bigger somehow.

Sound-wise... it didn't have much in the way of highs. That may have been the pickup, the mahogany, or both. The end result is that it isn't that bright. The Avenger wasn't very bright either. Both have similar tonal woods and high output pups. They sounded different, but it wasn't by much. The Avenger was brighter, but not as bright as I'm used to.

Based on what I heard, I don't think the size of the body has all that much to do with the tone of the guitar. It DOES effect the playability greatly.

FWIW: I plugged in the Carvin kit and tested it with the Avenger. The kit is alder with Bartolinis. It was MUCH brighter. Tonally, I like it a lot better than the Avenger. I'm curious how much of that is the pickups and how much of it is the wood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I honestly didn't think there would be an answer to this question, but I think you guys have done it. After reading John's post, I'm convinced that you can make a body just about as small as you want, and while it won't sound the same, there's no reason it won't sound fine. The issue is ergonomics. Incidentally, here are a few products that might fix that neck diving problem.

http://www.sportsauthority.com/product/ind...rentPage=family

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=prod...&lpage=none

Seriously John, thanks for doing that. I'd have expected it to have nothing but highs. I'm guessing the pickup had a lot to do with it, but at least those lows are possible.

Wez is an encyclopedia. The Gittel, for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks for all the good input!

-Dave

Edited by dpm99
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a firebird copy, where the neck didn't dive, but ended up in that parallel to the ground situation you describe Avengers - I used a wide leather strap when playing it - it had enough friction that it kept the instrument from sliding enough that I wasn't constantly trying to to pull it up.

If I was building a small-bodied instrument like that, I'd be tempted to put it on the strap like my old steel string - button at the butt end, and tie the strap around the headstock at the other end.

I'd be tempted to do something like a steel rod that slides into the body when not playing, and slides out when playing, like a radio antenna or something, to position the upper strap button in a more conventional place.

I will say, small bodies are great with fingerstyle bass - I played and Ashbory bass once, the body ends up making a perfect thumb rest. Steinberger broomstick bass ends up working similar, although not quite as well. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate at all to plectrum playing on a guitar

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yesterday watched a program that highlighted the Gibson factory. It was stated in the program that wood variation does have an effect on tone. Why they make the les Paul with maple tops and Mohagany bottoms. I found it very interesting to see how they did. Still very old world in some aspects. With exception of the CNC that can do 24 guitars at once.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For my next project, I need to think about some fundamental principles. It's often said that more a bigger body (more wood) doesn't necessarily mean a bigger sound. But there comes a point at which that's not true anymore. For example, a hollow body guitar sounds different than a solid body guitar. I'm wondering how small you can make a body and still have a half-decent solid body sound. For example, if you had a neck through guitar with no wings (like a Chapman Stick), could you effectively play what you've been playing on your electric guitar? Further, and maybe more importantly, where do you think having body mass matters the most? Around the pickups? Around the bridge area?

I realize I'm getting into theory. I'd sure love to hear opinions, even if you're not really sure.

Thanks,

Dave

I am not following the proposal really or what you are trying to do. The gittler thing was an exercise in minimalism...there was not only no body, but no neck either..the whole thing is like bars across a truss rod. SO, in that way it was more of a philosophical experiment. (I made my own experiment in minimalisim with a compact acoustic once using gitler's philosophies he used on his "other guitar"). This sort of thing looked cool in the post apocalypse film clips and went with their high tech persona, but like is often the case, it's not the guitar used on the recording. Similarly, the early Led Zep is telecaster on record...and no marshal stacks either.

You can make a guitar any size you want, but it is really a lot more about ergonomics. I think I mentioned recently that the '80's studio guys and broadway pit players often played 335's...in part there were some jazz pretensions...but really, they got whatever sound the session required...it was more that a big guitar like this sits in a better playing position sitting down (and didn't look quite so dorky strapped up high) to play the thing...the hollowbody making it lighter. Remember, besides the hollow plywood shape of a 335, it is essentially as you have suggested...a solid block running through the middle of the guitar.

So...what is a "bigger" sound?

You won't get a radically different sound form a radically small body, you can get quite a bit of variation from materials (the smallest body that comes to mind is frank zappas neck on a wha pedal BTW). Pickups, neck join (or not), bridge and the neck itself, play a much bigger role IMHO than the size of the body in comparison with another guitar made of the same body wood.

Anyway...

From a playing perspective, the ergonomics of how it balances and sits in a playing position sitting or standing that works for you is a lot more important. Les Paul's original "Log" was what you described with a hollowbody cut in half and literally bolted on to give shape. Another variation is Yamaha's "silent" guitar...

SLG100SB_tn4.jpg

There have been others in a similar vein over the years too...there was an electric with a chromed tubular hoop in a vaguely guitar shape...but in a large part, it is about ergonomics. The Kline idea that Robert Izzary and others have followed, was an exercise in design to work with the esentials and scrape everything else. In part it comes from the headless thing and is designed accordingly. The main things is the balance and that the right forearm is well supported, and the lower half allows it to sit quite high when seated. The ovation breadwinner was also a cool design back in the day, great upper fret access (24 frets were rare then) but I played one, and the hardware, especially the bridge was bad, and the neck join and long neck made it feel strangely rubbery...but it may well have been quality issues as much as design problems, it was a comfortable guitar to play and not unlike the klien in look.

