Solid bodies: Wood density and sound?

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

  1. englishman

    englishman Gretschified

    Apr 5, 2014
    Wood will always defy empirical data. A tree, growing right next to another of the same species and likely the same batch of seed, will not be the same as far as density, grain and weight. Add to that tree growing in totally different places, different water source/light and you can see the problem just among the one species.

    Wood selection for guitars is an art form when it comes to acoustics.

    However for electrics it comes down to: appearance, weight, hardness and cost. Not necessarily in that order.
    G5422T, blueruins, new6659 and 3 others like this.
  2. dlew919

    dlew919 Synchromatic

    Jul 18, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    A 53 Tele is made of pine. A 59 Les Paul is mahogany. One has single coils. One has pafs.

    the Les Paul has a thicker sound.

    but if you put the single coils in the Paul?
    drmilktruck likes this.
  3. DennisC

    DennisC Country Gent

    May 11, 2017
    That's right ... I know ... but that doesn't put experimentation out of it, it just makes the results less reliable, while not totally lacking of reliability, and provokes doing even more to get more into the equation. The properties of wood might be represented by some charactestics like thickness of layers, dependency of properties from direcetion, as wood isn't isotrope, ... and a few more, no matter how they came to be. A piece of wood may be similar, although grown on the other side of the world, with everything and even species being different, just like the trees growing next to each other can be totally different. And, in the end, a solid body is just a block of wood. Acoustic, whatever instrument - totally something else. Of course!

    No cat is like the other. No human is like the other. But any pair of one of each are cousins of 25000000th degree, this relation doesn't change, no matter what. Heavy wood acts like heavy wood, stiff wood like stiff wood, ...

    Ok, one might doubt the exact count of generations, and I admit, it is just an estimation on the cats' side (as I know it you count the side that has more generations only), ... anyway, for a solidbody, the influence of secondary parameters may be negligable enough to just assume a solid piece of material that may even be modeled as isotrope although it isn't.
  4. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    I think it doesn't mean that you can't develop a way to select body wood for tone and/or sustain. It might be difficult to claim 100% repeatability in your results, but you can certainly increase your chances of getting what you're after.

    Here is an interesting statement from Collings. A few things to unpack:

    "Is there a tonal difference between the I-35 and SoCo models?
    We find that there to be only subtle tonal differences between the SoCo Deluxe and I-35 Deluxe models. Both guitars have semi-hollow body construction and use the same low-wind Imperial humbuckers from Jason Lollar. The biggest difference is that the single-cutaway design of the SoCo Deluxe adds mass to the body and also increases the contact area of the neck joint. This seems to give the SoCo Deluxe a slightly more focused sound with greater low end definition (slightly less airiness/overtones compared to the I-35 Deluxe). Again, this is a very subtle tonal difference. Wood selection (flame vs. quilt) and fingerboard material are other factors that play into the overall tonality of the instrument."
    DennisC likes this.
  5. englishman

    englishman Gretschified

    Apr 5, 2014
    Guitar builders have a vested interest in making claims for expensive exotic woods. The higher end it gets, the higher the levels of hyperbole.
    new6659, pmac11 and hcsterg like this.
  6. DennisC

    DennisC Country Gent

    May 11, 2017
    ... but you need a customer willing to believe it. Therefore, not investigating seems in their favor. Or, for that matter - not publishing the outcome.
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  7. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Smokobolte is my favorite exotic wood. Wispy veins of black and grey grain break into flecks of amber and burnt umber. It's smell invoke hints of cherry and tobacco and it produces rich undertones and a wide open sound stage that gives a sense of "being there". Not for the light pocketed guitar player - this wood costs 10x as much as mahogany and has to be gathered by French Foreign Legion soldiers while on duty in Africa.
    Rmccamey and Archtops like this.
  8. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    Theoretically yes but practically may be difficult as each piece of wood is unique, you may need to perform the test and an appropriately large sample size.
  9. hcsterg

    hcsterg Friend of Fred

    Feb 13, 2012
    My pal Fred - an amateur Luthier - built me those two instruments below :

    The Minerva Verde is a SolidBody with a central block made from Maple and the wings made fro Alder :


    The SuperCharger has a solid body made from two pieces of Alder :


    Fred told me that the Maple centerblock of the 1st one should enhance brightness, balanced with the Alder wings for warmth, while the 2nd one, all-Alder, should show a warmer tone, with a slightly subdued brightness.

    Both guitars have the same pickups, electronics, scale and setup, and - while they are not identical, of course - Fred's suppositions about tone tendencies proved to be right in this case.

    But Fred said should, an if we both think that there may be some "coincidence in the Alchemy", in no way the result is conclusive enough for us to draw a generality ! ;)

    blueruins and new6659 like this.
  10. AZBrahma

    AZBrahma Gretschie

    Dec 18, 2020
    As a general rule.....there are no general rules when it comes to guitar.

    That said, my own experiences tell me things. I used to want the lightest guitars I could find. I had a few VERY lightweight Honduras mahogany guitars. They had a softer attack, fewer overtones, less natural sustain, and just lacked some girth. They were set neck guitars.

    I've also had some very light bolt-ons, like my current Tele clone. Featherweight or not, it pops, burps, spanks, and quacks like no other and will generally punch you upside the head like you owe it money. It also has a HUGE maple neck.

    All that to say there are just tons of variations that makes generalizations meaningless. Construction type has as much or more to do with it, than the cuts of wood.

    A good guitar is a good guitar, and a lousy one is a lousy one. That's about as precise as it gets. :D
    DennisC likes this.
  11. doc538

    doc538 Electromatic

    Sep 20, 2017
    Well then pick out a tele with a basswood body, It is extremely light, my strat clone weighs 5.5 lbs. sounds and feels great.
    Rmccamey and blueruins like this.
  12. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    I’d bet the family of the late Bill Collings that a blind test would fail to demonstrate any difference.
    stevo likes this.
  13. Dave Murray

    Dave Murray Gretschie

    Feb 27, 2016
    Indio, CA
    Yeah, right, expensive wood has a better tone and more sustain; the more you pay the better you play, and brand matters too. So always buy expensive signature models (all rock stars know how to design guitars, yeah, right) of the major manufacturers because they have expensive wood and expensive wood equals great tone - yeah, right. And don't forget that the material of the fretboard makes the guitar sound sooo different. Yeah, right. And real mother of pearl inlays sound better than pearloid, and Gibson on the headstock will make any Les Paul sound better, especially the ones that are made with expensive wood. Yeah, right. But we guitar players all know the secret of good tone . . . it's the way you hold your mouth on the high notes. Yeah, right.
  14. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Doesn't wood grade impact tone?
  15. DennisC

    DennisC Country Gent

    May 11, 2017
    Yeah, he said that, totally that ...

    ....... he said ...

    He said:

    Whoo! Whee! Ha-ha!
  16. blueruins

    blueruins Country Gent

    May 28, 2013
    Savannah, GA
    So funny…and yet there are plenty who are utterly convinced that expensive wood sounds better.

    It can sound better.
  17. rockinstephen

    rockinstephen Electromatic

    I could be wrong, but...….My ears can't tell the difference between solid bodied poplar, alder, mahogany, or plywood guitars. I doubt that most people listening can either...
    Rmccamey likes this.
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