Choosing the Right Woods for a Custom 7 Baritone?

Discussion in 'Sevenstring Guitars' started by Carl Kolchak, Oct 7, 2020.

  1. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Don't put all the tone stress in the pickups, pots have a huge amount of play in how a guitar sounds.

    As we are talking about woods, I'd like to add an idea that it's not always about tone. The wood vibrates with the strings and transfers that energy to our body since the guitars are generally glued to our bellies/chests. This energy transfer interferes in how we perceive the instrument, in how we feel, makes us resonate with the music played, it interferes with our body fluids and functions (and, yes, the brown sound also, hehehe...).

    I have mahogany and basswood guitars. Besides the different specs of each guitar, I generally prefer my mahogany ones because they allow me to feel the vibrations better, or in a way that I like most. There's a lot of psychology involved coming from previous guitar experiences and all that jazz, but I do prefer the mahogany ones...

    This to say that, based on your experience, what's the body wood that better resonates with you (excluding final and overall tone)? Go with that one...?
     
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  2. Carl Kolchak

    Carl Kolchak Last of the famous international playboys

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    This is quite interesting, as I too have experienced a similar phenomenon on a couple of occasions, the most notable being with a mahogany bodied Faded Special SG, which, when strung with some heavier gauge strings, had an almost acoustic kind of resonance thing going on.

    Thanks for your input. I will be giving some serious consideration.
     
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  3. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks SS.org Regular

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    Huh. Who recommended that.
     
  4. Señor Voorhees

    Señor Voorhees SS.org Regular

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    Maybe it's because I'm vain, but wood is one of the first choices I make right up there with the body/headstock shape if I'm ordering custom. I guess I should've said it's not exactly wise to order an expensive custom if you need advice/opinions on one thing or another. In fact, I shouldn't even say that because even just getting what is essentially an off-the-wall production guitar in a special color you want is valid enough reason to get one. I hate elitism/gate keeping, so I should've just kept my mouth shut in general. Having said that, I apologize for my previous post.

    Pickups will indeed make more of a difference when it comes to sound, and the "flub" could be a result of "too much" gain and not just "a lot" of gain. 27" G standard can sound great depending on the pickups/settings/cab/mic placement (real or virtual) used, regardless of wood. Worth noting is that basswood is incredibly light and might invite some nasty neck dive depending on the guitar. (explorers and V's as an example dive like crazy with light bodies in my experience.) I had an old (I think) douglas version of rondomusic's ghost way back when I first started playing guitar and it was a basswood body and dove like crazy.

    As an aside, depending on what is meant by "flub," as a sound it tends to come from too "warm" of a tone. Even looking at how "tone woods" are described, swamp ash is described as brighter, so if OP hates the flub of swamp ash, then basswood would be a worse choice as it's allegedly a warmer sounding wood. (with mahogany being on the extreme side of warm.) Again, this is if you truly believe in tonewoods. You can get a bright shrill guitar to sound warm and flubby/dull depending on the pickups/amp and pedal settings you use and vice-versa. Another thing that can effect flub/note definition is pickup placement. The closer to the bridge that a pickup is, the brighter it will sound, and the further away it is, the duller and less defined it will sound. As an example, the Agile Legacy 727 Rondo has up looks like the pickup is a little further from the bridge. (can't tell if it's an optical illusion due to no pickup rings, however. Very small distance changes make huge differences, though.)

    I personally love ash guitars as the grain is relatively subtle, looks beautiful, and I've never had a guitar made from it that didn't sound great. Certainly wouldn't describe any of them as flubby.

    edit: Didn't read a few of the more recent posts. Take my opinion with a grain of salt, as it is simply just my opinion.
     
  5. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    What ever wood you choose, be sure it's harvested when the moon is both full and at it's highest point at midnight. A close second is to have it harvested at the geometric mean between midnight and the time the moon is at its zenith.
     
  6. brain21

    brain21 SS.org Regular

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    Someone suggested alder. For me personally I have found that Alder tends to be a "warmer" wood. By that I mean that the highs tend to be a little rolled off compared to some other woods. Mahogany is nice and a good choice (talking standard scale guitars here), but personally I feel like swamp ash sits right between alder and mahogany, giving the best of both. YMMV. My favorite would be korina, however.

    I think you need to think about this with a tonal approach rather than a wood approach. Korina w/ P90s could maybe just nail a particular sound you are looking for, whereas basswood with humbuckers only get you partially there (I'm picking these wood/pups t random to illustrate the point).

