Column: The Woods in the Electric Guitar (1)April 26, 2018
There is a widely held misconception in the electric guitar community that the woods in the electric guitar are not that important and that what produces a good electric guitar tone is solely dependent on the pickups. This can’t be further from the truth. The woods in the electric guitar mean a lot more to your tone that you realize.
The sound of an electric guitar unplugged can be seen as an “ant”. And that “ant” is then transformed into a giant “dinosaur” through powerful amplification systems. If the ant is pretty, then you’ll have a pretty dinosaur. If the ant is ugly, you’ll have an ugly dinosaur. This analogy may seem simplistic and exaggerated but experienced players and pros know that the woods in the electric guitar matter a great deal. Some pro players and artists say that they will play new electric guitars unplugged for a while before they decide they want to plug into an amp. If it doesn’t sound and feel great unplugged, they won’t even bother to plug in.
Ultimately, the natural acoustic character of an electric guitar is what you hear through your amplifier. The pickup certainly has an effect on the amplified tone with its gain (output) and voicing (EQ) but, in the end, it simply delivers what it “hears” from the guitar to the amplifier. Whether it’s how the guitar responds to your pick attack, how it resonates against your body, how it sustains or how it sounds unplugged in a quiet room, the electric guitar is still an “acoustic” instrument that gets amplified to very loud levels.
So, if you’re really interested in fundamentally improving your electric guitar tone, it makes sense to study and understand how the different woods in the guitar affect the final sound. The body, the neck and the fingerboard woods all interact and complement each other to produce a certain sound. Some combinations work great and define the classic electric guitar sounds while some combinations don’t sound so good.
At Cort, we take the woods used for the electric guitars very seriously. Whether the woods are for the body, neck or fingerboard, we realize that they are all very important in producing the desired tone. In the future, we’d like to explore this more in-depth to help you understand and choose the right woods for the particular sounds you are going for. Whether it’s Alder, Swamp Ash or Poplar for the body, Maple or Mahogany for the neck, or Maple, Ebony or Pau Ferro for the fingerboard, they all have an effect on the overall sound of the electric guitar. We look forward to exploring this world of electric guitar woods in our future newsletters so please stay tuned!