Here it is, the endless, stupid tonewood debate summarized:
Wood doesn’t affect tone. It’s the pickups and wires and shit.
Yes it does! ‘Cause vibrations and shit.
It’s all in your fingers!
Here’s my Youtube video showing wood does affect tone. Ha, fuck you!
Bullshit, here’s my Youtube video showing wood does not affect tone. So fuck you.
But tone is all in your fingers!
This is what it would take to disprove the tonewood notion.
1. Get a million dollars in funding for some audio science laboratory.
2. Buy a crapload of guitars and amps with this money. This is the control group.
3. Then buy more amps and build specialized guitars which can replicate most guitar configurations. This the experiment group.
4. Spend months recording and sending the guitars’ tones through analyzers and o-scopes.
5. Spend several more months on the control group.
6. Tack on a few more seasons (Seriously, babies will be born and learn to walk during this whole thing) compiling and analyzing all the data.
7. Publish these findings in a paper, and prepare to have it done all over again as part of the peer review process.
If step 1 doesn’t happen, then none of it happens, and it’s not going to happen. The reasons why are easy to understand. Tell ‘em, Rock:
The truth is some of us are probably curious and just confused. There’s been so much, um, “debate” on guitar forums that some people confused by the din.
Here’s what it boils down to though: there’s plausibility in the tonewood argument. Those strings do vibrate and resonance, and feedback does occur on a solidbody electric guitar. It’s even greater on a semi-hollow or hollowbody one. So there are many things at play which affect the magnetic fields of the pickups, and make it back to the amplifier. The problem is nobody knows how much of each factor, and since I don’t see anybody willing to make this research grant happen (I’m pretty damn sure there’s a lab who would love to record guitars all day, talk about a cool project), well I guess all your Youtube videos are pretty fucking pointless then.
So whether you are a self-proclaimed doctor, warlock, captain, king, or whatever, the whole thing is based just on your opinion. Your anecdotes, insistence for either side, logical fallacies, ad hominems, and recordings – and good gods, recordings are a whole different ball of wax here – mean nothing. We could all go round and round all day but nobody has the tools, the money, or the will to back it with hard data. Unless you want to pay out of pocket for the lab equipment and guitars needed to do such an experiment, you have got nothing but stories and opinions.
A project like this would be exhaustive, and after the paper was published, people would set out to disprove it. It wouldn’t end there. Science doesn’t prove stuff. It pares away what doesn’t work and clears up misconceptions. Many previous generations have figured a lot of things out. We know which stuff works but it’s clear by the tonewood arguments that we don’t really know why. We mostly think we know, and we insist upon our points as though Paul Reed Smith doing it makes it authoritative. Smith knows way more about building guitars than I ever will. I can’t deny it. Has he done this kind of work though, and does he have the data somewhere showing just why a mahogany electric guitar should sound “darker” than an alder one. What does that even mean, darker? That’s a subjective statement but it’s accepted without question by guitarists.
That’s a huge part of the problem. All of these truisms, frequently believed with little questioning, use buzzwords and slang. Who are you to tell me a Gibson Les Paul sounds dark? I have a Dean Zelinsky StrettaVita. It’s a Les Paul clone. I can get quite a bit of snap and treble from it if I dial my amp and/or pedal settings right. Even then I just used the word “snap.” What did that even mean to you? It means something to me – I use it to describe tight response from the guitar, like snapping a towel or belt. It could’ve meant something totally different to you when you read it. Yet we guitarists do this everyday. We use subjective words and just assume people know what we mean. Then we have the gall to claim whether or not something affects another, but can’t explain just how much or exactly why. Ah, got it, “vibrations.” Okay, how much and by what factor? Can you state it in a formula? If I have x volume by y mass over z density, can I then figure out the resonance Telecaster’s body will have? Exactly, nobody has figured that out. You and I have got nothin’.
In the end the best use of one’s time is becoming better or less terrible at the guitar, rather than arguing things we can’t support.