Which side of the debate do you fall on?
By Mike Duffy
Is the tone of an electric guitar affected by what type of wood is used? It’s a debate that has waged on among beginner and advanced players alike for a long time, and it’s something that Reddit user NissanGT77 asked.
In short, it’s a muddy situation, as there are vociferous defenders of each side of the issue. It’s undeniable that acoustic guitars are dependent on tonewood for their sound, but much more goes into it with regards to electrics.
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Those who don’t believe wood affects a guitar’s tone point to the physics of how an electric guitar works. The sound is caused by the vibration of strings through the magnetic field emanating from a guitar’s pickups.
Your guitar's intonation also contributes to the tone, and don’t forget the amp, which converts the signal from the pickups into an audible sound. Not much mention of wood there, but in reality, that is only part of the story.
The strings might not directly touch the wood, but the energy from a strummed string is transferred from the bridge and nut into the body and neck, creating frequencies that move through that wood.
Then how could the wood not play a role in your guitar’s tone? The answer is that it does. Generally, heavier woods like mahogany resonate differently than a medium-bodied wood like alder and a lighter wood like basswood.
And don’t forget feel. A big part of your tone comes down to how you play — how you fret chords and how you strum or pick.
At the end of the day, electric guitar tone is a magic brew made up of a lot of factors. And the wood of the neck and body is an ingredient in that recipe. In fact, most guitarists would agree that it is an important one.
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