Friday, May 20, 2011

What wood for my guitar?

I think you'll get responses that are going to be all over the map. There are extremes where the wood choice really matters based on the guitar construction as well as the pickups and bridge... strings.... I think if the pickups are on the sensitive side and the mid-range of the pickups is not too overpowering - assuming the setup is not a problem: Then woods matter more IMO on a Tele.

Most of the wood choice would generally have to be for looks, but (assuming that the woods are straight grained and clear) Mahogany is going to give a little less attack, so the decay of the notes is a little more noticeable IMO and more low-mid response with softer high end; and spruce will give you a lot more attack and have a really flat response (a little sharper high end and a fairly deep sounding lowend - kind of a 'scooped' tone with pickups that have a flat response) IMO having made/played Teles made out of similar softwoods.

Assuming the body is going to weigh between 4.5 lbs and 6.5 lbs, the way I see the tonal spectrum of woods used as a body Rosewood-like woods (perhaps with some chambering) would have more of a bass, or low-mid, tone and dense-ash or Maple would have more of a high-end, or upper-mid response - there are middle of the road woods like Alder or Yellow Poplar and medium-weight Ash that would be somewhere in the middle and there would be little difference in their tone, but it really depends on the guitar and the pickups used. The weight of the body matters for some woods like Ash - light ash (around 3 lbs for a body) will sound different than heavier ash (above 6 lbs) if the pickups are more of a vintage tone - that is not mid-heavy and fairly sensitive. Most pickups that people seem to put on DIY guitars these days seem to be overwound or have stronger magnets in them when compared to more vintage like pickups, thus with those pickups the wood that is used in the guitar would have little to do with the resulting tone that comes out of the amp. A lot of people also plug into multi-effects boxes - which seem to add compression and EQ no matter what is selected: Using one of those, the dominate tone is going to be the multi-effects box. No matter what, the amp is going to have a major contribution to the tone too. So it all has to work together if you want to hear the tone differences in woods as what comes out of the speaker and flooding a room - then coming back to your ears.

It all depends on what kind of sound you are looking for. As long as you choose a wood that is not too far out on the tonal spectrum as Rosewood or Maple would be - then I would choose a wood for looks and weight: Keeping in mind that all woods do something to the tone if the right pickups/effects/amp allow you to hear it.

ALSO! I'll go on record and say that IMHO your pickups, amp and playing style are going to have more measurable effect on tone than body and neck woods. If it were me, I'd be considering what looks nice and preferably, what weighs less. And besides all of my customs guitar are freaking awesome! ;)


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