• How to choose the right wood for your guitar

    It’s easy to forget that a guitar’s tone is much more than just its pickups and the pedals you use with it. Choosing the right body and neck wood is crucial for getting just the tone you want and having the basics in mind when you’re buying a new guitar can avoid a fatal decision and greatly improve your tone.

    I’m always puzzled when I see people going into a guitar store and insisting on a guitar purely based on its finish and/or the fact that their hero has one similar. Although I can understand the fascination I’m amazed that one can spend all that money without having the slightest clue of what one’s really buying. I mean, you want to know whether a couch is leather or cotton and not just black or white don’t you?

    There’s no right or wrong but you could end up with a guitar that both feels and sound quite different to what you’d expect. A common error is also to assume that wood only matters when you buy an acoustic guitar. It might matter more but there’s a reason why they use different wood in different guitars. It’s because it matters for the tone and playability for that specific model.

    In terms of David’s tones you’d probably want a Strat or a Tele. With the right pickups it doesn’t really matter that much – apart from the Tele not having a tremolo system – but let’s concentrate on the Stratocaster. David’s two main Strats, the red and The Black Strat, has an alder body and a maple neck. In the 70s the Black Strat sported a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard.

    Alder body
    Alder is used in most Fender Strats mainly because of its light weight and it’s easy to finish due to minimal grain lines. Alder is also the most neutral sounding of the commonly used wood types with a full tone, well balanced lower end a hint of mid range.

    Ash body
    Swamp ash, or southern ash, is considered as the most musical wood and it’s often preferred by the more demanding players. Its high density makes it a bright sounding wood with a strong punch and rich sustain.

    Basswood body
    Basswood was often used for Japanese Fenders in the 80s and 90s. Although a soft wood that doesn’t handle abusive playing that well, it has a rich warm tone with a smooth sustain. Basswood has long been favoured by jazz musicians and it can also help to balance a bright punchy maple neck.

    Maple neck
    Maple has a distinct bright punchy tone – a perfect match for the slightly darker alder body. The characteristics of the maple neck played a huge role in defining the sound of the 50s and early 60s with the surf and Shadows instrumental bands.

    Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
    Rosewood is soft and warm sounding and perhaps a bit more versatile wood than maple. Often preferred for blues and classic rock the rosewood is a nice companion to alder and also adds a warmer touch to the bright ash.

    Finish
    The lacquer or finish is also important but perhaps even easier to dismiss. Vintage Strats and Teles had and still have nitrocellulose lacquer. This adds a warm balanced touch to the guitar’s sound. Cheaper Mexican and Japanese models often have polyester finish, which is slightly thicker and brighter sounding. In terms of aging the nitro ages more naturally with wear marks and small dings while polyester cracks like egg shell if you smash it against a table corner or drop it to the floor. The thickness of the lacquer also effects the tone and most companies offer so called worn or faded models to simulate the warmth that a worn down finish produce.

    This is no rocket science and you shouldn’t let it ruin the fun of buying a new guitar but it definitely pays off trying a couple of different models, bodies and necks and not getting too caught up in the model and colour. Always trust your ears!

    I’ve always been fond of basswood and think it has more to offer than both alder and ash but again it depends on how you want to use the guitar. The combination of the rich basswood body and a punchy maple neck fits my Gilmour tones nicely while I prefer the slightly warmer alder body and rosewood neck for my Airbag tones.

    What’s your choice?

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31 Responsesso far.

  1. Yiannis says:

    According to my observations, the type of wood is not the only factor to the tone equation. How neck & body resonate together as one mass, is a key factor for making a balanced guitar. Hardware also affects the natural overtones, especially the bridge (saddles/block).

  2. carmen says:

    Hey I am thinking about getting a Fender Strat custom shop body made of ash with a nitro finish. I really like the color and am just looking to put together something cool and different. Would you recommend a maple or rosewood neck? I’m not trying to build a Dave Gilmour type Strat, just something musical that will sound most resonant. I plan to put lower output type of pickups in it. Probably something based off the late 50’s early 60’s. Just wondering if you could tell me what I would be getting into as far as differences between the two types of necks, from a standpoint of sound differences between the two, based off the information I’ve given you about what I plan to do from a body standpoint and pickups. Thank you.

