Pickup tone vs body wood

Stage Fright

Junior Member
Thinking about putting a PAF Joe in the neck position of a dual humbucker mahagony solist with a maple top.  Would this get close to the same tone that "Joe" gets from his basswood JS1200?  I would like to replicate some of the tone of my old '80 LP Custom and get that totally "tubular" sound too.  Possible?

Thanks in advance.
    --- NoooooBeeeeBuilder
Depends on the neck / fretboard wood.  I'd worry more about that than the body tone wood.
I noticed the JS1200 comes with a rosewood fretboard.  Ebony would be a bit brighter than rosewood, especially on the maple neck.
Hmm, basswood really "cuts" through tho doesn't it hence why Shredders prefer it. The Mahoganny tone will be warmer for sure but I think you'll still get an amazing sound. A mate of mine had the PAF PU you mention on a mahoganny bod with maple neck and it was the nicest shred axe I ever played.

Why not just go basswood if thats the sound your after? Bleedin cheap that wood too!
Great to hear that you loved the PAF Joe tone.  I was hoping to capture that AND some of the tone of my old Les Paul Custom with the Mahogany body & ebony fretboard.  I've seen a lot of negative comments regarding Basswood's appearance and durability.  Thought maybe the Mahogany would look nicer in a clear coat finish.

Anyone have a formula to calculate the tone for a given PU, body wood, neck wood and fretboard?  Or maybe we need to establish which factors have the most effect?  :laughing7:
Neck tone according to plenty on here but I think having a mahoganny body makes a big difference in sound.

Basswood isn't bad, I have a sweet Jap strat from basswood with SD's on and its as good as any other strat.
willyk said:
Stage Fright said:
That formula would be more precious than the meaning of life! :icon_jokercolor:

There is not, nor can there ever be such a formula as regardless of species each individual piece of wood can have very different tonal properties. Go to a big store like Guitar Center and play all the guitars of the same model. You will find some that really stand out from the crowd, even though they're all made of mahogany or maple; the difference is in the individual pieces of wood used.

Leaving hollow bodies out of the equation the two major factors that make up an electric guitar's tone are neck wood and PUs.
If you look at an original Danelectro, it becomes clear that anything can work: Steel reinforced poplar neck, masonite/beaverboard body, sheetmetal bridge/tailpiece, and weird pickups.

Correction: anything can work as long as you can get it in the hands of Jimmy Page.
Tfarny's tentative tone tutorial:

1. Your heart and guts
2. Your fingers (skills)
3. Amp
4. Effects chain
5. Pickups & associated variables such as pickup height
6. Neck wood, thickness, and scale
7. Hollow / solid body
8. Other aspects of guitar construction - body woods, body wood density, type of bridge and nut, etc.
9. caps, pots, etc.
10. Brand of batteries in stomp box, direction of guitar cables, pickguard color and thickness, age of truss rod cover, amount and composition of crud on fingerboard.
11.Number of pickguard screws and their average weight in grams divided by the square root of the number of the beast. (25.807 for the curious)
12. Someone mentioned player's belly size before, and what the player ate for dinner.
13. How much you paid for the thing and whether it gets you laid.

This, I believe, is the sum of all the wisdom of the internets and the formula for perfect tone. #13 may in many situations take over the #1 spot.
I believe body wood has MUCH more to to with tone than some people in this forum let on to.  Maybe not an Ash/Alder or Mahogany/Basswood comparison, but when you move from something like Swamp Ash to Mahogany, there is a BIG difference to my ears,  and I don't think anyone, even JacktheHack, could say that if you switched from Mahogany to Rock Hard Maple there would be no difference. 

I like your choice of woods.  I really prefer Mahogany over Basswood for no other reason than it doesn't ding up as bad.  I think you'll be able to get that tone in spades with a good Maple/Rosewood neck and a hot tube amp.

I'm a "body man" myself, if only for the reason that certain guitars are REALLY LOUD unplugged, and those guitars inevitably reflect whatever that LOUD tone is when electrified. I had a late-70's solid maple B.C. RIch way back that you couldn't even hear unplugged - of course it was an overdrive monster, think "Rock 'n' Roll Animal", Wagner & Hunter on Lou Reed's album.... I now have a cheapo Ibanez GAX70 I took in on trade for some guitar lessons (yes I know it's dumb, you should see my crappo fuzzbox collection). The GAX70 is made out of "agathis", which is some kind of backyard Indonesian pine tree - it's REALLY LOUD unplugged, and it sound great amplified clean, sounds more like a hollowbody than a lot of hollowbodies do if you know what I mean. It gets weird overdriven, one of these days I'll change out the pickups though putting $200 worth of pickups on a $100 guitar doesn't make a $300 guitar, I fear.... :sad1:

I know it's an interaction and all, most of the crazy theories are a result of clever marketing, an increase in THC content and too much time on our hands, but how much difference will neck wood make, proportionately, when you're playing on the 19th fret? Might as well theorize about the best sounding neck plates.... Suhr Guitars might deserve a prize for best comic writing for their wood page:
Every wood is better than every other wood! Buy them all! Good to know.... :hello2:
So are articles like:  http://www.jemsite.com/jem/wood.htm  total crap?  They seem to imply that a laminate top has almost as much impact on the sound as the body wood followed by the fretboard and then the neck wood.

If I understand the comments from the "veterans"  it sounds like the correct order should be:
1) fretboard wood
2) neck wood
3) body wood
4) laminate wood
with the pickups thrown in there somewhere near the top.  Correct?
Fretboard wood is pretty much inconsequential. Laminate wood would have an effect ONLY on a hollow body, like a Thinline or L5S.

Leaving hollow bodies aside; would be neck wood + PUs, nothing else makes a real appreciable difference. Hollowed bodies or EXTREMELY light bodies may make some difference when playing at volume as they will be more resonant.

The referenced article is pretty much crap.

That gets all the wood/component areas out of the way; the rest of it depends on your fingers/playing technique(s) and can be heavily influenced by your effects chain/amplification.
Like I said somewhere before, the whole thing is just exactly like wine snobbery.
"Aromas of leather and cigar box serve complement the essential characters of mountain blackberries and cinnamon".
"Flame maple laminate tops contribute a crispness and crunch to the high end which complements the essential woody, warm character of the mahogany body".
I'm not saying there's nothing to it, just that it gets really overblown imho. I've drunk with some high-end winemakers who described their wines only as "good" "really nice" and "mellow". They left the verbiage to the marketing people. Same thing with guitar tone, I believe.

Pickups translate the string vibration to electrical signals. Anything that mucks with the electrical signals should affect tone more than things that affect string vibration, such as body woods etc. I.E. If you want more treble, then using a single coil pickup, or even (gasp!) using the treble knob on your amp is going to have a lot more effect than picking a maple top over a mahogany top. Someone on here said it really simply, "tone follows pickups".
I agree that it is more about the pickups than anything but from my experience--having used the same pickups in several guitars, the woods used in various spots throughout the guitar DO make a difference. However, this is perhaps more subtle than one might think. I think where the woods come in is with the acoustic properties of the guitar before the pickups are in the picture.

The woods used affect the interaction of the strings and that does translate into pickup tone. Anyone who has ever put a pickup on something like a Cigar Box Guitar or any non-normal instrument would know as soon as you take the body mass out of the equation, the tone the pickup had before goes out the window. If you have an awesome sounding Les Paul, take the pickups out and slap it in a $99 guitar from Wal-Mart you will NOT get the same tone or even in the same ballpark.

I've used the same set of pickups in very similar shaped guitars--one Mahogany body Mahogany/Rosewood Neck, one Alder with Maple/Ebony Neck, and one Basswood with all Maple neck. All have same bridge and locking nut (Floyd Rose). All the guitars had similar sustain and sound played acoustically. Those same pickups sound WAY different in each guitar. Not even close actually. How could the wood not be a factor? In fact, I would say the wood descriptions on the JEM site and the Warmoth site are somewhat accurate to my experience. Otherwise--why don't we just use guitars that aren't made of wood at all? Are we all just wood snobs? If it didn't matter we wouldn't care. Just make them all out of plastic and stick in high-end pickups--I guarantee you won't like them.

That said, the sound that does translate through the pickups in the end is more subtle but it is there. I would say all the woods combine to affect the tone the pickups see by anywhere from 10-40% depending on the pickup type. Saying the woods don't matter at all is just plain not true. Unless you are using active or really hot pickups to go through a cheap distortion pedal set on max--the wood tone is there. What percentage that is in the final equation of tone I have no idea--but even if it as low as 5-10% doesn't it still matter? If you could choose between two pedals--one that improves your tone by 5% and one that sucked out 5% of it--wouldn't you choose the improvement?

Maybe it is like the wine analogy but saying the woods don't matter is like saying Cabernet is the same wine as Merlot! It's all grapes right? To some people red wines are all the same but to my tongue they aren't.

That's just my whacky opinion!  :toothy12: