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It appears wood has little to no effect on tone.


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13 hours ago, stewblack said:

How there can be any debate after this video beggars belief.

Don't forget the cardboard Stratocaster from a few years back, folks at Fender went on record saying "sounds like a Strat"

 

 

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12 hours ago, xgsjx said:

But does what type of wood it is have anything to do with it?  On the piano, I think the different densities of wood would make a difference, as it’s basically it’s own cabinet. Just like I’d expect different sounds from a speaker cab if you made one out of a hard wood & another out of a softer wood. 
But for the bass, I’d like to see what happens if you take your hardware & neck from one of the basses & put it on a bit of 2x4. See how it compares. 

The video originally went through a progression of substitute bodies:

Proper guitar kitset body.

Piece of 4x2.

Air body.

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I’ve always been skeptical about the concept of tone-wood, believing that it is a combination of factors that make a great sounding guitar.  But my personal experience will attest to the fact that the acoustic characters of a bass do seems to resonate when the bass is electrified.  It’s acoustic characteristics are the amplified sound.  Again, a combination of factors, the cut and age of the wood being one of them.  

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9 minutes ago, Marcray said:

I’ve always been skeptical about the concept of tone-wood, believing that it is a combination of factors that make a great sounding guitar.  But my personal experience will attest to the fact that the acoustic characters of a bass do seems to resonate when the bass is electrified.  It’s acoustic characteristics are the amplified sound.  Again, a combination of factors, the cut and age of the wood being one of them.  

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m not convinced.  After watching some more YT vids, pickups seem to be by far, the biggest factor on tone, then the electrics.

 

My Sub Stingray sounds crap acoustically, but plugged in, it sounds decent. Will the pickups & electrics sound better if I put them in a MM Stingray?  I don’t know, but I’m doubtful.

 

A video I watched this morning, he took a Squier Tele affinity & put expensive pickups in it. The sound was hugely different, but he went on to say “the tone is only 1/2 the difference. They also change the feel of how you play”. 
 

Off to see if I can find any “cheap pickups in an expensive guitar/bass” vids.

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This is an interesting vid.  The chap progressively cuts bits off the body until he has approx 30% left to see how it affects sustain and tone.  Obvs same wood, not different, but interesting nevertheless.

 

 

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On 14/05/2022 at 08:23, Downunderwonder said:

Third time up in as many months?

 

Short version, it's all pickups and strings.

Tone wood is just a generic term for wood used by luthiers to make guitars.      The woods traditionally used will have been selected for many reasons including acoustic and aesthetic, properties. People get way too hung up on this issue. Who really cares?

A lot of music is rooted in nostalgia and superstition. Thankfully not all musos are rational engineers or rocket scientists which is just as well. Don’t want too many Queens out there.

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On 14/05/2022 at 08:42, Steve Browning said:

I completely understand this. However, how does this work in the context of a Les Paul, 335 and big bodied 175, all with the same pickups, controls etc. They don't appear to sound the same but maybe there's something else at play.

Construction and the fact that pickups (especially mass-produced ones) are not exactly the same.

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11 minutes ago, SteveXFR said:

Tone is in the pick guard

Given that something like a floating trem, Strat has very limited contact with the rest of the of the instrument, that’s a question that needs consideration ;).

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3 hours ago, ezbass said:

Given that something like a floating trem, Strat has very limited contact with the rest of the of the instrument, that’s a question that needs consideration ;).

 

It wasn't a question, it's a statement of FACT.

This is the Internet so me writing fact in all capitals means you cannot argue with that

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39 minutes ago, SteveXFR said:

 

It wasn't a question, it's a statement of FACT.

This is the Internet so me writing fact in all capitals means you cannot argue with that

 But, it’s the internet and, therefore, I must argue with that. If it wasn’t for, “IS!” “ISN’T!” there’d be no Internet social media and society as we know it would collapse. ;) 

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8 hours ago, xgsjx said:

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m not convinced.  After watching some more YT vids, pickups seem to be by far, the biggest factor on tone, then the electrics.

 

My Sub Stingray sounds crap acoustically, but plugged in, it sounds decent. Will the pickups & electrics sound better if I put them in a MM Stingray?  I don’t know, but I’m doubtful.

 

A video I watched this morning, he took a Squier Tele affinity & put expensive pickups in it. The sound was hugely different, but he went on to say “the tone is only 1/2 the difference. They also change the feel of how you play”. 
 

Off to see if I can find any “cheap pickups in an expensive guitar/bass” vids.

That makes sense, because in a lot of ways, unless you have a radical opinion one way or another, it’s hard to be completely wrong about this issue.
 

I’m only speaking of my personal experience.  I’ve had a lot of decent basses of all prices.  The three I’m left with, at 53 years old, are the three exceptional ones that resonate beautifully both acoustically and electronically.  They just happen to have value in one way or another.  
 

Here’s an interesting part of the story. One of those basses is a 62 precision. I hadn’t played it in years, when I dusted it off it was in poor shape.  I gave it to a luthier friend, former Nashville guy, very experienced.  He fixed the electronics issues, did a re-fret, and more importantly he “rebuilt” the neck pocket.  He tightens neck pockets until it will hold without screws.  His belief is that the contact at that point is hugely important.  The resonance, the depth, which the bass had in spades beforehand, has now increased dramatically.  It sounds absolutely beautiful, both acoustic and electronically.  Don’t ask me why.  I couldn’t say.  It’s just an observation, and obviously I’m thrilled.  

