Tone woods and Solid Guitars. Debate settled, scientifically.


Video with full analysis.
Tone wood A/B
Scientific analysis of Alder and Maple tone bars on Teufell Birdfish.
This experiment can be replicated yourself at home using the following free trial software.
Sound files from Teufell.
A/B of Teufell Birdfish.


From Warmouth

From Warmouth.
Alder (Alnus rubra):

Alder is used extensively for bodies because of its lighter weight (about four pounds for a Strat® body) and its full sound. Its closed grain makes this wood easy to finish. Alder’s natural color is a light tan with little or no distinct grain lines. It looks good with a sunburst or a solid color finish. Because of its fine characteristics and lower price, Alder is our most popular wood and it grows all around us here in Washington State. The tone is reputed to be most balanced with equal doses of lows, mids and highs. Alder has been the mainstay for Fender bodies for many years and its characteristic tone has been a part of some of the most enduring pieces of modern day contemporary music.

(Acer saccharum-Hard Maple):

We offer two types of Maple: Eastern Hard Maple (hard rock maple) and Western Soft Maple (big leaf maple).

Hard Maple is a very hard, heavy and dense wood. This is the same wood that we use on our necks. The grain is closed and very easy to finish. The tone is very bright with long sustain and a lot of bite. This wood cannot be dyed. It looks great with clear or transparent color finishes.
Soft Maple
(Acer macrophyllum):

Western Maple grows all around us here in Washington state. It is usually much lighter weight than Hard Maple but it features the same white color. It has bright tone with good bite and attack, but is not brittle like the harder woods can be. Our flame (fiddle-back) and quilted bodies are Western Maple. This type of maple works great with dye finishes.

Some recent posts I have made on Linked in regarding this subject.
From my own studies it would be true to say it has less effect in an Electric Guitar than in an Acoustic guitar but that it would have no effect is demonstrably false. 
With respect to modelling etc it may well be that the effect is such that to discern any qualitative sound difference the effect of the wood is not statistically significant in the signal but that is quite a different thing from saying it has no effect.
2 months ago
Roger Lewis• on the comments page this is the last and best. 

As Paul Smith likes to say, 
Posted by Anonymous on Tue, 08/07/2012 – 20:27. 

As Paul Smith likes to say, “Every affects everything!” Scale length, design, wood density, hardware, pickups, and build quality all factor into the equation. While it is true that the sound produced by an electric guitar is the result of ferromagnetic strings passing through a magnetic field, the signal that is produced in the magnetic field is a collection of frequency components that mirror string vibrations (fundamental and harmonic components); therefore, anything that affects string vibration affects the tone of an electric guitar. 

Our friend in the video conveniently forgot to discuss the transfer function-related aspects of an electric guitar (i.e., it’s response curve). Different guitar designs have different response curves. While it is true that a large part of the response curve of any given electric is bounded by the frequency response and operational characteristics of its pickups (a.k.a. magnetic transducers), a Strat with a rosewood fingerboard does in fact have a different response curve than a Strat with a maple board. The difference can be felt and heard. The difference is due to the fact that a maple fingerboard attenuates high frequencies less than a rosewood board. As the alternating current signal that is produced by a guitar is a reflection of the frequencies at which the strings are vibrating and their associated amplitudes, anything that affects the amplitude of a frequency component affects the tone of an instrument when plugged into an amplification device. 


Jeffrey, This research work is by no means unique, those of us that have studied Digital Signal processing are very familiar with the different contributions different elements in the signal chain have. 
I did read the article and didn’t actually find it a very impressive piece of work scientifically. 
Of course in acoustic guitars tone woods make a world of difference, in electric guitars less so but of course there are still differences. For instance Rosewood Fingerboards on Telecasters are qualitatively different in their impulse responses than those with Maple fret boards. Hollow bodies and semi Hollow bodies of course have a more marked qualitative timbre difference with respect to the effects of the tone wood than solid bodies but the differences are indeed there in solid bodies also synthetic woods or Tommy s green sustainable guitars can of course emulate the densities and so forth of say Mahogany, or Swamp Ash or Maple but the situation is really rather complex and non linear, indeed random. 
There are countless PHD’s and other research work on the web available for download, The Finns are very strong in this area and you can do a lot worse than google Julius O smith of Stanford regarding this sort of stuff.