    • Bjorn says:

      Based on the wood alone, there really isn’t much difference between maple and rosewood. It depends on the contour and thickness of the neck and the laquer and obviously, the body and pickups. I will say though that rosewood tend to be slightly daker or warmer sounding but paired with a ash body I would imagine that the overall sound of the guitar will be fairly bright or brighter than with alder. My best tip is to visit your local store and try a bunch of different Strats. That will give you an idea of different tones but more importantly, different contours and what you’remost comfortable with.

  3. Diamante says:

    So Iam a singer song writer, artist. I play both acoustic and electric guitars. I very much dabble in all aspects of music but more from a creative level. My current build is a hard rock maple body strat with a maple neck, maple pick guard, graph tech string save saddles and nut, locking tuners, symore duncan everything pups.

    On a creative aspect I was thinking tone. The maple is a hard and heavy wood, dense so I imagine its tone will be bright. Now I think like wood and want to soften my tone with graph tech saddles and nut. A softer material that will add warmth. I am also using a maple pickguard to incase the pups, as a wood thinker I believe the pups will respond different due to mating surfaces and vibration variations of the the woods interacting with each other. . In the meantime I sand blasted all the chrome hardware so it has a velvety like feel almost textured look to soften the tone. This is at this time a concept. A light oil finish on the neck and the body I left raw, no finish at all.

    I spent around 1200 just for the parts and sent it out for setup. The key is balance. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Harder here, softer there. What happened? A very smooth articulate electric guitar. A custom shop feel, easy to play , easy on the eyes, feels authenic, not beautiful, but pure. Sold all my other guitars and I am building another one with slight variations.

    [Thanks for sharing! – Bjorn]

  4. rogério de paula lima says:

    Gilmourish – is the soul of a hero unveiled demi-god, never thought I’d find all feel creative technology for development of the technique put into words. Just can not translate the soul of Gilmour but on what we feel in its nuances – the sound of your fender from heaven, no matter whether we are a small cabinet. Few in history are all these feelings – love of nature, the world grandeur and fragility of human beings. My hugs and congratulations to help preserve and bring us part of the technique of our greatest icon. Rogerio – São Paulo. Brazil – 34 years listening to Pink Floyd

    [Thank you Rogiero! – Bjorn]

  5. ruodi says:

    “I’m not technical expert but I find it very strange that you’ve experienced that two different pickup sets were microphonic on the same guitar.”

    I agree. My guitar didn´t. – The (real) 70ies strat of my band collegue actually worked better with the rest of my setup. But I don´t care anymore: Sold it. Finished.

  6. Dave A says:

    Hmmm the old what wood debate :) Ive enjoyed reading these comments great fun actually.I dont think there is any doubt that the wood considerably affects the tone but i was just wondering what peoples thoughts were regarding one piece or two even three pieces of wood on the body.Any experts here,I have to say that when I learned about the way Mr Gilmour chopped ,drilled routed and filled the revered Black strat it well sort of to put it bluntly wrecked my thinking about the importance of a one piece body.Silly I may be,well I suppose so.Anyway ive got a mid eightys 50s MIJ Basswood two piece I presum,adore it I do :)

    [I don’t have any experience with drilling holes or removing wood but I’m sure that if it had dramatically changed the tone of the Black Strat then David wouldn’t have continued to use it. Cheaper “warehouse” guitars are often made of 5,6 or 7 pieces of wood glued together and it obviously affects the tone in addition to the wood being of very poor quality. – Bjorn]

  7. ruodi says:

    “By whistling pickups you mean that they were microphonic? If so the problem wasn’t the body.”

    Yes, they were microphonic. And they still were when changed them for EMG-SA´s. Sold the guitar meanwhile.

    “Anyway, I’ve had 5 basswood guitars over the years and thin is the last word that comes to mind. ”

    Well, I´ve listened to some youtube “The Pink Floyd Experience” and I know & love a couple of early-70ies Pink Floyd bootleg LP´s since many years – and I have to say that your guitar tone simply IS the early David Gilmour! On the other hand, Gilmour used alder bodies. ?.

    “In my experience basswood has a warm round tone with a well balanced lower end. Very similar to alder IMO but slightly more punchy. – Bjorn”

    I´m sure you´re right. It´s possible that I´ve mistaken “basswood” for “poplar”! But hey, what can I say: I´m just a poor & silly Pink Floyd fan. Don´t care about my foolish words. May the force be with you!

