Electric guitar body TONEWOOD – Myth or Fact? Judge for yourself here!

The type of wood of an acoustic instrument has a huge influence on tone, but what about electric guitars? This is sometimes referred to as the Tone Wood Debate. In the guitar community there is no clear consensus on this issue. In this video the exact same guitar neck, pickup and hardware are assembled to two bodies of identical dimensions and density. One is Mahogany and one is Maple.

Also a third body made of Pressure treated Fir, from Friday’s clip, is included in the comparison, that one has different dimensions and density though.

Amp setup: 1977 Marshall Super Bass into 2x 1971 Marshall 1960A and 1960B 4×12 Cabs, miked by Unidyne IV 548 close mic and AKG C414 BXLII room mic.

Dimensions Maple and Mahogany bodies: 510x120x21mm, density for both 650 g/m3

Dimension Pressure treated Fir: 415x120x27, density 920 g/m3


41 thoughts on “Electric guitar body TONEWOOD – Myth or Fact? Judge for yourself here!

  1. Lotmom November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Amazing! I always thought body material only mattered for acoustic guitars! I can clearly hear that the mahogany is slightly warmer and bigger sounding than the maple. The fir just sounds dead

  2. Jackon J November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I’ve always prefered mahogny. Not just because of the tone, but it’s a very solid wood and it’s heavier than other types of wood such as basswood, alder and ash. I prefer more weight on the guitar

  3. Jedidiah Stopyro November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Hmm. Did you wash your hands between guitars? Maybe that's why they sound different. No wait, maybe it's humidity in the air. Ambient temperature? No, the way you were sitting in relation to the speaker cone varied, that's definitely it! Yep, no difference!

    Of course to be fair they would sound nearly identical if fed through 12 distortion pedals, 6 modulators, 3 delays and 2 reverbs, then into a solid state amp, a camera phone mic, digitized in a freebie recording program and uploaded to Youtube. That's how the real scientists do it and always prove wood ineffective in changing tone.

  4. Interesting experiment!  I hear the difference in this clip! Unplugged the difference was quite obvious. Plugged the difference is less obvious.
    So i think this experiment must prove that guitar wood do influents tone even for electric guitars.
    And this test should give more clear light to people who are laired by idiots who claim with no solid proofs that guitar wood have no influence on guitar tone!!!

  5. Teutone November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I listened on my Beyerdynamic DT150 headphones, didn't hear a damn bit of a difference.

  6. The Driver November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    people are listening with their eyes. Tonewood is bullshit. They just want to believe this idea so they can feel better and have no regrets about having spent big money on an idea that they thought to be true.

  7. Brian Henderlong November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I also like the mohg. body. Great video!

  8. Horacio Lopez November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Shiiiiiiit… This is the kind of vids I love: others doing the things I always wanted to do to prove, in this case, the tonal differences between bodies' wood BUT that I'm too lazy to do. For that, I salute you sir!

  9. American Devil November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    OK, so correct me if I'm wrong but, a great test would be to string a hard tail electric guitar with non-metallic strings? If it makes noise at all through a pick-up then tone wood would be a thing , if not then it isn't…There's no question that the wood can make a difference in an acoustic instrument or even in the sound of an amplifier as it projects into a room, but do non-metallic strings make sound through a pick-up and amp?

    I would think that someone would have tried this simple test by now and I suspect that there has been, yet when a person does a search on YouTube the results are very few and do not show this exact test, either they have strung their electric with nylons (that have 3 metallic wound strings) and of course you here those strings resonate through the pick-ups or they are using piezos…

    Clearly some preferential manipulation of the general search results have occurred, and I smell industry wide rat, no doubt to protect the people who sell products based on the tone-wood sales pitch…To be clear, piezos create an electric current from physical air movement and wound pickups create an electrical signal through magnetics…Plastic, rubber or materials like spun glass or hair would be Ideal for this type of test, something that doesn't have or block magnetic frequencies on it's own…Another way to go about it would be to completely shield the pick-ups in a farad case because magnetics won't pass through them…If You've seen a video that addresses these scenarios as I've described please link me too it…

    Cool demonstration, definitely the hard way of eliminating certain debates but not as conclusive as the tests I described, I love your passion and of course you have really cool gear, Thank You 🙂

  10. Paul Applewhite November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Brilliant video. Well done sir – you've nailed it. There's no denying that they sound different. (I like the mahogany best 🙂 )

  11. mark card November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Have a talk with Will Gelvin.

  12. Chicky YaF November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I do wonder why people don't hear the difference..

