Solid bodies: Wood density and sound?

Discussion in 'Other Cool Guitars' started by Rmccamey, Jul 17, 2021.

  1. Back in Black

    Back in Black Country Gent

    Jun 22, 2020
    Ontario Canada

    I think he's saying that if Joe Public, was walking down Any Street USA, on garbage day, found a discarded slab of MDF board, used it for a guitar body, and absolutely loved the tone, that would be the magic formula.

    We have to remember, talent, and personal preference have to be factored in, because without these two components, wood type/density/no density means nothing.

    If you have a high end Martin and can't play, it will sound terrible against a department store guitar, being played by a player who can ''rock the house''.

    Of all my guitars, I never bought one, because of the ''material'' it was made from. None sound the same!

    Remember Mrs.'s Gump's famous quote...''We're all different"

    ''That Great Gretsch Sound''...Just exactly what is it? I own four Jets, all short grain, dense Mahogany, two professional models...and two of those others...they all sound different, and two of them have all the same hardware and PU's. The other two have the same hardware, and slightly different versions of the same PU.

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  2. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    On solid guitars, my opinion is that dense wood is often more resonant. My "keepers" all have turned out to be quite heavy and resonant. But I also think there are many exceptions.
    It comes down to a guitar being the sum of ALL it's parts.
    I also think the louder you play, the less it matters.
    You can play a plexiglass guitar in front of a Marshall stack in a stadium just fine.
    Jazz night at the local coffee shop is much different.

    Here's an exception of dense wood being toneless: I loved the feel of the Gibson L6S guitars. Over the years I had 3 trying to get tone I wanted. These guitars are solid maple and bright ugly tone. I tried probably at least a dozen pickups, most all types from SC to various HB's. Nothing changed substantially.

    For this reason buying guitars on line is a turkey shoot for sure. Two identical models can be entirely different. You know a great guitar within 5 minutes of playing it in person.... unplugged.
  3. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    I've posted this book before. Mitch Gallagher from Sweetwater tries to cover all factors that might influence guitar sound and rates them .


    Here he discusses tone woods with the Tone King

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  4. hcsterg

    hcsterg Friend of Fred

    Feb 13, 2012
    Maybe the solid Maple used on these L6S was very dense, so that density reported the resonance in the highs - it would be logical, incidentally. o_O

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  5. sgarnett

    sgarnett Synchromatic

    Apr 14, 2020
    I think the fundamental fallacy is what I call “looking for your keys under the streetlight.”

    We want to find a simple number that is a measure of goodness. We could have stopped our keys anywhere along the dark street, but we really want them to be under the streetlight. We want there to be a single number such as density that encompasses all we need to know.

    Our dropped keys don’t care what we want.
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  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Electromatic

    May 16, 2017
    Near Detroit

    Remember that this guy wanted better tone through a solid body guitar since one that resonated caused him all kinds of fits trying to play with bands and orchestras. It took Leo Fender's Telecaster sales to finally convince Gibson to get Les back in with that log of his. The wings are solid too and are just there to convince the Gibson leaders at the time that he had an actual guitar. The wings came off and the guitar still played.


    This is one of the other things he built, trying to get resonance and feedback out of the guitar so he could get actual good tone. The Cleveland Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame has this one or another he built in a case there.


    When someone has a bad sounding guitar .... are they posting that they found boutique wood to swap into their guitar? No, they post about the boutique pickups, carefully selecting Pots and Caps, or even telling how they carefully adjusted the pickup heights.

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  7. GlenP

    GlenP Country Gent

    Jul 23, 2019
    When I practice unplugged, I notice my mahogany solid Tele body does have a decent acoustic volume for quiet room practice alone, and it has a decent natural sustain. But it is a heavy beast. I think it would be somewhat similar to like an SG in terms of unplugged vol and sustain, maybe? The pickups essentially only sense the string vibration, so the extra natural acoustic sustain of the strings might be a good thing?
  8. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    If density is all it takes to get a great guitar tone, I venture this one would be the best sounding guitar ever.

    Screen Shot 2021-07-18 at 3.23.56 PM.png

    FF to ~ 2:48 to hear the tone

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  9. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
  10. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Country Gent

    Feb 17, 2020
    I just realized that I am in a position to test some of the theories about tonewood.

    I've collected four G&L Tribute guitars that have an assortment of woods in their bodies.
    One is a Legacy (S-type) with solid Mahogany body. I also own a comparable MIM Strat with Alder body (and Maple veneer) and it would be fun to switch the pickguard (with electrics) from the Fender to the other and compare the sound.
    9 G&L Tribute Legacy Irish Ale.jpg
    Then I have three ASAT T-types, a Special with Mahogany body, a Classic with solid Ash and a Bluesboy made of Basswood. If I can set up a pickguard (with neck pickup) that will work on all three it would be fun to compare them.
    6 G&L ASAT Tribute Special Irish Ale.jpg
    15 G&L ASAT Tribute Ash.jpg
    16 G&L ASAT Bluesboy.jpg
    Obviously it will take a lot of time to get all this to work. I may have to buy a spare Strat pickguard that I can modify to fit both guitars. The Classic ASAT PG will likely fit all three but it makes sense to attach volume and tone pots (and output jack) so the electrics stay with the pickup.
    Also two have Rosewood fingerboards while the others are Maple but I don't know if that will make much of a difference.
    I'm already wondering if I can get some kind of contact mic that might show some differences in the woods when strummed unplugged.