    [Every guitar is different and two seemingly identical pieces of wood can sound quite different to each other. I’ve played alder and basswood guitars that reaches both ends of the scale, which proves you just need to try the guitar before you buy it.
    I’m not technical expert but I find it very strange that you’ve experienced that two different pickup sets were microphonic on the same guitar. In my experience microphonic feedback is the result of damaged pickups and not the guitar. – Bjorn]

  8. ruodi says:

    “Have you tried basswood yourself?”

    Yes, I did. My 1995 classic 50ies Fender Mex was made of basswood, I think. Whitish wood, comparatively lightweight? Had lots of problems with whistling pups when played very loud. I don´t really know if this had something to do with the basswood body. But I like my contemporary alder partocaster better.

    “Anyway, to say that it doesn’t matter what the guitar is made of and that it’s too voodooish is like saying that you couldn’t care less if your car was made of steel or cheese… Anyway….”

    I agree. Never said something like this, though. … Well, at least not intended. Of course I´ve used the word “voodooish”.

    I´ve tried these middle-80ies cheese-made Stratocasters: Dull-sounding, no harmonics, didn´t like them at all. Old edame cheese sounded a little better than young gouda, though. Also, these cheese-made models made me wanting to be a mouse, which wasn´t an ideal stepping stone for my planned musical career, as you might can imagine. Not recommended at all.

    Never meant to affront you. And yes, the Hendrix strap is 100% yoko-onoish! … You can trust me at this point. :)

    [Well, first of all I’m never offended. I urge everyone to have their own opinions about Gilmour and guitar playing and you’re free to comment anything you want. I don’t think you should judge a guitar, pedal or amp or anything else in life based on one bad experience. Microphonic pickups or dull sounding guitars may be the result of many things and my personal experience is that older MIM Strats we’re of much less quality in general than the current models.
    I agree that the Hendrix strap is yoko-onoish but that’s part of the fun. If you don’t like the strap or black pickguards I also assume that you can’t stand tribute bands. As I said, there is a difference between idolizing and haing your own style and there’s no reason you can’t do both. And I still think basswood offers the best tones! Enjoy the weekend and your cheese! Cheers! – Bjorn]

  9. Dan says:

    Basswood body + maple neck = Squier strats (?)

    [That too but I don’t have any Squires. Most Japanese guitars were Basswood until some years ago. Even if it was the important thing is that you like your guitar and not what it’s made of. – Bjorn]

  10. Romain says:

    Hi Björn, just to point out that this is tip of the week (4) and not (3) ;)
    (Ok maybe i’m too maniacal…)

    [Ah! Thanks! Glad someone’s keeping track :) – Bjorn]

  11. Nathan says:

    What is your opinion on cedar for guitar bodies? Squier has a guitar called a Vintage Deluxe that is made of cedar.

    [I’ve only played cedar acoustics and the tone was very crisp and full but perhaps a bit thin in the lower frequencies. – Bjorn]

  12. João says:

    Hi Bjorn! Good article as always…

    I have two strats. One of them is a Squier with basswood body and maple fingerboard with a Tex Mex PU’s. The other is a Cort G260 with ash body, maple fingerboard and Duncan Designed PU’s. The Squier has a notably brighter and more “quacky” sound. The Cort sounds darker and with more sustain.

    Although the PU’s diference, I’d like to know what you think about the bridge’s influence. The Cort has a Wilkinson 2 points tremolo bridge and the Squier has the traditional 6 screws bridge.

    I ask that because I intend to upgrade the Squier with the same 2 points tremolo for its versatility and stability showed with the Cort.

    [Sorry for the late reply. Personally I think the two point bridges are extremely hard to both tune and intonate but then again I prefer the bridge to behave and sound quite the opposite of what’s intended with these. I think the reason why you experience that the two point is better than the vintage style is because the stock hardware on the Squires aren’t that good. I’m sure that if you replace this with say a Callaham vintage bridge with a solid block and adjusted slots you’d be amazed how much fuller your tones gets. More sustain and much easier to intonate and keep in tune. – Bjorn]

  13. wan says:

    “if it´s nearly white with these thick remarkable annual rings, it´s made of swamp ash. (Especially when the guitar seems to be comparatively heavy.)”

