Jump to content

Maple/ebony Neck, Which Body Tonewood(s)?


Dave I
 Share

Recommended Posts

So I'm trying something new (to me). I'm planning a 25.5" (Fender-scale) set-neck. For aesthetics (largely, plus smoother feel w/ an oil finish) I'm planning on a flamed-Maple neck w/ laminate stripes, done in a thick-neck (because I've grown to like the feel of thicker necks and a bit in hopes it might get a thicker tone than a thinner neck). I'm also thinking of an Ebony board because of the looks and feel.

What I'm not sure of is what body woods to use. I'd like to use a nice curly Maple top. However, I'm not sure what would match with that for the body-back. I would like to do something with a thick body like a LP, just for the mass, and tonally would like something that will be full sounding and a bit silky/smooth with nice low-end and just "big" sounding notes, not entirely unlike a LP or a fatter/warmer Tele in a weird way, however I'm looking for something with a bit less slur, a bit "livelier", and a bit more chime, articulation, "cut" (for leads & melodies), and clarity than my LP-style (or more of a syrupy sounding Tele than a twangy one). I know I can control a lot of that with pickup design and amp settings, and in fact the neck pickup I'm planning in particular (Vintage Vibe Charlie Christian-style CC-Rider) will probably benefit from the snappier woods & longer scale as it's a very fat/bassy pickup, and I can get a warmer humbucker for the bridge.

As for my possibilities . . .

Mahogany seems the most natural fit, however I've read that Maple necks & Mahogany bodies do not always sound great together (although there are some Ibanez RG's and Satriani's S-series with Mahogany bodies on their Maple-laminate Wizard necks so it HAS been done). Plus, I'm wondering if something else might gel better in creating a thicker/warmer sound while still having a bit better note articulation.

Koa & Limba could work, although they seem more like Mahogany-substitutes. Which is not bad, just sort of stating the obvious. I'm not sure how well either would or would not mesh with Maple & Ebony to be honest.

Swamp Ash is intriguing to me. I've got an Ash Strat-copy w/ Maple neck and really like it. This would be a double-cut Fender-scale, so not entirely dissimilar from a Strat (with the Ebony it'd be closer to a Strat Ultra, I suppose), and is warmer and more pleasant sounding than I would have thought before getting a Strat. Alder gets used a lot as well, I just tend to get the impression that Swamp Ash tend to sound a bit more "special" for some reason. That said, I'm open to being wrong and I have read Suhr had recommended Alder w/ Maple caps, as well as Basswood with Maple caps, and had good success with that combo.

Basswood . . . Never owned a Basswood guitar. This is another one where people either hate it (for everything except high-gain), or love it. The dingability factor is a bit of an issue, and it's not the prettiest wood to look at (although that would only be the back). Still, I'd consider it and I suppose I could always use it as the "center" and put something else on the back so it was a Basswood Sandwich guitar. Just thinking aloud.

Other . . . There are probably dozens of choices that might work great. I'm definitely open to other options.

So, any suggestions for the body wood?

-Cheers

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My two off-the-cuff recommendations would be walnut (works wonderfully with maple both visually and tonally) or (chambered) bubinga. Both will add more high end than mahogany, and bubinga would be quite bright. Walnut has a very smooth tone to it if you ask me, but not quite as warm as mahogany (also means less tendency to get muddy). Of course, the differences in wood choices can be rather subtle, so I'm sure some people would say don't bother. I would, however, stay away from basswood. I just don't particularly like the stuff. I built one guitar with it and will likely never do it again, poplar is much better in just about everything except weight in my opinion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would think the ultimate solution would be Indian Rosewood. That being said, I wouldn't do it. It's expensive, and getting more rare. Limba sounds a lot like what you're looking for, but none of the choices you mention are bad. I say you use what's available, and adjust your sound with EQ.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My suggestion would be mahogany or limba. I've done mahogany with a maple neck and love the tone. However, it will not be a Les Paul tone. Your going for what at least sounds like a Les Paul tone with more highs and a bit more snap. So your taking essentially a Les Paul body and adding a brighter wood for the neck, a brighter wood for the fretboard, and a longer scale length which will result in a snappier tone. It might get you exactly where you want, or it might turn out brighter than you want.

I personally love walnut, but have found it to be a bright tone, but different than maple. I always say that it is bright but less harsh and less piercing than maple. A walnut body with all of that maple though will not get you close to a Les Paul type tone.

If it were my build I would go with mahognay or limba and adjust the final tone with pickups and electronics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So your taking essentially a Les Paul body and adding a brighter wood for the neck, a brighter wood for the fretboard, and a longer scale length which will result in a snappier tone. It might get you exactly where you want, or it might turn out brighter than you want.

Good point. It's going to be a double-cut to boot. Yeah, I guess I am hoping for a chimier/livelier/less-muddy(?) tone than a LP (or alternately warmer/fatter/thicker/rounder-chime-than-a-Tele-or-Strat tone) but with the playability of the bigger scale and double-cut design, not to mention the looks of the aforementioned hardwoods . But yeah, it could end up being brighter a/o just different than I want. That said, I do have a standard LP-design guitar that I really like and it's not going anywhere so it's not like I'm particularly lacking for that particular tone.

I personally love walnut, but have found it to be a bright tone, but different than maple. I always say that it is bright but less harsh and less piercing than maple. A walnut body with all of that maple though will not get you close to a Les Paul type tone.

