[thechat] Solid Body Guitars WAS: guitar ka-ka

Luther, Ron ron.luther at hp.com
Fri Apr 9 14:26:38 CDT 2004

Terry Fowler asks a guitar question:

>>My question:  does the shape and thickness of the solid bodies affect 
>>the sound at all or is it just cosmetic and only the strings/pickups/
>>other electronics make a difference in the actual sound?

Hi Terry!

{Bummer. Starfires are pretty nice!}

A guitar question, eh?     I'll swing a pick at it!

I think from a technical (theoretical) perspective ... the answer would 
be 'yes' - the types of wood used, the shape, the thickness, and the 
finish would all have an impact on the tone of the instrument.

However, from a more practical perspective, I really doubt anyone could 
actually 'hear' that difference ... especially if you're running decent 
pickups through a nice amp at moderate or above volume levels!

For me, I think the pickups and amp [especially those new digital amps 
with 'amp' and even 'pickup' modeling built into them] have more of an 
impact on solid body tone than the body thickness or shape. I kinda 
think that things like that solid koa strat are more of a marketing or 
cosmetic ploy than something that would have a real impact on the sound.

Now on an *acoustic* I think body shape and type of wood play a much 
more significant role in shaping the tone. 

Then again, once in a while the 'luthier' guys get ticked off by 
suggestions that the great tone of their guitars is due to their use 
of great wood ... instead of their great skill in working the wood. 
[Imagine that - egos in manufacturing!] So they might go and do 
something silly like that 'special edition' Taylor came out with a 
while back ... a high-end acoustic guitar made from the oak pallets 
and two-by-fours they found on the loading dock floor! It's actually 
supposed to be very nice.  [Easily spotted by the "fork lift" they 
had inlaid into the neck.]
<counterpoint />


Subnote 1: 
By the way, (in case anyone was wondering), most of the time a solid 
body guitar ain't just carved out of a single hunk of wood.  I just 
happen to be looking at a drawing of a cross-section of a Yamaha SG 
2000 and I'm counting about 14 different pieces of wood (mostly 
mahogany but also some maple) being used for the body alone! [That's 
not counting the brass 'sustain plates' mounted under the pickups.]

Subnote 2:
Material density may have more of an impact on 'sustain' than thickness.
Remember those old 'Lucite' guitars? I'm not sure if I ever played one 
of those plugged in.

However, I did get a guy to lend me what I think was a custom shop 
Steinberger ... I don't think it had any wood at all - it was metal 
everywhere ... wish I would find a picture of that - the back of the 
neck was like two stainless steel rods placed closely together ... felt 
weird on your thumb. Dang thing was almost as heavy as my pickup truck 
... but it sounded really good. Played nice too!

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