    Not really, ash and swamp ash shouldn’t be mistaken : ash is really heavy but swamp ash is a bit lighter then alder. I used to play a 70’s large headstock Stratocaster with “natural” finished ash body fifteen years ago and it was much heavier than a Les Paul. It was a real shoulder killer quite awful to play more than 30 minutes per hour… a day !
    And now I have a 2008 swamp ash Standard Telecaster wich is lighter than my alder Stratocaster. It also has a unique crispy and crunchy unplugged sound, hard to describe but so
    wonderful and lively to ear and play. And I can tell you that this unplugged sound can be heard right through the standard pickups without being altered. Definitely the best and most beloved guitar I’ve ever had… (So nice that I’m currently looking for a swamp ash Stratocaster body to ear what will happen with strings ringing through the stainless steel tremolo block.)
    -wan-

  14. Stephen says:

    A few added comments.

    First Birds Eye Maple is in fact like Tiger Flame and Curly (Quilt top) a style of maple. the Birds Eyes refer to the small knots throughout the wood which look like …of all things Birds Eyes.

    I primarily build acoustics and the use of different woods is paramount since there is little to no electric amplification being done.

    Mahagony has great charachteristics but will not give you the Gilmour tone and that is why I think Bjorn did not really mention it in the original post (fair enough)

    As for importance of Neck Wood vs Body Wood in tone…they both play a large role in over all sound. One of the largest varriables to consider in building a neck for a guitar with a certain sound in mind is Density and Mass. The denser and more massive a neck is the less the vibrations of the string will chimney up the neck.

    What does this mean? Well, if you are looking for a very focused tone with less sustain as in jazz archtops a more massive neck is better. It focuses the single notes and and the less sustain allows for great note seperation. If you are paying chord progressions it is nice to have a well balanced blended voice over all the strings and this is where a less massive neck helps out. The neck tends to telegraph more sound making the over all tonal landscape more complex.

    ALso scale length comes into play with all these considerations as well. Longer scale lengths have greater string tension and therefore a brighter snappier sound.

    A great general view of all these concepts is the basic difference between a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Strat.

    Gibson Les Pauls are made of a massive hunk of Mahagony with a thin top layer…often maple, it also has a Mahagony neck with a shorter scale length than the strat… it is not an accident that Humbuckers are the choice for such insruments as they have that warm well blended sustained voice, dark and warm in tone.

    The Strat has often an Alder Body with a maple neck with a longer scale length. Single coil PU are noisier and quieter than humbuckers but their aperture is narrow and focused very cutting, making for a brighter tighter tone with more note to note seperation.

    In conclusion…YES a different neck, a different body will change your tone. The fact is that 2 pieces of wood yeilded from the same tree will still not be identical. In acoustic guitars you can build 50 guitars from the same board of wood and you will have a great variety of end products.

    As Bjorn mentioned…Try as many guitars as you can to find the one that sounds right for you. These can only be guide lines to get you in the ballpark:)

    Cheers
    Stephen

    [Thanks a lot for your input Stephen. I’m not a luthier so I can only speak from experience and yes I tried to narrow David the feature to concern David’s tones. I wasn’t aware that bird’s eye referred to the wood and not the truss rod. Thanks for clearing that up :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  15. garyh says:

    With regard to rosewood fretboards the other variable is the thickness of the rosewood. This varies from a slab board, which can be quite thick, to a thin veneer. In my experience, the thicker the rosewood the darker the tone. I can’t remember which vintages had slab boards. Personally
    i’ve always preferred rosewood boards – they have a warmer tone than maple, and just ‘feel right’ to me.

    [Rosewood has a dark warm tone so in general the thicker it is the warmer your tone will be. This has also something to do with how the strings resonates off the neck as well. A thicker neck will resonate more. – Bjorn]

  16. Gabbo says:

    Hi, exelent idea; don’t forget poplar, mahogany and composite wooden bodies, I find always interesting to talk abouth wood because I’ve fixed lots of guitars with diferent bodies and every one has its sound and uses.
    Congrats.

    [Agree. Not that common with Strats though but there are many types of wood that has unique qualities. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  17. ruodi says:

    “if it´s nearly white with these thick remarkable annual rings, it´s made of swamp ash.”

    No, rubbish – not “nearly white”, but “tan” or “greyish”. Very “woody-looking” anyway.

