Newbie needs raw neck advice

backhair

New member
Messages
17
So after spending several hours a day for months pouring over the warmoth site, I finally took the plunge and snagged a warmoth 1pc alder strat hardtail body on ebay.  Now, I need to decide on a neck.  I have this irrational fear that choosing the "wrong" wood will make my guitar sound like crap.  After lurking in the forum for a long time, I get the impression that I could basically close my eyes, throw a dart at a list of W options and anything I hit would sound great, but I still want to make sure I match my choice to the tone I'm after as best I can.

I've bought into the raw hype and am a sucker for ebony fretboards anyway, so I think my options for a back wood at the moment are Wenge, Goncalo, Padouk and Canary.  I'm guessing canary and padouk are going to give me the most maple-like tones, but how different will something like wenge or goncalo be from the traditional strat sound?

Not that I’m too concerned about sticking to the traditional tone, but I would like to keep the snap and clarity of the strat sound as well as a tight, thumpy low end.  I'm in a cover band that plays a lot of classic rock stuff, but my personal taste is a super-clean, neck pickup, fingerstyle sound that leans more toward jazz.  I find myself going for scooped tones fairly often, so is wenge (with its pronounced mids) even worth considering?
 

blue313

Senior member
Messages
2,824
Welcome to the boards!

I can't speak for wenge (yet), but canary definitely sounds similar to maple.

Are you going with singles or HSS?
 

backhair

New member
Messages
17
Thanks!

The body is routed SSS and that's what I'll go with initially (may rout the bridge for a HB at some point).  I like what I've heard about Pete Biltoft's pickups at VintageVibeGuitar.com and am interested in trying a set of either his strat-sized P90s or strat blades.
 

Patrick from Davis

Senior member
Messages
2,197
Goncalo is warm like mahogany, but not.  Hard to explain, but warm.  Wenge has a LOT of spring to it, but not as bright as Maple.  Either are really nice.  At the moment I favor Goncalo, simply because I personally don't have one yet, but a pal does.  I do have a Wenge and it is a great neck for leads.  Fast, cuts through, oily slick feel but not in a bad way, it has stainless steel frets on it so it is really goofy fun to bend notes on, very nice.  Really if I were to give you advice, find songs that you like the guitar tone, and match that up with the wood that has the proper sonic characteristics.  Dark and warm, go Goncalo, bright and snappy go Canary, somewhere in between go Wenge.  You are right on with the, "hard to go wrong," aspect of it, so just match up what you like with the wood.
Patrick

 

tfarny

Senior member
Messages
4,481
I'm still not convinced that you can reliably assign tone properties to wood species. Nearly everyone who talks about it is extrapolating from the sound of one particular guitar and cannot do the proper a/b comparison to check. You would need to get several necks of each of two species, identical in construction, and cycle the necks onto a particular body, changing nothing else, and record the sound of all those combinations, to really be able to say "wenge gives great mid-tones" or whatever. One thing you NEVER hear from people who have exotic strats is that it 'doesn't sound like a strat'. If you have strat pickups, it'll sound like a strat. With ALL the talk about woods and tone, I've never seen anyone actually back up the claims made by Suhr, Warmoth, etc. as to the various wood tones. My own inclination, based on my own experience, is to say that neck thickness, scale length, and bridge type / quality have a more quantifiable impact on your tone than neck wood species.
If the guitar you end up with is more midrangey than you imagine a strat should be, that may be because the wenge neck attenuates a little treble  - in that case, either you'll love the unique sound, you'll swap out your pots for ones of a larger value, or you'll turn the treble control on your amp up one more tick. No biggey in any case.
Short version: Wenge is a fantastic looking and feeling neck wood, its only drawback is that it's awfully heavy. Welcome to the board, and good luck on your build!
 