True. I guess I'm more or less looking for a good tone with nice highs & lows and thicker/rounder sounding peaks on the EQ (as opposed to overly sharp/shrill, hence my use of flowery terms like "silky", "syrupy", "creamy", etc. which in real terms probably mean very little). That's where the Les Paul-type tone comes into play. That said, I want a bit more of a focused sound of the notes and a bit more chime (daresay a bit more Fender-y) than a typical LP (or at least MY Les Paul-style) and I really like the acoustic sound of my Strat-copy so perhaps I'm fine with it being less LP-like than it sounds (although I do like the warmer/thicker/rounder sounds to at least be there) and just using the EQ to shape how things end up post-amplification.

-Cheers

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It depends on what you are using for electronics as well. The thing with Ebony though is that it's so dense it actually begins to dampen the sound. A lot of people will say the opposite because it's associated with high end instruments but the reason it's associated with high end instruments is because of violins which is basically a sin to build a viollin without an Ebony board. That being said that is what happens with an acoustic mainly, I'm not sure on electrics but I do know that the sustain would be affected with an ebony board. I would go with an Indian Rosewood fingerboard personally (Brazillian would be the ultimate wood for what you are going for, at least for fretboards but it is extremely hard to get now).

For the body I love the way Black Walnut sounds with a Maple neck. Claro Walnut is not quite as dense as Black Walnut and in my opinion doesn't look as good so that is something to think about. The grain and the pores of Black walnut also pop when an oil finish is on them. I have used Watco Danish oil, Mineral Spirits, and Linseed Oil and loved the results. Otherwise you could look into Coccobolo. That wood has a real clear, punchy, and well rounded tone to me and looks great as well. The downside to Coccobolo is it's heavy so you would want to look into chambering it somehow unless you want to have a guitar like a solid Les Paul :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It depends on what you are using for electronics as well. The thing with Ebony though is that it's so dense it actually begins to dampen the sound. A lot of people will say the opposite because it's associated with high end instruments but the reason it's associated with high end instruments is because of violins which is basically a sin to build a viollin without an Ebony board. That being said that is what happens with an acoustic mainly, I'm not sure on electrics but I do know that the sustain would be affected with an ebony board.

Really? Seriously? o_O

I vote for a 50/50 mix of epoxy and over ripe banana...should get you right where you want to be...

CA might be better mixed with a banana

You two are bad. The guy comes and asks an honest voodoo question and you guys go all Monty Python on him. :D

@Dave I

Good luck, all this voodoo talk ends in very general approximations.

A good general theory <and I mean general as this is all voodoo> I tend to follow is the harder the wood the brighter the tone.

That said if you ask 5 luthiers about the same piece of wood you would get 5 different answers.

I say build more than one so you can be surprised by the differences in each!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A good general theory <and I mean general as this is all voodoo> I tend to follow is the harder the wood the brighter the tone.

Wrong again, RAD. All the best luthiers know that the rarer a wood is, and the further away it comes from, the BETTER the tone. :D

You are SOOOOO right. The RARER and more likely to be investigated by the FBI the wood is the GOODER it is.

Now I am being silly...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Really? Seriously? o_O

Yes seriously. I knew someone would go against that.

You are allowed to believe what you want I was trying to imply my experiences are different.

As you all know I am not a proponent of __voodoo__ <though I use voodoo...muhahahhhahhhaaaa>. I keep my voodoo to myself. Except when I make little dolls of Kip Winger and stab them with.... never mind.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I vote for a 50/50 mix of epoxy and over ripe banana...should get you right where you want to be...

I think that the neck would be too slick (presuming you peel it?). Plus, seems like the action might be kinda mushy. I also think something with more fiber & protein would be better, although "ripe banana" probably has that nice relic'd look right out of the box.

Somebody needs a kicking for using the word tonewood. It's meaningless and it's bad for ya. Use GOOD wood. Everything else is just bad wood. :D

Maybe. Force of habit. And why not use EVIL wood while we're at it? Not every guitar has to be GOOD. You need the Yang to the Yin.

True maybe a resin would be best it hardens chemically plus has the right tonal properties for banana.

Yeah, but rubber cement would capture the element of childhood. Totally cool for capturing Mojo. I think.

-Cheers

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You two are bad. The guy comes and asks an honest voodoo question and you guys go all Monty Python on him. :D

@Dave I

Good luck, all this voodoo talk ends in very general approximations.

A good general theory <and I mean general as this is all voodoo> I tend to follow is the harder the wood the brighter the tone.

That said if you ask 5 luthiers about the same piece of wood you would get 5 different answers.

I say build more than one so you can be surprised by the differences in each!

Sure. I'm really just looking for approximations at this point. I know I could probably throw together anything and it might come out one way or the other. Still, some combos seem to have a history of being more successful in general than others. So sure, I know that with electronics & EQ I can account for a lot of stuff, but voodoo or otherwise it gives me a place to start.

It also apparently gives an excuse for puns. :D

-Cheers

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You two are bad. The guy comes and asks an honest voodoo question and you guys go all Monty Python on him. :D

@Dave I

Good luck, all this voodoo talk ends in very general approximations.

A good general theory <and I mean general as this is all voodoo> I tend to follow is the harder the wood the brighter the tone.

That said if you ask 5 luthiers about the same piece of wood you would get 5 different answers.

I say build more than one so you can be surprised by the differences in each!

Sure. I'm really just looking for approximations at this point. I know I could probably throw together anything and it might come out one way or the other. Still, some combos seem to have a history of being more successful in general than others. So sure, I know that with electronics & EQ I can account for a lot of stuff, but voodoo or otherwise it gives me a place to start.

It also apparently gives an excuse for puns. :D

-Cheers

the S906_1 build turned out to be a real screamer with a really nice balanced tone... that is Sapele w/Western flamed spalt maple top. That said the spalt ended up being almost all CA in the middle.

You can use a Western maple cap with Sapele with the maple/ebony and it should come out nice. For me Limba has been in between Sapele and African Mahogany.

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...