I am not sure what your point is? THere is a lot of speculation and the internet is littered with discussions that have no concern for facts , that does not mean that research is not available it is just ignored to promote what ever superstition it is a particular group having the discussion has an interest in pursuing.

With respect to available research
Heres Mark French´s paper

There is other research there are Doctoral thesis on guitars and other instruments all addressing tone woods.

The first thing I quoted in a response I made earlier in the thread, ´´Everything effects everything´´.
@ Jeffrey Harrison. Acoustic frequencies( I know , but everything effects everything)


Forgive me but I honestly can’t be bothered to list a whole bunch of papers on this that you may well not even bother to click on. I have posted links in other discussions in this group and have an extensive file here from my own research.

Presently I am actually researching in-group and out group bias and the narcissism of small differences in group dynamics, guitar forums make excellent laboratories for irrational belief structures but of course that does not mean that the consensus is always wrong.
Wood is one of many factors Buzzy. there is also the pick up load to consider and the effect of the pots. on this variable alone, even those of the same type and rating act within quite broad tolerances producing a distinct effect, string height and gauge etc. 
Both Bill Lawrence in his pick up ology blog and Helmut Lemme have excellent explanations along with frequency response curves showing how these seemingly minor things have a noticeable impact.

I watched this video earlier which describes the tonal variation broadly expected from different woods which is significant but not paramount in its influence on tone.

No one at least not me is attacking anything. AT best a reading of the paper does show that it has gone off at half cock. Starting any research with a pre conceived conclusion does tend to lead to finding the conclusion one seeks. It is also usual to start by summarising the state of the field so to speak outlining what is already settled or generally considered sound vis a vis other research.

Theoretical Studies of the behaviour of Electric Guitar Pickups. by Thomas Jungman, supervised by Prof. Drrer.nat. Hoger IhrigHelsinki University of technology.

at page 10 Para 2.
The properties of the resonant body, the cavity of the guitar and its construction are responsible for its acoustic pattern. Electric guitars with solid bodies do not need a resonant body in the original meaning. They directly convert the mechanical vibration into electric vibration and because of this the sound radiation is not interesting. It is not possible to avoid completely the vibration of the body. Therefore the timbre and the decay characteristics depend on the used timber.The shape of the bridge and several other design features.
i have studied the Jungman MSc thesis and many others I have a Lever arch file full of them.


you will see that Jungman is cited in the first paper that comes up with the google search above.

A very accessible way to see the effects of already modelled combinations of pick ups and body materials is the Acme bargift Red shift pick up replacer.

It is free to download, works as a plugin on windows based systems and can be used under wine in linux or with flip for mac. It uses a lot of processor power but is an excellent plug in.

I did a video using it on you tube if you are interested.
11 hours ago
Roger Lewis• I decided to take the opportunity to recap on some of my own research into these questions. 
The Line 6 Patent for the modelling of stringed instruments is quite instructive.

What is clear is that the vibration of the string is very important to the inductance of the current in the coil of the pick up. If it were not then an inductance of the current of the pick up alone absent the pattern generated by a string would be used and much easier to achieve. 
Anyone interested in the state of commercialisation of this technology could do worse than read the patent. 
It cites this research.

More acoustic sounding timbre from guitar pick ups. Matti Karjalainen, Henri Penttinen, and Vesa Välimäki. Helsinki University of Technology

More acoustic sounding timbre from guitar pickups. Matti Karjalainen, Henri Penttinen, and Vesa Välimäki. Helsinki University of Technology

here is a list of other papers.

The Electro Acoustic music analysis tool box., Park , Li and Wu presented at 10th bInternational society for Music information retrieval conference ISMIR 2009.

Lampereski, Making Music In Time. 
A real time interactive System for musical composition and performance. Santa Cruz june 2010

Introduction to the IPEM Toolbox for perception based music analysis. 
Lema et al.dept of musicology, Ghent university Belgium.

Patch for guitar. Miller Puckette august 2007.

SQEMA. Systematic and quantative Electro Acoustic Music ANalysis. Park ET AL Tulane University Music department.

Synthesising a guitar using Physical modelling techniques. 
Sanders. and Wiess Columbia.

