Is it possible for a plywood guitar to sound good?

PitchShifter

Senior member
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292
It's been said on here many times that body wood has only a small effect of guitar tone...that neckwood and pickups are much more important factors.  In that case, could a good maple neck and quality pickups and electronics, be enough to produce an acceptable enough tone from a plywood bodied guitar.
I know 'good" is all very subjective, but I'm not after top shelf Gibson, but something that more around the level of an Epiphone in sound quality to use as a backup.
 

RockStarNick

Senior member
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224
I don't agree with that statement.

Bodywood is equally as important as neckwood and pickups. They all work together to make a sound, and the overall sound will only be as good as the weakest link.

I can tell you from my experience: I tried to take an old guitar body, and fill in the trem cavity using plywood, and then attach a fixed bridge. It sounded like absolute crap.  I've also had guitar students who have made project guitars out of plywood. They sounded on par with the sustain from a danelectro. But worse. 

Plywood just don't equal tonewood.

If you search hard on ebay, you could probably find some cheapo alder strat body for like under $50 bucks to use.
 

Wana_make_a_guitar

Senior member
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2,793
RockStarNick said:
Plywood just don't equal tonewood.
Not completely true, i think it might of been jack(or not), but he said he had a plywood iceman that sounded pretty alright. maybe it's the way the plywood is made, how tight it's pressed or something
 

Nick Ellingworth

Senior member
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217
RockStarNick said:
I don't agree with that statement.

Bodywood is equally as important as neckwood and pickups. They all work together to make a sound, and the overall sound will only be as good as the weakest link.

I can tell you from my experience: I tried to take an old guitar body, and fill in the trem cavity using plywood, and then attach a fixed bridge. It sounded like absolute crap.  I've also had guitar students who have made project guitars out of plywood. They sounded on par with the sustain from a danelectro. But worse. 

Plywood just don't equal tonewood.

If you search hard on ebay, you could probably find some cheapo alder strat body for like under $50 bucks to use.

And I don't agree with your statement, one of the guitars I own (a Marlin Sidewinder) is made from plywood and whilst it doesn't sound excellent it's a decent workhorse of an instrument even with it's dodgy tuners and at best temperamental electrics. Sure a plywood guitar almost certainly won't sound as good as a guitar made from proper woods but it doesn't mean it'll sound bad.

Although I do agree that a cheap solid body is a better buy than a plywood one.

EDIT: added quote
 

GoDrex

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3,619
Wana's_makin'_a_guitar said:
RockStarNick said:
Plywood just don't equal tonewood.
Not completely true, i think it might of been jack(or not), but he said he had a plywood iceman that sounded pretty alright. maybe it's the way the plywood is made, how tight it's pressed or something

I had the plywood iceman. Pickups made the biggest difference in how it sounded imo. I changed the body (with all the same parts) out for a single piece basswood body and it sounded a little different, but I couldn't tell you which one was "better."  I do think every part makes a difference, but I also think plywood can sound fine - different maybe, not necessarily bad (unless it starts coming apart like mine did hehehe)
 

roboboss

Active member
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57
I think it is possible for a plywood body to sound good in a guitar. Having said that, here are my reasons not to use plywoood as a body. 1) Any hand built tonewood guitar will almost always be worth repairing if something should happen to it. I don't think I would waste my time trying to repair a plywood guitar body. 2) I don't hear of many guitar collectors wanting to pay top dollar for a plywood guitar and I don't hear of too many players specifiying that their guitars be made of plywood. Just my 2 cents.
 

SkuttleFunk

Senior member
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1,156
PitchShifter said:
It's been said on here many times that body wood has only a small effect of guitar tone...that neckwood and pickups are much more important factors.  In that case, could a good maple neck and quality pickups and electronics, be enough to produce an acceptable enough tone from a plywood bodied guitar.

absolutely. it's been done before, and will most likely be done again.

all the best,

R
 

RockStarNick

Senior member
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224
I guess my question is: what is the main factor in wanting to make a plywood body?  Cost?

An average alder body blank runs about $40. 
 

dbw

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4,531
A solid wood body will sound better than a plywood body.  That doesn't mean all plywood bodies will sound like shit, it just means you could probably improve a plywood guitar by replacing the body with a real wood one.

Plywood is heavy but doesn't sustain, and it's very prone to unpleasant feedback.
 

GoDrex

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dbw said:
Plywood is heavy but doesn't sustain, and it's very prone to unpleasant feedback.