m4rk0

Senior member
Messages
5,383
Tim, I really want to agree with you, but based on experience, I can tell there is absolutely a difference.
I won't be able to explain it scientifically, and obviously every piece of wood is different even within the same species..
anyway, check out these 4 guitars! they all have the same neck profile, same bridge, same hardware, same wiring, either sperzel or planet waves tuners, and exactly the same pickups!!! (the bottom one has a different bridge hum)
But they all have different neck woods.. and every one of them sounds so different.. actually couldn't be more different!
I have to admit that I only heard Luke's strat one time now, and this is the only one with a hollow body. This makes a huge difference too!

so there you go: Wenge vs. Bloodwood vs. Canary vs. Maple

(with Swamp Ash)
JJ22-06-08034.jpg

(with Korina)
korinastrat004.jpg

(with Hollow Korina)
Luke5032.jpg

(with Swamp Ash)
RedWarmoth1.jpg
 

tfarny

Senior member
Messages
4,481
Cool post, Marko! Makes me think. And I definitely don't have guitars as similar to make that comparison, and I could be wrong of course. And I've never said, here or anywhere, that 'wood makes no difference,' just that there are a ton of variables that work together to make a sound. LOVE that Padouk / flame korina piece!

I'm still skeptical, though, that the species can reliably be assigned a certain tone. Your own guitars have different weights, for instance, and it could just as easily be the variation in density of those particular sticks of wood that explains the differences you hear, rather than the type of tree they come from. You've also got different body woods and one is hollow. I've got two strats, both with maple necks and solid alder bodies, that sound drastically different. I assign that difference to the difference in weight, bridge type, neck thickness, pickups of course, and nut material. And my tele, walnut / rosewood thinline, sounded just like a great tele once I put a 'real' tele bridge pickup in it. I can get as icepicky as an overwound tele bridge pup and my amp will let me.

And when you say "they couldn't be more different" - really? If one of them had 50's wind single coil pickups, and another one had a TOM and EMGs, and a third had .013 flatwounds, Bigsby, and gretsh pickups, they wouldn't sound more different than they currently are? That seems a bit over the top, with respect. Still your post is probably the best evidence for your POV I've seen in 2 years of lurking here - most people just repeat the 'tone meter' stuff.  :icon_thumright:
 

m4rk0

Senior member
Messages
5,383
Hey Tim,
yes they do really sound very different.. it's a shame I have no longer access to the korina/bloodwood strat and the red pimp strat.. it would be nice to make a clip with all 4 guitars on the same amp/effect settings :)
Luke and I may still try that with the 2 others though.

about the tone meter.. I really really suck at describing tone, but am very amused by the crap some people make up describing it ;)
so I am not going to attempt it! I guess tone is in the ear of the beholder :)

 

Soylent

Senior member
Messages
1,416
Go to my strat if you wanna see some nice flamed korina.. hehe

http://www.unofficialwarmoth.com/index.php?topic=7302.0

the back is beautifully flamed.
 

blue313

Senior member
Messages
2,824
My Tele has had a total of four necks fitted to it.  One Warmoth pro canary/canary (std thin), one Warmoth pro maple/maple (std thin), one 2001 Fender American Standard Telecaster maple/maple, and one 2003 Fender MIM Telecaster rosewood/maple.  The two maple/maple ones were virtually identical in tone.  The canary one was slightly less bright (even with SS frets) and the MIM was darker still.

FWIW This may be far from a per se scientific approach, but it is however my personal and first hand experience.
 

backhair

New member
Messages
17
Thanks for all the help guys, i really appreciate it. I have a feeling the only solution is just to build more strats and try them all :)

This is like guitar crack - I’m already spec’ing out a thinline

Canary seems like a safe bet, but wenge is awfully alluring - as long as there’s no super-prounounced midrange honk, things should be ok.

it does feel a little silly to obsess over this since it really is nitpicking over the last 5% or so of the tone (and since I’m already feeling the urge to build more W projects and try out all the woods anyway). I would also be delusional to think I’m good enough for it to matter - choosing wenge over canary isn’t going to magically turn me into John Squire or Joe Pass.

