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Crazy Semi-acoustic Idea


Keegan
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So I was thinking of Ebaying a blank Tele body for like $50, routing out chambers like a tele thinline, and then screwing an anodized aluminum or steel top on it. The top would be cut for the neck pocket/pickups/bridge/controls, so it'd basically be like a giant pickguard, with a diamond-shaped f-hole. Since unscrewing the top to get to the controls would be a pain in the ass, there would be an access plate on the back also.

What do you think, would this sound like crap, like I was playing a tin can, or could it actually sound good?

And if the acoustic sound sucked, do you think it could still sound good played only as an electric?

blkTele-2.jpg

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So I was thinking of Ebaying a blank Tele body for like $50, routing out chambers like a tele thinline, and then screwing an anodized aluminum or steel top on it. The top would be cut for the neck pocket/pickups/bridge/controls, so it'd basically be like a giant pickguard, with a diamond-shaped f-hole. Since unscrewing the top to get to the controls would be a pain in the ass, there would be an access plate on the back also.

What do you think, would this sound like crap, like I was playing a tin can, or could it actually sound good?

And if the acoustic sound sucked, do you think it could still sound good played only as an electric?

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I see a lot of topics about acoustic/electric hybrids lately. It would be nice to hear more about the concept behind why or what the designs would do to effect the sound of the instrument. I don't discount the viability or potential for a cool design concept to make changes in the performance that could be really neat. So don't tke my comments as cooling down your ideas :D

So will it sound good or bad electrically, kinda hard to say, but your changing the weight and that is something(might effect the stiffness of the guitar a little also). Will it have a lot of acoustic volume? Very unlikely, you are not creating a system designed to produce acoustic volume.

Some food for thought, or conversation...

I have always tried to wrap my head around these things from a basic concept. What will a modification do to the way the strings vibrate. I think of the strings as having the potential to produce a certain amount of energy when plucked(granted, how hard or soft could certainly modify how the points they are anchored to will operate in the relationship.). If the support structure is rock solid(or very close to it) and very heavy, basically very difficult for the strings to set in motion. The strings will vibrate based on their elastic properties and energy provided to drive them(kindof a low loss, closed system). Certainly there will always be some losses, even a pickups magnetic field will at a minimum provide some drage, but lets assume it minimal. From this starting point you can start to weaken the support structure and bleed off energy to set the structure in motion, after the structure is in motion you will have a second motion that is effecting the vibrtion. Actually, a second is probably very over simplified, as the structure will attempt to move as the strings, but will not be able to because it is not able to move in unison, the modified mirror image will attempt to set the strings in motion in some out of phase motion. If you can image a perfectly out of phase relationship, it would pretty much act to stop the string movement rapidly.

Since setting the structure in motion will cost you more energy than is returned to the system(again somewhat out of phase from the original motion) you would want to carefully consider what your doing with that energy budget. Think of a very heavy but flexable structure such as a big hunk of rubber with the strings attached. You will flex the rubber with relative ease and transfer energy, but the energy return would be slight(very heavy loss in the system).

You get pretty complex when you start to think about balancing how hard it is to set something in motion, how well it will stay in motion and then add the complexity of differing frequencies.

When you take an acoustic instrument, your thinking is all about transfer of string energy to produce sound, and then contend with reactive components to make use of every last bit of energy to keep driving that box. When you think electric, you are not looking to drive the body to produce sound, you read the strings. So the relationship is a very different one.

Some of the charictoristics of an acoustic are not really great for an electric (such as the very high losses of energy, that are what we fight with acoustics). I think some of the rich and complex harmonic content that is developed when we try to make use of every bit of energy in the acoustics boxes system may be something appealing.

So maybe a good plan of atack is to start with something that will be able to move without draining off too much string energy. A basic premis in acoustics, is to use only as much weight as is needed. So that may be a great place to start. If you have a reasonably light support system, that is very rigid you still have very little loss and of course little interaction. So from that point you can start to allow a greater degree of flexability into the system and should get more interaction. You could choose to add flexability to different parts of the system to achive what every results you think are best. A person could do a whole lot of testing with a bolt on guitar, as you can easily change or modify necks and bodies in different combinations. Another thing about starting light and stiff(and backing off to taste) is that you could also add bits of weight to specific parts to test for changes in responce(the headstock for instance).

When you are using energy to introduce new motions, you have to keep in mind it is all about trade offs. It is possible to reinforce some frequencies in an terrible sounding way, or counter act the strings and kill the motion. It is just as easy to create muddy distortions, as it is to create interesting complex distortions.