    As someone else suggested, talk about your tonal needs with the builder. I mean they build and play them all the time. They will know if basswood suits your needs better than mahogany or ash or whatever. As yet someone else suggested, the pickups will be very important as well, and they should all be considered in harmony, not as separate things. Your best bet here again is to talk to the builder. He may start off with suggesting a pickup, and then select a wood based on that, etc.

    Consider hardware in the equation as well. I'll give you an example...

    I'm building a custom, vintage style strat on my own. The body is made of alder. The neck is all maple. Vintage pickups tend to be warmer and can sometimes be lacking in the highs (depending on the pickups and what you want), with the exception of the bridge pickup. I was looking at the Wudtone trem for it and I had 2 choices - the vintage and the "Holy Grail." I went with the Holy Grail simply because it is a little bit brighter than the vintage. If the body were swamp ash I likely would have flipped my choices. Between the body wood, the neck wood, the pickups and the hardware, my goal is to balance all of this out into something that sounds vintage, but has more nicely defined, but not harsh highs. My only problem now is the bridge pickup. I was never a fan of strat bridge pickups, so I'm going for something a little different on the bridge potentially. I'm thinking of a strat pickup that is voiced a little more closely to a P90 so it doesn't sound so thin. Whether all of this comes out like I envision it is another thing. Part of the learning process. The point is, you have to take in many aspects as part of the whole rather than in isolation.

    I would also either play a bunch (if that's even possible in these times of COVID) or get a cheap "practice" guitar if you can afford that.

    I had a warmoth baritone conversion neck sitting around. It was slated for a different build, but whatever. I lucked upon a cheap triple p90 Jazzmaster style guitar body with trem, pickups, all included. They were cheap. It was a blem body. I paid $150 for it. I put on my baritone neck. Warmoth fatback. That thing is like playing a telephone pole! After playing it a bit (it sounds pretty good - it will sound even better with decent pickups in it) I'm pretty sure that my next baritone will not only have a thinner neck, but also likely be a fanned fret guitar tuned to B. It will just be a LOT easier to play I think. Lesson learned, and I still got a kinda cool build out of the thing.

    HTH
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  7. pipelineaudio

    pipelineaudio SS.org Regular

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    Has there ever been any actual evidence, from the reality based world, that the body wood choice is going to have an effect on the tone coming out the output jack?

    Please spare the Fallacious ad-hominems, Fallacious Appeal to Emotion, anecdotes about your uncle's gardener who once shared a cab with yada yada, personal attacks and whatever.
     
  8. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire thy fart is murder

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    I've seen some homebrew comparisons utilizing frequency analysis to show quantitative differences between woods but their methodology is all over the place. Some guys are also mixing construction types so it's even less useful.
     
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  9. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    It could be a million dollar government-funded study. I never heard back from Trump on my research proposal into tonewoods, though.

    From a serious standpoint, though, there are some published comparisons using semi-scientific methods that have found conflicting results. Even if you looked at a Fourier-Transform Spectrum of a statistically significant number of samples of different hardwoods, how much difference would people need to see or not see to convince anyone anything about what they have already decided that their ears do or do not hear?

    It's a completely futile argument.
     
  10. Lorcan Ward

    Lorcan Ward 7slinger

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    If tonewoods didn’t matter then pickup EQ charts would actually make sense so you wouldn’t have pickups that are harsh, bright or warm depending on your guitar. I wish they didn’t cause then we could actually design pickups with fixed EQs.
     
  11. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    Quasi-scientific is correct. Pro-tonewood myth folks like to show differences between individual pieces of wood, but they never demonstrate any predictive value. The only realistic study into this was done with Stradivarius and Modern violins. They had four of each and a number (IIRC, five) experts. The experts blindly listed to all eight violins and attempted to identify the Stradivarius. Not only were there false-positives and false-negative, but there was little to no consistency among the experts.

    If acoustic instruments can't be accurately identified based on their timbre, how would you expect tonewood to be identified through pick-ups, pedals, amps, speakers, cabinets, etc.?

    For the Pro-tonewood myth folks to prove their point, "all" they need to do is to make a group of guitars that are "identical" except for the body wood (we can ignore the potential effects of neck & fretboard woods, fret material, finish, hardware, strings, picks, etc.) assemble a group of "experts", have them listen to the instruments played by the same person, through the same signal chain, amp, speaker, cabinet, etc., and see how many of the experts consistently and accurately identify the body wood.

