Australian Student claims different tonewood in electric guitars make no difference to the tone

The word ‘Tonewood’ has an air of magic in the world of guitars. Certain woods are hailed for the tone they imbue to the guitar. Whilst in an acoustic guita, the effects of different woods on tone is quite apparent, there has always been a section of the guitar world that has been sceptical of how much effect it has on a solid body electric guitar.

Australian student Matthew Angove has aimed to prove conclusively how much tonewood contributes to the overall tone of an electric guitar. Analysing the response of different guitars with the same pickups and strings in a lab, he seems to be arriving at the conclusion that it doesn’t make a difference. Speaking on ‘theage.com’ website he states,

‘I was surprised at just how identical they were because the guitars were very different in shape’.

How much can be read into this study? As a wise man once said, ‘It’s good to be open minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out…’

Here’s the science… I mean music part…

We’re a pretty open minded bunch here at Dawsons, but I suspect that you’d be hard pressed to find any player who would agree with Angove’s claims that tonewood makes no significant difference. Consider comparing a rosewood Telecaster with an Ash Telecaster and a regular Alder bodied Tele – I feel (and I don’t think that I’m alone) that there is a very significant difference in tone between these guitars. This isn’t my mind playing tricks on me, I’m sure…

Again, I’d like to reaffirm that I wouldn’t question this tonewood research without seeing the finished report, but  sweeping statements such as…

‘The field I’m in is musical acoustics – the physics of musical instruments. I’m a guitar player and it turns out there’s been very little research done in the field on the electric guitar … I don’t think many electric guitar players tend to be academics! A lot more classical musicians are academics, and I think they tend to look at their own instrument’,

…don’t exactly fill me with faith. Are we to expect a similar level of assumption and generalization within the work itself? Hmmmm….

Gibson Les Paul Standard 2012 Heritage Cherry

Only time will tell whether this is a truly valid piece of study on electric guitar tonewoods, but I can hear guitarists ‘sharpening their knives’ as we speak… Brace yourself, Mr. Angove.

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