Just kinda some of my thoughts and theory. Can't say if I think about this stuff correctly, but it is how I have come to think about this stuff.

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There is a guy that is making these kinds of guitars with an aluminium top...I think he rivets them on...but almost exactly that design. I came across it when I was looking into aluminium topped stuff myself...it might have been in my very old abandoned reverse-strat thread...there might even be a link or something back there.

Again...fryovanni has offered some good input, combine by reading other threads in recent times. One thing to add is that if the metal top were 3mm aluminium it would have a significant impact on the sound I expect.

...

I could throw in any number of comments...but reading fry's stuff and my own way of thinking and experiencing things...my first impression was that the acoustic thing is the opposite to what Les Paul was aiming for with his original Log concept...myth was that he wanted to use a railroad track to maximise sustain but it was too heavy!

Something else I often reflect on is that the stratocaster is in many ways a "hollow body" with a plastic top. There is so much routing in a strat...especially with a bathtub route...spring cavity, control, jack, trem routs...and all the electronics suspended by a plastic pickguard. I took such a strat with the sustainer strat guitar and cut a big "soundhole" all the way through the upper bout and routed almost all of the scratchplate area to add switches and hollow it out further on this principle.

Another thought...the body is only a small part of the whole system...the strings suspended from the tuners, the headstock, the neck qualities and the neck joint all have a massive impact on a guitar. You can do some experiments yourself...add a lot of mass to a headstock by putting a big clamp on there (without marring the finish of course), this effect was marketed as the "fathead" by adding a brass plate to the back of headstocks. A fully carbon fibre steinberger was often critisized for a "sterile" tone largely because of the stiffness of the neck and body structure.

What is really at stake is the mix of harmonics within a note and things like natural sustain...in the end, it comes down to experimenting...but it can help to learn a little theory as to what is going on within a strings vibration. Anything will make a guitar sound...the tone equation is all in the subtle interplay of the harmonic mix behind a note.

...

If the interest in these kinds of instruments is to find something new...perhaps someone would like to experiment with this idea (I can't remember who it was who thought of this...but it wasn't me)...inside such a hollow body add a set of "chimes" out of piano wire or some other magnetic material...install a magnetic pickup inside so it can pick up these vibrations...tune the chimes (either cutting to length or perhaps adding adjustable weights as in a fender roades piano (this is exactly how a roades makes it's sound by the way)).

In such a way you would get sympathetic vibrations that would feed back to the body and hold on to notes even after they are played (like putting the pedal down on a piano)...with an electric guitar, you could turn off the internal pickup to turn off the effect...but even then, the vibrating chimes would be canceling and reinforcing notes played in a very complex way...possible an interesting way...possibly not. It would work well I imagine if you used the instrument to play in one key and had "chimes" tuned to a pntatonic scale maybe. If you wnated to get really serious about it...you could devise a physical damper (now this is my brainstorming) to really kill the effect...again just like the felt pads in a piano.

...

Anyway, it did say crazy ideas...thought I'd just throw that out there in the mix.

A lot of these things have come about through the sustainer thread...I know, only the fans really read it...but it is interesting to really observe what is happening when things feedback. That reversing the phase of a sustainer by killing off the fundumental vibration but driving the upper harmonics was a real eye opener...you might have expected an anti-sustainer by running it in reverse. Having tried it on a variety of guitars and pickup systems, always there are some interesting effects. A traditional telecaster for instance, once the predominant frequency is killed, produces a completely different harmonic drive to something built like an LP. Again, reinforcing that the "tone" is in the mix of harmonics behind the fundamental note.

In the end, a lot of it is at best a happy accident with guitar designs. Of course, you could be scientific about it...not a bad idea...but most seem to be approaching this a**-about...the question really should be, I'd like to achieve 'this result'...would hollowing it out achieve this, would an metal top achieve this, etc...instead there are abundance of ideas that at best are motivated by "this looks like a cool idea" (which it does btw) but how would it sound, rather than the other way around...kind of an anti science, but a worthy experiment all the same. Also, so much emphasis is put on the body atm over the whole instrument...so the neck, which plays a very important role, is left behind...gone are the days it would seem that people worried about the fretboard material (maple over rosewood) as a part of the tone equation...even the wood fetish is just that and only proves that a decent guitar can be made out of all kinds of cool looking wood and have a decent shot at a fine electric (even more so if most of the wood is removed from within I would suggest)...

