I’m always asked about the types of wood for guitars and what affect they have on the overall sound. The answer is not so simple because some guitars are affected less and some to a great extent.
Guitars that have high output pickups, especially humbuckers are affected less because you’re basically hearing the sound of the pickup with small amount of the “character” of the wood. Humbuckers also do not have the very clean top end or the extended bottom that single coils do so the result is less “character” from the wood. This of course is why some people prefer humbuckers and some single coil pickups. To me the most important difference is the dynamics produced from single coils. Humbuckers tend to have a more rounded compressed sound that many guitarists like and again the type of wood will have a small affect but the bell like dynamic attack you can get on a single coil is greatly shaped by the type of wood used. This is the main difference in the sound between a Strat and a Les Paul.
I’m not by any means saying one is better or worse than the other but simply stating the difference between them and what gives them their unique characters. There are numerous woods used for guitars but the main ones are Alder, Ash, Maple, Basswood, Plywood and MDF. None of these woods are right or wrong on a guitar and I find it quite tiresome when people stress over the choices and argue that a certain one is right and rest are wrong. It’s all down to subjective choice and the type of “character” the wood will produce. Just because one type of wood is much more expensive or rarer than the other, it doesn’t mean it’s subjectively better than the other. If the quest is to reproduce a classic tone of say a Strat, then the choice will be an issue as it would not be possible to reproduce the classic sound of it by using anything other than Alder for instance. Before all the Strat historians jump up and down, I’m aware that Fender used Ash from time to time and probably few other ones too but mainly the classic sound of a Strat is dependent on Alder.
Next blog I will list all the different types of wood and their affects on sound and finish…