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16 hours ago, Marcray said:

Here’s an interesting part of the story. One of those basses is a 62 precision. I hadn’t played it in years, when I dusted it off it was in poor shape.  I gave it to a luthier friend, former Nashville guy, very experienced.  He fixed the electronics issues, did a re-fret, and more importantly he “rebuilt” the neck pocket.  He tightens neck pockets until it will hold without screws.  His belief is that the contact at that point is hugely important.  The resonance, the depth, which the bass had in spades beforehand, has now increased dramatically.  It sounds absolutely beautiful, both acoustic and electronically.  Don’t ask me why.  I couldn’t say.  It’s just an observation, and obviously I’m thrilled.  

 

All about construction rather than the actual woods.

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I can concur with this. I have two P basses that I built from cheap body kits from Ebay. I also built a Strat guitar from cheap body parts. I fitted them with good quality pick ups and hardware and they all sound superb. Easily as good as my American Std. P. will I sell the American P? No way! Even knowing that the wood makes no difference I still love the look and feel of the top guitars. Plus knowing you have a genuine legendary piece of musical folklore in your Hands counts for a lot.

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On 14/05/2022 at 09:52, Phil Starr said:

Uncanny I was about to start another thread on this, fortunately we are all spared this :) To state my position I'm agnostic about this and a You Tube video isn't really evidence, however interesting. For me it's about physics and the amount of energy involved in picking or plucking a string is limited and the mass of a bass large so if it does make a difference then that needs some explaining.

 

So the reason I came here to post was some evidence/research on decay time in pianos using a single string on a soundboard, certainly analogous to a guitar if not a bass. Lots of interesting (to me) data but one graph stood out.

 

image.png.742bd7129764232d51c8ef3dca8117c8.png

So the plots of the decay times of each note on the piano and the time it took for a 20db decay. You can see there is a general trend for the bass notes to decay slowly and the treble notes quickly. What's interesting though are the differences between adjacent notes. In the middle of the graph Gb4 sustains way longer than G4. playing that piano Gb4 would really jump out at you and if held would colour subsequent notes very differently toa transposition up a semitone. 

 

 

An excellent point. You've just shown how hi mass bridges act as mass dampers and reduce 'sustain', not improve it.

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Posted (edited)

IMO the design and construction choices for an acoustic instrument are completely different or generally ignored for a solid electric one.

 

When a luthier makes an acoustic guitar all the major pieces of wood are carefully chosen. Internal bracing is the minimum required to give the body enough strength to withstand the forces applied to it by the strings and the player, and the various surfaces are glued together with the smallest amount of contact and just enough glue to hold everything in place. The shape of the instrument is the best compromise achievable between sound and ergonomics.

 

Compare that with a typical mass produced solid electric instrument. These days very few bodies are made of a single piece of wood. Most are cobbled together seemingly at random (and probably down to the most cost effective use of the boards available) from two or more pieces, and as far as I can tell apart from making sure no joints run through the neck pocket, anything else is acceptable. If the wood does have any perceptible impact (be that either positive or negative) on the amplified sound of the instrument it is entirely by chance.

 

And regarding bridge types, since the body of a solid electric instrument is already a very weighty object, and once the bridge has been properly attached to the body they essentially act as a single unit, the difference in overall mass between the standard BBOT and a high mass bridge is negligible.

Edited by BigRedX
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My thinking on this is that, for reasons I don't understand, and possibly for reasons nobody understands, the wooden parts of electric guitars seem to be able to influence the sound to a limited degree.

 

But they don't seem to be able to do so consistently. Like, I've seen nothing to convince me there is a predictable and consistent sound you can expect from an Ash vs a Mahogany body for instance. In fact, I think two pieces of Ash could potentially be more different from each other than the Ash from the Mahogany.

 

There are literally identical P-basses sitting next to each other on walls in shops now made of the same stuff, where one weighs about 7lbs, and the other weighs closer to 12lbs. If wood can vary that much in density, and we know it can differ greatly in texture from observable grain differences, how can it have the same effect on sound?

 

I think electronics have a much greater, and more consistent influence on sound, so if you want to change your tone, amps, pedals, pickups, loom, that's where you should invest your money. There you actually can be like - I want a more girthy sound, so I will get some SD quarter pounders, for instance, and it will work.

 

I think of the elements of how a bass feels and sounds which are derived from the actual structure of the bass as a kind of magical mystery, where you just have to find a good-un by luck, or by trying a lot. 

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On 15/05/2022 at 09:09, BigRedX said:

Construction and the fact that pickups (especially mass-produced ones) are not exactly the same.

 

I don't think that can be right. If that is so, then it's possible for a 175 to sound exactly like a Les Paul. If we are saying the material has no effect then how does construction? The pickup has no idea it's attached to a large hollow body, any more than it knows it's attached to a solid lump of wood (or mahogany/maple sandwich).

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