Which brings me around to what I have been pondering lately...if it looks cool and has structural integrity, is it cool? Back when I did my strat I figured, it's a cheap plywood strat, the more plywood I remove, the better it's going to be right...or at least it is unlikely to hurt so lets see what happens. On reflection I am now thinking that once you remove that much material out of a body...the wood of the body may as well be plywood...it may even be structurally better if it were plywood...at the moment I am trying to work out a way of amking plytwood "cool"...what are my chances? :D

pete

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After my current build, I think I'll have to start an "Alternative" guitar build. And with thinline chambers, there'll be all kinds of room to play with different electronic stuff. And if I bolt-on the back control plate, I won't strip all of the screw holes like I've done on my strat =P

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I'm a bit bothered by the 'acoustic' in the title -- this guitar would have nothing to do with an acoustic guitar.

A little picky, maybe, but I think using the proper terms will get you closer to where you want to go with the guitar.

So to me this would become a thinline, which is a fancier name for a chambered guitar.

Godin also makes the Radiator, where the entire top is the pickguard -- I think one of their tops is a sheet of metal as well.

I think that if you're dreaming of this guitar, then it's definitely worthwhile to pursue it. In fact, why not treat the back the same way? It'd be a lot easier to unscrew the back plate, and then you'd have plenty of room to add in all the electronics you want.

This would also open the possibility of fixing the top so that it's not removable. Might b easier to work with that way.

If you're worried about stripping the screws, then I suggest using bushing inserts.

I'd still leave a nice wide center block of wood, that will give you all the tone you need.

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I'm a bit bothered by the 'acoustic' in the title -- this guitar would have nothing to do with an acoustic guitar.

A little picky, maybe, but I think using the proper terms will get you closer to where you want to go with the guitar.

So to me this would become a thinline, which is a fancier name for a chambered guitar.

Godin also makes the Radiator, where the entire top is the pickguard -- I think one of their tops is a sheet of metal as well.

I think that if you're dreaming of this guitar, then it's definitely worthwhile to pursue it. In fact, why not treat the back the same way? It'd be a lot easier to unscrew the back plate, and then you'd have plenty of room to add in all the electronics you want.

This would also open the possibility of fixing the top so that it's not removable. Might b easier to work with that way.

If you're worried about stripping the screws, then I suggest using bushing inserts.

I'd still leave a nice wide center block of wood, that will give you all the tone you need.

Well, the semi is in there because it's only a little bit acoustic, and it would be a little bit acoustic and somewhat louder than a solidbody when played unplugged.

But yes, I guess I meant chambered, but this forum doesn't let you change your topic title.

I thought about the back, but 4-screws on just a control plate in the back would be a lot easier to work on than 20-some screws to take off the whole back. The back could also be aluminum though, and just have an extra plate to get to the controls.

The screws are mainly for decoration, they're meant to be permanent.

Yes, I think I'd use inserts, if I could find some small enough. And countersunk screws so that I wouldn't be scratching myself on the screws all the time.

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Ha - is a guitar semi-acoustic or hollow-body? :D

Would semi-acoustic mean it's an acoustic with electronics requiring some other alteration for potential enhancement?

Just having some word fun - ignore.

Don't forget about Dean's brass/copper body resonators. This could be a good idea as the metal will probably reduce vibrations caused by the body. Assuming the back is done the same way, the middle acts as a cushion.

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Have you seen these?

http://www.gigliottiguitars.com/

they tend to use the word acoustic quite a lot in the sales blurb but personally i dont see it. They are however quite detailed on the construction methods, its a metal plates held in place by the bridge and sealed around the edges with silicone (??). they dont show inside but its obviously a solid centre section making it distinctly thinline!

personally, for that price i would be buying a trussart

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Have you seen these?

http://www.gigliottiguitars.com/

they tend to use the word acoustic quite a lot in the sales blurb but personally i dont see it. They are however quite detailed on the construction methods, its a metal plates held in place by the bridge and sealed around the edges with silicone (??). they dont show inside but its obviously a solid centre section making it distinctly thinline!

personally, for that price i would be buying a trussart

Ha...did you also notice that they don't actually make these guitars! They just buy bodies from USA Custom guitars, probably the necks too. And then they charge four grand for a guitar!

But from what they describe, yeah, they're definitely attempting to mix the acoustic and chambered construction methods. I'm not so certain if a metal top is going to vibrate in the same way as a spruce top though...I find it hard to believe that they'd give true acoustic tone.

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