  18. ruodi says:

    @Jonathan Price: You will have to remove the neck (the store crew is completely clueless). The unpainted neck pocket will disclose what kindof wood the body is made of. If it´s white, it´s basswood, if it´s reddish, it´s Alder, if it´s nearly white with these thick remarkable annual rings, it´s made of swamp ash. (Especially when the guitar seems to be comparatively heavy.) – I guess that most of today available Fender Strats are made of threepart (?) alder.

    I´ve once had a 1995 Fender MN Classic 50ies with basswood body, and I´ve sold it after a couple of months, because I didn´t like what it sounded like. Very thin sounding, and I´ve always had heavy feedback problems (“whistling pickups”) in the rehearsal room especially with this guitar! I have no idea if the basswood body was the reason for that (same problem with different pups), but after that experience I have my own reservations about basswood-bodied guitars. … Some say that early mexican Fenders are crap, though.

    In my humble opinion the neck is much more important for the tone than the body.

    [By whistling pickups you mean that they were microphonic? If so the problem wasn’t the body.Anyway, I’ve had 5 basswood guitars over the years and thin is the last word that comes to mind. In my experience basswood has a warm round tone with a well balanced lower end. Very similar to alder IMO but slightly more punchy. – Bjorn]

  19. Erwan says:

    Hello Bjorn,

    I have always been wondering about the influence of each part of the instrument on the overall tone. I’d like to have your opinion: what are the different contributions in % of the neck, the body, the hardware… on the overall tone (with the same pickups) ?

    I’m pretty sure the neck is very important. Did you notice a tone change when changing your neck ? One of my strat (CS60) has an alder body and a beatifull “flamed” neck (with rosewood fingerboard), the sound of the instrument is quite bright and punchy in comparison with my second rosewood CS60 strat. Do “bird’s eye” or “flams”have a different sound in comparison with standard maple ? I will finish with the frets… Does-it change the tone (vintage VS medium Jumbo for example)?

    Thanks a lot

    [It’s hard to point down which part of the guitar that makes up the sound. Both the neck and body plays a role. Think of the difference between a 60s Strat and Tele. The necks are almost identical yet the guitars sound quite different. The pickups and bridge systems are obviously different but the shape of the body and its assembly defines much of the tone. It’s the whole and the balance between the neck and body wood, shape and contour, how it’s assembled and constructed, the finish and coating, electronics, frets, hardware etc. Don’t forget too that just the slightest change in the string and pickup heigh alters the tone and the setup can be quite misleading when you try a guitar for the first time.
    Bird’s eye refers to how the truss rod is mounted and accessed and I’m not sure how this effects the tone. If at all. Flamed maple is just another type of maple with its own qualities. I don’t have that much experience with it.
    Frets has a lot to say. Thin .080 vintage frets has a moderate impact on the tone while .096 and higher or so called jumbo frets are often preferred because they add a nice punch and clarity. But there are pros and cons with both.
    – Bjorn]

  20. James says:

    Thanks for the tips Bjorn!
    I was in two minds about buying a new guitar but after reading this article i’m off to the store today!
    I have a Squier Strat with an agathis wood body and twin pivot tremelo, it sounds awful and won’t stay in tune for too long, the joy of playing it is dying quickly!
    I’d choose a Alder body Strat (maple neck), although i’ve heard good things about the Yamaha Pacifca aswell.

    [Good luck with your purchase! – Bjorn]

  21. Jonathan Price says:

    I’m really liking these handy tips; makes for interesting reading.
    I’m just wondering if there’s any way of telling what wood a guitar (or more specifically a strat) is made of, especially if the colour means you can’t see the grain…?

    [I’m not really sure if there’s an easy way to see the wood. I’d assume that the price tag would include some basic info and the store crew should at least be able to answer your enquieries. – Bjorn]

  22. Stephen says:

    Nice work Bjorn,

    As a luthier by trade I have to work with these parameters daily and although every piece of wood has its own personality in general your assessments are great. I would add that with finish Nitro is forever curing as it ages it will begin to crack this is often emulated by luthiers to relic instruments by stressing the finish. Many will argue that this actually does more than just give the guitar that cool old look. The wood is incased in this shell and once the shell has cracked a bit the wood becomes more lively giving better response. In acoustic guitars classical builders go for French Polish (which is schlack) as in violins as it allows even a thinner finish giving a more lively response for a wider dynamic range.