I could go on but don’t have time this morning. This is a well worn path and techniques and software is freely available on the net to carry out ones own empirical testing as one wishes.The case for the woods is substantial whilst many claims for the nature of timbre and how to achieve it are superstitious. We could get started on the whole field of Psycho acoustics as well but time and space is limited.
8 hours ago
Roger Lewis• For those who like visual representation of mathematical concepts heres a great video.
Finite element analysis (FEA) of a fender telecaster electric guitar. What you hear is: 
* telecaster E string recorded directly from my soundcard (no effect) neck pick-up

1. the sound wave created using Scilab (matlab) from FEA results at the neck pick-up

1. same as 1. but for bridge pick-up

1. same as 2. but for bridge pick-up

1. Sound contribution of the guitar structure at the E-sting neck pick-up

1. Mowing the ploose (a song from me not related to the FEA)

What you get is an electric guitar design tool

As the guitar is a complex vibration system the whole construction and its components contribute to how the string vibrates and this vibration induces the current in the pick ups.’Breaking down the variables is a process that has been going on since Julius O Smiths work on the Karplus Strong algorithm in the 70´s and 80’s carried on by miller Puckette and by lots of others in many Music departments around the world.
8 hours ago
Roger Lewis• For comparison Finite analysis of vibrating guitar body.

Note that in both the solid telecaster and acoustic guitars the whole guitar oscillates, clearly the stiffness of the wood and the placement of the bridge will have an impact on the behaviour of the string and this is what is synthesised by the pick ups which of course add their own seasoning to the overall timbre, aspects such as dynamics and the initial excitation of the string theirs interactions with sympathetic overtones and undertones in the 1st second and third harmonics and so on are all present in what information the pickup feeds on through down the signal chain.
8 hours ago
Roger Lewis• What guitarists call tone is what is generally studied in Psycho acoustics and by musicologists as Timbre.

The primary factors which are involved in the quality of timbre of musical instruments are: 
Attack and decay 
Harmonic content 
Attack and Decay: It is the initial sudden action given to a musical instrument for producing initial tone. For example plucking the string in a guitar initially can be considered as an attack and it may vary in its effect with the power of plucking the string. An attack gives rise to a sound at its pick amplitude. This amplitude reduces with time and is known as decay. Human ear is sensitive towards these attacks and decays. Hence it can identify the musical instrument which has produced the sound. An attack is instantaneous while decay is gradual or long.

Harmonic Content: Harmonic content is/ are components left after the fundamental or basic frequency is removed from a complex wave. 
From here.
8 hours ago
Roger Lewis• Finally for anyone interested in some of the Matlab users that work in the field of Digital Signal processing this is a useful link.

This video simulates different resonance frequencies in a piano sound board. Of course this is not amplified via a Pickup, but the string vibration is fundamental at the generative level of the generated wave form. Hence the generative frequencies and their nature is fundamentally effected to the nature of the wood or what ever other material is used to mount the guitar strings and pick ups.
7 hours ago
Roger Lewis• And for anyone that wants to study this further you can do a lot worse than follow this course on line.
7 hours ago
Roger Lewis• Really just for Jeffrey´s benefit here are two primers on FFT analysis and the components of Timbre in the frequency domain and why the whole thing is effected by what the strings are attached to, Solid or Hollow acoustic or Solid, just to differing degrees.

First when developing my own Modelling Plug in I have been using MAX MSP and this tutorial explains the Time and Frequency domains as well as anything I have seen or read.

And this is a Physics based lecture of the Mathematics.

Now you might ask what has all this got to do with the OP and the paper in question , well it has to do with proper analysis of variable and the tools available to get into the question of Timbre.
Full discusion here

Some further papers I have since read on this subject getting to the point of QED.

J.-L. Le Carrou, J. Frelat, A. Mancel, B. Navar- ret ”Guitare eńlectrique : quel roˆle pour les e ́le ́ments de lutherie ?”, Congre`s franc ̧ais d’acoustique, Lyon (2010)




Symmetrical vs. asymmetrical electric guitar: what change for sound?