I don't know where you got that from. :icon_scratch:
 

SkuttleFunk

Senior member
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1,156
I  guess my question is: what is the main factor in wanting to make a plywood body?  Cost?

there could be two driving factors, with cost being one of them for those places looking to offer a $100 guitar for Walmart

for others, use of a high grade plywood would provide a material consistency not available with a natural wood product. an example of this would be what Kubicki did for his X-factor bass line - a very high grade voidless Maple laminate which brought a consistency across necks that could not have been achieved with a natural product. I know this isn't a body, but utilization of a 'plywood' product in a neck should prove that it is feasable (and even desirable in some cases) for use in a great sounding instrument


Plywood is heavy but doesn't sustain, and it's very prone to unpleasant feedback

you know this from first-hand building experience, or is this just passing along what others have repeated so often that it's regarded as truth purely because everybody repeats it as fact. not all plywoods are insanely heavy, and not all plywoods are equal - their properties totally depend on the materials each specific type is made of ... and this is driven by what their intended purpose is. you should be aware that there is more to plywood that what you find for home construction applications at your local Home Depot or lumberyard.

all the best,

R
 

dbw

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It's based on the two plywood guitars I've owned... a Peavey whatsit and a Squier whosit.
 

jackthehack

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dbw said:
It's based on the two plywood guitars I've owned... a Peavey whatsit and a Squier whosit.

It isn't the plywood causing the feedback in those two models, it's the cheap electronics and three dollar pickups they ship with
 
R

RLW

Guest
Once you get around the 130 decibel range with a dozen or so stompboxes between your guitar and amp, what your instrument is constructed of becomes mainly a cosmetic issue.
 

blue313

Senior member
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2,824
RLW said:
Once you get around the 130 decibel range with a dozen or so stompboxes between your guitar and amp, what your instrument is constructed of becomes mainly a cosmetic issue.

I tend to agree, so long as the method of construction was sound and the other components aren't crap. 

(Ridiculous example incoming)....If Frank Ford made a body out of Home Depot plywood and put on a decent neck, tuners, nut, bridge, pickups and strings.....and then handed it to a great player.  I'd bet you cash it would wail.  No it wouldn't sound the same as tone woods, but it'll still sound good.

Lots of companies have cut corners and still turned out good stuff.  Unfortunately tons of em have cut way too many and turned out pure crap.
 

PitchShifter

Senior member
Messages
292
Cheers for the discourse!

I've actually got a 70s Japanese plywood guitar lying around that I used to experiment a fabric top finish on. With the a$$ falling out of the Aussie dollar (from around 92 cents US down to 64 cents, over the past couple of months),  i was starting to look at it more seriously now that Warmoth is temporarily off the shopping list.  I also have an old 90s Peavey International Series lying around that is a plywood body.

I expect the "quality" of the plywood (is that an oxymoron?) also is important. Woodchip sandwiched by chunks of balsa might not be too healthy!
 
D

DanDeTora

Guest
RockStarNick said:
I don't agree with that statement.

Bodywood is equally as important as neckwood and pickups. They all work together to make a sound, and the overall sound will only be as good as the weakest link.

I can tell you from my experience: I tried to take an old guitar body, and fill in the trem cavity using plywood, and then attach a fixed bridge. It sounded like absolute crap.  I've also had guitar students who have made project guitars out of plywood. They sounded on par with the sustain from a danelectro. But worse. 

Plywood just don't equal tonewood.

If you search hard on ebay, you could probably find some cheapo alder strat body for like under $50 bucks to use.

+1. The only way I'd make a plywood guitar is to try out my luthier skills.

I recently had a custom mahogany body made for my Ibanez RG7321, which was made of basswood. The difference isn't night and day, but on a scale of 1 - 10, IME the difference is about a 3. The bottom end is tighter and the mids are more complex, and the high end is not nearly as rounded or 'choked' sounding. Pick attack has more clarity as well. Could be because Ibanez uses crap tonewoods, or could just be the simple fact that basswood and mahogany DO have different tones. Like I said, not night and day, but important and influential non the less.
 

Patrick from Davis

Senior member
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2,197
I've mentioned a couple of acoustic before, the Taylor Pallet Guitar and the Benedetto Pine archtop guitar.  On a solidbody electric the body has less to do with the sound, much less than an acoustic.  The thing to keep in mind is how does it effect, or color, the vibration of the strings which the pickups pickup. Obviously on an acoustic the body has a rather large effect on the sound, and these two Luthier's vast skill can make substandard materials work extremely well.  While I have no knowledge of how a plywood body would work, or what kind of plywood would be appropriate, I am sure that it could be worked out with a little digging and elbow grease.
Patrick

 

kykah

Active member
Messages
27
I've had a plywood Squier a long time ago. It was all stock with all the cheapo parts. It sounded great and people were asking me what I did to this guitar. What I was doing to this guitar is hammering frets cause they were popping out of fretboard from time to time  :toothy12:  After a year of playing I sold it and  bought Fender  Am.Std. cause of that brending crazyness and childhood dreaming. Guess what - it sounded WORSE. Not like little "worse" but had less sustain (sic!) and only had that "twang" in sound and nothing else, no "body". I played it for two months, sold it and wanted to buy another squier  :doh: But all other squiers I tryed could not compare. So it is possible for plywood guitar to sound good. Also I had a Steinberger with almost no body, graphite neck and EMG pups - it sounded good as well, I don't know why.
 
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