    I am a sucker for Nitro…slightly more enviornmentally friendly (Slightly)not to mention that it is much easier to repair than Poly and it is not a shell of plastic on your guitar.

    I have talked to old school Fender luthiers that have mentioned that the first Fenders were actually Pine bodies but that a lumber dealer ran low and offered a deal on Alder and that was why Alder won over Pine. I have played some Teles made by friends that are Pine that are fantastic.

    [Thanks for the input Stephen. As you point out it’s important to keep in mind that even two identical pieces of wood can have a different character so it’s always a good idea to spend some time trying different guitars within the same model. I’ve come across huge differences and sometimes even the cheapest seemingly crappiest guitars can surprise in terms of tone. – Bjorn]

  23. tim says:

    Hey Bjorn.

    Just got done reading the new entry and once again a job well done.

    When it comes to body, Alder is always my first choice because it is more balanced and it has a warmer tone to it.

    For the neck I’ve gone with one-piece Maple for its punchy feel and easy grip. For a couple of years i was playing an Austin(strat knock-off)that had a maple neck with rosewood fretbroad and after awhile found to be looking for something more. Both my Fender Strats have alder bodies and maple necks, and they both have the modern day polyester finishes to the bodies. And your right, the polyester finish is more slightly thick and brighter sounding then lacquer in some ways.

    In the pickup area, both had the stock single coils but after awhile, and a little money invested in them, they gave way to the EMG’s to achieve the tone/sound from the post-Roger years.

    And it does get me going, as it does for lot of players, when i go to one the local guitar shop in my community and there’s always that one who wants an axe like their hero’s guitar, without a clue what to really look for.

    Again, a great job once more and keep up the good work Bjorn.

    Cheers.
    Tim in TN.

    [Thanks for sharing Tim :) – Bjorn]

  24. Marc-Étienne says:

    hi Bjorn ! I bought a strat candy apple red recently and the guy who sold it told to me that the neck has a polyethylene finish… is this possible ? Maybe… but one thing is sure : the guitar is amazing ! all japan made with the first version of EMG DG20 and a callham bridge. Sound very great ! Thank you for your answer :)

    [Do you know what model it is? I’d assume that it has either nitro or different types of urethane although I’m no expert on the different neck finishes. I know some early MIJ uased different lacquer too. – Bjorn]

  25. Chris says:

    Your finish notes are incorrect as far as Fender is concerned.

    Every Strat and Tele made from 1963 on was coated first in Fullerplast, a Polyester catalyzed resin, i.e. plastic, and then coated with whatever top finish they wanted for aesthetics, with Nitrocellulose Lacquer at first. Later the entire process moved to Polyurethane for all countries of origin, and even guitars that are sold today by Fender as “Nitro” are in fact nitro over poly.

    http://www.caraguitars.com/fullerplast.asp

    The idea that a nitro strat “breathes” better is pure folly, because under the nitro was a solid plastic jacket that filled every pore in a coat, as that site says, that could be as thick as a 0.060″ string.

    If you want beautiful wear and checking – and depending on the formulation of nitro, yellowing – then Nitro is key.

    If you want a resonant, responsive guitar manufactured by Fender after 1963, the finish isn’t really going to enter into it much.

    [I must admit that I’m no professor in the Fender history but I was also trying to cover a huge subject as randomly as possible in order to point out the importance of different wood types. I also don’t agree that the different finishes and coatings doesn’t matter. It’s hard to compare though because a guitar’s acoustic tone doesn’t depend on the finish alone but many factors. Still, based on my own experience there’s a notceable difference between nitro and polyester. Even tho the nitro isn’t “pure”. Anyway, thanks for your input and I’ll read up on the facts :) – Bjorn]

  26. Shawn Smalley says:

    Don’t forget the occasional mahogany body (the Goldtop w/ P90’s, the Bill Lewis, the Gretch Duo Jet). It’s a different sound, and not “classic Floyd”, but my favorite guitars have always been mahogany-based (or maple-based in an old 335 I once had).

    I’d also say that a multi-ply body can make a difference (glue doesn’t transfer tone as well as solid wood). A 5-ply Squier just won’t have the same tone as a 3-ply Mexi-Strat or 2-ply American Strat, even with the same hardware and electronics.