The symmetry of the headstock is responsible for :
modes appearing in a different order
strong frequency shifts for the modes of the guitar
active torsional modes along the middle line of the fingerboard
torsional modes acting differently on each side of this middle line
The symmetry of the body is responsible for :
modes appearing in the same order
small frequency shifts for the modes of the guitar, though shifts increase with increasing frequency
no active torsional modes along the middle line of the fingerboard
Ebony & rosewood electric guitar fingerboards: do they really sound different?
Arthur Paté, Jean-Loïc Le Carrou, Benoît Fabre
Electric guitar lutherie being a huge topic, this paper focuses on the influence of the fingerboard on the string vibration. An experimental study is carried out on two guitars whose only intentional difference is the fingerboard wood: ebony or rosewood.
Fingerboard wood may have an influence on the:
dead spot location: spatial and frequency coincidence between string and guitar resonance
dead spot dangerousness: string damping may be bigger for rosewood-fingerboard guitar
Also true for partials → the timbre is affected by the fingerboard!
The sound differences have consequences in:
instrument-making: changing the resonance coincidences (fingerboard thickness and shape, sawing angle) → reducing or increasing the differences between the woods!
playing: players forced to avoid certain places on the neck
tuning: frequency coincidences are tuning-dependent. → some guitars are said to sound better with a non-standard tuning!
Dead Spots of Electric Guitars and Basses
Which of both, the bridge-end or the neck-end support of a string, is more mobile?
Experiments indicate that, in the normal case and in obvious contrast to an acoustic instrument, the bridge of a solid-body electric guitar or bass is much less mobile than the neck. The string may induce body vibrations via the neck rather than via the bridge. Energy is transferred to the instrument and gets lost for the string vibration. The “vibration willingness” of the neck is the cause for additional damping of the strings, i.e.for dead spots. Former studies have revealed that the motion of the instrument perpendicular to the fingerboard dominates this effect.
What, in summary, is new?
At the first glance, an electric guitar or bass looks rather rigid. At the second glance, however, it proves as very flexible at particular frequences. A dead spot, defined by an abnormally fast decay of the fundamental tone, is caused by damping due to energy transfer from the string to the instrument body. For a well-balanced instrument the bridge proves as practically immobile, while the neck is flexible and exhibits resonances. Under certain circumstances, the string may excite a neck resonance with the result that the string vibration is additionally damped. The mechanical conductance is a suitable indicator of the frequency-selective damping of the string supports. An in-situmeasuring approach is suggested to ascertain the out-of-plane conductance on the neck. The combination of the curves as obtained at the nut and frets creates some kind of a landscape which represents a “fingerprint” of a guitar with respect to dead spots. An overlay chart based on the fundamental frequencies makes its evaluation easier as the higher the conductance for a string-fret combination is the more probable it is to find a dead spot. Thus, the fingerboard conductance of an electric guitar or bass can be simply measured and promises to be a key parameter for diagnosing and avoiding dead spots.
A vibro-acoustical and perceptive Study of the neck-to-body Junction of a solid-body electric Guitar
A. Pat ́ea, J.-L. Le Carroua, B. Navarretb, D. Duboisa and B. Fabrea
We concentrated on the confrontation of time-frequency representation of the notes of the guitars in relation with dri- ving-point conductance. In general we find quiet similar re- sults as [2]: when the driving-point neck-conductance mea- sured at the string/guitar coupling point is high at the fre- quency of the note, an unusual damping of the fundamen- tal frequency is visible on the spectrogram. We nevertheless found a non-neglectible number of exceptions to that: they will be the motivation of further work.
A last point to mention is the bridge conductance. We could observe in line with [2] and [3] that the driving-point conductance at the bridge is in general small compared to the ones on the neck. This fact is to be put into perspective: it should depend on the bridge type. The bridge of our guitars is not as rigid as other bridges, at certain frequencies the con- ductance at the bridge can be found to be bigger than on the neck. So in further works the bridge conductance will still be taken into account.
referenced by this paper.
The LAM paper published in french has clear results showing how 3 different types of woods on otherwise specially made and identical guitars produce different resonant responses.
QED in fact!


Author: rogerglewis Looking for a Job either in Sweden or UK. Freelance, startups, will turń my hand to anything.

3 thoughts on “Tone woods and Solid Guitars. Debate settled, scientifically.

  1. DKGCustom8:10 PM1

    +stampingdragon Please take your long winded debate, somewhere else.

    I will ban you from this channel if you continue to fill this thread up with STUFF. You're obviously a fighter for this cause, but I'm not here for you to repost long spiels born in other forums.

    From that blog: “to discern any qualitative sound difference the effect of the wood is not statistically significant in the signal”
    Show less

    stampingdragon8:15 PM

    This paper alone settles this discussion for any scientifically minded person.
    It makes very little difference it is true but it is empirically proven that a small difference exists which is of course both magnified and diminished in differing measures along the signal chain.
    On statistical significance, how long is a piece of string?

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