Does the back grain pattern have any affect on resonance, sustain, sound quality, etc?

danzego

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Thanks for the replies so far, folks. I appreciate that people have kept it civil and not being insulting because they might find the question trivial or silly (another gear forum I posted this at immediately drew snide comments because, well, people and internet). I honestly don’t know and am seeing what others may know about it. Good things to think about so far.
 

mdubya

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The way the grain appears depends much on the orientation in which it is cut.

I have read some luthiers prefer flat sawn to quarter sawn, saying quarter sawn is too rigid and doesn't vibrate as much.

OP, you should choose what appeals to you and only you. It will most definitely sound better.
 

rogue3

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My swamp ash tele's have beautiful swirl.and they sound magnificent.They are also very light.

The only to tell is to play it.Get a weight too.That could be something to consider,from a distance.Again,play it and see if you like it.
 

skydog

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The grain pattern doesn`t affect tone any more that flame vs plain top does.
The only factors that come into play is weight and chambering....and the pick guard on or off of course.
You've got so much to learn! There's witch hats vs. speed knobs, m69 rings vs. stock, ivory vs. black vs. cream switch tips, various brands of fretboard oils, all of these factors come into play!
 

Wuuthrad

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Re. grain shape, I wouldn’t be sure it’s that noticeable on an electric guitar, if at all.

It is important, and often more debated, for acoustic and classical guitar tops, having to do with tap tones, resonance, structural integrity, history and visual preference.

But when people have examined older Spruce tops without tight grains, the whole thing re. tone goes out the window. As well with blind tests.

So it may be ultimately just a matter of preferring the structural integrity of a 3mm piece of wood that has sort of carried over to electric guitar Luthery, when the sonic difference is highly questionable.

I personally wouldn’t make a final judgement on a guitar that sounded good based on its grain pattern, as it’s always the sum of all the different parts which make it sound good.

That being said, if you don’t like how it looks, that could negatively how it sounds if you were thinking man why am I playing this ugly guitar?
 

rockstar232007

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Yes...but, good luck hearing it?

Grain-orientation does affect how wood resonates, but the only real way to "test" it, is using the tap-tone method. Can't do that on a finished guitar, unfortunately.
 

Brek

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All my Historics have swirly backs except my R7 which is fairly straight,.... but all have great tone and sustain.

This is my CC#28
View attachment 495245

Even Jimmy Page's #2 has a swirly back.

View attachment 495246
Interesting my R7 also has really straight grain, to the point where I wondered if it might be African (it’s not) it’s 2003 model, 8lb 10oz of p90 spankiness.

I want to start a database of les Paul backs. (lol) With strict quality guidance on images submitted. I.e. shot parallel to the back no tilting, pref with 50mm lens, 100% jpeg quality, 12mp minimum, and just the body part of the back. Will be an interesting resource, preserving a unique piece of musical instrument design for future historical interest.
 
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mudface

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Interesting my R7 also has really straight grain, to the point where I wondered if it might be African (it’s not) it’s 2003 model, 8lb 10oz of p90 spankiness.
Mine is a 2004...
 

dc007

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You've got so much to learn! There's witch hats vs. speed knobs, m69 rings vs. stock, ivory vs. black vs. cream switch tips, various brands of fretboard oils, all of these factors come into play!
Top wrapping has the greatest impact on tone
 

Caretaker

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You've got so much to learn! There's witch hats vs. speed knobs, m69 rings vs. stock, ivory vs. black vs. cream switch tips, various brands of fretboard oils, all of these factors come into play!
Well if you want to nitpick.
 

guitaroholic

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Yes...but, good luck hearing it?

Grain-orientation does affect how wood resonates, but the only real way to "test" it, is using the tap-tone method. Can't do that on a finished guitar, unfortunately.
I can see that when looking at something like a xylophone with their long strips of wood, but on a virtually almost square chunk of hog of almost 2" I doubt the impact on tone-out-the-amp or sustain of swirl will differ from straight grain... Probably more impact from weight and density of the chunk of wood if anything.

Any xylophone forums to post this question on? :hmm:
 

crosstownblues

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My 2011 R9 has an unblemished straight grain back, and is light and resonant. The R5 has a cathedral grain pattern in the back, is about 8.5 lbs, and very lively, with a more buttery sound. The R4 is straight grain, also about 8.5 lbs., very woody, like an Allman Brothers bark. All have Electric City PAFs, the 59 series with the R4 having a low wind neck pickup. So, comparing them is perhaps a little more relevant than guitars with different model/make pickups. All in all, I think it's a matter of perspective: Do you like it? That's the thing right there. If it has "it" and you like the look, go for it.
 

ARandall

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^^ Really, Demon Dave.

Go to luthier related areas and its quite important. The result is the same.....'every bit of wood is individual and unique so how on earth are you going to make any judgement'.....but there you have people who have worked with way more wood than the average player. So maybe they tend to have much more broad ranging experience than the 'playing public'.

Well if you can believe Dana Bourgeois. His statement on tone woods is. (paraphrasing) The tighter and straighter the grain. The more pleasing the tone.
Doesn't that involve a personal judgement on tone though.....the sort of judgement that is essentially irrelevant to anyone else as they might have completely opposite tastes.


And I guess that is the crux of the problem here. The only universal result you could have is related to objective issues like stability, warping tendencies, ability to be cut cleanly without tearing/dulling tools, tightness of pores for grainfilling and finishing ease.
 

Platte City Paul

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Re: Dana Bourgeois. He is an acoustic maker, and I agree 100% - wood matters a lot in an acoustic.

I just don't think the wood matters nearly as much in one electric guitar to the next of the same model. I think it mostly comes down to how a particular player interacts with the guitar, and how the pickups and wiring harness respond.

The player is HUGELY important. Attack and technique matter. My guitar teacher makes my guitar sound much better than I do, and DANG the bastard! :p

That said, I don't build guitars, beyond the one Warmoth kit I finished. I also have TERRIBLE hearing, so know I can't hear nuances in tone very well.

I'm not sure how to even test that theory short of lifting the pickups and wiring harness whole, and installing them into another guitar of the same model, with the same player playing, and making note of any differences in wood and then tone.

I could, of course, be over-thinking this. :shock:
 

danzego

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One thing I would like to clarify is that I’m not talking about tone here. I’m considering it from a resonance and sustain perspective. I think it’s important to make that distinction.

I know tone is going to vary from guitar to guitar even in the same model, pickups, similar attributes. I’m wondering more about what effect a swirled grain structure might have on energy transfer/travel, which (theoretically) might contribute to resonance and sustain.

With that said, someone who knows a whole bunch about wood and physics might be thinking to themselves, “dang, this guy doesn’t know much about wood properties”, to which I would say, “yeah, you’re right!” All I know is I recall seeing someone important to the guitar industry talking about it in an interview at some point, I saw that back on the guitar Gibson is offering to me, and I thought I would look into that. :)

Thanks to everyone who has replied in a nice manner (yes, even those giving me some rubbing). :D
 


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