    [Good point. The assembly both in terms of the actual construction and how well it’s done definitely matters for the tone. Mahogany has a warm tone with a nice attack. I prefer a maple top for a bit more bite. – Bjorn]

  27. ruodi says:

    I really couldn´t tell a difference between the sound of two guitar bodies only by the number of their tics and dings or how “road-worn” they are. Sounds a bit “voodooish” for me, not so much “gilmourish”, sorry. ;-) I couldn´t even hear the difference between classical single-coil cut and bathtub cut – which is a sacrilege, I know (my first US Standard – bought it in the 80ies, had an infamous bathtub cut body, and it sounded great).

    Nitro cellulose laquer bodies tend to age more nicely, though. But this will never happen – only your poly-finished Strat that looks like a candy apple will gravitate all these well-known lacquer-destroying metal parts, especially when the guitar is brand-new! A stock “road-worn” nitrocellulose-finished body in contrast will still look like on the day you´ve bought it – even 15 years later! There´ll be no additional tics/dings/abrasives existent! – Think Dave´s “Workmate” Esquire!

    And that´s why I have absolutely no idea what all these guitar heroes have done to their axes, that their bodies are looking so exceedingly road-worn! Anyway, it´s always fun to see a 17-year-old student with very thin arms strumming his heavily road-worn Fender Stratocaster! :)

    Myself, I prefer the classic alder/maple combination for strat and swamp ash/maple for Tele. No more experiments! (I prefer no-fender partocasters though, which are still worth the money.) I was always wondering why you are preferring basswood. Gilmour never used basswood bodies, did he?

    For me, much more important than the choice of the “real” wood is the satisfiable feeling of freedom NOT to be constrained to wear this dreadful gilmour-unlike-but-disconcerting-yoko-ono-ish Hendrix strap and NOT to have this inevitable black & nerdy youtubish 1-ply pickguard on my black strat! (Had to take a look at the dictionary for the last sentence, but now it confesses my true feelings about the topic: Another gilmourist comes of age!) :)P

    And last not least: If your guitar sounds like crap, you can still fit a DG-20 pickguard! After that your mean guitar will be able to produce tones from heaven! (This wouldn´t work with Kinman pups, though.)

    … I forgot to ask: Does anyone know what kind of wood they´ve chosen for Gary?

    [I’m not sure if you’re looking for a fight or if you’re serious :) First off… You have to understand the difference between the fascination of having the gear your hero has and having your own style and preference. Don’t forget that this is a Gilmour site and a Hendrix strap and black pickguard is part of the whole package :) I wonder what thoughts and hopes you had when you bought your guitars. What made you buy just that model… was it purely based on your exceptional good taste?
    As far as I know, David has never used basswood. At least not none of his preferred guitars are basswood. Have you tried basswood yourself? Anyway, to say that it doesn’t matter what the guitar is made of and that it’s too voodooish is like saying that you couldn’t care less if your car was made of steel or cheese… Anyway….
    – Bjorn]

  28. Shannon says:

    An alder body with maple neck strat is my definite go to guitar. Ash with maple (as on my 52 tele) just sounds a little too bright and “hard’. I haven’t tried a basswood guitar yet though. Time will tell.

    [You should :) Basswood is in my opinion highly underrated. – Bjorn]

  29. Chris says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    Although wood can have an influence to the overall tone, one of the most important thing in the equation is certainly the player’s fingers.

    [Well, wood is just another piece in the puzzle along with the electronics, cables, pedals, amps etc but a guitarist’s characteristics (in lack of a better word) lies in his fingers and how he expresses him self. Like Gene Simmons in Kiss always said it – he plays with his dick. I like to think that a true guitarist playes with his heart :) – Bjorn]

  30. GDKZen says:

    A nice thin nitro-lacquer finish really allows the resonance of the wood to come through. It does have drawbacks, however. It wears easily and requires much more care than hard finishes.

    I recommend a good non-resin polish (like Meguiars) to keep it clean. I would also recommend waxing it a couple of times of year, with extra emphasis on the upper bout where the forearm will tend to rest. If you have body chemistry like mine, then you’ll just eat through the finish right there, so give it some extra care.

    Also, be careful of your guitar stands. Rubber will eat through NC. If you have any doubt, throw a clean piece of cotton over the parts of the stand making contact with the guitar.

    [Thanks for the input! – Bjorn]

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