Bustin out a big 'ol can o'worms, so this is a warning up front...we won't solve this one.


I was in the hardware store getting some "chair lock" and I ran into an old friend who used to own a guitar shop. He still repairs and builds them. Then it occurred to me that he has some experience with this issue, so I asked him, "Do you think the body wood contributes to the sound? Is one kind brighter than another?" He said, "Sure, but I see the neck contribute more often." A long fun conversation ensued. Neck material affects tone, body wood affects tone. He tried swapping out necks and noticed a difference from neck to neck. General rules seemed to be true, but the rules aren't hard and fast. Ash bodies were usually brighter, but sometimes rosewood will be bright if it's a really dense chunk. Maple necks are usually more articulate and overall bright. The bottom line for him is that almost anything can affect the tone, not just the pickups. Some things contribute more than others.


Now this is the first person I've talked to who has tested it to any scientific degree and he seems to think the type of wood makes a difference. Do I have an opinion? Not really. I just buy what sounds and looks good. I don't have enough skill to care about anything other than playability and good tone. If those two things are achieved, I'm happy.


So here's what I'm asking for: evidence. I can tell you how the theory would work, but I've not played enough guitars against each other to really know. I know my acoustics have distinct tones and I can give you the general rules for rosewood vs. mahogany - I know these two very well. Sitka vs. Engleman is another one I'm very used to. But electric guitar tones? Don't know. 


Anyone out there played enough to get a general feel for the differences? Maybe we can solve this...



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There's also pine here:




I'm not sure if pine sounds better or why Fender went to ash, but the anecdotal story says that pine didn't hold up well to gigging. Even so, my neighbor has some heart pine joists in his house and it's hard as a rock, so I'm not sure what gives here.


And alas, Fender has a 2011 pine Telecaster:



I stand corrected. I think that Closet Pro is supposed to replicate the 1st gen. Teles. Cool.

I hadn't realised there were several flavours of CV tele these days (proof I'm ignoring the adverts).


One of the 'worst' tonewoods from an engineering POV is basswood - it's REALLY soft, and pretty close to firm balsa wood. It makes for nice light bodies, but screws can tear out easily and neck joints can be a bit flexible. Tone-wise it seems quite neutral, which is probably why it works well in JEMs etc.

If I saw correctly, with Zachary pine guitars guitars, he re-enforces where the neck-bolt goes. It's definitely a different colour, so I'm thinking he drills it out and glues back a dowel of a harder stock, which he can mount without the traditional 4-screw + plate method.


My Godin has a problem with the pickguard/plate screws. The wood just wasn't meant to be taken on and off so much. Unfortunately that is where the battery is... bad engineering...


People also say this about splattered maple. It's basically half-rotted wood, so it looks great but way way too soft.

RE: JEM Didn't think it would bother me so much about the neck radius, but for some reason I can't play those JEMs. They are too flat. I found that with a Ibanez SZ320 I had for a bit as well.
Is that the Ibanez Wizard neck? My son had one.

Ibanez actually has 3 types of necks for their bolt-ons/super strats: Wizard, Ultra & JEM. The SZ series was set-neck, and had a slight rounder radius, but it was still pretty flat. I think those Ibanez necks are the flattest out there, well over 16" radius. I think the Wizard necks are thinner than the JEMs. This is a great Ibanez neck site: Ibanez Neck Specs


I'm so used to Fenders with 7.25-9.5" radius. I'm not a hyper mega death metal player... those guys must have incredible finger strength...

There must be another neck spec by Ibanez because my AR300 is almost identical to the Les Pauls that I've played. It's fatter with a shorter scale.



Those specs are *only* for Super Strats (like the JEM). They of course, like the Fender Strat have the longer neck scale.


Your Artist is LP copy with set-neck. I believe it has a 12" radius, which makes it a lot less flat than the JEM, Ultra or Wizards.

It's also kind of a U shape.

There is another issue that Mike B's post brings out: we hear different things and handle guitars differently.


Some guys are complete technicians, and can play the same riff to make it sound the same on almost any guitar - the sound is them and almost them alone. They have favourite guitars, but the instrument isn't important.


Some guys (like me) are played by the guitar as much as they play the guitar themselves. A guitar that responds well in their hands will produce much better playing and inspiration than one that does not fit well.


There are many that fall between the 2 camps.


This muddys the water.


I'd say that when I buy a guitar I try to listen to it unplugged first like Wayne, feel how it responds in my hands and see what it wants me to play. If I like what I feel then I'll plug it in and go from there. I don't usually analyse the woods a guitar is made of per se, because I'm only interested in what works for me. However someone pointed out that we both liked guitars with maple necks regardless of the body wood, and I guess that's been mostly generally true. Conversely I don't care much for the tone of many guitars with mahogany necks.


The point about humbuckers is a good one - I do feel they generally have much less life in them for clean sounds (both dry and effected) than single coils. Once you put a reasonable amount of overdrive on it's hard for the listener to tell the difference between single coils and humbuckers, let alone body wood. Of course the guitar will respond very differently according to the pickups used, but the difference in sound when recorded may appear small.

There is one more parameter that I've missed: smell. I always smell the guitar to see if it has the "tone potential". Usually the joint between the neck and body is the best place to tell, but if it's used, you might get someone's rank belly button lint smell. I also like to listen through the jack - like a seashell. That's a good one too.  Ha ha ha...


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