  13. Pedro Leal November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Hi Johan !
    Thank you for the honest and plain effort to tackle myths and legends,and, at the same time showing what really affects what in a guitar. Keep on !

  14. Deathrape2001 November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    U need 2 play the same things on each piece of wood, & the body should be normal size, because ALL of them R going 2 sound $hit (no sustain) that small, jerk. Half the sound is the wings vibrating. The center does not affect tone as much, unless it is neck through, which makes it nasal. Redo the test with woods cut out in the same normal body shape (like an SG) & play EXACTLY the same things on each type of wood. B scientific instead of WASTING EVERYBODY'S TIME!!! N E way, U will find Mahogany sounds best 4 guitar, so it's all pointless from the start. & red Canadian cedar is best 4 acoustic, & ash back 4 bass =)

  15. reezalguy November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    i can hear the difference. cant decide which one i like though. I wonder if the differences are more obvious when compared to a cheaper tonewood, say basswood. what do you think ?

  16. Kelvin Jenkins November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Thanks Johan for all your work here.
    It’s been a pleasure not only watching your playing but the well thought out concepts for videos, well executed and documented.
    I’ve often wondered what the difference would be with electric guitars and if it would roughly follow what I’ve experienced in acoustic guitars.
    I heard a distinct difference between all three woods. I was actually surprised how good the cheap for board sounded in some of the clips.

    Here are the tone prints as I perceived them:

    Bass – 8
    Low Mid – 7
    High mid – 5
    Treble – 5

    Bass – 5
    Low Mid – 6
    High mid – 7
    Treble – 7

    Bass – 7
    Low Mid – 4
    High mid – 7
    Treble – 8

  17. John Made burgers November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Yes, different wood changes everything

    The mahogany has a deeper mid then the maple but idk I really like the maple xD

  18. silmarilil November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    What are those bridge, tailpiece and pickup? I mean, type/manufacturer? I am looking forward to make such a simple guitar of my own, but I am not familiar with brands or what's good or bad…

    Also, how would you've hidden the wire (if you had such desire, and time)?

    Help would be appreciated, thanks!

  19. Tone Fingerz November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    haha. earth science does not explain alien ufo phonomena either but obviously they are real. there is def a difference

  20. Brian S November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I DO believe wood can make a difference in plugged tone, but there's potentially two things wrong with this experiment, the mic might be picking up the differences in unplugged sound if it's picking up enough ambient room noise, and if the pickups are microphonic enough, they might be picking up changes that pickups that aren't microphonic won't pick up. If recording JUST the amp sound, some pickups probably won't pickup differences. But I think even some pickups that aren't microphonic, if they're dynamic enough and responsive enough, could still pickup up any subtle changes wood makes.

    The wood makes the pickups themselves vibrate, and different woods will make the pickups vibrate differently, and might even affect how the strings are vibrating besides, some pickups might pick up these subtleties more than others, microphonic or not.

    Then of course some people might not hear these changes. But I always say, to anyone that's been playing guitar long enough, you develop an appreciation for how a guitar sounds when unplugged, and how different woods feel in your hands as you play, I'd even say this along with things like body size/shape will change how a player plays, even if it might just be a psychological thing.

    Anyone that's been playing long enough and is really passionate about guitar, is going to think it's worth it to spend more on the woods you like. I like natural satin finishes too, allows the wood to breath and makes for a great unplugged sound, and allows wood to age properly.

  21. Scott J November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    How about adding extra wood or brass to the headstock for sustain and tone?

  22. Puryear Eaker November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    if you want to know how to make it yourself, just go to woodprix webpage. There you'll find your answers 🙂

  23. carol day November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    loved it. mahogany was more 80s big name rock while the maple sounded like more modern rock to me. very very cool. did not like the fir much though if i had nothing else it is still decent, it just lacked the life the other 2 have. fir was, gummy i guess.

  24. nowhereweareagain November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Two things.
    1)There are differences, but they're subtle, probably not enough to matter live, but maybe enough to make a difference in a hi-fi recording setup.
    2) There's something to be said that guitars built with "nicer" wood tend to have higher build quality. That's a perfectly good reason to buy an instrument. If the body isn't put together well or feels crappy, that will effect how you play.

  25. mikeythemic November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I love your minimalist guitar. You got some great tones out of it. It might be the lack of glue making it sound good. Was the pickup you used potted or unpotted since it could act as a microphone to an extent. The mahogany sounded the most well rounded tonally to me, although it is a subtle difference. You could easily make a one piece guitar like that. You're on to something with your design lol

  26. bob bitchen November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Your leg was moving double time.lol,Cheers

  27. spiderman lover1488 November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I liked the fir sound best actually

  28. Alcathous November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    They do not sound the same, for whatever reason. But where is it shown that it is the species of the wood that gives the wood certain properties, that then gives each guitar that sound? Because that is what this is all about. Not that different guitars sound different.