    There's no argument that different pieces of wood will produce different tones, but the argument is that there's any predictive consistency between any two pieces of the same wood. A huge clue that this will not happen is the number of times people say things like, "I tap-tone select each body blank.", "This is awfully bright for a maghoany body.", "This is awfully dark for a piece of maple.", "I expected more resonance from a light wood.", "It's extremely resonant for such a dense piece of wood.", etc., etc., etc., ... The first comment is especially poignant, because it shows that there's filtering so the "correctly" sounding boards make it through.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  12. AltecGreen

    AltecGreen SS.org Regular

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    There is a whole body of scientific research into this subject both for acoustic and electric guitars. There have been tonewood studies, neck joint studies, etc. There is a fair amount of scatter in the data and the error bars are large. To be fair, these studies while they are legitimate scientific measurements d have the resources to use the very best in techniques. Moreover, one of the more interesting studies was on consistency of electric guitar manufacturing. In that study, they measure a while bunch of 'essentially' identical guitars and found the scatter in response to be 10-15% at best for nominally the same model.

    I can provide the citations of people are interested.
     
  13. HaloHat

    HaloHat 7 string Baritones

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    I have [links here somewhere] three 7 string 27" scale custom builds where I provided most of the wood for the builds. I will agree that the wood type, as long as it is strong and stable, matter less than the pick ups and amp and cab etc. That said I did make my choice of woods for the neck and fretboard based on feel and stability, the body wood more for the look.

    1. Wenge neck, Bloodwood fretboard, one piece swamp ash body with a thick Lacewood top.
    2. Bloodwood neck [my favorite], pinkheart fretboard, Lacewood body, Cocobolo Top.
    3. 5 pc. Wenge Black Limba neck, Ebony fretboard, Black Limba body with Ebony top and back.

    I would like to share both an awesome builder [nothing he can't do, use your imagination, yep, he can do that] who has access to just about any wood you could throw at him and has years and hundreds if not thousands of builds experience [14 string Tele anyone? Acoustics, Electrics, pick ups, finish work etc] and though he has access to pretty much any wood you could want I will also share where I buy the woods for my builds [yes I have in one instance just named the woods and where I wanted them in the builds and let him source them, he did great!]

    Bryant Custom Guitars - Tacoma, Washington area. His prices and build times are outstanding and so is his communication with the customer. I really can't say enough good about him. He has also done excellent repair and mod work on several of my guitars in addition to a full build.

    I'm sure he would be happy to discuss the questions you have on a custom build...
    Tim Bryant
    https://www.facebook.com/bryantcustomguitars/

    Cook Woods - Kalamath Falls, Oregon
    https://www.cookwoods.com/collections/wood-by-species

    Tropical Exotic Hardwoods - Carlsbad, California
    https://www.tehwoods.com/
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  14. Iamcam

    Iamcam SS.org Regular

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    That's what she said.
     
  15. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire thy fart is murder

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    sure, post the citations.
     
  16. mastapimp

    mastapimp SS.org Regular

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    Talk to your builder about the sound you're after. They should be able to recommend the wood and pickup combo for you, especially if they've built a large number of longer scale down tuned guitars. I took the builders recs on two of my four customs and was pretty happy with the results.
     
  17. soldierkahn

    soldierkahn BAD MAMMA-JAMMA Contributor

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    if doing a basswood body, i would recommend going with a maple cap on it.... for downtuning that low, its supposedly the best tone combo

    Im ordinarily a Mahogany guy for 6s and most 7s, but i leave my basswood-bodied ones for my lowest tunings depending on what im going for. I hate basswood for tunings above B as it doesnt carry enough low end in the higher tunings like mahogany does, but once you hit A and lower, the basswood kinda shines great here so you dont have to do so much eq'ing yourself into the right tonal area.
     
  18. soldierkahn

    soldierkahn BAD MAMMA-JAMMA Contributor

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    so if you cant read tab, you shouldn't LEARN how to read it? you're not really bein helpful, but SSO will SSO.
     
  19. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire thy fart is murder

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    There's a LOOOTTT of guys on here that have been down the custom route before. Trust us when we say, don't go custom unless you actually know what you want. You'll just end up wasting time and money.
    hmm interesting, so there is at least some quantitative data showcasing variability between wood species and guitars. It's a shame that the only one that tries to address the player's perception of those differences didn't particularly flesh out their conclusion. That would be more in line with the general argument about tonewoods, is whether the average guitar player can accurately/reliably perceive those tonal changes.

    I wish they would have delved further into how they accounted for the "identical construction" in the Itemm study. I wonder if they sourced the woods from the same trees, same billet, etc. I get that it's probably outside the scope of the study but it matters if the intent was for the guitars to be "identical".
     
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