Anyway...2c + interest adjusted for inflation...

pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not following the proposal really or what you are trying to do.

It goes back to the other thing we were talking about related to your Jazzstrat project. I want to design a hybrid. In my experience, most hybrids work a lot better as electrics than as acoustics. I want to create something that will work well in both roles. I've spent a lot of time thinking through design, and I feel like I'm re-inventing the wheel as I go. Then again, some of that is probably necessary to make an effective hybrid.

I think the best product on the market now is probably the Crowdster Plus from Tom Anderson. I know David Myka has done some work along these lines too. At this point, the general idea is not too dissimilar to the ES335, with the marked distinction of a larger body and a free soundboard. But just running a neck through the middle of an acoustic body won't work, because the bridge needs to be free to vibrate the top. So then I started thinking about an acoustic bridge with no pins, and the strings finally go through a piece of the neck which protrudes through the soundboard, disguised as a tailpiece.

Confused yet? Me too. I'm coming to the realization that the electric guitar is all about string vibration (and pickups, etc.), and the acoustic guitar is very much about string vibration, but also about the sound board vibration (in the case of piezo and most other acoustic pickup devices), which is affected by air movement within the body.

I'd originally thought that by burying a small electric guitar inside an acoustic guitar (if that makes sense), you could have the best of both worlds with no compromise. I'm realizing that's not exactly true. All the same, I think with enough work, I can build a hybrid unlike anything on the market.

So that's why I'm asking so many funny little questions like that.

-Dave

Edited by dpm99
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmmm...well I think you under estimate a lot of factors...peizos pick up vibrations true, but they don't pickup much of the influence of the size of the body volume, sound hole arrangement (or lack of that would cause damping inside or the whole mechanics of the air that an acoustic guitar has.

Intrinsic to the hybrid thing (taylor electrics and parker are some more) is that they are a comprimise and rely heavily on the electronics. Most of the obvious variations have been tried, including what you seem to be working towards...and the amount of "acousticness" in a 335 is minimal really. I think you are far over estimating the bodies influence over factors like electronics.

Speaking of which, John H has done a recent DIY piezo and designed a preamp that fits into a strat with sound clips that sounds very, very good...but he didn't do it by getting fancy with the guitar...it is stuck directly to the metal bridgeblock and wedged to the body wood behind with a rubber pressure plate. More important as the project developed was the eq of the circuit to get a convincing sound...you should check that out.

This only goes to show, how much of it is in the pickups and the electronics with such hybrids and with acoustics that are heard amplified.

Perhaps it is better not to try and reach for things that you think are important over what may really be and to consider a "hybrid" as a different animal completely.

pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Dave...

I kind of thought that maybe I seemed as if I was trying to put you off experimenting...I am hardly one to do that, although the 'best' ideas are only as good as they end up in practice...

...

I actually enjoy the challenge of 'building a better mousetrap' sometimes. This one was something that may be interesting and a variation of the kind of things you were hinting at. It was influenced by gittler's phiosophy on the second minimalist acoustic creation...illustrated below with the commercial version of the original where they found that they needed to add some body to it and other things...never a success, more a work of art in it's original form...as I say there is a strong philosophical basis in the design...

gittler.jpg

Mine I called a low tech guitar. It was a challenge to make as simple and as cheap an instrument I could, compact travel guitar and no conventional guitar components or hardware...

lowtechguitar1.jpg

lowtechguitar2.jpg

The top floats, but there is an internal solid block on which the neck is screwed (from the top) and also holds the tuners at the rear. It is scaled from the 5th fret and they are held by the ball ends in the head with simple holes...the other end, the tuners are allan key bolts that have a hole drilled in them and thread themselves into the wood inside. An allan key fits into a hole for tuning which you can see there.

The guitar was molded around a chipboard form with wetted 3mm MDF...the shape is designed to fit comfortably while in a car and was tested first...it's kind of like a mandolin and sounds a little like one too...or a banjo (MDF is not a tone wodd!). The frets are glued on coathanger wire and the neck has no need of a truss rod and is made from jarrah floorboards (as is the center block)...

The finish...black boot polish...beautiful. So, in reality it was made from scraps in a couple of hours and with the only specific outlay being the 6 molts and allan key. The strings are recycled from my acoustic...as they are strung backwards and shorter, any fret where is towards the bridge or cut off...so even the strings were free!

(it is still around and works in it's own way...the real purpose of the thing is it fits under the seat of the car and I can pull it out and practice chord shapes and scale patterns and stuff quietly...it's not really a performance thing so it doesn't matter too much that it sounds a bit like a banjo!

...

Anyway...as an experiment it was successful in it's own way and has some features in common with your proposal. It is very much in line with the gittler's later essentials philosophy (his one there is ply with fishing line stings and frets and wing nut tuners).