Marko, i saw your swamp ash strat a few weeks back and have been drooling over it ever since.  I’ve been planning on shamelessly stealing your design. I love the contrast between the light body and dark pickguard/neck. My body has an oil finish as well, but is a little more tan, which I think will look fine, but definitely not as sharp as your combo.

How do you like those lil killers in the bridge?
stratbody.jpg

 

blimpo

Senior member
Messages
169
Marko said:
Tim, I really want to agree with you, but based on experience, I can tell there is absolutely a difference.
I won't be able to explain it scientifically, and obviously every piece of wood is different even within the same species..
anyway, check out these 4 guitars! they all have the same neck profile, same bridge, same hardware, same wiring, either sperzel or planet waves tuners, and exactly the same pickups!!! (the bottom one has a different bridge hum)
But they all have different neck woods.. and every one of them sounds so different.. actually couldn't be more different!
I have to admit that I only heard Luke's strat one time now, and this is the only one with a hollow body. This makes a huge difference too!

so there you go: Wenge vs. Bloodwood vs. Canary vs. Maple

(with Swamp Ash)
JJ22-06-08034.jpg

(with Korina)
korinastrat004.jpg

(with Hollow Korina)
Luke5032.jpg

(with Swamp Ash)
RedWarmoth1.jpg


I drool over that korina strat every time you post a pic of it.
 

tfarny

Senior member
Messages
4,481
Backhair, did you get that from ebay a few weeks back? I was the next bidder under you, even though I have no need whatsoever for another guitar. Wax finish, right?
Also, you need an appropriate avatar. I suggest:
 
C

callaway

Guest
There some very good points made in this thread. For an electric guitar, the pickups are the easiest---and most drastic---way to change the tone. The wood, however, does make a huge difference. Tfarny has a good point that even within the same species of wood, there is natural variation. A given wood species will, however, tend to lend itself to particular tones. This is very easy to hear if you play the instrument unplugged. And if you have ever played many acoustic guitars, you know this to be true. If you play 10 cedar-topped guitars and 10 spruce-topped guitars (all other things equal), I guarantee you that the 8 "warmest" sounding guitars will be cedar, and the 8 "more brilliant" sounding guitars will be spruce-topped. You might have the middle 4 overlap.

Again, for electrics though, Tfarny is right that the electronics will make the most drastic impact. With the wood, the biggest thing you want to avoid though is getting a dead guitar... LPs in particular are known for the occasional guitar that's just mushy, muddy, and not salvageable. If you get a mahogany body and neck that aren't dense but aren't light, you can end up with mud. I guess some careful pickup selection could make things better, but they can never create resonant frequencies that aren't there.
 

m4rk0

Senior member
Messages
5,383
backhair said:
Thanks for all the help guys, i really appreciate it. I have a feeling the only solution is just to build more strats and try them all :)

This is like guitar crack - I’m already spec’ing out a thinline

Canary seems like a safe bet, but wenge is awfully alluring - as long as there’s no super-prounounced midrange honk, things should be ok.

it does feel a little silly to obsess over this since it really is nitpicking over the last 5% or so of the tone (and since I’m already feeling the urge to build more W projects and try out all the woods anyway). I would also be delusional to think I’m good enough for it to matter - choosing wenge over canary isn’t going to magically turn me into John Squire or Joe Pass.

Marko, i saw your swamp ash strat a few weeks back and have been drooling over it ever since.  I’ve been planning on shamelessly stealing your design. I love the contrast between the light body and dark pickguard/neck. My body has an oil finish as well, but is a little more tan, which I think will look fine, but definitely not as sharp as your combo.

How do you like those lil killers in the bridge?
stratbody.jpg

I look forward to see the 'twin'!  :icon_thumright:
the lil killer is great, especially for the money!
to be honest, I initially bought them so I could replace them once I had some more money. but there is absolutely no need for that now!
 

backhair

New member
Messages
17
tfarny: yep that’s the one - didn’t mean to snipe you!

i totally forgot to make an avatar.  i think i’ll rotate great images in back hair history.
 
Top