  29. Helga Schneider November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I've been following this "debate" for quite some time now, but I've never read a single reasonable argument why the wood should audibly affect the sound of an electric guitar.

  30. Kfir Lavi November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Seems like your tapping at the beginning of the video, linearly predicts the outcome tonality of the guitar. Really great video!

  31. Rob Cerasuolo November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    I was listening to you tap the woods, and I noted something interesting. When you tapped on the fir, it had basically one frequency to it. The other two, however, had two particularly loud frequencies to them. While the intervals aren't perfect, I heard an octave plus a major third on the maple, and an octave plus a fifth on the mahogany. I'd be interested in knowing if this quality of the sound of the woods as you tapped them could be used to help indicate the potential quality (not the final quality, of course) of the guitar that could be built from a particular piece of wood?

    I ask this cuz in your demos, I found the mahogany to be the most pleasant; and the interval I perceived for it was close to a fifth. A perfect fifth is often considered the most pleasant non-unison interval in music. The mahogany guitar didn't "tap" a perfect fifth, to my ears, but it was pretty close. The maple guitar had a particularly harsh quality to it, both acoustically and electrically. This was surprising to me, since I normally like maple bodies. The fir didn't sound too bad, but it did seem to lack something that the mahogany and maple had, and I'm guessing that the two "peak" tones I mentioned above might have something to do with that.

    Assuming that my observations are correct, that would imply that a piece of wood could be "tuned" for tone through density and dimension. This has always made sense to me, but this is the first time I've seen it demonstrated in such a compelling way.

    You can probably guess that I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to this subject. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what I've said. In any case, thanks for the demo!

  32. Matt Matt November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Fir stands out

  33. MrMattsucksatguitar November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Very small difference at all. I listened and didn't watch to see which wood was which. I can't tell if I was just looking for something different every time you changed the riff, or if there was a noticeable change. Minimal at best. Great video, but like all music, someone is going to hear what they want to hear and say "yes I was right!" That "I was right" can be applied to both. In the end, not enough difference to spend extra money on one or the other. I bet in a mix it would be even harder to see if the ears are playing tricks or if the wood matters. Idea for another video hint hint!

  34. dileo DJD November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Wow they all sound really good and they really all do have their subtle differences. Although one must ask, within a mix of drums bass and other guitars would any tonal difference be noticed, and is one really"better" than another?

  35. wspeed657 November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Cool video. Definitely a difference.

  36. Fobia82 November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    They all sound the same to me.

  37. Jason Vanzant November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Great video, Mr. Segeborn.  Don't you think, in order for the test to be truly objective, that you should have been unaware which plank you were playing?  Do you think it might be possible that confirmation bias could have informed your technique with regards to the different woods, causing, say a sharper attack with the maple plank, or a stronger pick attack and more finger flesh on the fretboard with the mahogany board?

  38. gabriel saboya November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    johan, now if you can try with more pieces of each wood (so we can have a few for concistency between especies), also do a test for scale lenght and between similar pickups on the same plank.
    There were noticiable diferences between this planks, but I don't think it will do that much diference on the final sound of an electric (that's why there are some amazing electrics from alternative materials, i.e. trussart).
    yet tonewood is very important for acoustics as they are the speakers and also the pieces move/vibrate much more in those, hence why the acoustic sounds/knocks make total sense.

  39. DCS 84 November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    But, is the difference noticeable once you've painted, lacquered, and sealed the wood? At that point haven't you removed most, if not all, of the different tonal qualities of each type of wood?

  40. spark300c November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    for electric solid bodies the wood so ridged that little impact  on tone. the amount coloring the tonewood does base on hooks law. thiner body will flex more and wood will color the tone more. solid body by design are made to flex as little as possible to prevent feed back there some percent of tone colors the tone. since not made to flex they cheapest to make because the body does not need tuning.

  41. FINALLYQQQQAVAILABLE November 29, 2017 at 3:47 am

    A blind test with these "guitars" would be nice. It would be very important (and very hard) to play the riffs as consistently as necessary for such a test to work. It's probably even better to play only single notes instead of complete riffs and it's probably best to use a pick only. It only takes a slight change of volume or the position of the right hand to change the tone completely. Any difference caused by the change of the material could be easily masked by a small change in playing style.

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