It is always a good idea to do some preliminary experimentation to prove your hypotheses...learning what did and didn't work for others is the key to not finding out the hard way...but proving it to yourself is sometimes necessary!

...

Anyway...I hope that is of some interest and not too off topic...

pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's good advice Pete, and I appreciate it. I suppose we're getting a little off-topic here, but I'm convinced there's gotta be a better way to build a hybrid. I own a Taylor T5. I also have the K4 equalizer. Without that, it's pretty worthless as an acoustic. With the K4, it's passable. I also have a 1999 Taylor 710 CE with the Fishman Onboard Blender. And straight into the sound system (via a cheap, passive direct box), it blows away the T5. That tells me there's gotta be something more than the electronics at work. I'm trying to figure it all out.

I've spent a lot of time listening to all the major hybrids on the market, and tried to compare that against some of the things that have been done with archtops. I've also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what's going on in the world of acoustic pickups. After all that, I really believe the biggest reason that no great hybrids have hit the market is that electric guitar players don't like innovation. They want small, ergonomic bodies. You see this when you read stories about the development of commercial acoustics. It sounds a lot like when someone will come hear with a very original design and make so many changes based on suggestions that it ends up looking like everything else.

I'm certainly open to ideas. I remember you mentioning a piezo on the bridge block before. Do you have anything you could link to that I could read? I'd be interested to hear about that for my current project, which uses a Floyd. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'll also be interested to see what happens with your new project. I think it will hit on a few of the things I've been thinking about.

-D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Dave...sorry not to follow up sooner...

Here is a link to the GN2 $3 piezo project by JohnH...Link...johnH is occasionally here, but mostly over there...he designed the tricasters wiring for hooglebug in lat months GOTM btw. My sig is 4real over there also...just to confuse things!

piezo2.jpg

He devised the circuit and if you follow the thread and the sound clips...you might hear how it developed (unless the earlier ones were taken down) and how devising the filters and the fitting of the piezo. The circuit powers the piezo and an active buffer for mixing the mags in properly.

The silver part against the body is an aussie 20 cent piece, then the piezo, and then a rubber stopper up against the trem block. There have been some great threads here of other approaches. John doesn't use a tremolo...so this works out ok for him and a convenient space for the battery and circuit.

Adapting this kind of thing for a working tremolo can present problems as potentially the piezo will pickup spring squeak when you use the trem...of course if you don't use a trem in acoustic mode, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The other thing that should be noted is that John put a lot of effort into designing a circuit to suit this guitar and set up (the filtering is not adjustable). The first experiments did not sound so good, but he stuck at it with the filtering to get a better response, and jamming the peizo in like thing helped a lot. I think the bulk of the sound is coming from the wood behind the bridge perhaps. Anyway...read the whole thread to see how he got it to this stage.

I think that some of the taylors also have a neck joint piezo...this is something I have experimented with and has some merit...it is not just down to the electronics at all, but it is possible to get an interesting "acoustic like" sound from an electric guitar, even a solid body.

The problem with amplified acoustics with floating tops is that they can have a tendency to feedback especially at volume and have a fair amount of handling noise.

It's more of what you are after...a hybrid implies some compromises. Especially if you are plugging into a single amplifier for both the electric and acoustic modes. However, it may be possible to build an instrument that sounds just right for your music if you avoid it trying to be true to either style...but very good at it's own thing. It may not require anything super fancy or expensive to do that...

...

As for the Jazz strat project...it is still on...but delayed till I get back from my trip and I pull my finger out! I am going back to the original idea transplanting a strat into the jazz box with a 4th single coil in it and the piezo thing. How it will sound is anyones guess. There is a big difference between the way a proper archtop and floating bridge and a flat-top works as an acoustic. A flat-top has a complex flex while an arch has a more bouncing motion that gives it a lot of projection.

Since the archtop in this case is a plywood cheapy, I am not too concerned about that. With a strat bridge on it, it will no longer be floating so it will be interesting how it sounds acoustically...especially with all those pickups and holes in the top...but that's not really what I was looking for (it should make enough of an acoustic sound for quiet practice), it is more of an exercise in a hybrid and oddball mix of sound and looks.

The idea is to have the piezo built into the block of wood that will need to be installed in front of the bridge to the top in order for it to take the strain of the bridge, strings and tremolo. The bracing runs the length of the body and might need to be reinforced a little if the pickups cut into them as well. This is very different to a flat-tops bracing which is designed to flex.

In my case, I have a preamp with 4band eq that I will be using from an electro acoustic and I might need a buffer on the mags as well to provide a good mix with the peizo system. I was thinking of having two jacks, a stereo that would run both systems with a mono lead maybe, and an acoustic only that if used would turn off the acoustic sound from the other jack...that way it could be sent to two amps or separate recording channels, or just plugged into an ordinary guitar amp (which is more likely how it will be used)...

Anyway...that's my project, but we are probably aiming for a similar result...something that has a bit of both electric and acoustic flavours. I don't expect it to compete with a real acoustic though...it's in many ways an experiment...but it seemed like a good idea, so I should get to it...hehehehe

pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...