    It will be fun. I can record each in my computer to A/B compare them.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2021
  11. pmac11

    pmac11 Country Gent

    Mar 4, 2018
    Toronto, Ontario
    The Fender was a single light colour. That was probably the difference. ;-)
  12. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Country Gent

    Feb 17, 2020
    OK wow this just got more complicated. I also own two Squier Teles, a Standard model (discontinued in 2019) and a Contemporary HH. I just checked and the Standard has an Agathis body while the Contemporary is made of Poplar. Who would have guessed that all 5 of my T-types are made of different woods?
    7 Squier Standard Telecaster  Antique Burst.jpg
    2 Squier Contemporary HH Dark Metallic Red.jpg
  13. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey Gretschie

    Aug 28, 2020
    Regardless of the results, it would be a very interesting exercise! I'd enjoy following your project.

    Last edited: Jul 18, 2021
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  14. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey Gretschie

    Aug 28, 2020
    ...and I guess it would be worth asking; does someone have a handy list of typical guitar woods by density?
  15. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Country Gent

    Feb 17, 2020
    As usual, when I get an idea I think on it for a while (refer to my two posts above). Got some new ideas.

    For the two S-types I will need to stabilize and equalize the trems so they respond as a hardtail with good body contact. I would eliminate these from the test except the MIM Strat is the only body made of Alder.

    For both styles I am thinking of making a pickguard of sheet aluminum or brass that will mount securely to the bodies. I will use only one pickup, an MFD from the G&L ASAT Special as those are more full-range than any of the others, with response both lower and higher. Great pickups, may be the best sounding single-coils there are.
    I will ensure that pickup height to the strings matches on all the guitars.

    I know nothing about them today but I want to find a contact pickup (or mic) that will attach to the body and show how it is vibrating compared to the output from the MFD pickup.

    I realized I don't need volume or tone pots and it will be better to eliminate them entirely, so just the one pickup and an output jack for the cleanest, purest response with nothing modified.
    I will remove the bridge pickups so their magnets don't affect the strings.
    The bridge on the ASAT Special is Leo Fender's last (and best) design and has a section that fits down into a channel routed into the body for better contact with the wood and increased vibration transfer and sustain. I'll get to compare it with the flat plate Tele bridges.

    I will remove the control plates from the T-types just because they aren't needed and want to eliminate any possible influence. I'll be testing just a body with a bridge and neck and one pickup.

    I collected all of these guitars as new last year and they were made between 2018 and 2020. No vintage wood.
    All these bodies have some sort of poly finish so that is somewhat consistent.
    I will weigh each body and measure the thickness.

    Finally, I didn't want the project to get this big or complicated but it makes sense to try all the necks and find the one that fits snugly in all 7 bodies. At least that is a worthy goal, we'll see how they fit.

    Another thing of importance is that all of my guitars are lively and vibrant when strummed, I am happy with all of these, no matter which wood they all ring and come alive in my arms. I suspect that whatever differences I find will be small.

    Finally, I think that this whole project would made a good video but I have no experience in that area.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
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  16. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    In a dilemma between two truths, choose the one that is better for your back. :D
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  17. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey Gretschie

    Aug 28, 2020

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  18. hcsterg

    hcsterg Friend of Fred

    Feb 13, 2012
    Speaking about Tele body wood, I find my Pine Wood Squier CV50 Tele more resonant, compared to my 2010 MIM Fender Std Tele - IIRC, since I do not have that Mex on hand today... o_O



  19. DennisC

    DennisC Country Gent

    May 11, 2017
    ... couldn't one, like, conduct an experiment to identify the relevant parameters and their effects?

    I found that, in cases where things weren't clear, this has helped. There's no thing like opinions about the efficiency of any machinery - it is subject to measurement, if it is an important quality, anyway, and beforehand, simulations and all that allow an estimate that, ...

    ... anyway...

    Opinions often just resemble plausible theories, but being plausible doesn't mean being relevant or dominant, but the theory being this or not being subject to an interesting question.

    There are no seperate physics, biologies, chemistries, there is only one reality we all get to share. Finding out stuff about it is, essentially, what drives civilization and qualifies as the one and only distinction between humans and other animals that isn't made up to pamper ourselves in our so-called greatness.

    So ... as there is a lot of money made, either spent well or wasted, in nice wood that has certain qualities, we as customers have every right to ask for evidence for every claim that is made. What is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence, said one of the Greats, and this applies here (this is not limited to guitars ... actually, not limited at all).

    ... and, after all, nice wood being nice and the careful processing and building costing a ton of money anyway, buying stuff made from nice materials just because they are nice is totally enough IMO. I don't need to think that an ancient PIO capacitor from a soviet shelf that was produced in Stalin's lifetime would do any change to my sound to consider it cool having one of these employed in an instrument I love to play. I built an oxycodone pill into my Tele to make sure she always is higher than I am.
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  20. englishman

    englishman Gretschified

    Apr 5, 2014
    I have made around 5 or 6 Teles with paulownia bodies. Every one of them has been 'lively' with good sustain (for a Tele) and with 'vintage' style tuners have had decent balance. I've done a lot of lightweight guitars for players with bad backs or disabilities. Some just want one they can throw around .

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