Tone wood on hollows and semi hollows.

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by dlew919, Oct 1, 2021.

  1. Glaw

    Glaw Gretschie

    260
    Aug 30, 2017
    ca.
    I’ve noticed that the semi hollow body guitars I’m interested in plus the four I have are all maple. Why maple if it doesn’t even matter, is it just for looks. Maple does look good but so do other woods.
     
  2. englishman

    englishman Gretschified

    Age:
    64
    Apr 5, 2014
    Detroit
    Maple is plentiful, pretty and strong. Grows well in North America.
     
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  3. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck I Bleed Orange

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Mitch Hedberg said just by looking at a car’s headlights at night he could tell which direction it was coming from. :D
     
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  4. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    I’ll chime in, FWIW. I would agree that everything contributes. But that is not to say that everything contributed to a noticeable degree. On an electric guitar, the pickups play a huge role in what comes out of the speaker, but that’s not to say that the wood, the design of the guitar, etc. don’t contribute. Les Paul experimented with guitar designs and came to the point of making a guitar out of a steel rail. It sounded good, but was impractical.

    The strings vibrate in the magnetic field of the pickups and induce a trickle of current which is amplified into the sound we hear from the speaker, but the characteristics of the guitar have their effect upon sustain and the balance of overtones.

    Maple is a great tone wood, with a bright response. Mahogany is a bit warmer and seems to have a very balanced harmonic spectrum. Spruce makes for a great carved top and has been a staple of high end archtops for decades.

    Among my thin archtops, are a variety of designs. Two are trestle-braced archtops with laminate bodies and tops. One has parallel bracing with a sound post, one has parallel bracing with no sound post and my Guild has a carved spruce top, maple back and rims, with a maple neck.

    I won’t belabor the description of the Gretsch guitars I own, beyond saying that they sound like one would expect a Gretsch to sound and the two that sound most alike have different pickups, but both have trestle bracing.

    The Guild is surprising. It has a 2” deep body, but it has a very rich acoustic sound and is surprisingly loud. Electrically, it could all but pass for a Gretsch, being slightly less crisp in its response, but the Guild mini humbuckers strike me as having a very rich harmonic spectrum.

    Beyond that, as David pointed out, woods vary. Not all spruce will have the same grain or denstory. Likewise for other woods as well. Just as all humans have anatomical variations, and even siblings can be quite different from one another, trees have different growing conditions and spruce from one time and place might bear little resemblance to spruce from a different time and place.

    The spruce top of my Godin classical is tightly and evenly grained; as beautiful a piece of spruce as I’ve ever seen. The Spruce top on my Guild has even grain, but it’s not as tightly-grained as the Godin. Most likely, it was from an area where trees grew faster. It’s incredibly resonant and musical sounding.

    Neck materials play a role, too. Maple necks tend to sounder crisper than mahogany necks.

    There are any number of variables at play. No one, single variable will tell the whole story.
     
  5. Rusty Chops

    Rusty Chops Electromatic

    33
    Sep 8, 2021
    Redding, CA
    I always wanted to put foam rubber under a bridge, or rubber o-rings under a tune-o-matic to absorb some frequencies.
    To me it’s all about what frequencies get absorbed or reflected.
    Why pay all that money for an L5, when maybe a Harmony with some felt under the bridge might get the sound.
     
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  6. Winnie Thomas

    Winnie Thomas Synchromatic

    512
    Jun 13, 2011
    Cochise AZ
    A fellow I play with who is a :"Hillbilly Jazz Player" claims that the reason an ES175 (which he owns) sounds different from some other Gibson archtops he has is due to the laminated top versus the solid tops on other Archtops.
     
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  7. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Back when I had a web site, I had a page entitled “A Solid Case for Laminate Woods”, which went into this in depth. For as many years as I have been playing guitar, I’ve heard how “they don’t make them like they used to” and as a young man, I was burdened with the belief that I had missed out on a wonderful time when amazing guitars, made of solid woods, were abundant. In reality, such guitars were not that common.

    In the ‘30s and ‘40s, the big bands had rhythm guitarists and many of those were large, resonant, archtops with solid tops. For rhythm playing, such a “rhythm cannon” was the perfect tool. When electric guitars started to become more common, pickups, such as the DeArmond were added, but such guitars were not exactly fun to play, because of feedback.

    When I was just getting started, I obtained a Gibson Johnny Smith Model, which was a 17” guitar with a solid spruce top and a suspended pickup. While it sounded good, the tendency to feedback made it very difficult to play in a gig situation. About a year after the Smith, I bought a Les Paul, and taking that out on a gig was a revelation, because I could center my attention on playing, instead of fighting feedback.

    When the ES 175 came out in 1949, it was an innovation, because the laminate top made it much better suited to amplified playing. The sound was also different, because these guitars were less acoustically resonant, than its solid-topped forebears. It was a major step forward from the ES-150 of the prewar years and shaped the development of archtops from that point forward.

    That became the classic Jazz Guitar sound of the postwar era. In the context of the rhythm cannons, the ES 175 didn’t seem impressive, but times had changed and the need for large, acoustically resonant archtops, had passed. As Jazz guitar developed in the postwar years, laminate topped guitars continued to gain market share. The ES 350 was basically a 17” version of the ES-175, but with a Venetian cutaway, and it made its mark as well, but the 175 was the market leader.

    The influence of the 175 spread to other manufacturers, as well. The Gretsch 6120, IMHO, was a development along the same lines as the 175, and brought a new direction which helped in the development of Rockabilly and Country. Even the vaunted D’Angelico made laminate guitars and his successor, D’Aquisto, made the “Jazz Line”, which was essentially a direct descendant of the ES-175.

    Back in the ‘70s, Joe Pass did a clinic for the store where I taught, and he needed someone to drive him back to his hotel. He tossed his guitar into the back seat of my car, like it was a sack of laundry, and I blanched to think of a D’Aquisto being jarred like that. Apparently that showed on my face and Pass volunteered that this was a robust laminate guitar, not a delicate carved top instrument.

    I know that my thinking has changed dramatically, with regard to archtops. I used to crave an acoustically resonant archtop as the path to a great sound, but the sound of electric Jazz guitar is not always based upon an acoustic archtop sound. I’ve heard great Jazz guitar sounds coming from 175s, and even ES 335s, which are hardly acoustically resonant.
     
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